Beanie level: Rooftop room dweller

Day 8: Most Overrated Book

This took me a minute because I generally don’t keep reading if I don’t like a book. I think a lot of classics are overrated, but I also understand their importance in the literary canon so I tend to chalk my dislike of them up to my modern sensibilities or a deep dislike of certain genres. (I have very strong feelings about a lot of Victorian literature which I will not regale you with here, but I was very lucky to have an excellent Victorian Lit professor in university who mostly chose books I didn’t want to set on fire…except for Ruth, f*ck Ruth.) Anyway, I digress.

Today I’m picking a popular book that I read at the height of its popularity, and I still don’t really get the hype, not now and not then. It kind of felt like the literary equivalent of cotton candy – you really want to keep reading it in the moment, but as soon as it’s over you can’t remember why you bothered. The Da Vinci Code (or honestly, any Dan Brown book) was just so absurd and not in a funny ha-ha way. It’s not even that the book was awful (I mean, it wasn’t great either) but it was just not really as much as the hype made it out to be. The prose was ridiculous, the style was derivative and uninspired and it had a boring self-insert main character who as far as I can remember basically just ran from place to place being bewildered the entire series. I honestly think these are the adult equivalent of the Twilight franchise (another series I don’t get – I think I peaced out of those after 25 pages?). Part of me thinks that the only reason these books aren’t more discussed as being kind of cheesy (and not in a good way) is because they were so inoffensively bad that it wasn’t worth the effort.

I get that they were fun, easy, turn-your-brain-off reads, but still – I can think of half a dozen other series that do the same things and are way better. I do remember that the author Maureen Johnson did a read-along on her blog where she ripped them to shreds – I can’t find the posts anymore, but maybe some more-than-cursory googling will lead you to them – and I remember laughing so hard I cried reading her posts.

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    I almost posted this (yet I still keep on reading his books) 😂

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      Hahaha… This. His book is so easy to read. And once you understand the formula he used, which basically made the mystery very guessable, somehow it only made the reading experience more fun. As in the turn-your-brain-off fun. Heh.

      I think the only one I felt offensively bad is Inferno. But then again, I read it before I knew that one type of virus is more than capable oh holding the whole world captive for months to end.

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        This is exactly my point – they’re definitely not good books, per se, but they are very easily consumable books. They’re inoffensively bad. But they do not deserve half the popularity/hype/praise that they get.

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    Honestly, every Dan Brown novel I’ve read – this, Angels and Demons, and Digital Fortress – has been crap. If I wanted good genre fiction, I should’ve read something by Mary Higgins Clark or John Grisham, but I obviously didn’t know this when I was a kid!

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      They’re just inoffensively bad books. Like, they’re not bad in a way that makes me wonder if the author/editor/publisher was high or stupid (like Twilight) but like…I also do not get how they are bestsellers. I can think of so many other cheesy series that are way better and more fun to read. For example, the Stephanie Plum books we my jam back in the day, though I think I stopped reading around book 10. Those books aren’t brilliant masterpieces by any means, but they are fun and well written and have good characters who actually have personalities and aren’t just an amalgamation of self-insert traits. Also, the main characters cars kept blowing up and that never gets less funny.

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        Stephanie Plum was so fun. Well, fun for awhile. The series should of had an end in sight. But I have fond memories of them as my mom read them too and some parts would make us laugh so hard.

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          I think I read the first 10 or 12 books, but I had to stop once the Ranger/Morelli/Stephanie triangle got too repetitive. But I loved Grandma Mazur. The author really created a great world with hilarious characters and funny situations.

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            Yes, it was the love triangle that kind of did ne in too. I think if there had been a choice it could of led to more character growth and arc, but still kept the rest of the framework the same.

            I loved seeing how each car was going to be destroyed.

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            The cars blowing up was one of the funniest running jokes especially as she became more resigned to it as the series progressed. That and Granny Mazur pulling her gun out in inappropriate situations were just hilarious.

            But also, Ranger was hot, and Morelli, while obviously the safe choice, seemed really boring and I was not into it, so dragging that out just got tedious. Granted that was my 15-16 year old self’s opinion, so maybe my [redacted] year old self would see things differently now.

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        Stephanie Plum was really entertaining for me back in high school/uni. I remember reading one of the books (Four to Score, I think) in our school library. The storytelling caught my interest so I went looking for the other books the next day. Hmm I think I stopped reading after the 15th book? I’d definitely love a re-read now.

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          Yeah I read them in high school when a friend of mine introduced me to them. I remember before that I would always see the bright covers in airport bookstores and was intrigued. They were a lot of fun. I think I stopped around book 12? Basically when the love triangle got too repetitive. But it was a great world in those books and they were fun turn-your-brain-off reads in the best possible way.

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    I remembered going through a phase in middle school when I was really into Dan Brown’s and James Rollins’ books. They both write popular action/adventure books that were fun to read at the moment, but yea – I also don’t remember half the things that happened after I finished. LOLS
    But the one pet-peeve of mine in movies/books is whenever they talk about art (i.e art handling, making art, etc.) and just taking so many creative licenses. I just can’t. And this book with all of its speculative readings into paintings/etc. crack me up now.

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      Same. I think I read them all on vacation once. They were fine, but like, nothing special. I am pretty sure my brain deleted all but the barest details when I finished them.

      I also definitely side-eyed a lot of his art interpretations etc. Also the Illuminati stuff – like, that is the most overused trope ever in this genre, and it was overused a decade ago when these books came out, so I don’t know how they got so much love. So yeah, these books were way overrated but they also weren’t actively killing my braincells so it wasn’t a total loss.

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        Yea! I def enjoyed them more when the movies came out since I love Tom Hanks. 😛 but other than that it was mehhh

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    My husband did an English Literature paper at university back in the day that included this book (it was roughly at the time of all the hype). He still gets annoyed about it – not because he hates the book, but because the lecturer was basically like “this book is terrible, only idiots read this, let’s just skip” instead of looking at *why* it was so popular. I definitely agree it was overrated…but I’d rather read it again than The Corrections (also from the same course 😂).

    I think a lot of the hype had to do with religious angle – it’s so shocking! Is it really true! Etc when really it’s just window dressing on a pretty basic genre novel.

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      I only made it a chapter or two into The Corrections.

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        I made it the whole way but I did not enjoy the experience 😄

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        You’re not missing much, tbh. Franzen’s books are pretentious IMO. In that sense, they are like him.

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      I don’t even think the religious angle was that shocking? Even at like 16 or whatever I could tell it was really derivative. Like I said – I get the reason people enjoyed the book, I don’t get why it was a phenomenon. Even Twilight makes more sense to me as a phenomenon, because while they’re terrible and problematic, the appeal is readily discernible, even if there are a thousand better vampire books. This was just…dumb. Like, entertaining as hell while you read it, but so so dumb.

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        I guess some things have good marketing? Or just capture something at the time which you can’t see years later. I think everyone wants to have something like Harry Potter again, but it’s hard to see it happening.

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    This i agree..totally.. more than the twilights posts..

    this author and Paulo Cohelo.. like STOP PUBLISHING

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    I enjoyed the first half of this book, but the latter half was blah. Definitely doesn’t live up to the hype!

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    I liked it, but when I picked up a second novel of his, I dropped it quickly. It’s definitely cheesy and easy to read.

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    I really enjoyed Angels and Demons and read this immediately after but just couldn’t get through it. I’ve tried several times but never completed it.

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Day 7: A Book That Makes You Laugh

The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson books (Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging et al.) by Louise Rennison. I remember I picked up the first book in Borders many, many, moons ago (remember Borders y’all?) and started reading and was laughing so hard I got a few dirty looks. I knew I needed to have this book but had no idea how to get my mother to buy me a book with the word “Thongs” on the cover. I did it somehow, and it led to many years of laughter with the series. Just thinking about these absurd books makes me smile. One of the best parts of the series was that the American editions had an “English to American” glossary in the back. Very few books have made me laugh until I cried, but these did.

Looking back, there are definitely more than a few problematic things about the series that would not fly today, but it still captured a lot of the absurdity and angst of being a teenage girl. Georgia was shallow, materialistic, boy-crazy, judgmental, and could be very insensitive at times, but she was also funny and got herself into the most absurd situations (in the first 25 pages alone she recounts going to a fancy-dress party dressed as an olive, and accidentally shaves off her eyebrows). The series was never meant to be taken seriously but it also never belittled the experience of being a teenage girl and the growing pains of youth, and let’s face it, we were all a little shallow, insensitive and judgmental when we were young and ignorant of the world.

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    Ahh Borders! That was always my go-to place instead of Barnes and Noble. I was so sad when they went under. 🙁

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      Same – I think we used to have family outings there at least once a month. I like B&N fine enough, but it was never quite the same as Borders.

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    Lol I watched the movie for the word Thongs! 😛 I want to read the book sometime.

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Day 6: A Book That Makes You Sad

I don’t really read sad books – I like to escape into a happier world in my fictional narratives. I needed to wrack my brain for a minute today to come up with a book that is sad. There are certainly books which are sad in part, but not enough to say the book makes me sad. Part of me wants to cheat as say Know My Name again but I’m trying to not repeat books. (Though, seriously, go read it, it’s so good.). I do read a lot of “depressing” books, but I’m not sure that’s the same? I’ve read a lot of non-fiction which revolves around mental health or addiction and personal narratives of those dealing with these issues, but they aren’t sad to me. They’re not really uplifting either but they are insightful.

But I digress.

In the end I came up with Atonement by Ian McEwan. I read this many years ago, just before the movie came out. This book was so sad to me because it was just so cruel. Cruel because you read a story only to discover it is lies. It’s hard to know whether the lies are truly atonement for those whose lives were destroyed, when it seems that it is really the narrator’s self-serving and a selfish attempt to undo the lies of the past with new lies.

It is also heartbreaking because you see family torn apart, young lovers torn apart, all while the world was falling apart. It’s a rich narrative and even just a cursory understanding of WWII history is enough to understand the weight of the world at the time of the story. The movie was an excellent adaptation with an excellent cast and wonderful direction (and that dress), but nothing can ever quite capture the emotions of the book and Briony’s desperation to atone.

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    So spot on – sad and no atonement can undo the tragic consequences!

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    I found this a lovely book as well (which is not entirely surprising – McEwan is gifted writer). It’s one of those books that leaves you confused and disjointed at the end, unable to exactly decide how you feel about everything (I always associate this book with Disgraced by JM Coetzee, because, despite the difference in subject matter, both books left me with a distinct sense of discomfort and uncertainty about how to process what I had read).

    I will say that there is a bit of Briony in all of us (well, maybe I shouldn’t generalize and should just say many of us). Most people don’t do things this horrible and life-crushing, but we all do things which are bad or cruel for which we try to make up stories, justifications, and excuses. Worse still, many of these things which we do are unintentional, bred of misinterpretation, naivete, inattention, or ignorance. What makes this story really poignant for me is that it’s reflective of both the destructive power of stories in our lives (they can send people to jail and later to their death) and the salvaging power of stories (in one sense, I think Briony’s story and her attempt to atone through fiction is what lets her cope and go on with her life, and while we might think it inappropriate that she never sought to tangibly correct her misdeed, I think it’s undeniable that there something amazing about the power of a story to do that for her).

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      Disgrace***

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      Exactly this – that’s part of why it’s so sad to me. You completely understand why Briony acted as she did, and why her fictional atonement is so important, but that doesn’t make the cruelty of the story less; if anything it amplifies it. It’s easy to write her off as “bad” or “selfish” or any other number of things. But when you think about the fat that her life was defined by that moment and that she has never been able to truly move on, your heart kind of breaks for her. That her trauma is not of the war that destroyed so many, but from the war within herself, is tragic. Its not as simple as an unreliable narrator because that would be too easy. As you said, it’s about the power of stories. McEwan is a master storyteller in how he layers in the aspects of the plot to tell his story. I really need to read more of his work.

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Day 5: A Book That Makes You Happy

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – I’ve re-read this book so many times that my first copy is falling to pieces. I have a newer copy that I re-read now (it took me forever to find the same cover). I read this book so many times when I was young I could practically recite passages from heart. It remains a nostalgic favorite, and I always feel warm and happy when I open it up, like I’m curled up by the fire with a mug of hot chocolate, catching up with an old friend.

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Days Three and Four: Favorite Series/Favorite Book of Your Favorite Series

Combining these two for brevity.

So many series to choose from, but I’m going with what is probably the first series I ever loved, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and the book I love most is…ugh, don’t make me choose. Okay, okay…fine, I pick the first book, Dealing With Dragons.

This series was everything my nine-year-old self needed: a feisty princess, a sassy dragon, evil wizards, dumb princes, a no-nonsense witch and a lot of fun. I’m going with this book because it’s definitely the one I’ve re-read the most, but the third book, Calling on Dragons is told from my favorite character’s point-of-view and has some very funny situations.

Shout outs to:

The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold – I haven’t finished the last two books because I don’t want the series to end, but Mirror Dance is a brilliant study of scientific ethics, mental heath, bodily autonomy, and philosophy (all themes that recur throughout the books) and one of the standouts in the series. I also loved Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance because of course Ivan would do that just to annoy his mother.

Also, The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, because I love all of Cat and Christopher’s adventures and the series contains some of the best and most clever world-building I’ve ever read. All fantasy authors should take note – Diana Wynne Jones knew what she was doing.

Finally, I absolutely cannot forget the Thursday Next books. They’re so clever and funny and just plain fun, especially if you’re a literary nerd.

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    The Eyre Affair was so shockingly fresh when I first picked it up. It blew me away.

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      Same! I think what I love most is that Thursday is a badass in the most un-badass way. She’s allowed to age and have children and a boring romance, but yet, the books are so fun and readable because the world she’s in is so interesting.

      I love all of Fforde’s books and I know he just published a new one a few weeks ago, and I can’t wait to dive in whenever I get a chance. He has a really clever way with prose and plot.

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    I have never managed to get into the Thursday Next books. They seem like the sort of thing I would like but they just never worked for me. I don’t know why. Maybe too much Discworld has ruined me for anything involving literary jokes.

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      I think I picked up the first book three times before I got into it, but once it sucked me in I was there to stay. Maybe you just need to be in the right mindset? I love Discworld too, but Thursday Next is very different and both are great in their own unique ways.

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        Maybe I just need to try again, again. My sister likes them and we usually read all the same stuff so I don’t know why this has never clicked.

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          I definitely think you should give it a second chance; sometimes we just aren’t in the right headspace for a book and need to revisit it later.

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Day 2: A Book That You’ve Read More Than Three Times

So many here. I’m a big re-reader. Not as much lately but I do have a few that I’ve needed to purchase multiple copies of. I think I’ll give this one to The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce. I mean, I’ve re-read all her Circle of Magic/Circle Opens books more than three times (and all the Tortall books about Alanna, Daine, and Kel), but this one I’ve re-read about once a year since it came out. I love it so much because it came out when I was just a bit older than the characters in the book, who I had grown up with. The book does a wonderful job encapsulating the growing pains of going from child to adult, and I love the exploration of these characters’ relationships to one another, especially as it related to trauma and healing. It was also wonderful to see the kids I grew up with come into their own.

Shout outs:

Sarah Dessen was my favorite author for a long time. I still have a lot of nostalgia for her books, especially these two, This Lullaby and The Truth About Forever. I remember the day that the librarian introduced me to her books, and I remember how when This Lullaby came out, she let me read it before it even went on the shelves. These books brought me a lot of comfort and I look forward to reading them again soon.

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    Wow, I’m also a total TP fan but in front of you, perhaps I can only call myself a tiny fan, hahah.
    I’ve been following the Tortall series since High School and reread it from the first book straight only once. I’ve been wanting to read the Circle Open books but haven’t gotten to it yet.

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      I remember when the librarian gave me the Alanna books in sixth grade – I think I re-read them about two dozen times by the time I graduated. I haven’t re-read them in a while, though sometimes I’ll pull one off the shelf and peruse it for old time’s sake. I haven’t read any of her more recent ones either but I plan to make time to one day soon.

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        The last time I read them I started with Alanna and read all the way to Becca series. There’s just something special about reading childhood classics 🙂

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          I read the first Beka book when I was in my first year of uni, though I never got to the rest of them because I was reading so much for my classes that pleasure reading really stopped for a while (ahh, the double edged sword of being an English lit major). I’ve been wanting to do a Tortall re-read though and hope to get to it either this year or next year.

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OK, here we go!
Day 1: Best Book You Read Last Year

Probably Know My Name by Chanel Miller. This book should be required reading. This is honestly some of the most moving and empowering pieces of writing I have ever read. Miller has a gift with words, and she uses her voice impactfully to tell her story while not sensationalizing or undermining her own experiences. She takes you through the motions of her life in the years following her assault and while it’s painful to read at times and it’s not uplifting, it remains unflinchingly honest to the end.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow is my other pick. (I’m really not a non-fiction person, I swear.) I started this book day it came out while I was on vacation in Morocco. I could not put it down. Every second that we weren’t doing something that required my attention, I was glued to this book. I read it in two days flat. Farrow is excellent at telling the story of his groundbreaking piece journalism while remaining considerate to his subjects making sure that they are honored and treated with respect throughout the narrative.

Shout outs:

Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin, a great modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in a modern day Canadian-Muslim community, and was very relatable for me in a lot of ways.

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. This is a brilliant piece of fictional storytelling in the narrative style of an oral history and I could not put it down.

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    I think Ayesha at Last is one of my favorite Pride and Prejudice retellings.

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      Same. I waited for aaaaages for it to come out in America; it came out in Canada like a year earlier and I stupidly did not buy it when I was visiting (though it may have come out a week after I left? I can’t remember). I was so glad it was worth the wait though – I’d been reading rave reviews for a while and it more than lived up to the hype. I can’t wait to see what the author gives us next.

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    I’m listening to the audiobook of Know My Name right now.

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      How is it? I am debating listening since I read it already but would like to revisit it.

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        I like it so far. She was a little bit robotic in the beginning, but she gets more comfortable as it goes on. I’m only 13% of the way through and just hearing her telling her story is making me feel all the emotions.

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          I never cry and I cried reading this. Like, put down the book and take a moment, cry. I basically realized pretty quickly that I shouldn’t read this one on my subway/bus rides because parts of it are…a lot.

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    Ayesha has been on my list for such a long time! Ill put it on hold when I get to work in the morning. How graphic is the Know My Name book? One of my favorite books that is a never reread for me because it was a difficult read (for me) was Lucky by Alice Sebold. It really brings to home the point between being a victim and a survivor. I like to read nonfiction but I have to tread carefully because I carry things with me so long after the book is over.

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      Do it! Ayesha is so good, I think I may re-read it soon.

      Know My Name is not terribly graphic in terms of the actual assault (because she had blacked out) and it wasn’t “violent” in terms of an assault (other than, you know, the fact that she was assaulted while blacked out), but she speaks in detail to everything that happened. I think she only speaks about the assault itself in detail in one chapter and I believe she gives a warning before, so you could possibly skip over it. For me it was the emotional aftermath that really stuck with me, and was hard to forget because she has such a strong and distinctive voice. Which is no surprise given her victim impact statement, which the world read long before we knew her name. I remember when I first read it three years ago it left an impression. So I guess I’m saying read it if you think you can, but maybe also have a fluffy book/drama on standby. You could also check out some of her interviews – I really liked her talk with Trevor Noah.

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OK, I’ll bite.

Note: I’m keeping my list strictly K-dramas to narrow down my options; mini dramas/drama specials (i.e. dramas with less than 12 episodes), and non-K-dramas are in the honorable mentions.

10% – Soulmate
10% – Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-joo
10% – The Greatest Love/Best Love
10% – Tale of Nokdu
10% – Reply 1997
10% – Fight My Way
10% – Her Private Life
10% – Just Between Lovers
10% – The Guest
10% – Be Melodramatic

Honorable Mentions:
(There are 10 here — make of that what you will…)
J-Dramas:
– Nodame Cantabile
– Liar Game
– We Married for a Job

TW-Dramas:
– In Time With You
– Someday or One Day
– Meet Me @ 1006

Mini Dramas/Drama Specials:
– to.Jenny
– Just Dance
– You Drive Me Crazy
– If We Were a Season

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Finally catching up on on Unfamiliar Family and I just can’t with Big Noona. (Just finished ep. 11, and half of 12.) She is the most selfish, spiteful, hateful person. Look, I have deep sympathy for her situation, both the marriage and the birth secret. But honestly, sitting her siblings down and being like “I’m done with you. Also treat mom better.” is just so f*cking hypocritical on her part. (And I know, I know, it doesn’t stick, but that doesn’t make it less cruel.)

Eun-joo literally treats her mom like trash her entire adulthood and then, the moment she finds out the truth she’s mom’s number one cheerleader and the other two (who are still her freaking siblings) are apparently terrible children who don’t deserve her, even though those two are the ones who gave mom the love and affection she needed for most of their lives.

