Thursday, December 29, 2016

Hello, My Twenties! // Age of Youth (2016)

Once you've binged on all of the standard "good" Netflix television, there's nothing left to watch unless you start choosing shows at random. Embarrassingly, I reached that point. If I hadn't, I wouldn't have stumbled upon this treasure: the South Korean dramady known on Netflix as Hello, My Twenties!


Screenshot from trailer
Netflix seems to have recently acquired a lot of East Asian programming, and they are not marketed as well as other foreign TV/Film is, in my (serious) opinion, which is deeply unfortunate. My own biases come into play as well, and honestly, most of the shows don't look appealing at first glance. The larger-than-life stereotype of South Korean media precedes it, and I have inadvertently written it off. I know that I am not the only one to do so, and it is unnerving how complicit Netflix and other outlets are in this as well.

In many ways, the show reminds me of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend in that its comedy is big and centers on single women. Yet, somehow these thematic similarities are not as strong as the similarities that the show has simply for its country of origin, according to Netflix. For example, all 25 of the "more like this" shows listed are East Asian shows. I argue that not having a single show "like this" from any other part of the world shows that Netflix pockets these show together, no matter their content. Two of the four genres Netflix tags for Hello, My Twenties! have Korean in the title (Korean TV Shows, Korean Dramas) and the other two are vague and overlook the comedy of the show (TV Shows, Romantic TV Shows). I would love to see this show represented more accurately, so that more people will be likely to enjoy it for what it is as opposed to writing it off due to stereotypes. In the process, stereotypes across the board will be broken down. 

Anyway, I had exhausted the Netflix programming I was interested in and despite this, my boyfriend is a media-holic who constantly needs noise in the background while he works, and I either needed to choose something or have to deal with an intense true crime show. I opted for the random click, with the mindset of oh boy, what are we getting ourselves into. Soon, I was  coming home from work and immediately turning on the show, staying up past my bedtime to watch another episode in its entirety. 

It starts off stereo-typically South Korean, larger than life in an overwhelming way. The show opens on Eun-jae (Park Hye-soo*), who happens to be my least favorite character, as she moves into a new apartment in Seoul with four female housemates. Eun-jae is a doe-eyed little babe, just starting her first year at college. She is nervous and awkward, and I can't help but find her totally annoying. 

The series takes turns exploring the lives of each of the housemates, who each have very distinctive personalities.

Screenshot from trailer
In addition to Eun-jae, we have Kang Yi-Na (Ryu Hwang-young), who is tall and attractive, with a bold confidence and over-it attitude that exudes from her sassy quips. Song Ji-won (Park Eun-bin), the quirky weirdo who has never had a boyfriend and is alternately distressed by this and boldly whatever about it--my absolute favorite of the five. Jung Ye-eun (Han Seung-yeon), who is a little over-the-top, always dressing in pink, very concerned with her appearance and her social life, particularly her boyfriend. Finally, Yoon Jin-myung (Han Ye-ri), who works multiple jobs and is struggling to keep her head afloat, stubborn in her self-sufficiency. 

As in reality, these women would not have become friends if they weren't living together. Somehow, becoming roommates with other women,  brings me closer to them in a way that would not have been possible or even necessarily desired had I not lived with them. The series shows the ups and the downs of their intermingled and individual lives--revealing beautiful moments of unexpected friendship and loyalty, and painful moments of tension. I can't express how well this show depicts female friendships. Some of the loving, loyal scenes between the women nearly bring me to tears with joy. 

In addition to all of the relatively normal story threads, the women all have hidden pasts that they are dealing with, and a ghost seems to be haunting the house. I hate to give any of the plot surprises away, but trust me when I say that the drama gets real. And it gets good. 

Screenshot from trailer
The writing on the show is fantastic. Humor comes in unexpected ways, and I laughed out loud like I did with Chewing Gum and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, reveling in the absurdity and cleverness of different lines and plot lines. The editing is superb--quickly changing tones drastically but smoothly, purposefully done to keep us on the hook. Mid-late season in particular had me hating the writers and editors because I knew I was being manipulated, but I loved it. 

There are many more hidden treasure moments in the series--from the single woman who they rent from, always shown enjoying herself in her garden, to the men in and out of the girls' lives, to the after-episode interviews with the characters. It's fantastic. 

As always, my criticism:
  • There are stock video clips interspersed throughout, making the tone very weird. Especially when considering that the stock videos never seem to represent Korean people--mostly white ones. 
  • The same two-three songs are constantly used, and I wish that there would be more diversity in song choice. (Apparently this is common in K-Drama?)

Overall, I highly recommend Hello, My Twenties! to anyone who enjoys well-done "big" comedy and female-driven media. It is such a fantastic, relatable series. Both my boyfriend and I are completely invested. 


*Written in the structure of family name followed by first name, as generally written in Korean




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