I really like Zoe’s thorough and logical insights into Cindy the character, so I decide to post them here before episode 5 starts.
One of my absolute favorite moments in this episode was Cindy eating in her car at the end. There was something really soft and melancholic and tentative about it. In that way where you can tell that someone is really lonely, and it’s all the more sad because they themselves can’t tell they’re lonely.
I actually really loved parts of this episode (although I have to admit I was baffled and bored during some, mostly because I have no knowledge of the variety world at all, so all the inside jokes were lost on me) and I adored all the characters. I was afraid I wouldn’t really like GHJ in this because her character would be a repetition of her in IOIL, but I adored her. KSH was awkwardorkableness personified. And CTH whom I haven’t seen in anything yet was super natural. IU obviously isn’t on the same acting level as the other three (although, in general, in the roles that match her personality, I feel like she’s truly amazing), but she was a part of some of my favorite scenes in the episode, and she’s actually the character I’m most excited about, because you can see the most scope for a good character arc and development there. If she does fall for KSH, I think it’ll be lovely to watch her being a hardened-diva-with-a-schoolgirl-crush.
(Although I honestly don’t understand the constant Cheon Song-yi comparisons? It’s fairly clear her character isn’t supposed to be Song-yi at all- apart from the very basic premise of them both being huge stars- so I don’t see what possible good comes of finding her lacking in terms of a role she’s not even playing.)
I thought IU was so much better in this episode, and I love that Cindy has her moments of heart, so she’s still my favorite in terms of character potential. I also love that IU plays Cindy in this exhausted, lifeless sort-of way, rather than trying to be more deliberately endearing or pretend-cold-but-secretly-dorky-and-adorable. It makes her moments of heart all the more warm. I’m beginning to develop such a thing for her eating things she’s not allowed to, alone. Because Cindy doesn’t have a trademark cold, haughty expression then, she looks so much younger and vulnerable, and it makes me feel for her. I think the Ice Princess concept was a real misdirect, because more than the snobbery of a top star, it’s about how she’s had to live her life till now, and I can completely now understand what they meant by the jaded top star who doesn’t trust anyone. And I think that plays off really, really well against BSG, who is, obviously far too earnest and straight for his own good, and such a great foil for someone with trust issues.
Re: Cindy’s bratty, diva idol act: in my reading I think that’s more as what the audience perceives that the character should be based on the initial character description than what the character actually is. IMO, she’s not being bratty in the traditional sense of wanting to get what she wants and getting it at any cost, in fact, the exact opposite- it’s just that she absolutely doesn’t care at all. So she goes with the flow in a bored sort-of way, unless challenged. Which is why I always find her moments of break-away from her life, like the scene of her eating and looking at people from under her umbrella, so lovely. For me, there is nothing yet in the actual drama to suggest that Cindy is any different from what she’s acting as- bored, lifeless, exhausted, and a young girl who thinks she’s seen it all, when clearly she hasn’t really experienced anything, and has been alone for most of her life.
And that is actually a very, very interesting portrayal of the character because, at least in my opinion, I’ve rarely seen it. While Cheong Song-yi may have been one of the few female characters of that type (and JJH is of course resplendent in the role), that is a VERY standard trope for drama male actors; bratty/bitchy on the outside, but warm and understandable on the inside, much like Dokko Jin in The Greatest Love. I think the stark difference is that these characters were meant to be endearing from the beginning. Song-yi may have been bratty/bitchy, but from the very way that the character was written- dim-witted, bumbling, etc., those are the traits that were supposed to immediately endear her character to the audience, as they did- much like Seung-chan in this drama.
Also, the major difference was that Song-yi tried so very hard, she was constantly, earnestly trying, again like Seung-chan, and the complete opposite of Cindy. Song-yi was super concerned about her image and that was a major aspect of her character, and Cindy isn’t in the least. In fact, imo, Gong Hyo-jin’s character here is much closer to Song-yi than Cindy’s, in the way that she tries to cover up embarrassments by pretending that she was going for it all along. I am actually really confused by the Song-yi/Cindy comparisons, because, for me, they literally have no real trait in common, except being top stars, which is a character fact and not a trait at all.