I get her pride, and I get that she’s a gooey marshmallow on the inside of a cold shell. I get that so much. But that doesn’t negate her treatment of people. She is spiteful and causes pain to others just because she is in pain and seems to think that it’s an eye for an eye situation. I even understand her pride making it hard for her to accept that her father really loves her (even though it’s so obvious that he genuinely and sincerely adores her and sees her as only his child). I get how hurt and betrayed she feels by her parents and husband. I’ve been there – family betrayal is the worst. That still doesn’t excuse her behavior.

And here’s the thing – I get that Eun-hee is no saint, basically cutting people out of her life for a single infraction in the past. She continues to make mistakes, but she also seems to want to grow, even if she does repeat her mistakes. (Also, this entire family needs to stop assuming the worst with the bare minimum evidence.) She so clearly regrets her past; she doesn’t condone her own behavior. It’s equally clear that these are the kinds of things that have caused a strain on her self-esteem – I think it’s not so much that Eun-hee was mad at her sister and Chan-hyuk as she was at herself. I think it was a punishment for herself as much as them.

But back to my main point – Eun-joo. I know she gets better in the episodes to come. I’ve read the recaps. The sister bonding is happening now and I love it. I know she can’t really let go of her family as easily as she acts like she can. That doesn’t make me any less angry at her. You don’t treat people the way she does. I also have a complicated family, and I get it. But I can be a b*tch, and even I don’t think I have never been that terrible.

(Also, I lowkey think Eun-joo was the result of an assault which would explain a lot about mom, but I kind of hope not, because that would be too cliche and kind of unnecessary at this point. Also, I don’t really want to see how Eun-joo reacts to that information.)

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    She almost had a personality transplant. Or maybe not that extreme but some thorns were definitely removed in 13/14. Because it’s a drama i can forget her horribleness but if my sister ever acted the way EJ did, i don’t know what I’d do! At least EH knows she’s made mistakes and is actively trying to do better, but EJ..not so much it seems.

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      Yeah, I read the recaps, and it’s like they all have selective amnesia as to her horrible treatment of everyone. Like, I understand forgive and forget, but that doesn’t make this less awful of her. If my brother ever did that to me I’m pretty sure the trust between us would be broken. Like, Eun-joo literally treats her family like they’re disposable and the only relationships that matter a blood ones (all of a sudden too, because remember, she treated her mom like trash before this). I honestly agreed with her husband when he said he found it laughable that she wanted a child when she treated her own family so terribly. It was a cruel thing to say in the moment, but it holds a lot of truth too. And that’s not to say Eun-joo would be a bad mother, but she does seem to lack compassion and has this God-complex where she is only ever right or else she’s the victim.

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    She’s such a deliciously grey and complex character, I loved her for that! She was only one who pushed everyone’s buttons, including us viewers. Without siding or disagreeing with her at any point, I loved watching her make her decisions. I found it a study in how to sketch a character (scriptwriting as craft, etc).

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      Oh, I definitely agree with that – she’s a great character study for sure. She’s grey a lot of the time, and I understand a lot of her motivations and empathize a lot with her. I even understand her clod reactions to things. I get that she isn’t an emotional person, and she’s pure rational thought, which I love seeing in a female character. I actually relate a lot to her because I too do not like being openly emotional and tend to spell things out bluntly for people.

      But her treatment of her family is terrible – and I know she has her reasons – but like…it’s not justified in any way. Her reactions are bigger and crueler than any situation warranted. And I’ve dealt with similar situations in my life, I know what it’s like to learn things are a lie. Her husband’s family – they’re awful, I do not blame him from distancing himself. But her family, while they are messy and can be tough on one another, truly love each other, and the way she disregards that over and over started to grate on me. Especially her 180 on her mom and then acting as if she had been a great daughter and the other two were terrible. And I realize a lot of that is her own guilt and insecurity coming out, but that doesn’t make it right. But it does make it interesting.

      1
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        Haha – I relate to her a lot as well, for exactly the same reasons you mention! She felt a lot like me, unlike Eun-hui, whom I could not relate to at all.

        I hear you on the treatment of her family, but I think everyone has treated everyone badly in this story – either wilfully or mistakenly. So for that reason, I don’t especially hate on EJ :/ I can understand her reasons, just as I can understand maknae’s reasons for what he does towards the end (won’t spoil, if you haven’t reached there), and Eun-hui’s for cutting off etc.

        TBH, this was one show in which I didn’t feel emotionally invested, but was just fascinated at how the plot developed. I was looking at it consistently as craft – writing, plotting, acting, directing – unlike, other shows where I will the heroine into doing something that really I want done. So my take on the show has been at a distance.

        As a meta exercise, I found my own viewing of this show very different and interesting. I begin to think it’s an evolution of myself as a viewer, I felt 😀 But then I start watching something as giddy happy as Memorials and I’m right back where I started….

        1
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Jae-hyuk may be the worst but Lee Ji-hoon is killing it in the role. He plays the nuances of Jae-hyuk’s decent into insanity beautifully, and honestly as much as I loathe the character I am finding myself really engrossed in this performance. It’s not even that he’s redeeming the character or even making him sympathetic. If anything, he’s doing the opposite, and making him harder to stomach with each passing episode. I get that Jae-hyuk has severe mental problems and that his family is terrible, but that doesn’t give him a free pass. The fact that he’s now using his mental instability as a tool to tear people apart is just disgusting beyond belief. But it’s also so fascinating to watch, especially given this performance.

I also kind of get why Geon-woo is so sympathetic to him – it seems that Jae-hyuk was one of the few who truly accepted him when he came out and so he feels obligated to him for that. Moreover, Geon-woo is a good person who has only the best of intentions, and who doesn’t know all the details of everyone’s relationships. He clearly cares deeply for Jae-hyuk, Do-hee, and Hae-kyung and believes he is doing what is best for them. But he doesn’t know how much Jae-hyuk has manipulated all of them or how he has inadvertently given Jae-hyuk the fodder for his delusions. Geon-woo is a peacekeeper and he seems to love harmony more than anything else. I love that he is so open with his feelings for those around him, because clearly he has lost a lot too. In a lot of respects he serves as a contrast to Jae-hyuk, as they both have been shunned by family; but Geon-woo found healthy coping mechanisms and relationships while Jae-hyuk let himself wallow in his feelings and lot that ability.

I still don’t get why Geon-woo enables No-eul though. She’s just a terrible person.


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    I totally agree with what you say about Lee Ji Hoon’s performance. He has me invested in Jae Hyuk’s storyline and I fear what he will do in the coming episodes. I also agree with what you have said about Geon-woo. Jae Hyuk was the only family member who accepted him and kept contact with him so he naturally feels obligated to help him out. I think Geon Woo enables No Eul because he sees himself in her in the sense that she was also abandoned by her parents

    2
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      You’re probably right, I forgot that they were connected like that. I also suspect that No-eul being so accepting of him is part of it too. But she’s still The Worst. I kind of think that may be his most unhealthy relationship. At least Jae-hyuk is family. No-eul kind of gets his situation, but she’s just spiraling into pettiness and stupidity at this point. Plus, her selfishness makes me want to slap her whenever she opens her mouth.

      2
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        Honestly, I’m less sympathetic to Geon-woo. Do-hee has told him several times that she doesn’t want anything to do with Jae-hyuk. I get why Geon-woo is sympathetic to Jae-hyuk, but it’s not fair of him to burden Do-hee in this way. True, he doesn’t know the full extent of Jae-hyuk’s misconduct, but I think he’s gotten enough indication from Do-hee already that he should stop trying to act as an advocate on behalf of Jae-hyuk to Do-hee.

        I feel same way about No-eul as well. He’s repeatedly called Hae-kyeong about things that have happened to No-eul, even though Hae-kyeong and No-eul aren’t a thing anymore, even though he knows the hardship No-eul put Hae-kyeong through, and even though he knows Hae-kyeong does not want to be with No-eul anymore. It’s unfair imo.

        6
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          I agree with you all on this. Geon-woo is really hard to accept as BOTH Do-hee and Hae-kyeong told him in no uncertain terms that they did NOT want to be contacted about their exes.
          And yet he still calls them – and then recommends JH to go to Hae-kyeong for counseling?
          I think JH went there (as planned) to stir things up and make a scene which would damage Hae-kyeong’s reputation.

          Just like he did to Keanu Ahjussi.

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    I love LJH in this role as well. I hate the character, but I’ll also be the first to say he’s incredibly fascinating to watch (in the way a serial killer documentaries are fascinating). LJH has done an amazing job with this role and I honestly want to watch him in more stuff!

    4
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I\’m so sad to see Mystic Pop-Up Bar end. But at the same time it was so satisfying in so many ways and I love the story it told, even if it went by too fast.

I\’m gonna miss these three dummies. The cast just hit it out of the park – their chemistry from the beginning was pitch perfect, and as the story built up to the final reveals the emotional payoffs were worth it.

I\’ve always said that it doesn\’t matter if you figure out a twist in a story coming at you a mile away. The true test of a good story to me is that the characters don\’t see the twist coming so that they react to it honestly. Sometimes when you know something the character doesn\’t the story will surprise you with how it chooses to reveal things, and you realize the journey isn\’t about the twist, but it\’s about the growth needed to deal with the twist.

Mystic Pop-Up Bar was an unexpected gem in the middle of a very strange time in the world. It was a comforting two hours every week, getting lost in this world and watching these characters grow and learn to trust one another. All three leads needed to learn to trust – both in one another and themselves. That trust taught them bravery, and showed them that they weren\’t alone on their journey\’s, which ultimately gave them all the ability to earn their happy ending. Sometimes love isn\’t all that\’s needed to grow, though this drama had plenty of that as well.

Good-bye Mystic Pop-Up Bar. Thank you for this fun ride, I\’ll definitely be dropping by again.

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    That dream was precious where the 3 were proper family

    7
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      It was so precious. But for a minute I panicked it was going to be like that scene in Hi Bye, Mama!
      It wasn’t for sure.

      1
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    Thanks for writing down my exact thoughts about this show.
    I’m going to miss this trio so much!

    1
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    Argh. I’ve been trying to stay away from K-dramas but I feel myself getting sucked back in. 😂 This show sounds wonderful.

    1
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    Totally agree with all you said but specially with the last paragraph. I watched The King hoping that it will be a good dose of escapism but it was actually Mystic Pop up Bar that did it for me. Such good world building, no extra confusion, so so much heart and overall an enthralling watch.

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    @SnarkyJellyfish I agree with everything you’ve written. This drama was amazing!

