Is it just me, or has the recent kdrama trend shifted towards more noona/donsaeng love with even bigger age gaps? While I have no problem with this, and so far the chemistry between the actors works (e.g., King 2 Hearts), I just thought it would be interesting to point out, whether or not these age gaps were part of the script (e.g. Me too, Flower). Do these storylines work? What about the casting?
Kdrama land has long been working with love angles involving the older gal with the heart of gold, and the younger chaebol with a witch of a mother (e.g. Sam Soon). Heck, the opposite has been the norm. But what if the age gap is much bigger? Like 10 years? (e.g. “Who Are You?”- Though for this latter drama, I did find it awfully creepy to fall in love with someone who is possessed by the spirit of your father). Large age gaps are always a concern, because you’d wonder how you can match up in life experiences, and ten years is really like a whole generation apart. (While I was listening to the Spice Girls, my little cousin is now listening to Justin Bieber, and we’re barely 10 years apart!)
Recent cable shows like Flower Boy Ramyun Shop focused (somewhat) on these issues when our heroine tried to suppress her feelings for the hot Jung Il Woo because of the age gap. And I think these are valid societal points to still consider because of a stigma that lingers regarding the older female and younger male. Love is not free of constraints, and it’s really not just between a man and a woman. Rather, class, family, wealth, education, aspirations, and a whole slew of things come in between. Age is one of them. What happens when a woman decides to focus on her career and postpones her romantic advancements? What happens when she’s ready to pursue her relationships and fall in love with someone much much younger? So not only do you have to consider the generational gap, society’s double standards requires that we focus also on gender. Some shows do a really good job portraying these situations, (e.g. The Woman Who Still Wants to Get Married), and I’m commending Asian Dramas for tackling these issues and saying, hey, it CAN happen and it’s okay.
However, when the age gap is not written into the story, and rather the age gap resides with casting, it gets a little less believable. In the case of “Me Too, Flower,” because of an accident that occurred on set, Yoon Shi Yoon became the lead along side Lee Ji Ah. Now even though Lee Ji Ah looks flawless for her age, the fresh faced Yoon made the gorgeous ladies on set look like ahjummas tryig to rob his cradle. (Though, after suspending your beliefs a little, he did a fantastic job with the character.) Even with Ha Ji Won and Lee Seung Gi in Kings 2 Hearts, I was a little weary of the casting at first. Ha Ji Won is a well seasoned actress with enough on screen prowess to guide an entire drama by herself. I’d always imagined her leading man would be someone with equal screen competence and experience. (Gah, that would just be ridiculously steaming. How about someone like Gong Yoo?) I’m not saying Lee Seung Gi cannot carry his own, but him and mature never associated in my mind.
In the Moon that Embraces, Kim Soo Hyun (as the King) made both Ha Ga In and Kim Min Seo look like Ahjummas. While his performance was something to talk about, I also had to suspend my belief for a while trying to imagine him as someone gritty and powerful. (Gah! He looks like he’s still in high school!)
Correct casting is everything. When I groan at mismatched leads with a huge age gap, it’s not because I am not accepting of the noona/donsaeng relationship, but because when I have to suspend my belief a lot so that I can begin to enjoy the drama, I’d call that mis-casting. …Or perhaps, this is just a post for the subconscious me hating on all you young faced actors out there making me feel like a cradle robber yearning for you.