So I finally watched My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, after having planned to watch it for the last five years or so. It was definitely fun to watch and it helped flesh out the main elements of a Hong sisters plot. With a plot based mostly on fantasy, it had a lot more significance in terms of historical Korean popular culture. The sisters were able to bring out traditional, age-old stories into a more modern era and add their own unique spin to the entire myth of a gumiho.
A gumiho, in Korean culture is a fox-like mythical creature, who happens to be a female, by gender, and has nine tails. She is often described as a sort of a succubus, possessing extremes of emotions, particularly sexual ones. She has often been denigrated in the culture as a being that possesses no control over her own desires, which usually deal with the lust for flesh. She gets her name from her nine tails, because in Korean the number 9 is called gu. Often a gumiho wants to come out from her resting place in temples as she desires to be free of all societal restraints. She will go hunting for a man, or men whom she can ‘feed upon’, as a means to turn into a human. Since she is blessed with great beauty, she will have men falling for her, making her task to find a mate that much easier. Some of the story has similarities to the tale of the Little Mermaid who was also on a quest to become a human and live on land.
Our resident gumiho is played by Shin Min Ah, and her love interest, Cha Dae Woong, is played by Lee Seung Gi. We are currently seeing the latter as Sohn Oh Gong in Hwayugi, so we can see how deep his connection with the Hong sisters runs. Since Shin Min Ah’s character doesn’t have a name in the actual show, Dae Woong resorts to calling her Gu Mi Ho, which really does sound like a perfectly normal Korean name. Dae Woong, is an irresponsible, orphan child, who has been spoiled rotten by his rich grandfather and aunt. He has no desire to study and no aims to ever get a job at the age of twenty-one. His only aim in life is to become an actor for action films, for which he practices stunts day and night. He is always displeasing and disappointing his grandfather and often runs away from home. On one such occasion, he ends up at a temple, where there is a famed image of the fox, with the ability to transform into a gumiho. The fox can communicate with humans through the picture, and when she sets eyes upon Dae Woong, she orders him to set her free. When he sees the gumiho materialize, he is so scared that he falls off a cliff and is almost dead. However, Mi Ho saves him by filling him up with her superhuman energy which is stored in a ‘bead’. The only condition is that Dae Woong must protect the bead by being loyal to Mi Ho and not engaging in any kind of romantic relationship with other women.
The drama, much like You’re Beautiful traces the ‘fish out of water’ story once again. This time, it’s a mythical creature that has not left the painting for the past 500 years and has no idea how much the human world has changed. As she adjusts to all the technology and the ways of humans, she gradually wants to live among them, as part of them, and not stand out for being a mythical creature. Dae Woong, much like Hwang Tae Kyung is reluctant to even accept this creature’s heart, let alone seeing her adjust to his world. The bead and Mi Ho’s tails are representative of the bond that they share, even if it is forged with great reluctance. One of the main ideas in the show was that of ‘behaving like a person’, which Dae Woong is asked to do, as much as he expects Mi Ho to do it. Behaving like a person entails being responsible for one’s own self, and as an extension take responsibility for those around that person. Mi Ho comes to symbolize the growth of Dae Woong as a responsible adult as he comes to terms with his feelings for her. With it grows the need to protect one’s loved ones from any and every harm that may befall them, even if it means risking one’s own life. All of these ideas made this drama as iconic, especially because Shin Min Ah’s Mi Ho clearly seemed to be the basis of Jeon Ji Hyun’s Shim Chung in Legend of the Blue Sea.
P.S. The cameos from Go Mi Nyeo (Park Shin Hye) and Jeremy (Lee Hong Gi) were so very welcome.