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    Awww that was a nice read and I totally agree!! I actually didn’t realize how much this show touched me until they showed all the story of the day characters. They’ve helped so many people who are struggling with things all of us have gone through in life. Plus that ending scene! This drama has given me so much comfort, I’m so sad it’s over but so grateful it happened.

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So the thing that I\’ve loved about Dinner Mate is that neither Do-hee nor Hae-kyung have been even the slightest bit influenced by the manipulation of their exes, nor have they been threatened by the others ex. They obviously have weaknesses but they have only ever given their exes the courtesy that one owes a fellow human. Honestly, I feel like their mothers make more of an impact on them when it comes to emotional manipulation than either of the two idiot exes.

But today was different because things are different from when you\’re flirting versus actually being together. Because before they weren\’t in a vulnerable position – before they could still keep their feelings close. But now their feelings are out there that makes them vulnerable, not only to one another, but to outsiders as well. They are both strong, and I think it\’ll take more than a few obnoxious words from No-eul to do anything. I don\’t think that they will be shaken, but I do think that they are going to have a lot more complicated conversations sooner than they wanted; because while it\’s all good and well to share secrets with a nameless stranger, it\’s another thing entirely to be vulnerable and emotionally open with someone you care about.

Now to the idiot exes. Let\’s just get the crazy out of the way. This guy. I can\’t with Jae-hyuk anymore. This is classic abusive behavior. Doing something that forces Do-hee to pay attention to him and put her on the spot. It\’s so transparent, and this is where he and No-eul differ. It\’s transparent, but it hasn\’t been so openly desperate in front of others like hers. Usually his manipulations are subtle enough to seem harmless to others while No-eul is openly manipulating. If No-eul is trowing pebbles, Jae-Hyuk is trowing a grenade and then strapping dynamite to himself and running in headfirst. He doesn\’t care about the damage he does, or who gets hurt in the process. It\’s only a matter of time before he does some serious harm. He definitely needs professional help, because clearly he is beyond listening to reason now. I really want to know what he did to Homeless Ajusshi now, because it\’s clear his manipulation and pathological lying go back a long time and he has used it for evil in the past. I wonder if those were part of what got him kicked out of his home?

And as for our second female lead: No-eul was disgusting and stupid this episode. I wish we had a real actress in the role, because I could so see one of the actresses who play despicable second leads so well – Yoo In-young for example – giving No-eul some depth. We know that the script has given her the material (eating disorder, mommy issues, etc.), but it fails to show up in the performance. Even her smirks are bad. How do you screw that up? But we have what we have. Anyway, I digress. No-eul is working her best to create a wedge between Hae-kyung and Do-hee, and it\’s so transparent that it would be funny if it weren\’t so pathetic.

Honestly this is part of the irony of the show to me – the arguably worse of the exes is played by an actor who manages to make a truly awful person seem human and…not vulnerable exactly, but at least he feels real. It\’s a horrific character but a spectacular performance. It never quite goes over the top, but it pushes the limits just far enough. No-eul on the other hand is the one who could have been redeemed in so many ways with good acting – her wanting a friendship with Do-hee, for example. I realize the script made her spiteful, but a good actress could have shown a battle within her when it comes to losing a potential friend. Or the way she intersects with Hae-kyung\’s mother – what even is the mood there? If we saw some genuine feeling there or if there were some nuance, those scenes would land so much better. But the way it\’s going I feel like in the end I may have some sympathy for Jae-hyuk while No-eul could go eat rocks.

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    The thing I love most about both characters is how firm they are in their rejecting their exes. Gently but firmly. There hasn’t been one single time in which I felt that they may come back to them. They both have been really considerate to them, being them to support even when they didn’t want to, because they felt it was the right thing to do (as when you do it to anyone, just because it’s human to care). And to me this says so much about DoHee and HayKyung as human beings, because they are good.

    In contrast, we have the exes, and just like you I will leave the psycho aside. They are both manipulative and selfish. None of them wants their exes back because they love them. They just have the idea that they would be better with them by their side and don’t really care about how the other feels: I’ve decided I want you by my side because it will be great for me. Now, do as I say. Call me crazy, but that’s not the best way to get into a relationship.

    I totally agree with you about NoEul and how terribly bad she’s being acted. I’ve commented in the recap that she may be written to be hated, but if only she was acted properly we could see some nuances that would make us like the performance. Her whole presence in the drama is a mystery to me: she adds nothing. I mean, when she was visiting HK’s mum I was just asking myself why she was there… Writer has given NoEul a couple of reasons to be “more human” like her genuine wish to become DoHee’s friend, but having a expressionless actress on it is like having a stone as second FL.

    And that’s exactly where Lee JiHoon makes the difference. He’s making such a remarkable job. His character is really hateful, but I discover something new on him almost everytime he’s on screen. He’s making JH human even if JH is not totally human.

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    I feel a combination of irritation and second-hand embarrassment watching Son Na-eun “perform” and I don’t think the writing helps either. There was the tiniest flicker of doubt in No-eul’s eyes when she talked with Jae-hyuk at the bar.

    Or, maybe I’m the one projecting my own feelings?

    In a recent NYTimes piece about the popular French series, The Bureau, director/actor Mathieu Kassovitz says his character is generally poker faced. He joked that it’s editing and the viewer that intensify the emotion:

    Viewers tell me, ‘Wow, what an intensity.’ And I say, ‘No, the intensity is coming from you, from the way it’s been edited, what we show you, the story that’s being told. You are the one placing this tension in my eyes. Me, I was just gazing into the distance.’

    1
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      Haha, probably. That or the director got lucky with his shot and she actually managed to emote slightly so he finally had something to work with.

      I always loved how Martin Scorsese’s long time editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, said of Scorsese’s films “They aren’t violent until I’ve edited them”. But the editing requires good material to begin with, and that comes from the collaboration of the actor with the director to honor the writing. Editing takes that and creates the mood after it’s been committed to film. And if editing can’t hide bad acting, then the person is really bad.

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I should probably go to sleep, but I\’m and insomniac, so whatever, I\’m gonna post some more thoughts on Dinner Mate.

I loved this moment so much.

There are so many things going on here to unpack, but my favorite part is the physical contact and use of space and light.

Last week I mentioned that part of my issue with Jae-hyuk is his utter lack of respect for Do-hee\’s space, both literally and metaphorically. He forces himself into her space and as she has started to draw away from him he has begun to get violent, physically harming her. He also always does this in the dark or spaces with walls – in the conference room with the blinds drawn, in front of her house at night, in the shade of a bus stop.

Contrast that to this, where Hae-kyung and Do-hee are in the space that represents everything they\’ve shared so far – the kitchen. The lights are bright, the counters clean, the space wide open. He even makes sure to keep space between them when he sits.

But when Hae-kyung reaches out to wipe her tears it\’s just the lightest of touches, and it\’s in such a way that Do-hee can move away if she chooses. Every single movement from him is so delicate when he\’s in physical contact with her – the polar opposite of Jae-hyuk possessiveness. He\’s letting himself into her space, but he\’s making it clear that he will leave if that\’s what she wants. In fact, he does leave, as we see earlier in the scene when he tries to dry her hair and she refuses to let him. He steps away without argument and respects her space.

I love that this scene so perfectly mirrors what Hae-kyung said to Do-hee at the start of the episode over dinner. He says that he\’s not giving up on Do-hee, but he sees that she\’s not ready for a relationship with him either. I think if she had drawn the same line she did with Jae-hyuk he would have stepped back, but she didn\’t and so he lets her know that he\’s keeping that door open. He gives her the chance to say \”No, not ever\”. But I also appreciate that since he realized his feelings Hae-kyung has been up front and honest with Do-hee, which is again the opposite of Jae-hyuk, who we learned today lied to Do-hee about himself throughout their relationship.

And again, you can use metaphors of dark and light here to contrast the way the way they treat Do-hee, with Jae-hyuk constantly hiding the truth, while Hae-kyung constantly is completely honest with her. Jae-hyuk claims to love her, claims to know everything about her while Hae-kyung knew nothing about her, but at the same time he also knows all her secrets, and she, his. Jae-hyuk only ever keeps his secrets and never shares and yet expects Do-hee to come to him because that\’s what he wants.

This is the difference between Hae-kyung and Jae-hyuk. Hae-kyung has opened the door and now it\’s Do-hee\’s choice on how their relationship will proceed. Just like with this touch – he is offering comfort, but he\’s not demanding she accept it. So when she leans into him and lets him comfort her it\’s just…so perfect.

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    What a great write up! I dropped this show some episodes ago, and am now only following through recaps and the fanwall, so posts like yours are especially useful to understand what’s happening. In the earlier episodes I watched, I didn’t get the sense that the show was sophisticated enough to be engaging with the sort of light/dark metaphors as you describe (and partly why I dropped it – it wasn’t fun or clever enough, and did not seem to want to tread outside the boundaries of a traditional rom-com), but it’s good to know it’s gone in this direction!

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      I waited and binged the first six episodes, and I think that made a huge difference to how I see the show. It definitely is a pretty basic premise, and if you had asked me eight weeks ago which of the three food dramas in this cycle I’d skip, this would have been my first response. But it’s a lot more subtle than it appears – Do-hee isn’t some sobbing mess, and neither lead has been manipulated by their exes so far, which is very refreshing. I never expected it to play with these elements so well, and figured it would stick to food metaphors, which it hasn’t really done beyond Hae-kyung’s patients.

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    You describe perfectly the differences between HK and JH. Their contrast is so evident, and DoHee can see it, but I can understand she’s confused and hurt.

    And I love the use of light in this show. As you mentioned it’s always warm when DoHee and Haekyung are together.

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      I think it’s not that she isn’t aware that JH is bad – it’s that the depth of his awfulness has now been revealed and it has tainted all her memories of him. He basically took away her ability to trust in relationships, which is probably the shittiest thing a person can do.

      Also, how the hell did he think that he could get away with so many lies? Like, she was gonna find out eventually even if they got back together. And then what? I swear JH lives in some fairytale world where all his sins are instantly forgiven. He’s such an entitled asshat I can’t even.

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        Well, pathological liars do. They believe their own lies.
        I totally get DoHee. She had a relationship, it was good, it ended badly, but she managed to cope with it and even have good memories (she still goes eating to the places she and JH were together), she’s learned from her past but she’s also moved on.
        But now she finds out that JH broke up with her for no reason (at least not to her) but her whole relationship was based on a lie and that he was sort of “ashamed” of a poor girlfriend. That even hurts me. I mean, when they were together, they went to cheap places because they were students and couldn’t afford even to pay 1 dollar more to get cheese in their fried pork.
        I totally get she’s shaken and doesn’t know what to do.
        And even HK is a very reliable man, even so, it’s not about who HK is, but how Dohee feels. And here it is were we see, as you point out, the difference between the two men, as HK would never impose himself on her and would never make her feel uncomfortable (which is what JH does, you could see every time on her face).

