Review – Strong Woman Do Bong Soon
Strong Woman Do Bong Soon reminds me a lot of iZombie. It has a playful “comic book” style that knows how to have fun. Zap, Boom, Shabang! Those over the top, tongue-in-cheek comics where though good guys fought off villains, no one was injured beyond repair and good humor ruled over seriousness. Think… the bright friendly, child-saving Superman of the 1900’s… not the monotone angsty Superman of the 2000’s. Do Bong Soon is here to save the day, damn it! And you’re going to feel great about it.
I adored this show! It had so much going for it… which I will be discussing with massive spoilers below… but above all else, it was romantic. So, so soooo romantic. Cute romantic. First love romantic. Original Superman romantic. You remember… the big-grin fly me over the city romance of a hunky guy smitten with a feisty girl.
Overall Rating – 10/10. Saved The Day.
Spoilers and Fangirling with Much Discussion Ahead!
Let’s dig in.
I can see why people wouldn’t like this show. Probably for the exact reasons I loved it.
This show accomplished what the X-Men, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and the rest of the lot have yet to do – it made me care about a hero! If there were Strong Woman Do Bong Soon merchandise, I would buy it. I would buy the t-shirts and the action figures and probably slap a decal on the back of my car. I would watch every spin off series of this show, too. The prequels about her great-great grandmothers and the “ten years later” stories and even the shows about her daughters and her grand daughters. Impossibly strong women! Yay!
And speaking of our strong woman, how great was the little actress playing Do Bong Soon? Park Bo Young is a rising star. Her huge eyes! Her dynamic personality! Gah, she was too perfect. Loved, loved loved her.
Park Hyung-Sik played CEO An, with the sharpest Adam’s apple in the history of cinema. What a cute guy. Seriously. What a cutie pie.
These actors were really… just… cute together. Cute as buttons. Cute as a basket full of kittens. Usually I am not a fan of such a disparity in height… it makes kissing awkward (and it did, honestly… except when they were laying down), but since they both have porcelain skin, I gave them a pass. Seriously, I need to learn their makeup secrets because they had this weird glowing sheen skin that was gorgeous and very similar to slightly wet plastic. Are they human? Are they manufacturing gorgeous idols in Korea now? Is the Singularity already here?! But Park Hyung-Sik is adorable – and his goofy, sensitive role as the lonely but plucky game designer was a nonstop bliss. I literally loved every second of his screen time.
Their romance was a billion balloons in the air. Just… stupidly over the top and thus absolutely awesome in every possible way. First of all, CEO An was just HEAD OVER HEELS smitten with our strong woman. Just gushy in love. Just… staring longingly at her at every moment in love. Kicking his feet happily on the couch when she texts and running around the house excitedly with pent up sexual frustration in love. And when they finally hook up? Oh my… then it’s giggling and hand holding and running off into corners to konoodle and blush and stare at each other enamored and it’s almost overwhelming. Proclaimations of affection abound! I will protect you! I will stand by you forever! If you’re feeling particularly single or lonely, don’t watch this show. You might feel like jumping off a cliff. But damn, it was super cute.
But let’s talk about the families of our two main leads. The strangely fascinating families of Do Bong Soon and CEO An. Let’s face it, those were some odd duck house holds. Even for a K-drama. The “hahahaha spousal abuse is hysterical!” family of Do Bong Soon and the “spread that DNA far and wide, baby!” family of CEO An. How could everyone be okay with the black eyes of Do Bong Soon’s father? Come on… that’s… really uncool. And uncomfortable. I get that her mom is a feisty woman and a bit of a thug, but Jesus. Take it down a notch. It was great though, to see the dynamics of their relationship – that she undervalued him and took him for granted – and everyone, even her friends, noticed it. And CEO An’s family? I didn’t get it! I seriously needed him to draw me a family tree because I didn’t get who was who and which kid belonged to which adult. His father was pervy version of Dr. Evil. I’ll have to watch this show again, to be sure, just to get a better handle on some of the specifics.
The cute little dream sequences were adorable. The two Romeos in particular.
