If Cinderella never had a ballgown…

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.

Strong heroine?

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.

Impossible relationship?

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’.]


Filed under Recs and Links, writing

13 responses to “If Cinderella never had a ballgown…

  1. This is on my “I am an idiot for not watching this yet” list (along with “Winter Sonata”). Though, I should be all excited to watch it as I loved the main character in “Biscuit Teacher and Star Candy” (sometimes called “Hardtack Teacher and Star Candy”). I must finish “Bachelor’s Vegetable Store” first, however.

  2. Alas, I don’t HAVE 17 free hours to spend watching this over the weekend. Actually, I really like the whole idea and think I would like the show. I just think I would like it better as a movie, where everything is resolved at the end. LOL If only I could quit my day job and write for a living. There are SO many things I would like to watch and do and see. And it’s starting to bother me more lately. Maybe someday…. 🙂

    • There is just SO MUCH to watch and read and write and do and etc. I watched this straight through mostly because I was sick, was up most of Sunday night and then spent all of Monday in bed. So if you get sick, maybe you can keep it in mind. What I like about series and mini-series over movies is how they can build a relationship in increments, over time, in a more natural way than a movie. In that way, they’re closer to how a book works. I don’t think this would be believable in a short span because it just takes a lot to get a character to a point where he loves another character so much that their gender doesn’t even matter. Can’t do that in 90 minutes.

      This morning I’m very accomplished. I did my cleaning, started dinner, wrote over 3k, and now I need to go do some sewing work. But I have some anime to watch while I do that, which is part of what I love about the sewing. (And this anime is dubbed. It seems like everything I want to watch lately has subtitles only and is no good for sewing!)

      • I see what you mean about building relationships over time. My problem is, and this is also why I like novellas and short novels, I’m so busy all the time and it seems like a constant run, run, run. Like this week, I have something to do EVERY evening Monday-Friday after working all day. Bleh. It’s too much sometimes.

        Yay for your productiveness today! You deserve to watch some anime. I just don’t see how you can sew and watch subtitles. LOL

  3. This is definitely going on my to-watch list!! I’m currently watching Mars (Taiwanese drama), but unfortunately all I can find is poor quality streaming online. I so wish I could find a copy I could purchase because I’ve had the manga forever and adore them.

    Any other series suggestions? Preferably something I can netflix/hulu/or buy just because it will be better quality, but if it can be found at all I’m game. hehe

    • OMGOMGOMGOMG MARS?!?! Like Fuyumi Soryo Mars?? Because I think I seriously just did the shrieking, crying fangirl thing.

      Coffee Prince is the first live-action Asian drama I’ve watched. I’m on an anime kick right now and currently re-watching My-Hime. It seems like so much used to be available in English that is now just subtitled. Is that my imagination? I know some people prefer subs, but I like to get other things accomplished while I have the TV on like sewing/knitting/cleaning–not reading the TV. It’s part of how I fit it in.

      • I prefer subs, but that’s because I study language too, so it helps me learn. But yes, when I’m busy and trying to fit things in dubbing is a gift.

        And YES Fuyumi Soryo Mars! Google it! I’ve only seen the first 4 episodes so far, but it’s INCREDIBLE. As in watching almost every single page from the manga come to life on the screen perfectly. I swoon constantly. Look it up!

        • This will, no doubt, be a seriously blow to productivity, but MARS!! What an awesome gift you brought me today. Thank you!

          • Lissa, my brain totally melted over the Mars thing. After some time away to pull myself together I remembered that there’s a good post about K-dramas with recs here at Mom’s Basement. Enjoy!

            • Haha, thanks! I’m sorry I melted your brain so much and took away your productivity, but if you love Mars I’m pretty sure you’ll squeal over the show.

              Also, thinking about your description of Coffee Prince makes me think a little of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night too, when the young woman had to pretend to be a pageboy to work for the duke and they ended up falling for each other.

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