I adore Chae Soo-bin. I’ve loved her since she played the conflicted, beautiful back-stabbing frenemy to Jung Eun-ji in Sassy Go Go.
So, I was disheartened to sense a trend in the roles she was choosing. They were all tough cookies who could beat up goons and swear like a sailor, while looking like a barbie doll. If someone told me that that was Chae Soo-bin playing Chae Soo-bin, I’d believe it. She’s that effortless at it. But she’s clearly capable of so much more.
Which is why I was ridiculously happy to watch the first episode of Fox Bride Star/Where Stars Land. Chae Soo-bin’s character, Han Yeo-reum, was not just a generic loveable heroine insert, she had a personality.
A horrible, insecure, whiny, annoying one. But it was a full-fledged PERSONALITY! I disliked her will glee.
Look at how much fun I was having hating her!
She went around suspecting her superiors of discrimination and her colleagues of machiavellian intent, while neglecting her own job, then felt victimised when her failures were pointed out to her. The woman had issues and the show made sure we knew that they knew that she had issues by giving us a balanced, sensible perspective through her fair-minded boss and the hard-working colleague she’s partnered with.
And then two more episodes rolled by, and I began to notice another cue that the drama was insistently pushing at us. It consisted of lingering shots of Han Yeo-reum’s distressed face whenever she felt wronged, and angst-filled music whenever anyone gave her a reality check. The subtext was clear. This is a heroine we are to root for. Her feelings are hurt, and even though we know she’s at fault, we MUST feel sympathy for her.
Poor, misguided Han Yeo-reum, nothing ever goes right for you. Even your future love interest is calling you out on being a shallow, attention-seeking, whiner. Don’t worry, girl, we’ll make him apologise by the end of the episode.
That’s around the time I gave up on Han Yeo-reum. I realised from my previous drama watching experience that here was a heroine who was never going to get an independent developmental arc. At some point, she would have a transformative moment, and she’d instantly shed years of inferiority complex and pettiness and become the beacon of womanhood our heroes always deserve (in this case, the hardworking colleague-dude).
And it came around episode 5-6. Her history of irresponsibility in the workplace was rewritten as misunderstandings where she didn’t stand up for herself. Then, Han Yeo-reum got a nice little arc where she finally spoke up in her own defence. And just like that her personality transplant surgery was a success!
It was very moving. I enjoyed the episode tremendously. And then promptly lost all remaining interest in Han Yeo-reum. The woman with a bad temperament was gone, only a little girl who missed her dad remained.
Her only purpose now is to connect her father’s legacy with the man she’s falling in love with, figure out how to make that man overcome his insecurities, and live happily ever after.
Hurray for easily digestible romantic pairings, and down with complex character exploration where a flawed, unlikeable woman might get to earn a happily ever after with the irritatingly good hero too.
I’m not bitter. Not at all.