i know what you mean!


Posted on: September 26, 2006

The character that Lee Joon Ki portrayed in “My Girl” –  Seo Jung Woong – has been repeatedly deemed as bland and one dimensional by reviewers.  Some reviews complained that he seemed to be always standing on the sideline weeping for his unrequitted love without having done anything impressive to convince the audience that he deserves to win the girl.  To me, I found his character extremely attractive, and I’m pretty sure that’s not just me.

I give the romance writer ChiungYao (瓊瑤) the full credit for bringing forth the Asian soap generation.  Starting in the 1960’s, her novels rocked pubescent girls’ world with romantic tremors.  She united the east Asian modern love archetype where the woman is young, beautiful and prone to sickness whenever it’s convenient.   The man is older, strong, and handsome in someway, probably rich and powerful too.  Throughout the course of the novel, no matter how smart, unique, and successful the woman is, it is understood that her only raison d’etre is to shack a man.  Then about a box of tissue later, they hopefully reunite after tons of trials and tribulations, and get married.  Sometimes no one gets married, and someone died.  Critics have written about how ChiungYao had borrowed themes and characters from from famous western novels and applied them to the eastern sensibilities for her novels.   There were other writers whose writings were no less dramatic.  It still doesn’t matter.  Even if she borrowed, even if she did not out do her peers in terms of originality,  there was something to ChiungYao’s writings that earned her the fame as the queen of romances and got millions of women to faithfully read her 70+ books.  Over the course of 40 years, three generations of of Asian women have come to age, have read, and have fully absorbed the culture of ChiungYao love.

I would argue that to fairly judge the character Seo Yung Woong, you would first need to have absorbed the ChiungYao love culture.  “My Girl,” afterall, echoes all of ChiungYao’s novels’ themes, characters, and even plot.  (oh, did I mention that I’m a ChiungYao expert?  I have read her novels up to #66, and simply ran out of books to borrow from library so I quit).  In CY romantic convention, someone who is gentle inspite of his powerful position ($$$), someone who honors friendship, respects a woman’s  decision, and faithfully stays by the side of his love inspite of his bleeding heart like SYW is highly desireable (think 一簾幽夢), as oppose to his counter part, which is a highly volatile male character with power, who lashes out in anger, destroys himself and everyone else in despair, and seeks revenge when his love is unrequitted.  You breathe a sigh of relief as soon as you recognize the “gentle lover” archetype, because you know at least your female heroine would not get mutilated (think 紫貝殼 ).

If you notice, you would see that this 2 guys – 1 girl the love triangle, the gentle lover is  the observer and the enabler, while the loved guy is the antagonist to some degree, because he causes the girl to act a certain way (usually cry), and then walks out of the scene.  The gentle lover guy then shows up as the clean up crew.  If the gentle lover goes beyond his role as the observer and the enabler, he will end up causing suffering to the girl, who is usually too gentle-hearted to hang out with the guy if she knows that he’s suffering, and if that’s the case, it’ll kick him out of the picture altogether, so he just has to suffer quietly and [play tennis] when she’s not looking.  That’s how it works.

more later


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