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          This is true – I used to live with a pathological liar and the damage she did…man there are some things it took me the better part of a decade to recover from, because she used her lies to hurt everyone around her. Ugh. I hate even thinking of her.

          I don’t know what I would do if I were Do-hee. I do love that this is the first time that we really see Do-hee doubt herself. She may have been broken up by the two breakups, but she never let those keep her down. But this has the possibility of long term damage to her. I guess it’s a good thing she’s got a renowned psychiatrist hanging around her, huh?

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That slap was so satisfying.

Source

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Sometimes I think I had a slightly weirder childhood than most.

I loved the fairy tale in It’s Okay to Not Be Okay a lot for several reasons. (I’m refusing to call it a “dark” fairy tale, for reasons discussed below.)

It reminded me a lot of the Edward Gorey books I used to look over as a kid. If you’re not familiar with Gorey, just know that his books are…not child appropriate (though he did illustrate several children’s books and novels, including the excellent John Bellaires books). I love his style of illustration because it’s very gothic and complex while employing only the use of pen and paper. I saw an exhibit of his work a few years ago which just reminded me so much of what I loved about his work growing up.

I grew up obsessed with fairy tales. I sought them out – tracking down every version of common stories like Cinderella like it was my job. I think if I had chosen the academic route I would have specialized in fairy tales. I shelves of fairy tales at home, and I take great comfort in them. The thing I love most about fairy tales is that they are often not as clear cut as the sanitized versions we know today. A lot of them don’t really present a single clear message, and often the heroes and heroines of such tales make large sacrifices to get what they desire in the end. They are dark. They teach lessons that can’t be understood merely by simple ideas of “good” and “bad”. Many of them are very dark and disturbing, but I never grew up thinking of them that way, or that they weren’t appropriate for children. They never scared me. In fact, other than Disney, I really hated saccharine stories.

Like I said, weird childhood. My parents never really censored what I read or watched. They made sure to expose me and my brother to all sorts of ideas and cultures through art, travel, and books. One of my favorite movies was (and still is) Labyrinth. I remember making my mother read me Macbeth at age seven or eight. I’ve always been grateful for this freedom from censorship because by giving us the chance to explore the world freely allowed us to become used to the idea that things are not always black and white – much like the fairy tales I loved. Happy endings exist, but they have to be earned, and getting there means will not be a painless journey.

Which brings me back to It’s Okay to Not Be Okay. I loved the story because it taught a lesson but it wasn’t preachy and it wasn’t pretty. It was real and also very simple. We need pain to understand happiness. I don’t care whether you believe this or not, but it certainly holds weight to me. Maybe not as a child, but as an adult I have learned to understand and appreciate my happiness because of my understanding of pain. I can’t wait to see more of this drama simply because it seems to straddle the world of fairy tales and the real world, which are much more closely related than we know. I hope we get more fairy tales and even though it’s a drama and will have a happy ending, it’s nice to know that the road there won’t necessarily be lit by bright lights.


From The Grashlycrumb Tinies – Definitely not a kids book

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    I love fairy tales and children books. I love illustrations, my dream was to illustrate children books but life took the more strange path and my dreams are locked in very high shelf for now. Sometimes I wonder if I can ever find the key of that iron box which starts to be rotten.

    I came across fairy tales and children’s literature while I was studying it and I was surprised how it’s breathtaking in every aspect and more thrilling than adult stories. It’s really hard to find not a sanitised version of them that’s why maybe I love Astrid Lindgren and her little heroes which made ruckus in adult world.

    Fairy tales of northern countries where life was really hard and nature more savage are full of cruelty but brothers Grimm’s fairy tales were very dark as well and there’s available an english version of their work before it was rewritten by themselves. Each nation has stories which are very similar and it’s fascinating how they’re transmitted from one generation to another. There’s this story of Charles Perrault La Barbe blue which I know in different version but it made my nights difficult by having my imagination making overtimes. It’s a first story I ‘ve read in french and it’s horrifying and you can know some bits of it from kdrama Strong Woman Do Bong Soon.

    Last time my son was asking him to read a book he got from library and it was lovely but for him very scary. It was about a girl who could get an domestic animal like a cat or dog. Once she brought home a lion. Her mom moved out for long-term vacation and little by little people from the town started to disappear. The illustrations give us more clue – shoes and accessories stay untouched in the spot the person was seen for the last time. At the end even the girl disappears and finally the lion is happiest in savanna between other animals around him. A 5 years old was claiming that the lion wasn’t nice because he ate everybody so it was my turn to explain him why I was laughing at the end what was the message.

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      I know the feeling about locking up dreams. I wanted…a very different life from the one I have now. I’m grateful and happy now, but I took a lot of paths I wish I hadn’t to get here. I think I became obsessed with fairy tales right after I learned to read. I remember checking out all of Andrew Lang’s fairy books from the library. I later explored Grimm, Andersen, etc. One of my favorite books growing up was my mother’s beautiful illustrated copy of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince and Other Tales. I did multiple projects and papers throughout both my school and university days on fairy tales.

      I’m sort of fascinated by the sanitization of these stories, because they are so much more powerful to children when we leave the harsh parts in. I have found that kids are more engaged with the stories even when they don’t fully grasp the moral or understand the meaning like your son. I understand your son’s reasoning – here’s this lion eating people, even when we know eating people is bad. And I think these types of stories are so important for young minds because it helps them grow and think complexly. It really causes them to stop and think about the world and people’s motivations as going beyond “good” and “bad”. I’m glad you explained to him why you saw the story your way.

      I know not all kids will like or relate to the same things, but I also think we do them a disservice when we hide the realities of the world from them. I remember I never thought the witches in movies and stories were scary, per se, just a little misguided; but when my nieces were small they found them scary, and I had to reexamine how I saw the story. It’s always fascinating to see the world through children’s eyes.

      Also: I have definitely read a few versions of Bluebeard…that’s one of the very few I would probably keep from young children without edits. It is quite disturbing – I had to read it again when I was in university and it was a whole new experience as an adult.

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    Yes! Edward Gorey’s illustrations/drawings is what the show reminded me of.

    2
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      I just cannot get enough of his work, and now I’m thinking I need some prints even though I don’t know if I have anywhere to put them up.

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I don’t like to talk glibly about mental health issues – it’s a topic that we have stigmatized too much in society and has made it harder for us to make compassionate steps forward in helping those who need it.

That being said: Jae-hyuk is completely off his rocker. A basket case. Crazy as they come. Bonkers.

But here’s the thing – it’s genuinely hard for me to evaluate characters like him who have real issues which preclude their scary behavior. Partially because there are a lot of people who are equally scary and abusive without mental health issues. I had a dream a few weeks ago where I was with a friend and she was being stalked by a man she only saw as a friend; I woke up from that dream in a cold sweat because it was so scary to think about how those situations can go south really fast. When I told my brother about the dream, it initially was hard for him to grasp why it was so scary when the threat wasn’t necessarily physical violence at first.

Do-hee will look crazy or like a b*tch if she refuses to thank Jae-hyuk for “saving” her and if she acts like making him dinner is too much. But here’s the thing: it totally is too much. He is constantly physically inserting himself into her space – and no one can comment on it, because he only gets too close when it’s only the two of them alone. If she makes a comment or says something, sure she’ll get sympathy because he’s a clingy ex, but then people will ask why she agreed to work with him etc. It’s a vicious circle.

Do-hee is strong, I get that – none of this is a comment on her character. She’s a badass who has asserted herself and drawn the line, even if Jae-hyuk refuses to respect it. At this point he hasn’t, to her knowledge, crossed a line into danger (though of course we know otherwise), despite Hae-kyung’s warning. When I think about abuse, the thing that scares me more is not the threat of physical violence, but rather the way abusers turn your feelings against you, make you question whether you are overthinking things. But that’s what is so scary about these things – it’s about the insidiousness of how certain, normal actions, can become terrifying and used as tools against you. Being gaslighted by your own actions. I don’t think things have gotten this far with Do-hee and Jae-hyuk, and I don’t think they will, but the signs are there. Moreover, like I mentioned in my last post, we still have no idea what their relationship looked like.

Contrast this to Hae-kyung and No-eul. Yes she sucks. She’s selfish and spoiled and entitled. But we see glimpses of their relationship and we see that there was still some softness and love their despite all that. I want to explore more of why and how Hae-kyung was so fine with No-eul cheating on him and using him, but at the same time, I think I get it. We know he has abandonment issues, but I do think he loved No-eul; I think he thought letting her be free was his way of showing that. And I think she genuinely loved him too. It was too messed up to ever work, but that doesn’t make it less real.

But that’s where No-eul and Jae-hyuk are different: she wants to get back with Hae-kyung not necessarily because of love, but because it’s safe. She knows he’ll put up with whatever b*llsh*t she pulls and that works for her selfish personality. But Jae-hyuk – clearly he has mental health issues. Somehow those issues have manifested in an obsession with Do-hee. I don’t know where or how to judge him, because on the one hand, it’s not his fault his brain is wired that way. But on the other hand, we know he seems to be purposefully going off his meds and is clearly veering into dangerous behaviors, and I wonder how much of that we can call a choice.

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    Im not watching this drama, just reading your insightful and interesting comments. I have a good friend who was diagnosed bipolar in our early 20s. When she lived at home with her parents or grandparents she was under their insurance and faithfully took her meds to keep herself regulated. Whenever she left home she would run out of money for her prescription and would eventually start making –lets just call them poor decisions and she would justify it by saying “its the way God made her!” and if she did or said something that most would consider unforgiveable we all looked the other way “shes off her meds” wed whisper. Here we are a decade later. Shes married with two kids. Shes on different meds now. Im not privvy to what they are but she tries really hard to stay on them because she doesnt want to allow her brain to allow her to do or say something that would hurt her family. But you can aleays tell when shes towards the end of the bottle.
    Not sure that actually has anything to do with anything but it felt like it did.

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      That’s the thing, right? Like, at what point do we base poor decisions on mental illness? I know people do terrible things without mental illness, and we need to figure out where that line is. There’s also definitely a spectrum of how to talk about it to some degree: Like saying racism is a mental illness – no, it’s not, it’s an active choice. But what about alcoholism? That is definitely an illness, but it’s also brought about by active choices. (I know, there’s a lot of other factors involved, but I’m trying to be succinct). But then you have things like bipolar disorder, personality disorders, depression, anxiety – all treatable but also all caused by the brain just being wired differently. To what extent can we blame someone with mental illness for choosing not to get treated?