Cindy is clearly NOT endearing in that sense. She’s not a fast-talking, snappy, comeback-laden, diva whose bratty exterior is just a cover for her loneliness inside. I haven’t seen Hogu’s Love beyond the first episode, but if anything, I see her more like Uee’s character in that first episode; she makes people uncomfortable, she’s demanding, but in a lethargic sort of way, she does what she wants but doesn’t stop to argue or throw fits about it, she just does it. And I find that genuinely interesting, because in the moments where she drops the persona, like when she’s completely alone, she comes across as very young and vulnerable. The two scenes of her eating in the first two episodes were REALLY endearing to me, despite there having been no attempt to make them so. IU has definitely been causing me some issues with her portrayal, and she may be the weakest link in terms of the four actors, but I have to say, that her scenes are also some of my absolute favorites in the drama, and I somehow think that IU’s portrayal of those scenes of which I’ve spoken have actually made her character the most interesting for me.
What is also really fascinating for me is how completely unconcerned Cindy is about her image. Like I mentioned above, Song-yi was always very concerned about it, and, in fact, in any drama dealing with idol/actor life, there’s a lot of focus on how important image is and how much that factors in the lives of those characters. The usual characterization would have been to have her smile brightly when the lights and cameras were on and then grow sullen again when they were off but Cindy is openly rude, can’t be bothered to smile even for the camera, or be nice to her fans. But that doesn’t happen either, and for me, that really brings home the trapped/exhausted/lonely angle, than the top diva star angle.
IU hasn’t gotten much screen-time, and no background. All her background information as yet has been expository, and done through the articles prior to airing. In contrast to this, the others have been given the chance to develop their characters and the second episode almost entirely revolved around CTH and KSH so you’ve got a good character sense there- not to mention GHJ too had a good amount of screen-time in both episodes combined. IU barely had maybe 7-8 minutes of actual screen-time this episode and only 2 scenes in an episode that was about 1 hour 20 minutes in its entirety.
Also, I’m not sure sure I’m explaining this well- I don’t believe that Cindy knows she’s trapped/exhausted, which is why she’s not being actively played that way. Quite the opposite. I said this in the last episode too, but I feel like the saddest thing about Cindy for me is that she is so clearly lonely, and she equally clearly, doesn’t even know she’s lonely. I think this is where the direction has really stood its ground. Because the hints of how alone she is really came across when she was touched that someone would care enough about what she was eating to just buy her food- the idea that a small gesture like that would affect her that much- enough that her misguided interest in BSC is based on this- is a good enough showcase of how lonely she is. Except she actively tried not to show it, so that moment in execution is very subtle- unlike, say, similar moments in this episode re: JM and BSC as regards the encouragement given by Yoon Yeo Jung, where they were open about how touched they were. So what she feels comes across in the fact that she eats the kimbap, or that she watches BSC run across in the rain.
It’s clear that she’s trapped/exhausted etc. from the dialogues, as well as from her expressions in context. Except, and this is all my reading, I feel like those moments are all really subtly done and tie in well with each other, and often they seem to get lost in interpretation when taken in isolation. Like Cindy closing her eyes at her CEO’s office, as if she couldn’t care less about the conversation, when, just moments before the CEO had mentioned that she looked thin and frail and complimented her on the same and casually told her to get a drip, which suggests that she’s genuinely exhausted, as much as she tries to play it off or not let it show. And that is interpreted as IU ‘playing at being cold, badly’ while it’s Cindy ‘playing at being cold, badly’ in that moment. It’s Cindy, the character, rather than IU, the actor, failing at being cold and divaesque, and just coming across as tired and bored and affected.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it (I always do that lol), but Cindy is legit turning into my favorite character in this series, and I’m happy to be her defence squad! That is not to say that I don’t have problems with IU’s acting, because I do, but I’ve found that the softer moments that she acts well, far outweigh the others for me.
