I feel it a great honour to cover such a brilliant show that just ended tonight. I have so much to say about it, despite the fact that this was a short series of only 8 episodes. So without further ado, I shall jump right into it.
Set in 1979 in an all-girls school in Daegu, South Korea, the drama narrates the story of our main protagonist, a teenage Lee Jung Hee (played by Bona from WJSN). Random trivia: Bona is originally from Daegu, which is why I believe her accent was pretty believable. We witness her interactions with her classmates, boys and family. The inner workings of her mind were truly fascinating because as a young woman, I can relate to the teenage phase in a girls’ life. Jung Hee has a twin brother Lee Bong Soo (played by Jo Byung Gyu), who is literally treated like a prince at home, and is practically a spoiled brat. The gender bias is strongest in Jung Hee’s father who beats her up at any opportunity. He treats her like absolute garbage forced upon the family, saying that she doesn’t need to study because her only aim should be to get married and leave for another house along with her burden. The show seems to be set at a time when gender roles were gradually coming into question in the Korean society, with Jung Hee taking a stand for herself even if it means bearing the beating that is to follow. Her mother is treated no differently, since she is expected to see her husband as her ‘owner’, which just goes to show her slave-like status at home.
At school, Jung Hee is the relatively popular one among her classmates, since she is attractive, though she’s not good at academics. A hopeless romantic, she’s almost always seen discussing romance stories with her friends in her free time. Very soon a new girl joins the school, Park Hae Joo (played by Chae Seo Jin), who is the daughter of a professor from Seoul, and she is the brightest gem among the slightly less smarter girls in the class. She stands out for her big city way of dressing, along with her pure Korean accent, without any hints of a dialect. She serves as a direct foil to Jung Hee because of how loving and doting Hae joo’s father is towards her. Jung Hee cannot decide whether to befriend Hae Joo or not, even though Hae Joo is bent on making Jung Hee her friend. On top of it all Hae Joo garners the attention of the boys at Bong Soo’s school, where she is regarded as the Korean Olivia Hussey. The school prefect at the boys’ school Son Jin (played by Yeo Hoe Hyun), who is popular among the girls is also taken by Hae Joo’s charm, while Jung Hee is head over heels in love with him. A love triangle ensues, even though Hae Joo shows no interest in his advances and chooses friendship over love. Added to this mix of characters was Bae Dong Moon (played by Seo Young Joo), who is Bong Soo’s classmate harbouring a deep crush on Jung Hee. The way he followed her around for all 8 episodes was simply endearing. Now, coming to the very reason I watched this show. Please give me a moment to fangirl.
LEE JONG HYUN YOU BEAUTY!!!! I am aware that I was supposed to review My Only Love Song and I regret not completing the show. However, Joo Young Choon was one amazing character that just somehow suited Jong Hyun so well. The ex-gang member with a heart of gold, Young Choon is the neighbourhood odd boy who goes around fixing broken equipment, or helping people move in and out of houses. His humility made me want to take the puppy and hug him, telling him it will all be fine. It is Hae Joo, who takes a fancy to him, calling him ahjusshi, and somehow that title suits Jong Hyun in real life as much as it suited Young Choon in the show. The young man with too many burdens, who tries hard to make ends meet and take care of a baby sister, Young Choon was the hard working man that would take many a girls’ fancy. I loved how much Jong Hyun was able to communicate by his facial expressions since he had to talk in a lower tone due to his social status, so all he could do was make up for it by his expressions. I loved seeing him occasionally get angry, because that just added another dimension to the otherwise subservient character.
Even though, this makes it seem like a simple story of romance and a love triangle, there was much more to the story. The trials and tribulations of the girls, who appear to be among the first generation of school going girls in South Korea were explored greatly. I believe the ‘lingerie’ in the title has to do with the gradual sense of sexuality that was entering the minds of young Korean girls at the time along with the awareness they were gaining from education. The constant talk of camisoles with thin straps versus vests seems to hint at the changing perceptions towards femininity. Also, the bond of friendship that forms among girls goes much deeper than any hate for liking the same boy or having a camisole with thin straps. Furthermore, there is a purity shown within romance and love showing a comparatively innocent time with genuine and sincere people, which somehow seem to be missing nowadays.
Lastly, I would like to end with the theme of communism. Knowing that this story is set right in the middle of the Cold War, in a country that had been divided by the conflict between capitalism versus communism, this story was a brave move. Our resident communist sympathizer was shown in an almost victimized way, by making him such a well-groomed and well-read man, higher in status than most of the residents of Daegu. The show stressed upon the gossiping nature of smaller towns, which were almost like a neighbourhood, where news spread like wildfire. Despite showing the communist as an outcast, the fact that the writer was able to communicate his humanity to us, as the audience, has had a great effect on me. It shows things in a more objective and neutral manner. Half the fun of the show lay in this tone of narration and therefore, I highly recommend this drama, since it was an absolute masterpiece.