All About Eve to Oh My Lady.

I hear that Chae Rim is going to make a cameo appearance in the upcoming Chinese version of the romantic Korean drama, All About Eve that she starred in with Jang Dong-geon back in 2000. I was watching All About Eve on DVD again recently and by chance turned on the TV to SBS to see her in her latest drama, Oh My Lady. I had to check the date again that All About Eve aired because I couldn’t believe it – just ten years ago she was playing a fresh faced university graduate starting out on a career as a newsreader. She’s an innocent girl with no experience of love except for the crush she has on her sonbae. Now in 2010 she’s playing a divorced ajumma with a primary school aged child. She needs money to bring up her daughter and so takes on a job as a housekeeper for a young idol. So the story line is this – there’s no way a young star in his twenties could ever be romantically interested in a frumpy divorced ajumma in her thirties. Or is there? His fashionable love interest, Yoo-ra, certainly doesn’t think so. But of course that’s what happens and the moral of the story is that it’s not how you look or what you wear or even how old you are that counts, it’s what’s inside that matters. I’m sure Chae Rim won’t only play ajumma roles from now on but really, what a difference just ten years can make!

Sun-mi (Chae Rim) in All About Eve, 2000, MBC

Gae-hwa (Chae Rim) Oh My Lady, 2010, SBS

But Chae Rim is still only 31 and could pass for even younger, so to make her frumpy she is given the infamous ajumma hair and some very unattractive (and childish) outfits including farmer’s dungarees and dodgy shorts. How I longed for her to have a make-over and I really thought at least by the final episode that she would get one. This was a romantic drama after all. But alas, no.

The idol Min woo (Choi Si-won) with lady friend Yoo ra (Park Han-byuol), Oh My Lady, SBS, 2010

Gae-hwa may be older than Min woo but she certainly isn’t sophisticated. She is cute and seems quite innocent and perhaps that’s why it’s ok that she’s older. I think the idea of the older woman with a much younger man is still socially unacceptable here to a certain extent. The classic example of how this is reflected through drama is the 1998 drama, Love, starring a young Jang Dong-geon who falls in love with a widow in her mid-thirties, played by the chic, Kim Mi-sook (Definitely Neighbors, Shining Inheritance). There’s (only) an 8 year age gap between the characters and I was enjoying this romance of the sophisticated older woman until suddenly halfway through Kim Mi-sook’s character is killed off and a younger female character (played by Choi Ji-woo) arrives on the scene! What’s that about? I couldn’t understand what was going on and it all seemed so sudden. I read later that the writer had to be changed due to complaints about the storyline. That drama is 12 years old but I wonder how popular the same story line would be today.


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