Gah! I seem to be writing after an incredibly long break. I’ve been in and out of dramaland because of work and what not but I couldn’t keep myself from writing a piece on Bubblegum. The drama starred Lee Dong Wook as Park Ri Hwan and Jung Ryeo Won as Kim Haeng A.
I have seen Ryeo Won in The King of Dramas, where she did an absolutely fabulous job as the script-writer, next to Kim Myung Min. She also had a fairly decent role in My Name is Kim Sam Soon as the second lead but playing Haeng A was powerful in a very meek way for her. I believe it was simply because she wasn’t showing her spunky and adventurous side but rather portrayed the vulnerability of an orphaned girl beautifully. She was able to express he insecurities through her facial expression.
A lot of that also has to do with the relationship of two characters
in the story of Bubblegum. Ri Hwan and Haeng A are two friends who have stuck together since they were merely toddlers because Ri Hwan’s mother and Haeng A’s father were close friends.
Ri Hwan, an illegitimate child gets a fatherly figure in Haeng A’s father, who has lost his wife to a long illness while Haeng A finds a mother in Ri Hwan’s mother. Then Haeng A’s father passes away, leaving her an orphan and Ri Hwan forces his mother to take her in. What seems to be clear in the story though, is that the two see each other romantically since they were very young and despite that, they refer to each other as ‘oppa’, ‘noona’ and ‘dongsaeng’ .
I have been told that if two people almost the same age, grow up together then they are practically siblings. Being an only child, I can’t seem to understand this phenomenon. Furthermore, if two people near to each other in age have romantic feelings for each other then they would always feel uncomfortable being considered siblings. Keeping that in mind, I find it rather confusing to understand the psychology of Ri Hwan and Haeng A, so all I do is cheer for the couple.
So other than these relationship issues, the greater complication in the show is the issue of memories and the loss of memories. We want to forget so many memories that continue to haunt us all our life and yet, those memories define us. Losing them means losing an important part of who we are. That is something we see Ri Hwan’s mother faced with throughout the drama since she is declared a patient of Alzheimer’s early on. The state in which a person older than us, who is independent and self-sufficient suddenly becomes reliant and dependent on those younger than him/her is very pitiful and one feels sympathetic for such a person. Yet, adults hate pity and sympathy. When you have carefully constructed a life of your own, you always hate it when somebody reaches out to help you.
I can wholeheartedly understand Ri Hwan’s mother’s state of helplessness and her predicament. She’s between a rock and a hard place and she can’t stand it. Even more so, the effect that her mental condition has on those around her is great. While Ri Hwan fears losing his mother, so does Haeng A. Even more so, you can feel how she fears losing herself and yet she wishes to due to having such a tumultuous past.
Another motif throughout the entire show was the emphasis on family. One keeps hearing references to broken families in the show; orphans, losing parents, and being disowned from the family. There is a need to reconnect and find people that one may call a biological family and yet, all the broken families coming together as one seems to create a strange household on its own. What you see at the very end has to be the epitome of what a family should be. By labeling blood relatives as family, one may be discounting all the other people around them who care for them, probably even more than blood relatives.
Lastly, Bubblegum. What a profound and yet banal thing. On the face of it, the most literal use of the motif is the bubblegum kiss scene: a little creepy and a little fluttery. But as a motif, bubblegum refers to one’s own comfort zone and the incapability of people to open up to each other. Something we see happening with almost all of the characters in the show. Ri Hwan’s mother is unable to accept her past as well as open up about it and therefore goes into a bubble so that she remains at peace. Haeng A’s bubble is all of her romances with men that keep her mind off of her insecurities and weaknesses. Ri Hwan, even though for the most part of the show is an open book, but even he goes into a bubble when responsibilities get too much for him since he appears to be incapable with coming to terms with the large changes taking place in his life.
In short, Bubblegum was a drama aiming for great success with its breezy tone and lovesick theme. Yet, it did become a sobfest towards the end as well as becoming a little melodramatic. The fact that they were still able to close up certain themes and motifs, though was a great success for the drama because unlike other dramas with loopholes, it dealt with the flaws of its characters.