      Where and how do we discuss these things? Not all bipolar people are going to hurt others but some do – to what extent do we blame that on the illness? And I get that going off meds on purpose makes a difference, but it still begs the question: where does personal autonomy start and the mental illness end?

      I don’t know if that makes sense or if I’m just incoherently rambling at this point. My brain is kind of fried now.

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        I guess it depends..on the type of mental illness…bipolar disorder doesn’t necessarily mean you are violent…as for meds, mental health related drugs are designed to keep you at low and that does affect you…as somebody who has taken anti-depressants, it used to make me feel like I am walking two inch above ground while walking…I eventually switched meds and later counselling took over 100% so its not a choice yet its difficult to carry on with prescription medications because of their side effects…so I would say just hear the other side out…its not all black and white…korean dramas do a very poor job at showing the true extent of things….but reality is much more sadder for people suffering from anxiety, depression, bipolar or any other mental health related issues.

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          Exactly this – I take anti-depressants and it’s fine. I feel more normal if I take them because they help my brain work better. That’s what medication is supposed to do. And I get that more severe mental illnesses take more time to treat or that treatments need to be varied, but my point is, how much can we blame Jae-hyuk for his actions? I get that he appears to be purposefully stopping his meds, and that’s a problem; but that also means his mental illness takes over and to what degree can we blame his actions on that? Where is the line between choice and illness when it comes to his actions?

          I don’t love the idea of just calling him “crazy” and leaving it at that. I’ve seen comments elsewhere which seem to ignore the mental health aspect of this, and I don’t think you can talk about his actions without also acknowledging that part of it.

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            Agree that the mental illness aspect of this is important. I’m also on an anti-depressant at the moment (it’s the only thing keeping me functional right now) and I completely sympathize with @gem28‘s point because I don’t like being on this anti-depressant (among other things, I feel very tired a lot as well as quite a bit sleepier than I usually am) and hope to be off of it at some point in the next few months. It’s a difficult tightrope to be on – either you take the medicine, which helps you function but may have all kinds of unwelcome or downright pernicious side effects, or you refuse to take the medicine and deal with all the potentially destructive consequences of failing to do so.

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      One of my best friends’ mum is bipolar. She didn’t have a good relation with her while growing up, mainly because she wasn’t correctly medicated. About 13 years ago , she had such a terrible crisis that doctors told the family she wouldn’t recover… can you imagine such a thing? Going totally nuts because it was to late? Fortunately she could recover from that and my friend decided to move back again with their parents so she could supervise her meds.
      It was a tough time for her and also for me (my mum was diagnosed with cancer) so I remember the feeling of us both trying to figure out this damn life. And also that’s when I became fully aware as an adult of how little we care about mental health and I became an activist on it.

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    Is he going off his meds or was he prescribed something he shouldn’t have been that effed up his brain chemistry? I think it might be the latter! It’s also possible he’s a drug addict of some sort (he had an article about psychomimetic drugs open on his computer).

    I think I have a sort of different take about mental illness and its relationship with blame/moral responsibility. I don’t want to get into a long philosophical discussion on this – I would need a lot of words to explain my thoughts about this, 99% of which aren’t actually original and are just my own understanding of stuff I’ve read over the years – but I generally tend to think even mentally ill persons can be held responsible for their bad actions.

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      I thought before we saw his crazy vision board there was a glance of an article entitled “Are drs over-prescribing psychotropic drugs”?

      I agree – mentally ill people can totally be held accountable. And that’s where my trouble is – at what point is the action a choice v. a result of the illness? And that’s why his going off his meds is so important to understand here – because if that is a conscious choice, does that necessarily mean that all his actions thereafter are also his fault? Like, I totally think Jae0hyuk is accountable for the “accident” he caused – he knew it would end up hurting people but he did it anyway. He did it because he wanted Do-hee to be indebted to him and he was most definitely aware that it was not a good thing to do. But at the same time, his obsession with Do-hee seems to stem from his mental illness. So how do you reconcile the two?

      Mental illness is a spectrum – a depressed person should be held accountable if they have a DIY and hurt someone; a sociopath may not care about social norms but they can prescribe to them through learned behaviors, and therefore not adhering is a choice; but is a schizophrenic whose grasp on reality is tenuous accountable for hurting someone if they genuinely do not understand or see that they are hurting someone?

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        In the sub version I watched, the title of the article was described as, “Immoral Doctors Over Prescribing Psychomimetic Drugs for Money”. The import of the article is not yet clear to me. It’s possible he might be going off his medicines – the title of the article may reflect his internal justification for going off his medicine or something like that – or it may be that the article has something to do with his past – perhaps he was one of these people who were over-prescribed psychomimetic drugs, which is now causing problems for him (this was my initial interpretation).

        Agree, there is a spectrum with mental illness which makes it very difficult to discern when responsibility can lie with the individual suffering from the illness. From personal experience, I know lots of people who’ve suffered from very severe mental illness and I think there’s often a danger that can come from being too permissive or automatically absolving mentally ill persons of any responsibility they may have for harmful conduct (in the worst case, I’ve seen people I know lean on their mental illness as an excuse for all kinds of unrelated things). On the flip side, though, there can be a real rush to judge mentally ill people for conduct in respect of which no blame can lie with them. For example, one of my closest friends has had bouts of psychotic depression in which he’s suffered from hallucinations and delusions; one of our mutual friends (wrongly, in my view) has held against him things he said while in one of the midst of one of these bouts, even though his perception of the situation in which he said those things was not attuned to reality. So yeah, I 100% agree that there can be a real range here; I guess my only thought is that attribution of responsibility and blame can be valid in some situations, although attribution or non-attribution is always really delicate and difficult in relation to mentally ill people.

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          I agree that you can’t hold behaviors brought about by mental health issues against a person. I have an aunt (ex-aunt?) who is clearly bipolar, and has done a lot of hurtful things to her children, my cousins, and to a lesser extent my family. She can’t let go of her divorce, which happened two decades ago, and it’s impossible to go a day with her without her bringing it up – and then crying and ruining whatever good mood you were in. My mother loves her like a younger sister, but lately even my mom can’t put up with some of the totally rude things she has said about her family. And when I was talking to my mom about it, I told her she shouldn’t put up with it. Like, yes, my aunt has no filter and she has problems, but she still should be told when what she’s doing is hurtful or rude. My mother shouldn’t be a martyr just because someone else has problems; she has enough to deal with.

          So, this is where my brain is at in regard to this drama: I think there’s a valuable conversation to be had when it comes to talking about abuse and mental health, and learning how to discern the two. Because I 100% see what Jae-hyuk is doing as abusive.

          I think some of what Jae-hyuk does is out of his control; but at the same time, there are certain things he does that are 100% on him and his choices and have nothing to do with his mental health. So how can we thoughtfully discuss his character without resorting to “That boy just cray cray”? Because, yes, he is both literally crazy, but also he does some really crazy things, and I think that those are two different conversations.

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    I can’t comment on the mental health aspect because I lack real world experience so I don’t know much but I wanna talk about what you said about No Eul and Hae Kyung’s relationship. It seems like he genuinely loved her but didn’t confront her because he was so afraid to be abandoned and she couldn’t bear it any longer. I think the cheating and the trips that she took were basically to push him. She was mean about it to say the least but you can see where that was coming from

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      Agreed – I think they genuinely loved one another but neither of them knew how to love one another or express it in healthy ways. I think that’s why, as terrible as Son Na-eun is in the role, there is a certain amount of sympathy/empathy I have for No-eul as a character. Not a lot, but a bit. She seems to have a lot of damage from her relationship with her mother too. But she also seemed lonely and like a genuinely warm person when she was befriending Do-hee and none of that felt fake or malicious. However, I wonder how that will change when she sees Do-hee and Hae-kyung together…

      I think she clings to people she believes will support her, but fails to see that such relationships are a two way street and that you need give something back as well. A lot of this just seems to stem from her immaturity, which I suspect was exacerbated by being in a relationship with Hae-kyung who allowed her to indulge in her worst traits.

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    At first I was putting JaeHyeok and NoEul at the same level, annoying exes who do annoying thing. Selfish stupid people. Nothing more.
    But after your previous post and watching the three last episodes, my concern about DoHee is not only how much she drinks (too much) but the fact that JaeHyunk is too close, too close.
    I love about DoHee that she’s been straight with JaeHyunk from the beginning: I have no feelings for you, we will never be back because it doesn’t matter how much we loved each other, you hurted me and I’m over you. She’s said that every single time. She hasn’t been ambiguous, she’s always kept the distance. She’s doing what she has to do.
    And yet he, like you said, keeps invading her space. And he invades it when the two of them are alone, like him waiting by her doorway until she arrives, or harass her when they’re alone at the office or when he pushes her to drive his car or buy him dinner because she owes him. You could see by DoHee’s look she’s not comfortable with the idea but somehow she thinks she owe him, so he’s succeed.
    I think this “I owe him” thing is more related to our education, to women education , because we are taught to please others: smile, be nice, don’t be rude. So DoHee wants to be straight and cut things, but also, she’s working with him and he’s saved her life (or something) and yes, she once had feelings for this psycho. Everything combined puts her in a terribly vulnerable position.
    That position of vulnerability can also be applied to HaeKyung. It’s different, of course, because No Eul is just a hurt puppy who wants attention and whose most terrible actions were cheating on her boyfriend and tell him to get some reactions out of him. She’s not a psycho (although she needs serious counseling). But my point is, HaeKyung is also straight to her, telling her there’s nothing left between the two of them, yet he hurries by her side everytime he gets a call. There’s a weakness in him regarding No Eul. He probably knows he wasn’t the best boyfriend he could be (being loyal doesn’t mean being good), and he also feels that “I owe her” thing.
    This drama is showing us so many lawyers!!!

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      I think that was the point in setting up the exes like this – and I really appreciate the show for making them contrast, even if they made me want to set them on fire initially.

      No-eul clearly has a lot of issues regarding her self-worth and self-esteem, which coupled with her selfishness and immaturity make her an unpalatable person. But she also isn’t all bad – I really enjoyed how she genuinely seemed to like Do-hee and wanted to be friends. I hope the show can do more with her than make her a jealous ex, even if Son Na-eun’s acting is lacking. (I talked more about how I feel about her/this relationship in my reply to Mani-chan above, so I won’t get into it again here.) The only thing I’ll add here is that I think Hae-kyung responds to No-eul’s is definitely in part a loyalty to her, but also in part just who he is as a person. He is a psychiatrist, and a good one at that. He takes the time to understand his patients and to get himself inside their heads – and we see he also does this with the people in his life. The way he listens patiently to Do-hee and empathizes with her. But I think what makes the difference between Do-hee and No-eul is that Do-hee also helps him and gives him advice. She’s there for him to lean on as much as he is for her. With No-eul he only gave and never received, and at the end of the day a relationship can’t survive that.

      The conditioning women go through in society is exactly what I was getting at with my comments – women are damned if they do, damned if they don’t when it comes to abusive relationships. And that’s why I keep insisting on using this language to refer to Jae-hyuk. Yes, he clearly has mental health issues, that’s not up for debate. But he’s also emotionally abusive, and has crossed over into physically abusive in small ways. Just saying Do-hee is strong isn’t enough to justify his behavior, and even if she is strong, why should she put up with it? As you said she has clearly drawn boundaries over and over, and he has continually ignored them. Even the strongest person can have their will broken down by persistence. (I don’t necessarily think that’s happening here, but again, I really see this as an abusive situation, so that’s the lens of my analysis.)

      The part that bothers me is that there has to be a balance between the mental health aspect and the abusive behavior aspect when talking about Jae-hyuk. We can’t ignore one or the other. I think we try to oversimplify things when it comes to mental health; but at the same time, I don’t like equating abuse to mental health issues because many abusive people do not have mental health issues.

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I\’m starting to get some super shady vibes from Jae-hyuk in Will You Have Dinner With Me? I can\’t help but wonder if he was emotionally abusive towards Do-hee in their relationship. His behaviors seem very manipulative and quite frankly, today started to peel back to show something a little darker, and I really find myself wondering what their relationship was like.

I realized that we\’ve seen scenes from Hae-kyung and Na-eul\’s relationship and we can see why it worked and we know why it fell apart. We have no idea what the relationship between Do-hee and Jae-hyuk looked like; were they lovey dovey? Did they enjoy sharing meals together? How did they influence one another? Were they on the brink of marriage, or were they drifting apart? We know Do-hee fell apart after he left, but we also have no idea what she was like before now. The only glimpse I can recall of their relationship is the flashback to him telling her to eat the sashimi the way he likes it and completely ignoring her reaction. He totally ghosted her and now he thinks that she\’ll forgive and forget as if he never hurt her. There\’s an entitlement to his behaviors that is disturbing because it can be so subtle.

What I do find interesting is that both the audience and the characters are on Do-hee\’s side, because obviously what he did was super sh*tty, but in the drama, the people at the studio are still willing to work with someone who hurt their coworker like that. That\’s a sh*t thing to make someone go through. It\’s bad enough to have to work with an ex – but to have to work with an ex who dropped without explanation and now is harassing you is awful. Like, I would never ever subject someone I work with to that. But the thing about Jae-hyuk is that he is kind of charming – which is a trait that many abusers have. Do-hee has stood strong and doesn\’t seem like she\’ll waiver no matter what his reason for leaving is; but at the same time, emotional abuse is about wearing a person down slowly, breaking down defenses and making the abused seem unreasonable. Small things, like cornering her to give her a wedding invitation, seem harmless on the surface, but could be scary for someone who got over being gaslighted for years.

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    I havent seen the latest eps but what you said about the studio people got me. Ah Yeong is obviously a very close sunbae/eonni who cares a lot about Do Hee so I was very surprised when she asked DH to work with the ex and DH’s reaction to it was quite mild for me. Sure she refused at first, but she never got mad at her or talked abt how upsetting it is to make her work with the ex. Which i found strange – it would’ve been understandable if theirs was a formal r/ship but we’ve seen how DH has no problem going up against her boss before. I would be super annoyed if other coworkers are all chummy with the ex too.

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      Agreed! It was even worse because Ahyoung seems to be one of the few people that knew he never even went to the US! What is up with that? Why is she tolerating him being there when he’s a verified liar on top of being an a**hole?

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      Even I was extremely shocked at Ah Young’s behaviour. She knew that Jae Hyuk had not been abroad and that the break up had been hard on Do Hee but she still proceeded with the plan anyway. And regarding the co workers being chummy, they don’t know how bad the break up was or even how unfair it was so it’s natural that they may feel a bit awkward but they don’t have any reason not to like him

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    Have just finished ep 7 and Jae-hyuk’s behaviour disturbingly reminds me of Lee Ji-Hoon’s last role in 9.9 Billion Woman, uh oh.

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      Haven’t seen that one, but I used to work with domestic violence victims, and a lot of the time the abuse was not physical, but it was more like this – this need to control and be there constantly. It’s very scary.

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    Yes you called it, I couldn’t put my finger why he made me uncomfortable. Also the way he keeps calling her away to “talk to her” – I hope she finally answers and says “talk right here”.
    There must be a purpose of why they have made him so icky in the script.

    Still, I’m LOVING this show – except yesterday was hard – but I trust things will work out for the best.

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      I am loving this too – I binged the first six episodes this weekend and now I have something to obsess over on Monday/Tuesday for the first time in a long while. I really love the way all the relationships are unfolding. There are a surprising amount of layers to everything, sometimes obvious, sometimes less so. But Lee Ji-hoon is doing a good job with the character, because even if I don’t like Jae-hyuk, he feels so real.

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        He is layered and complex isn’t he?

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          100%. I really hope this drama deals with the mental health aspect respectfully. So far it’s been fine, but very superficial. Jae-hyuk seems a lot darker and because he is both a lead and more complex, I really hope it doesn’t boil down to “boy just cray”.

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            Yes I agree with you @snarkyjellyfish – after last night’s episode he seems to be showing some pretty creepy signs of something bad.
            And I hope with a ‘psychiatrist’ character on the show we will get some kind of reference to mental health issues.

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    I’ve only watched about 20 minutes of ep 7 so far and I totally got the shady vibes you’re talking about here! We still don’t know Jae-hyuk’s full story but from what we’ve seen thus far, he’s just bad news. Even Hae-kyung advised her to be careful about him!

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    In yesterday’s episodes JaeHyeok was really scary. I mean: Do Hee makes him clear EVERY SINGLE time they talk that they will not get together, yet he acts like a psycho who only hears his voice. He’s a stalker and manipulative and totally crazy.
    I mean, he’s the kind of guy who would be something horrible just to get what he wants.
    He needs to go back to jail (it’s my theory that he was in jail and not abroad studying).

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      I’m more convinced they’re going to go the sick route and he was treated for something – though now I wonder if it was a mental health issue seeing how homeless ajusshi reacted to him and later homeless ajusshi went to see Hae-kyung. But prison is an option – I mean, if they’re hinting that homeless ajusshi lost his family in an accident, it would explain a lot if it was Jae-hyuk’s fault.

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        I think these are the two theories I’m playing with as well. Either he killed the homeless ajusshi’s family somehow or he has some kind of serious psychiatric illness. At this point, I’m hoping it’s the former.

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          I also wonder if it was a manslaughter thing and it led to mental health issues? I mean, like I said, I get serious abuser vibes from him, but that doesn’t preclude him from also having mental health issues (nor is it an excuse).

          My issue with Jae-hyuk being involved in a homicide of some sort is that there’s really no way for it to work cleanly – I could see him being one of two drivers in an accident that caused the deaths of homeless ajusshi’s family – but what if they’re not dead? What if he just did something to ruin ajusshi and estrange him from his family? Ajusshi also seemed more scared of him than angry at him – and it feels like seeing Jae-hyuk was what pushed him to see Hae-kyung. I also got the feeling that ajusshi knows Hae-kyung personally and wonder if he wasn’t there for help. I am also pretty sure at this point that he’s not actually homeless, he just chooses to appear so.

          There’s some piece of the puzzle missing here which connects the three and I can’t quite figure it out. I hope we get more answers today.

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            I guess we’ll have some answers in today’s ep. Still waiting for subs.

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    Jae Hyuk seemed dangerous for the first time and Hae Kyung sensed that….I don’t think a licensed psychiatrist will say he is dangerous out of nowhere, he said that because he sensed something and Do Hee better listen…No Eul is another piece of work…as for work place setting, I can see how they may not object to exes working together…its business at the end of the day…Jae Hyuk has only shown his slightly crazy, deranged persona to Hae Kyung…as far as workplace is concerned, he is harmless and Do Hee is strong enough to hold her ground so I don’t think its unreasonable…I do believe Do Hee has to speak up about this constant harassment, it is harassment and Jae Hyuk needs to be fired over that.

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      Exes working together isn’t an issue most of the time. The reason I brought up the workplace in this particular instance is because this is typical in patterns of abuse – wanting to control the person in every way, including inserting themselves into places where they shouldn’t be.

      I get that Do-hee is strong enough to get past it, but that’s the point – why do we constantly expect women to bear the burden of putting up with harassment or taking control of the situation alone? Why do we expect them to be the bigger person? She said she didn’t want to work with him, she said she wanted nothing to do with him, she has rejected him multiple times, and he has no respect for that. It is very clear to everyone around her that she does not want anything to do with Jae-hyuk, and placing the onus solely on her is unfair. Making her work with him, even if of her own volition, isn’t fair here because she’s doing it under duress.

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        This is a kdrama, under normal circumstances HR would probably step in and ensure these were not in the same team in most cases… but remember how this whole saga unfolded……she was going to get fired whether she like it or not and even though her boss was reluctant thanks to I am guessing legal ramifications of her ridiculous show…that is when Jae Hyuk extended an olive branch…that was also the only way to keep Do Hee around…I do hope her boss sees that this was wrong for obvious reasons but I am guessing nobody knows about how messed up Jae Hyuk is yet….I am curious…he didn’t leave for States, I am assuming he was in a mental asylum getting treated

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    Wow. Just watched episode 8. Ready to comment when you are!
    I’m changing my jail theory to psychiatrist hospital internment 😱 😱 😱
    Every single episode he gets more and more psycho!!

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      It’s like this show is slowly peeling the layers and giving us insight into deeper dynamics

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I pride myself on being pretty good at placing faces and figuring out where I recognize actors from despite full body and character transformations, but this one from Will You Have Dinner With Me? literally made my jaw drop because he was so familiar yet I could not figure out from where for the life of me. Kudos to the actor, Lee Hyun Jin, for making such a massive transformation and being so unrecognizable from his last role.

(Also: this show is much better than I expected, but the two second leads can go jump in a fiery pit together. Seriously, what is the deal with exes in dramaland coming back and expecting to be taken back at the drop of a hat when they treated the other person like sh*t? How can they be so shameless?)

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    I’m surprised that you found him familiar at all! I should also add that I am VERY BAD at placing faces! 😀

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      It was the bone structure in his face – it was so familiar. His facial structure reminds me a bit of Shin Hyun-soo around the cheekbone area, especially styled like this, but I knew it wasn’t him. I remember seeing that resemblance during Sky Castle too, which was why it was bugging me even more.

      But also, his character here is the polar opposite of his Sky Castle character and it’s so weird that he’s talking all the time instead of silently standing behind Kim Seo-hyung.

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    I didn’t recognize him at all.
    And regarding the exes, I just hope a meteorite falls down on them. Drama Gods, please, listen.

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      I just…can’t with those two. I hate the “I left to spare you the suffering” excuse because it’s an excuse that appears selfless on the surface but is really incredibly selfish and reveals how little they think of their partner and how little respect they have for them.

      Also, Son Na-eun is a terrible actress. I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt here…but no. She can’t emote to save her life. And Lee Ji-hoon deserves better. But the leads are so cute I think I can stick it out.

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      No @eazal, they deserve the truck of doom. Where is it when you need it the most?

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        I’ve been waiting for a truck of doom since episode 3.
        Now I want a new trope: the meteorite trope.
        They are so terribly bad, they deserve it!!!!

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    Whoa! I had a feeling I had seen him somewhere! Kudos to you, @snarkyjellyfish for figuring this one out!

    Also, “… but the two second leads can go jump in a fiery pit together.” ….. Truer words have never been spoken, er, written! I’m just soooo done with those two.

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    OMG! Incredible detective work. I never would have placed him!

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I\’ve been feeling a bit off the last few weeks and haven\’t really been able to focus on dramas, but I finally started Mystic Pop-Up Bar and…it\’s kind of great?

What I love most is the trio at the heart of the show. I fully expected to casually watch this and be half-interested. I was intrigued by the fact that there wasn\’t any sort of romance advertised between any of the leads, and instead it really did seem to be an adventure show. I think calling it Hotel Del Luna lite is a disservice – there are the obvious similarities of course, but I don\’t have a problem with that; I really enjoyed Hotel Del Luna I\’d watch another version of that story. I think that this is different because while Hotel Del Luna was told on a grand sweeping scale, Mystic Pop-Up Bar is more grounded and its stories are tighter and more focused on everyday people. I also think this finds a better balance between past an present, so it moves the story along at a good pace.

I also think this is the most I\’ve ever enjoyed Hwang Jung-eum in a role. I don\’t dislike her, per se, but she does play a certain type and it usually takes a few episodes of a drama for me to warm up to her characters. But I loved her here immediately. I think part of it is the styling. You can\’t wear those outfits and those amazing lipsticks and not have some sass and attitude. She also looks like she\’s having a blast in the role, and while I think she always commits to the physical comedy in her roles, she seems to have honed it well here to fit the character here.

I also love the two male leads (yes, I see both Choi Won-young and Sungjae as the male leads, plural). They have a great chemistry together and I love the way this trio has gelled quickly and formed a little family. Sungjae\’s character is an adorable, awkward, sweet little goober and must be protected at all costs. Also, he is a hoot to watch because he has really committed to the comedy and plays the hapless angst-magnet so well.

I\’ve always loved Choi Won-young\’s chameleon like ability to adapt to his characters; he can do it all: creepy villain, sweet father, slimy CEO, obnoxious husband, goofy sidekick, overworked secretary – and every single time it feels fresh. I never associate him with one single type of role, and I always am eager to see what he brings to a drama. I love that he\’s kind of a goofy, sweet, badass here and I can\’t wait to see more of his character\’s backstory. I also love the subtle hinted at story between him and Hwang Jung-eum – they have great chemistry and I loved them in Kill Me, Heal Me, even though that was a very different relationship.

Which brings me to the final thing I\’m loving – the direction and the writing. The direction in this drama is flawless. The shots are all perfectly lined up and the colors pop. The use of space is brilliant, layering shots and using the entire frame to tell a full story. The story itself is solid, each episode builds on the mythology but also tells a complete story which is thematically relevant. We can see where the story is going but there are still surprises and the characters are all well-realized and not as stock as I expected. The world it\’s building – not just the supernatural one but the contemporary one – is also its own little universe and it\’s great to see the smaller characters come back and evolve. More than that it\’s clever and finds ways to call back to little things keeping the story connected and consistent.

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    It’s as if every single sentence is telling me to watch this show!

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      I did not expect to love it as much as I do – it’s definitely my most anticipated show each week right now.

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        Beanie Love is being spread well for the new shows – Oh My Baby, Dinner Mate, Unfamiliar Family, Mystic.. I might try Mystic if I can 😃

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          I’ve been loving Oh My Baby too – and I liked the first episode of Unfamiliar Family. Haven’t checked out Dinner Mate yet, but I plan to soon.

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    Such a well written piece. I haven’t watched HDLL, because it’s a style I couldn’t find myself enjoying. Given that this is similar stylistically (?) even if not comparable content-wise, I remain sceptical. But your write up is a hard sell for the show! I might end up watching one episode to give it a shot.

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      Right? This is so beautifully written. @SnarkyJellyfish, you’ve put the show in a new light. I watched the first 2 episodes and planned to finish the rest in a binge. Now I can watch them with fresh eyes. Thank you. ☺️

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        Aw, thank you. I almost didn’t post this – I wrote it like four days ago and just got too busy.

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      I’d actually put it the other way around – it’s similar content wise (story-wise) but the palette and vibe here are much brighter – even in terms of how the story is playing out and how it’s structured are a lot simpler here but it’s effective given these characters.

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        Ha got it. I agree about the palette being different, although both shows have a clear other-worldly “look and feel” about them – hence my comment about stylistic similarities. I like the fact that it’s an episodic show, so you feel like you’ve got a complete story in one episode even if you don’t stay for the whole run. I’ll get to this soon!

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    I’m loving the show too! The way the afterlife is being portrayed is amazing! The incorporation of the technologies and how it’s being used in the afterlife is hilarious.

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    Hwang Jung-eum’s acting style has never been really to my taste, but she’s perfect here!

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      This director really reigned her in and channeled her manic energy well. I also think this trio just has fantastic chemistry and balance each other out well – both in how they’re written and also visually.

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      Her acting style is just suited to Weol Ju so well. The director took out her total potential.

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    I never watched HDL and I’m always so sceptical of episodic shows, this however, works so well. We understand their world since episode one and each episode is equally intriguing and the people and their stories are important. It is shot in the comic style though, as if the comic wasn’t really dramatized but used as it is for scenes but even that works and I’m loving the storytelling.

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      Yes! Honestly, I think the directing is what makes this work. Even with the good cast and the sharp, tight writing, without the hand of a deft director this could easily be mediocre. But the way he created a world and then channeled his actors’ energies and talents is fantastic.

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    Well, dang … I believe I’m going to try this show now!

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    I am really enjoying this show. One of the reasons why I wanted to watch it (aside from the fact that it is a fantasy) is that it reminded me of Hotel Del Luna (loved that show!). It has the right amount of comedy and sadness without feeling as if one overpowers the other.

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    You captured everything I love about this show and composed it much better than I could!

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    Totally agree, it is great.

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    I’m loving this show so much, and as you said, the writing and directing is great. Add to that the chemistry among our leading trio, and I’m totally sold.
    And I totally agree with you about Choi Won-young. He’s the main reason I decided to watch.

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    I’m looking forward to watching this when all the episodes are available. I usually watch dramas with my husband and he prefers to watch dramas that are complete.

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It’s been a rough week for me, so I fell super behind on posting these drama challenges. I actually had this one written up already, I just needed to post it. I’ll try to catch up in the next day or so.

17: Drama That Deserves a Second Season 
The charm of dramas is that they are self-contained stories, and that’s largely why I was attracted to them. But that doesn’t mean I eschew the multi-season format. I think there are some types of narratives that do well, if not better, in this format. Procedurals, which are largely serialized storytelling, can benefit from the multi-season format because they allow more time to develop characters while still being able to tell smaller stories in fill, giving fluidity to the writing. There’s a reason why many of the longest running shows outside of soaps are procedurals in western media (e.g. the Law & Order franchises, NCIS,/i>, etc.). Hospital procedurals are similar, and again, allow for a fluidity of writing and development which only works in the multi-season format (there’s a reason Grey’s Anatomy has been on so long and ER ran for 15 seasons).  

The thing about procedurals is that they are as much about the work as they are about the characters, and that’s something that dramas rarely focus on, except in these types of stories. It makes sense that dramas stick to the mini-series format. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some dramas I want more of. The ones that spring to mind are the ones that areas much character pieces as they are procedural. The two I want to see more from the most – Forest of Secrets and Signal – have promised us second seasons already, so now we are just playing the waiting game.  

But there is one drama that I have thought a lot about, and which I wish would give us more – and that is The Guest. I loved this drama – I would definitely call it a procedural, albeit with a supernatural bent. The characters were brilliantly drawn, they were whole, and we got to go with them on a journey of healing. When we got to the end, it didn’t feel like the end, but rather the start of something new.  

I want to see more of the world that the drama built. The way the drama explored different facets of the supernatural – conventional western religious versus local traditions/belief – was so interesting to me. I loved seeing these two aspects come together and how the main trio represented different aspects of it – the Church, the traditionalist, and the skeptic. 

I also fell in love with this unlikely trio – a priest, a taxi driver and a police detective connected by an event in their childhood – and I want to see more of them. Show me how they heal from the aftermath of the first series. Where did Yoon Hwa-pyung go? Is it really him? How did Kang Gil-yoon and Father Matthew recover from his loss? Give me an X-Files of these three going around and fighting demons and evil spirits (this is also literally the plot of a show called Evil which is great but creepy AF).  

Honorable Mention:
Circle was such a great drama and the heart and soul of it was in the relationship between the two brothers. Part of what made the drama brilliant was the dual storytelling with half in the present and half in the future – it kept the viewer on their toes and kept the story moving in unexpected ways. Each episode was purposeful and no time was wasted on filler (benefit of a 12 episode drama). The ending was left open – we never got clear answers in regard to the alien aspect of the story. I don’t know how another season would look, because I think Circle worked largely because of the storytelling structure. I suspect the narrative would lose steam if told in a more linear way, and I wouldn’t want another season unless it also was able to do something similar with the narrative technique. Not necessarily the same thing, but something similar – two different worlds? Different timelines? There are options.

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