I don’t get the pop culture references (Sechs Kies who?), I’m perplexed by the screaming (people in love whisper sweet nothings to each other, not yell their lungs out, eyes blazing), I like but am not enamored of the lead couple. (What?! Did you just say that? Are you feverish? How you crazy?) I also don’t remember behaving this puerile when I was eighteen. By that age I had already experienced the loss of a father and the wrath of a customer whose pristine white skirt I had just made un-pristine with a generous serving of Coke. Of the latter… okay, I have butter fingers but hey, it was my first job and no one told me that placing a tall glass at the edge of a tray was a bad idea.
Wait, there’s more. For the past four days I’ve had the worst case of writer’s block. Short of standing on my head, I just can’t string together a review of Answer Me 1997. Everything that I want to say has probably been said on a dozen other blogs. Wait, I take that back. Bet no one else has said this of the drama: “At first I could not watch it fast enough but later I could not wait for it to end.”
See what I’ve done? Pissed off the five of you who came running here the instant you saw the title on your twitter or email. But before you pelt me with whatever that’s close at hand, you must hear me out. I love the drama, I really do. Except not to itty-bitty bits.
Ouch, must you throw that?!
Now that I’ve got you all properly riled up, I suppose I should just shut up and not tell you who my favorite character is. After all, how many viewers pick the porn addict from Seoul as the character they miss the most when he’s not on the screen? Especially when he’s the go-to guy in school for all things XXX-rated (on screen or in print, just name what you want and Do Hak-chan will procure it for you) yet is an embarrassment in front of the female species because a deadening shyness suddenly envelops him and he can’t muster a word or even lift his head. I’m sure you don’t find that cute at all.
Pretty sure, too, that you gasped “kill me now” when you saw him pairing a V-neck pullover with a V-neck tee. Okay, so he’s not the most stylish guy in school and in that group of six he does not stand out or say much. He’s not terribly bright, and for all the porn he devours he’s surprisingly clueless about the opposite sex.
But you know what? I adore Hak-chan for being bumbling. I adore how earnest and unwavering he is with Yoo-jung; of all the relationships in the drama, theirs is the sweetest and least complicated. One of their scenes (hint: a bus is involved) also moved me to tears (not just the eyes threatening to well up; no, I’m talking rivulets and boxes of tissues). That in itself is special because although I was touched by many scenes in Answer Me 1997, only four made me cry.
In fact, one of the four scenes has already found its way into a post of its own. And now I shall tell you why that scene marked that point where I said to myself: “This drama is a keeper.”
When I was a wee thing many moons ago, my mother got it into her head that I was a smart lass and could be counted upon to fulfill her cherished dream: to have one of her children become a doctor. That misguided notion (misguided because even at that age I would rather swallow a roach than look at blood) was really my fault: I breezed through kindergarten and topped my class in early elementary school. Then the unthinkable happened. I dropped to third place when I was nine. So furious was Mom when she saw my grades, she took a pair of scissors to my head and lopped off my flowing locks; I went to school the next day with the exact same haircut that Shi-won sported. If Mom wanted me to never forget that punishment, she succeeded.
But no, that’s not the reason I cried when I saw that scene. I cried because the moment Yoo-jung took off her cap and I saw that she had the same awkward hairdo as Shi-won, I at once remembered a day last month.
A friend whom I’ve not seen in the last four years wanted to take me out for lunch. Since the restaurant was just a short walk away, we met in her home first. We sat and talked and because I’ve always felt at ease with her, I began to tell her how this year had just been the pits and how I’ve never been more afraid in my life. As she listened, tears began to flow. She stood up, walked over to me and, without saying a word, hugged me tight.
How Shi-won felt seeing Yoo-jung was how I felt that day with my friend.
And now I shall tell you about the third and fourth scene that made me cry even though I know you’re on your way out the door because it’s 900 words and I’ve still not mentioned Yoon-jae or Joon-hee.
Shi-won’s father is sitting alone in a church and praying for perhaps the first time in his life. He makes just one desperate request and it’s for his younger daughter. That’s one scene. In another, he’s sitting with his uncle and this time he’s silent, unlike in the church and unlike in much of the drama. He listens quietly as his uncle goes on and on about the past. Somewhere in that long and one-sided exchange, the significance of a certain pound cake is explained.
One scene resonates more than the other but both reiterate the same theme: family matters more than anything else.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that although I’m a sucker for first love and coming of age stories done just right (evoking sentiment rather than manipulating sentimentality), what I appreciate about Answer Me 1997 is how it makes me reexamine family and friendship. It makes me question the amount of time I should be spending with the people who are important (sorry, dear dogs and chinchillas; nah, you’re not included in my apology, lizards); it makes me more determined to not sweat the small stuff. I look at Shi-won’s relationship with her dad and it makes me feel, for maybe the first time in my life, rather sorry for myself because I never did share that sort of closeness with my father. True, I wish they yelled at each other less (I really do not get the constant shouting; is it a cultural thing?) and I also think Shi-won behaves like a spoiled brat sometimes (how different is the 33-year-old version from the 18-year-old? not much, methinks). Theirs is a family that feels real.
Since I have a favorite character and all and was even suitably moved, why did I admit earlier that I could not wait for the drama to end?
Because the Riddle Me This, Who Did Shi-won Marry? teasing got tiresome after the halfway point and I began to feel that the drama was treating me like an idiot. Because of course we all knew who she chose; the clues were so clear.
She chose him!