When I did the show intro for this post, I was so excited to rewatch. Answer me 1997. While I knew I didn’t love it as much as others do (as it is one of those shows which has received an almost instant cultish following.) I did remember liking it a lot.
In many ways, Answer Me 1997 is unlike other kdramas (thank you cable networks) and is thereby refreshing and deserves to stand out against the others.
With it’s unique editing, sound effects, and non linear storyline, a viewer can’t help but be caught up in this world.
However, surprisingly, I had to restart the rewatch twice before completing it. See, I love the set up, the character, and the tone. But each time I’d peter out at about the same place, hitting a wall, knowing what angst (for the characters) and crankies (for me) was about to hit.
I’ll just come out and say it, I HATE the storyline with the love triangle between the hero, the girl and the brother. It literally makes me angry. (More on that later.)
Answer Me 1997 is truly a slice of life drama, a story more about these unique characters and their interactions with each other through the years than any sort of forward moving plot–unless you count the love triangle–which I do not. But you know me,–give me a story with no discernible villains and great characters and I’ll show you a drama on my favorite list.
And the funny thing is that I didn’t really like Shi Won that much. She was an entitled brat who was a bit of a bully towards her friends. However, even this is refreshing as usually our heroines are the plucky girls who are nice to everyone. I have respect the writers on taking a chance on a character so outside the norm. She always knew what she wanted and was willing to fight for it. Yes, she may have dated the brother but she couldn’t be faulted for ignoring the hero. He’d said it himself, people’s feelings change or they become aware of changes at their own pace. It’s not that she didn’t love Yoon Jae the whole time, but the way she loved him didn’t change until she was forced to see him in a different light when he confessed his feelings to her. While I wanted her to love him back just as much as he loved her the whole time, it’s more realistic that she didn’t.
But once she was forced to recognize the change in their relationship she did so with her unusual spirit, instantly breaking it off with Tae Wong. I loved the bit she said to Tae Wong that she ‘couldn’t be with him because someone else was making her heart beat faster.’
What I’m not sure is why at that point the pair didn’t get together. 6 years and they don’t speak? Why? Shi Won knows she feels something for him–(breaking up with Tae Wong and wearing the couple ring Yoon Jae had given her.) Was she waiting for him to come back to her? That doesn’t seem very Shi Won like. Is she thrown off by her feelings for her friend and then as time went by, figured he’d moved on? Again, that doesn’t feel very Shi Won like. I’d more figure after some time passed, she’d get irritated and kick down his door. Now that’s Shi Won.
It just seemed like the writers ignoring the characters they’d created in favor of the story they want to tell forgetting the fact that story needs to come organically from the characters you create. If they wanted to do a 6 year time jump, fine, do it just find another reason to do so. (I actually liked the use of the time jump here as it allowed us to see who these characters would grow up to be. Not to mention, it allows me to believe that Shi Won and Yoon Jae will now be together forever after the story ends as they are making these decisions as adults rather than high schoolers.)
So if your heroine is the aggressive dominant than naturally, you’d think the hero is a submissive, a happy-go-lucky beta male, but I like the direction they took with Yoon Yoon Jae. While, he did defer to Shi Won, he enjoyed pushing her buttons and to a point enjoyed their fights. As everyone else sees him as a cold, ambitious hard ass, it’s fun to see that his one weakness really is Shi Won.
In this way they made the perfect couple. For me there was never a question as to who Shi Won was going to end up with and the fact that they kept drawing out the brother loveline just irritated me and gets in the way of my enjoyment of the story.
So I probably shouldn’t dance around the issue anymore, right? My main problem with Answer Me 1997, and I know I’m in the minority here, and I won’t win any friends by saying it, but I really hated the love triangle storyline between Shi Won, Yoon Jae and Tae Wong. Why? The whole idea of the brother in love with Shi Won skeeved me out.
Why? Lets count all the ways. He’s way older than her, he’s her teacher when he begins putting on the moves, and, most of all, he was engaged to her dead sister. Within the storyline we see that he only begins to be attracted to Shi Won (the high schooler) after she reminds him of said dead sister.