There were odd amounts of gay jokes in this drama, am I right? This is starting to seem typical of a country trying desperately to be “Okay!” with gay people but not quite there. At all. The CEO pretending to be gay (which is all fun and games until the board hears about it and then it’s basically ‘fuck your inheritance, fag’ so he has to squash that rumor quicksmart). We can blame the booze, I guess, for our two male leads fawning over each other in the pool hall, cause, uh, it’s easy to mistake a six foot tall dude for your petite girl crush… and then the gay love potion that had the two criminals gently caressing after being tied up. The effeminate monk that weirds all the gangsters out (that guy was funny) was another mysterious nod into gay town.
And then there’s the gay game developer who runs around in lipstick and terrorizes our little King Kong… who was at least actually gay! Yay! (Dong-pyung the Doppleganger!) A real gay character for once… even if he is the brunt of most of the jokes of this show, I adored him. Not pretend gay, not ambiguously gay, not gay for pay or mysteriously gay acting… nope. The dude was OUT. And crazy and hysterical and I’m not really sure what to think about it if I think too hard… cause I’m pretty sure he’s what most homophobic old dudes imagine all gay men to be like when in actuality they are more like our main character or his secretary.
There were plenty of gay punch lines in this show but they’re not really offensive. Yet they’re not really anything to wave a rainbow flag over either, that’s for damn sure. They’re that in-between. I give the Koreans snaps. They know the kids love it, so they’re putting it in there – but they’re also afraid the adults are uncomfortable with it so they’re writing in escape clauses left and right. It’s such a fun game, homophobia! Ah, the gloriously awkward road to equality and human rights.
But enough about cute boys cuddling. Let’s talk about the bad guys. The gangsters…. who spend the better half of the show in the hospital plotting their revenge or feeling sorry for themselves. I thought this was great, as so often in shows you don’t see the recovery time from these big fight sequences. Realistic healing time was a nice touch. And it gave us a unique way to get to know our side characters and their stories. They were genuinely funny to me – especially the leader of the pack and his horrible poetry and conversion to poop-centric-nirvana later. These are grown bullies who have never really had their butts collectively kicked before… and to be thrown down by a tiny woman, no less… it flipped their world view. It caused chaos amongst the ranks. Even though they were the baddies, they were all kinda likable in their pathetic way. Lovable losers, if you will.
Then there’s the real bad guy. The scary guy.
Blue Beard (which the translations kept popping up as Blue Mustache… which was oddly funny). Blue Beard, the infamous French story about the ugly rich guy who has a secret basement full of the murdered corpses of his brides… and a magical key and whatnot. If you’re unfamiliar with the tale, look it up… it’s worth your time.
The bad guy was unexpectedly terrifying. I mean… the majority of the show was light hearted and fun. You had these adorably goofy villains and gangsters and street bullies. But then you had the dude who beat women with a lead pipe. I mean… just beat them repeatedly with a lead freakin’ pipe! It was heinous! I literally felt my skin try to crawl off my body. He kept them locked in prison cells, beat them regularly, I can only assume he raped them (though it wasn’t mentioned we can all just admit this was heavily implied… with his creepy bride costumes and proclivity for attractive skinny girls. I mean, he wasn’t kidnapping dudes, after all). It was DARK. Very dark. And the actor was uber creepster. I’m glad they didn’t give him a back story or make him sympathetic in any way. He was just the anonymous face of evil. And jeepers creepers, that mask! That terrifyingly vague projection of a hand clawing at the wall… what was that? It was down right scary, that’s what…
I thought it was well done. The drama’s theme centered on protection & justice. On how the strong often prey upon the physically weak (so often women, the young, and the old). Why? That may be one of the oldest moral questions of humanity.
It was seen with the gangsters bullying the bus driver in the first episode. The bullies beating up the kid to get his lunch money. The older people at work asserting their authority over the newer person. One of my favorite scenes was where a man is yelling at a woman because of a car accident – but immediately stops the minute a man intervenes. Do Bong Soon, however, doesn’t let it go. She points out that she hates that kind of behavior – why did he suddenly back down? It just proved he was a bully. And she was gonna kick his butt, by golly, and teach him a lesson! The inclusion of a serious threat – a violent, murderous threat – brought the entire theme to its basest level. This is where it ends. These little picks and pushes and petty things… they spiral… and they can get bad. They can get really bad. They can, at their worst, turn into this. This monster.
