Today, Valentine’s day, the world is in a bilateral order. On one side, we have lovers who get someone to hang out with. On the other side are loners who stay at home whining over their involuntary singleness and get offended by all those lovers (just a little bit, though!). I am a loyal member of the latter group. For nineteen years of my existence, I went through each Valentine in various manners: indifferent, bitter, annoyed, sometimes blessed, but never in love. However, my 20th Valentine sees me pondering on the feeling of love, brought by not a human, but a little drama called Full house.
Back then, this 18-year-old Korean drama was a massive hit in Asia and got several remakes in other countries. The series centers around a bickering couple: Ji-eun, a high-spirited novelist and Yong-jae, a famous actor. Upon returning from her vacation to China, Ji-eun realizes her friends secretly sold her houses and the owner turns out to be Yong-jae, whom she chances to meet on her trip in China. The turn of fate throws them into a marriage contract so Ji-eun can get her house back. Sounds interesting, right?
Binge-watching Full house on KBS broadcast’s Youtube channel, I noticed one thing: The first and last episode had exceptionally higher views compared to the middle ones. I think the phenomenon is not unique to this series, and the reason behind it is not hard to grasp either. For every journey, especially romantic love, the beginning and ending epitomize beautiful milestones of the relationship: how two people first met, how their chemistry is undeniable at first sight, how they end up together and live a happy life. These happy, easy sides of love are why we audiences keep coming back to these two ends of any series.
But this selective viewing behavior also reflects how we idealize a romantic relationship and projects that ideal on our drama consumption: we wish love to be full of exhilarating moments of passion and lust. But you and I all know the hard truth that real-life relationships hardly work out that way. It is true that at the initial stage of love, our partner is a perfect person in our eyes. Our hearts skip a beat whenever we meet them and they consume all our thoughts. But as time passes, infatuation fades away and the imperfection that we turn blind to before becomes ever visible.
The middle episodes, therefore, represent the hardship of love that most of us are scared to face, yet it is the inevitable part that builds a solid foundation for a healthy, long-lasting relationship. After an exciting start, the story went down a typical path of Korean dramas. The couple fights on trivial matters such as cooking, cleaning. Repeated miscommunication and misunderstanding prevents them from realizing feelings for each other. This banal depiction of love is hard to find in our fast-paced, twisty, provoking media nowadays and that is why it is so precious, because it captures the kind of love we experience: simple and subtle, built up from moments of little significance.
Silly as the series might be, I still enjoy it for the most part. To be honest, I was never a fan of Korean dramas, for I got this unshakable impression from my childhood that they were cheesy and over-sentimental romances. Yet this Valentine, such one drama lightens my heart and helps me vicariously experience what is called love.. My passion with Full house just shows me how much we need love in this world and more importantly, how empowered these jittery feelings can be. I even proudly declare to my friends: “Hey, I just watched Full House!”, as my greatest achievement of this month. But it is, because to be able to feel love is to embrace the fundamental emotion that makes us human.
This essay is not an attempt to promote Full House (though you should definitely give it a watch!). I just want to partake in the lovey-dovey air of a day that is not intended for me, for I learned from Full house that love is worth cherishing and celebrating, whether you are with someone or not.
Writer: Tra Mi Nguyen
Editor: Phoebe Elliott
Visuals by: Isabella Restrepo