Friday, April 17, 2015

Drama Review: Hogu's Love

I'd like to think I'm the type of viewer that seeks out cute and fluffy kdrama affairs. Mostly because, well, they're adorable but also because I don't want to cry after a long day. I'm happy to say that kdrama has a lot of them and Hogu's Love can sit among the lovable attendees.

Looking at the initial synopsis, Hogu's Love is weird. Kang Ho-gu (Choi Woo-shik) is true to his name (hogu means fool in Korean, thus the title is also often referred to as Fool's Love). He's the very definition of an underachiever: he's an assistant to his friend's failing web comic and he can't seem to have a girlfriend. Maybe he's just to nice. An unexpected meeting then happens with his high school first love Do Do-hee (UEE) who is now a national swimmer. She brings him on an adventure he'd never thought to be in.

I'll say this first before anything else: this drama is the most adorable drama I've seen in a long time. Maybe it's the baby, maybe it's Choi Woo-shik, maybe it's the optimistic outlook of humanity. I don't know. Despite all the flaws that I will talk about, the drama always left me with a smile (and the eagerness to pinch someone's cheeks). In that sense they have succeeded.

But when I start thinking about its flaws, I always wonder whether the flawed story comes from its flawed characters (which characters should be, by the way), or because of flawed writing. In Hogu's Love, I think the majority is caused by flawed characters. These are people who aren't just simply good or simply mean. They're selfish, they want to feel loved, they're afraid of hurting other people's feelings, they're easily making assumptions. The frustrations I feel in the first half of the story is mostly because of this, and perhaps a bit of sympathy because I do things like that sometimes (and I get frustrated with myself a lot). It can be hard to make a character that's not a caricature of something but rather like any other human being.

I can't really blame the characters for that ending though. I understand that rape is often glossed over in real life, despite how unbelievably stupid it is. But I don't know, I wish they spent a little more time dealing with it aside from saying, "well, no one's going to believe the single mother" type of deal. It's something I see a lot in Korean cinema where they take upon a social issue and later pulling their hands up in the air giving up when Big Brother eventually wins. I know that's the realistic thing to do, but I need some sort of reassurance sometimes.

I also have a bit of a qualm about the whole first love ordeal. So what is up with Koreans and first love? It gets frustrating when basically every other (or more like two out of three) love stories involve first loves as the ultimate love. It's sending really weird messages to the public on how to deal with love. I have to agree that first love is special, but it's not the end all be all. Someone should make an antithesis movie/drama about that, then I'll be happy.

On a positive note, I love Ho-gu's family. I love that they're supportive of their children through all that they go through. Mom and dad aren't perfect, so they don't expect that from their children. It can get annoying to only see dysfunctional families on screen all the time, so hats off to all the loving parents.

I also love that the women are strong and assertive. I initially thought it was only going to be leading lady Do-hee. But all around the female characters were top notch. Some may have questionable conscience (agency director anyone?), but at least she won't let anyone step all over her. Oftentimes in dramas strong women would get watered down by the men in their lives, or because of love, or the combination of the two. But despite going through the hurdles that these women face (single motherhood, unrequited love, difficult children and even more difficult husbands, running a business empire), they end up as strong as when they started.

If you ask me how I feel about Hogu's Love, ultimately I feel happy. I was glad I watched it and thoroughly enjoyed it despite its flaws (someone should make a real gay person who didn't fall for a faux same sex lover). And I'm happy that this was a positive show that celebrated strong women and single mothers and nice guys and friendship. It's better than many dramas out there for sure.

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