And so we had Blue Beard. Who used a weak, drug addict as protection. Who preyed upon the weak. Who ran away from anyone was as strong or stronger. This wasn’t a person who wanted to fight. It was a person who wanted to dominate, who chose someone physically weaker to feel stronger.
So many of the jokes of this show came from the unexpected strength of this tiny little lady and how other people treated her. They treated her like they treated every other tiny little lady. As someone vulnerable. As someone who needs protection. Except for the people who knew her strength – they hired her as their protection! I loved that.
I loved the gang of teenagers who worshiped her and called her their “Big Sister.” I loved that she had them going around cleaning up the neighborhood, literally. It was just so cute to have these six teenage boys with a female mentor.
And I loved that her mother was constantly plotting to get her laid. How hysterical.
I loved the tunnel vision of the cop character. He was so into his work!
I thought it was kinda of admirable. Everything else came second. That’s exactly the kind of guy who could have a crush on someone for years and not realize it. He’s exactly the kind of guy a girl could crush on for years on end, too. He’s that doofy, honest type… that’s never quite right and never quite wrong. Earnest. Well meaning. But suffering from tunnel vision… so they miss all the clues that aren’t related to exactly what they’re looking for. In other words, if you’re not his latest police case, he probably hasn’t solved your puzzle yet.
He was also pretty cute, if you ask me.
But back to Do Bong Soon.
How sad was it when she lost her powers and one of the things she lamented loosing was… not being able GO OUTSIDE AT NIGHT. Just let that sink in. Without her power she no longer feels at ease going outside at night without fear. I remember a few years ago at college someone babbling away about “feminist this blah blah” and how it was all just hype and I said, “When was the last time you were afraid to be outside by yourself?” And the conversation ended right there and the dude kinda shrugged and stopped being a jackass.
I love that Do Bong Soon got her powers back so she could save her boyfriend. I am not gonna lie… I totally cried when they were on the roof, her chained to a pipe with a big ole bomb, and he was telling her not to be scared as he prepared to die with her. That got to me. Did I love it that she got her powers back in that moment? Yes, I did. Was it silly beyond words that she tossed the bomb into the sky and it turned into fireworks as the two love birds held each other tight on the roof? Silly as can be and I loved every second of it. This drama is a comic book love story, remember? It was perfect.
I was glad all the egg gathering throughout the show paid off at the end, though I almost wish it had been a little grander. By egg gathering I mean the slow collection of a task force. She had her teenage gang, she had the grown up gang, she had the police force, she had her grandmother, and she had her boyfriend… it would have been cool if they’d all pulled together to take down the “big bad” a little more for a grand finale. Though they were all used, in one way or another (except granny) so I’m not complaining. I’d just been imagining something a little more elaborate.
Can I just say I am a huge fan of goofy sound effects in romantic comedies? I mean, don’t beat me over the head with them, but a well timed goofy sound effect is highly entertaining… and I never get tired of the cat noises and the chirps.
The side story about Do Bong Soon’s older brother and the cop’s ex girlfriend got pushed to the side for a long, long long time… or at least, it felt like a long time. There really wasn’t much of a story there, honestly, so that’s the extent of my commentary on that romance.
And as much as I love, love, love Do Bong Soon… her video game sounded boring. I mean… was there a plot to it? She developed a cool girl character and….? What? They failed to mention anything else. Except she rescues a prince. From his loneliness (cue the “awwwww!”). But what? Huh? Whatever… as usual, the actual WORK part of everyone’s work remained mysterious and largely unimportant to the plot.
Snaps for the tastefully small diamond engagement ring! It suited her.
And TWIN DAUGHTERS! I love this show so much.
I know I’ll be rewatching this show in the future. Not right away… but I have a feeling it will be put on the rotation list. And I’ll have to rearrange my top 20 again. So much work! So many cute shows this year… what’s a girl to do?