I was drawn to this drama because it showed up on Netflix, but then I stayed for the premise. The optimistic "Candy girl" (*see the explanation below) who cheerfully works hard under any circumstances is a kdrama staple, and Cheongdamdong Alice was a refreshing twist on the formula. It finally asked the very real question of "What happens to Candy girls when things don't get better?" What happens when cheerfulness and optimism only yield more trouble and pain? At what point does Candy stop being Candy?
Han Se Kyung (Moon Geun Young) isn't always the most likable female lead, but people aren't always likable when their lives have been trampled, and I appreciated that honesty of characterization. Even when I didn't agree with her choices, I could at least understand them. (Okay, except I think most of us would jump to goals like "I want to have enough money for rent and food" before heading straight to "I want to marry a rich guy so that I can own fancy purses.") Even the initially wicked rival became increasingly human as the series progressed.
|Note to self: If I ever need to hide a terrible secret from my past, I should probably not cry and start to tremble every time anything remotely related to it comes up in conversation.|
|He's definitely the Mad Hatter in this fairytale...|
So why did I quit? There wasn't anything specifically terrible about the series that made me stop. I just kind of lost the will to keep watching after a while. Once they got together, I had a sense where the series was headed, and it didn't seem worth it to spend another 6 hours getting to the end (I later read spoilers for the last episode, and it ended much like I suspected it would). I started fast forwarding things as early as episode 2, which should have tipped me off that I wasn't fully engaged from the outset.
*The term "Candy girl" in Korean dramas stems from a Japanese manga written in 1975, where the main character, Candy, is an orphan. She maintains a cheerful, hardworking, selfless attitude through all of her trials until she is finally adopted by an anonymous rich benefactor. When kdramas refer to someone as being a "Candy," they often mean a kind woman who works hard until a rich guy sweeps her off her feet.
I can see why people give this drama credit for its social commentary and its twist on the traditional kdrama formula, but every time I started a new episode, I kind of wished that I was watching something else. Once I gave up and actually started watching other shows, I was kind of relieved.
Where to watch Cheongdamdong Alice: