Everyone loves a good Cinderella story, a rags to riches tale in which a young woman (or sometimes a young man), comes from nothing and finds true love and a new life with a someone who just happens to be royalty, terribly attractive, and loaded. Win!
One thing classic Cinderella lacks a bit is…well, a good relationship plot. I mean, if the story never existed and someone tried to put it out as a romance novel right now, reviewers would be lining up to make with the bashing. What is this? One night of dancing and he’s in love with her? And her state of poverty doesn’t even MATTER? Really? And is she really in love with him, or is it just about the money? The relationship happened too fast and there just wasn’t enough there…yadda yadda yadda.
They would then go on to complain that they didn’t really like the character of Cinderella because she doesn’t do anything. For the first part of the story she’s just sort of enduring stuff. And that’s all well and good. But then, when it comes time go out and get what she wants, she has to have an outside character–some Fairy Godmother– come in and make it happen. And THEN, when she meets with that whole ticking clock obstacle and has to run off, she then just waits around for the prince to find her. Really? I mean, she’s, like, this totally passive heroine who just waits for other people to come around and
turn her into a vampire change her life and make her a princess.
So, while we love Cinderella, we usually need more in our Cinderella stories these days than pretty people and fancy clothes. Which brings me to the actual subject of today’s post, the Korean drama series, Coffee Prince.
How much did I love this show.
Check. Seriously, you cannot help but be impressed by this girl. Now twenty-four years old, Eun-Chan’s been supporting her family since her father died when she was sixteen. Her younger sister is still in school, and her mother is not the sort to be very good at, you know, working. What the mom is really good at is buying shoes. Eun-Chan teaches Taekwondo, delivers milk, delivers take-out, hand sews the eyes on stuffed dolls at five cents per piece, and does pretty much any other odd job she can get her hands on. She’s a somewhat over-the-top character with boundless energy and good humor–and she’s really, really strong. The one way in which she really differs from Cinderella Classic: she’s often mistaken for a boy.
Check. Okay, maybe you don’t know this, but I have a thing for impossible relationships–relationships that are set up such that it seems like it would be impossible for these two characters to get together, or that there’s some bit of information that, when it comes out, will make it impossible for them to stay together.
So you can kind of guess where this is going from what I said above, right? She’s often mistaken for a boy, and that’s just what happens with her prince charming, Han Kyul. When the show really starts to get going, it’s because his family is making him go on a series of blind dates hoping he’ll find a suitable bride, and he’s miserable. So Han Kyul hires Eun Chan to help break up these boring dates by showing up posing as his gay love interest. And yeah, that pretty much does the trick.
After the family gives up trying to set him up, Han Kyul is more or less forced–in a do this or lose your cushy lifestyle sort of way–into turning a failing coffee house into a money making machine. It would be great for Eun Chan, who has just lost one of her jobs, to be able to get a steady job at a coffee shop. When Han Kyul decides to cater to the young women from the nearby university, to call the shop Coffee Prince with an all-male staff of “princes,” Eun Chan has to continue her charade of playing the boy or lose the opportunity.
The growth of their relationship is exceptionally well portrayed. Eun Chan is attracted to Han Kyul, but knows nothing can come of it because she can’t admit she’s a girl. And, if she did, she figures nothingwouldcome of it because Han Kyul’s the kind of guy who can get any girl and why would he want one who can pass for a guy? As their friendship deepens, she decides that has to be enough.
It’s on Han Kyul’s side that it gets sort of fascinating, because, as the friendship deepens, he’s clearly falling for Eun Chan. For all the right reasons: her intelligence, humor, dedication, abilities, strength of character–all the awesome about her, and there’s plenty. How she fills out a ballgown is never part of the equation. I mean, how refreshing is that? He can’t actually fall for her because…she’s not a her. But she is, and he is falling for her. But he knows he’s not gay. But he feels this. And it’s really making him quite insane.
And then, when you’re so deep into a lie like that, how do you get out? And what’s going to happen when you do?
Oh the tension! Oh, the drama!
And the humor. And the secondary characters and their storylines.
I seriously loved this show. I’d say it lost a bit of steam in the last third of the series, but I thought it was worth watching the whole thing and I really enjoyed it. Now, it’s probably NOT for you if:
- You don’t do well with a bit of exaggeration or suspending disbelief.
- You don’t do subtitles.
- You don’t enjoy stories from other cultures.
I mean, some people don’t, and you might not enjoy it like I did. Like Japanese stuff, there’s exaggeration here that’s different from what we usually see in American entertainment, so there are a number of things that might seem over-the-top, especially if you’re new to Asian fictions. But know that going in and then just sit back and enjoy it for what it is. It’ll grow on you.
So if you think Coffee Prince sounds awesome, lay in some supplies, set aside about seventeen hours of your weekend, get to Hulu and check it out.
If you don’t mind being spoiled just a smidge, I found this clip on YouTube. Still thinking she’s a boy, Han Kyul is trying to cope with his more than friends feelings for Eun Chan and thinks maybe if he just hugs “him,” just once, that will make things better.
If Han Kyul had ever read a romance novel, he would know this would not work. Just sayin’. [ETA: I just noticed that the video clip got nabbed by the copyright police. Don’t you love it when you’re trying to sell someone else’s shit and they make it harder? Again, just sayin’.]