I would personally rather interpret the character from the drama itself, regardless of what the description says, especially when the character in the drama is consistently characterized and has internal logical consistency with how she acts in the drama and how others react to her. I don’t think Cindy is one thing on the inside and another on the outside, ala Song-yi, which is what I meant by her not giving a damn about image. She’s lonely, and clearly too young to be so jaded, and that has been fairly clear in the drama itself, but beyond that I don’t think she’s secretly hiding a gooey-core or anything. That, I think, will be part of her character-arc, if anything.
Of course IU is no Jun Ji‑hyun, but I feel like half of the criticism in general as re: her character seems to have been directed at how different she is from Song-yi and how she’s not playing the Song-yi archetype well, while I don’t see anything of Song-yi at all in her. And the character she is playing, she may not be playing as well as JJH playing Song-yi, but I don’t think she’s bad at all, and in two scenes I’ve found her extremely inspired.
I honestly feel like have nothing different to add to this discussion other than I mostly agree with your assessment of Cindy’s character. I’ve never seen her as Chun Song-yi 2.0 because they completely vary in characterizations and are played by two actresses of completely different calibre. Still, I real like the way you describe Cindy as ‘trapped’ because that’s clearly what she is to me too.
She doesn’t like the life she lives, but she’s not actively trying to get out of it. When she tells the little girls that they really should just return home, it gives me the sense that she’d have done the same if she could turn back time. But she didn’t and now is stuck in this terrible world with nowhere else to go. I also feel that unlike Song-yi who had friends and a family, Cindy feels alone. Like there’s no one to confide in, and no one who truly cares. Everyone’s sort of seeks her out for their own benefits; even her fans which is why she doesn’t bother being nice to them.
Then there’s the PD who bought her ‘real’ food just as her CEO suggest she gets IV fluids if she feels exhausted. The same PD (in her mind) gives her an umbrella then runs off in the rain. Those are hardly anything touching for someone who gets lots of affections day in and day out. But for someone like Cindy, its almost a life-line. She wants that so bad, someone to care for her not because of how popular she is, but just because she needs it.
Since the opinions of this show are so wildly contrasting, it’s nice to be able to share some of them in common with people! As I said in a reply above, going by the dialogues alone, it’s probably possible for Cindy to be played in a Song-yi-esque manner, but in my opinion, the fact that she’s not, doesn’t really take away from the character for me. In fact, rather, I’m glad that we’re getting a different side of the same archetype- the jaded, lonely top star. It would have been a cop-out to make Cindy a Song-yi 2.0, as you said. I am also completely surprised by the comparisons to Jun Ji-hyun, I would have never imagined anyone would go in this show with the expectation that IU would somehow be the next Jun Ji-hyun. I too thought Eun-ji would have been really great in this, but I’m one of the few who’s really enjoying IU, so can’t say I regret the casting in the least!
The reason I like the Seung-chan/Cindy dynamic is also because of what you mentioned, that most people who seek her out do so for their benefit, and she’s so used to that being the norm that, by now, she automatically sees it in every person who approaches her, and she writes them off before they’ve spoken. You can totally make out that “Aha!” moment when Seung-chan asked for her number, and it was obvious that she thought that had been his game-plan all along, and was the “price” of the umbrella. But the more he spoke, the more confused she became with his painful earnestness in contrast to how she’d labelled him in her head. As with the earlier “real” food scene, I think it comes across really strongly, as you said, how starved for real affection she is. And it isn’t a big moment, like Seung-chan or Joon-mo with Yoo Yeo-jung’s kindness or Seung-chan’s happiness at Ye-jin being nice to him. Because you get the sense that both the guys feel like they’d been hard-done-by that day and are grateful for the kindness, while Cindy doesn’t even realize she needs kindness or affection, so her characterization, in that sense, is less obvious, and comes through only through brief moments when she’s alone and lets her guard down.
