Answer Me 1994, episodes 1 to 12: And the husband will be…
Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers, and more spoilers: my take on Chilbongie vs. Oppa.
I am totally Team Chilbongie, but I think episode 12 pretty much solidifies Oppa as the husband. I’m a little confused at people thinking that Na-jung hugging Chilbong in episode 12 was an example of wavering feelings, because to me it was pretty clear that it was a hug of complete and utter platonic relief, and not of romantic love.
Back when I was ranting on Twitter about how it’s so annoying that K-drama’s heroines never get to even show the slightest interest in the second male lead — and how they are pretty much burdened to stay loyal and attracted to one person, the male lead — people chimed in and said that Answer Me 1994 showed a heroine who had slight romantic interest in the second lead. I think 1994 is a better example of a drama where the two romantic male leads are both in contention for a girl’s affections — and it wasn’t so sadly lopsided one way in favor of the male lead — but I don’t know, I think Na-jung is pretty steadfast in her Oppa love, and will be, til the end.
I think one thing the drama is weak with is illustrating aftermaths, and there’s nothing more apparent in this than Na-jung’s reaction to Chilbong’s confession: there was no reaction. The episode ended after Chilbong kissed Na-jung, and then the next time the characters came across each other was after Chilbong’s team dinner, and he sees Na-jung at the convenience store. At that point I had forgotten that he even confessed. Yes there was a little awkwardness, but nothing extremely so, and that moment was big enough that it definitely warranted some awkwardness on both people’s parts, especially since Na-jung had no idea Chilbong felt that way about her.
The two go back to being friends with very little hesitance, which lessens any romantic tension the writers might have wanted the viewers to watch. And after 12 episodes, it’s safe to say that we’ve never been shown that Na-jung feels anything for Chilbong other than complete friendship. All of the romance has been on Chilbong’s part, who so very obviously likes Na-jung.
This makes me believe that viewers and the writers have all been guilty of projecting Chilbong’s romantic interest in Na-jung onto Na-jung herself. That because he shows interest in her, this pairing is a go, when in fact, we haven’t really gotten anything to indicate that Na-jung reciprocates the interest. As much as it’s a problem with the writing, I’m also starting to realize that this is a problem with the viewer. As usual, we are taking away agency from the female by imposing some set of arbitrary feelings and emotions onto her based on some context clues that weren’t given out by the girl.
Everyone who doesn’t hate Chilbong is infatuated with him, and want the best for him, and we automatically expect that our feelings extend to Na-jung as well. The closest “romantic” moment we got was in the episode where it snowed, and Chilbong is about to head out to exercise, and Na-jung asks him to lean in, and she pulls his hood over his head. Yes, it’s cold, yes, she doesn’t want him to get sick, but this is hardly the stuff of romantic legends.
The other moment that might have vaguely been romantic was when Chilbong gave Na-jung a massage, which, if you haven’t forgotten, ended hilariously with two sets of farts, people. Na-jung was nervous about proximity, but honestly, which girl wouldn’t be nervous about proximity when a guy who you basically don’t know is giving you a massage where he’s leaning all kinds of close and bending all kinds of your appendages? A personal trainer did that to me too, and thankfully I didn’t fart, but there was no romantic nervousness, it was a oh-my-god-you’re-bending-me-hope-there’s-no-hole-in-the-crotch-of-my-leggings moment. Kapish?
People who are Team Chilbongie really should have no reason to believe that Na-jung’s frantic run and cry towards the department store in episode 12 was out of romantic love. The scene made me clench too, but based on all that Na-jung’s shown us of her feelings towards Chilbong up until that moment, it’s been out of friendship. If Chilbong had been stuck in the department store when it collapsed and died, Na-jung would have essentially been responsible for a friend’s death, because she specifically made plans for the two of them to meet there. This was not his idea, it was all hers.
If you were stuck in traffic and you suddenly got news that a good friend might have died in a building that collapsed, you would probably cry out of anxiety, and then cry of relief when you saw him alive and well. I think people who are reading the scene as romantic are too hopeful, and again, projecting their own desires for the ship onto Na-jung, hopeful that it means one thing when the character has shown no indication that her feelings would be like that.
The scene is sweet (god, I love Na-jung so much), but it doesn’t mean what Chilbongie shippers want it to mean.