Author: youcallitwinter (soompi) aka Zoe (dramabeans)
Posted on 4 June, before ep 7 aired.
(Found her on soompi today heh. Need to bring her wonderful insights here to avoid reading shipping war posts.)
latigreblue: We all know that IU’s extremely popular. Whether nothing happened, her fans would still want her to end up in a happily ever after with the handsome sexy Kim Soo Hyundai.
youcallitwinter: That, I would’ve believed to be true before, but considering that IU’s been getting so many negative comments (most unwarranted imo, I don’t agree with them at all) and so many comments bashing her have been upvoted, I’m not really convinced that this is the work of IU fans alone, since there is no way that the dominant media narrative would then have been “Is IU a terrible actress and should stick to singing” etc. etc. I adore Cindy, and I am thoroughly invested in Cindy/Seung-chan because of her, so I find it easy to imagine that other people do too. Besides, I’ve felt their chemistry to be surprisingly intense. There is no way in hell I’d have imagined that Pilsukie and Sam-dongie could have actual, intense chemistry. I’d have imagine them to be wholesome and sweet and low-key, but every time they’re together, the screen is on fire for me.
(I’m not sure how I feel about the idea that Cindy/Seung-chan’s popularity must be because of IU’s fans though, because I feel like Cindy and Cindy-Seung-chan has definitely been romanticized by the direction to the extent that people would want to ship them because of the show, and not because of factors outside the show. I mean, I’m sure her fans are involved, but that would be true for all the ships and characters. All of these actors have huge fanbases. In fact IU has the biggest disadvantage in that netizens just do not like idols as a rule, and it’s been perfectly clear through most comments about her. It doesn’t make the Cindy/Seung-chan popularity any less valid, especially since the narrative has actually actively catered to it by all the slow-motion romanticism in Cindy’s POV, while Seung-chan’s shown no romantic interest in her, just like it’s catered to the one-sided Ye-jin/Seung-chan through Seung-chan’s POV, while Ye-jin has showed zero romantic interest in him till now. I don’t think there’s anything completely unbelievable in that people may like Cindy and Cindy/Seung-chan instead of IU and IU/Soo-hyun. I think that’s sort of discrediting how invested people are in Cindy for Cindy’s sake. Saying that Ye-jin/Seung-chan is popular because of the characters and Cindy/Seung-chan is popular because of IU doesn’t gel with my reading of the narrative at all.)
What I find genuinely hard to understand is why people need a cover of objectivity, why it’s so hard to say “I prefer this thing, and it’s my preference, you’re free to disagree with what I feel, but this is my reading of it”. But usually it comes down to “no, my ship is OBJECTIVELY better than yours and here’s why–” I do not in my life go around liking things because they are OBJECTIVELY BETTER than everything else, and I’d presume most other people don’t either. I have liked a lot of terrible dramas over a lot of objectively better ones. I’m enjoying Cindy the MOST out of all the characters, even though she’s apparently played by the worst actor of the lot. Which also I don’t personally agree with, because if Cindy’s making me want to defend her, to want a good narrative for her, or just adore her in general, then IU is doing something right. I’ve just recently realized that Cindy actually has very few dialogues, she doesn’t communicate well, and yet, in every scene, I know exactly what Cindy’s feeling, not only on the surface, but viscerally, palpably almost, just through minimal facial expressions, and I dislike having to constantly premise all comments with- “I know IU is not a great actor” because for me, she’s doing a great job, she’s getting the character down EXACTLY for me. And yet even I feel the need to be defensive about it, and bow down to the dominant narrative of ‘yes, everyone’s so much better, but she’s not bad.” and frame my comments like that, as if I’ll be less credible if I say that IU’s Cindy is working the most for me. She may not be “objectively better”, but in my subjective opinion, she’s my favorite, so the best in her role.
Misogyny in dramaland is nothing new. In fact many female characters of the kind that Seung-chan is playing right now have been thoroughly hated on for being the type of character he is; slow on the uptake, single-minded, etc. After all, the clumsy-oblivious-but-adorable character is nothing new for dramaland females. Not only that but the pitting of one female character against another is always so blatant. Gong Hyo-jin is too old for Kim Soo-hyun, Cindy is too much of a richard simmons and needs to grow up before being worthy of Seung-chan. I’m not saying that people don’t actually feel this, but I feel like there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I prefer X/Y because it works for me and here’s why it works for me–” rather than attempting to establish that all other options must necessarily be the worst thing to ever happen. Currently Tak Ye-jin/Seung-chan do nothing for me, in that I don’t particularly feel anything when they’re on my screen together, and I have no great love for the narrative itself, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t understand why other people might like them.
The sheer idea that Cindy/BSC is literally neck-to-neck with BSC/TYJ is a revelation, considering the extreme disparity in screen-time, and the one-lane direction in which the show seems to be going. It’s crazy that the two or three significant Cindy/Seung-chan scenes have garnered as much support as literally episode after episode of Seung-chan/Ye-jin. And that’s not because there are a lot of IU supporters watching the show, because by the comments or the generally negative reviews (which is truly baffling to me) which she’s been getting in such articles would suggest that there aren’t many of those. So something about Seung-chan/Cindy is really clicking with the audience.
I love this because I’ve often felt that a general trend in dramaland is rooting for the male lead to “get” whomsoever he wants to be with, while it’s very rare that female characters are accorded the same treatment (in that I’ve heard a LOT more ‘BSC doesn’t like Cindy that way so can’t see this happening’ than ‘TYJ doesn’t like BSC that way so can’t see this happening’). I love Cindy, so I love that there are other people who adore her as much as I do and want her to be happy, to the extent of prioritizing what she wants over what Seung-chan currently wants. I love that people want her to be happy as an endgame, i.e. regardless of whether the Umbrella ship sails or not. I like that a female character who is so prickly, so awkward, so closed-off, so emotionally unavailable as Cindy is, has managed to draw in the audience, without having to be manifestly bitchy-but-endearing or sassy-but-adorable and have lovable “quirks” to be liked, as is so often the case. I think that speaks volumes about the character and the way that IU plays her.
The love for a particular character or ship is always going to be a personal choice. The added ‘this is so cliche’, by now, clearly is just gloss to add credibility and objectivity to an opinion which is not objective, since it’s been used for every single ship (TYJ/BSC “noona romances are so cliche and overdone”) (RJM/TYJ “BFF romances are so cliche and overdone”) (Cindy/BSC “putting them together because there need to be two couples is so cliche and overdone”). I like Seung-chan’s puppy love and I find his constantly rushing to save TYJ, as in the preview, endearing, but for me, personally, it doesn’t hold a candle to how much I love the first-love narrative in the way it’s played through Cindy- that feeling of the world stopping when Seung-chan’s close, how she has to clench her fist to contain herself, the way she looks at him, the excitement and the anxiety that is palpable when he looks at her, the way that every interaction pushes her to the highest highs and the lowest lows. So much so, that I feel everything she’s feeling in the moment, even though Seung-chan isn’t even really involved in the scene. It feels so universal and teenage (compounded by the fact that she’s NOT a teenager, and yet she’s been so alone that this is probably her first love, which is why there’s so much vulnerability and excitement.)
Also, I feel like there’s nothing wrong about being defensive on Cindy’s behalf or Seung-chan’s treatment or obliviousness to her. Of course he doesn’t owe her anything, but if we’re allowed to feel angry on Seung-chan’s behalf about the way he’s treated by various other characters, then I don’t see why that can’t be extended to other characters, especially since your investment is contingent on who you’re most rooting for, so it doesn’t necessarily need to be “logically” reasoned, since the investment is largely emotional.