I am really getting 😦 about the lack of screentime for Cindy because she is definitely my favourite right along with Seung-chan now. She definitely toned down the tiredness, maybe because of all the criticism (which was an aspect that I loved though), and this episode I genuinely had no complaints with her acting. Every scene of hers was golden and I think “sleepy/bored” is an odd criticism for this particular episode (unlike the last two), because she just came off as extremely vulnerable to me. And as usual, it’s when she’s alone- joining her own anti-fan club, asking strangers on the internet what it means if a guy you thought was hitting on you is just interested in the umbrella he lent you. That was so endearing for some reason, because she was so anxious about the replies, and because it’s such a young, teenage-girl thing to do, but she’s twenty three, which makes it all the more clear how much she lost out on because of her idol life. And the Cindy/BSC dynamic is amazing because she’s so jaded and used to thinking of people as predictable, that BSC completely throws her off, which is why she’s the most animated in his presence. The scene with the pancakes was the first time we’ve seen her not be cool and collected in front of other people, unlike when TYJ was arguing with her about her dress. I think the expectations of Cindy are just misplaced, she doesn’t have that oomph because inside she’s an awkward, isolated young girl who hasn’t been able to form any real relationships because of her career, so her sexy is limited to clothes, and she doesn’t know how to do affection at all. And I think IU is perfect in this, even over other better actor-idols because I think she has a natural vulnerability (and awkwardness) and so she manages to get that across in just seconds of screentime. Eun-ji, for instance I can see much more easily in the TYJ role than as Cindy, or rather if Eun-ji were playing her, the interpretation of the character would be competely different and we’d get a much more fun character ala Song-yi, and a lot more snark and fire, but it’s the Cindy that we are getting that I adore so I have no issues. I am really hoping she falls for BSC, so we get a lot more of her unable to react to him and his general 4D-ness, heh.
THAT ENDING TAG ❤ Once again Cindy is most herself when she’s alone, when no one can see her, with a boy standing on the other side of a one-way reflecting window, because otherwise she’s who she thinks she is (cold, rude) and who she thinks she should be for the cameras (nice, kind). I LOVED the motif of “real” running through the episode. That Cindy doesn’t have any idea who the “real” Cindy is. It obvious that to her the “real” Cindy is the cold, rude one, and so she has to “pretend” to be nice, and playact at being the version of herself that she wants the audience to see. But it’s equally clear that the “real” Cindy is the girl who joins her own anti-fan cafe, who asks strangers on the internet to deconstruct if umbrella boy is interested in her, who eats fishcakes in secret, who smiles to herself and prolongs the anticipation when the boy she’s (totally, completely, utterly, REALLY has not) fallen for is looking for her. I love IU in this because she’s essentially playing three roles and doing a damn good job of it- Cindy as she thinks she is, Cindy as she thinks she should be, and Cindy as she is, and it’s so easy to see all the three and how they overlap and how difficult ‘reality’ is for someone like her who’s been playing a part so long that she thinks ‘reality’ is her playing herself as a part. Maybe that’s why it seems like IU’s acting is different in different scenes because it’s contingent on how Cindy’s acting, and I think that’s wonderful. And I love that as yet it’s only with Seung-chan that we’ve seen Cindy utterly fail at playing a role. I love that she’s acting like she has a grand plan, like she has this sorted, and that everything is going exactly how she wants it to, and that she’s going to make Seung-chan fall for her, while it couldn’t be more clear that she’s the one who’s already fallen. I love that there’s such a disjunct between what she says to people like her manager, and what her non-verbal cues and expressions reveal so obviously to anyone who bothers looking. I can’t believe KSH and IU are that adorable together, I’m shipping them so hard. Her looking at him in the mirror reminded me of one of my favorite scenes from 9 Ends Two Outs where the girl looks at the guy through her mirror and she’s had a terrible day, but just looking at him makes her smile. And then leaning forward to mirror him pressing his face against the glass, I just love them!