So in my mind? He’s a creepy pedo-bear. Then, even though Shi Won is up front with him numerous times, telling him she thought of him as an oppa and not an oppa, there he was determinedly hanging around, unable to let her go–until the end when he magnanimously ‘gives up’–but not before making Yoon Jae weep in guilt. Um. Yeah. I’m not going to root for you creepy.
It’s not just because of the creepy factor that I didnt’ buy him as a real contender for Shi Won. Even when they were dating, it wasn’t as if they had a real connection with each other. Shi Won liked him, but really as a big brother, she was never in love with him. When Yoon Jae confessed to her and she realized her feelings, she easily broke up with Tae Wong and never once looked back. Dude get over it, she’s just not that into you.
I’m not saying Tae Wong was a horrible character–he’s not. It’s clear he loves his brother. This is shown time and again through the show and if the writers hadn’t forced the love triangle on us in order keep the ‘who’s the husband’ question going throughout the drama, I would have thought he was a pretty stand up guy.
The one love triangle I did love throughout the series was between Yoon Yoon Jae and Jun Hee. This is the first kdrama I’ve seen to show a gay character in a positive light. (Yay, cable!) While he knew his love could never go anywhere, Jun Hee held on, just wanting to be around Yoon Jae for as long as he could. The scene where he finally leaves, giving way for Shi Won was just so sad–and uplifting at the same time. Yoon Jae, after he finally learns of Joon He’s feelings for him, doesn’t make a fuss, doesn’t go ‘ew’, but continues to love and accept his friend. The back-hug Yoon Jae gives his friend is just so sad–him wanting to show his friend comfort and love, and yet not being able to really help him, except to let him go is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting.
This was one of the best love triangles, I thought. Especially considering most of the drama Jun Hee didn’t even know he was one of the legs of it. Yoon Jae loved Shi Won and, since he didn’t know Jun Hee was gay, assumed they were in competition for her and it made for some great scenes. This is one of the few love triangles where I would have been just as happy if it had gone the other way and Yoon Jae had ended up with Jun Hee. Heck, if that had happened I probably wouldn’t have even minded Shi Won ending up with the brother…
Do I feel that we were cheated by not being able to see who Jun Hee ended up with? Well, we got to see all the other characters happy and in love, so I guess, since he was such a big part of it, I wish we could have learned just who was in that red car. But I’m not really that upset about it. Not everything needs to be tied up in a tight little bow for a story to end happily. I’m just happy that the writers inferred that this character was able to move on from his hopeless love with Yoon Jae and find a love of his own. And judging from the car, Jun Hee didn’t do too bad for himself.
This was one drama where I felt more ‘outside looking in’ on Korean society and culture. This drama was meant to be one of those meta dramas, where it refers to and inserts history and jokes that I don’t understand–like there were big inside jokes that I just didn’t get. Like how they kept talking crap about the band Sech Kies and saying how Hak Chan looked so much like Eun Ji Won, as I had no prior knowledge that the joke was that the actor actually was Eun Ji Won and a member of the band they continually smack talked. There was a nostalgia there with references, music, and casting that was lost on me and that makes me feel sad and left out.
Since this Answer Me 1994 has come out and I watched it on Viki, where the subbers actually took the time to point out some of these references and it really added another level to the drama watching. I wish that had happened for this one.
All in all, I liked what TvN attempted with this outside the box drama. It tried, and achieved, a style that I’ve not seen in Kdrama before. I liked all the friends, the non-linear storylines, and of course, the sheep noises. As I’m a sucker for a drama ultimately about community–characters more than plot–Answer Me, 1997 was definitely for me.
Will I recommend this to others? Um… you mean there are people out there that hasn’t seen this hugely popular drama? Well then, yes, go out there and watch it! Will I watch it again? Hmm… as much as I did like it, I don’t think I’ll watch it again. Which is weird, because I definitely any fan of Kdrama should watch it.