I’m not naive enough… and I’ve been watching dramas long enough to know this… to think that romance in any drama lands for everyone the same way. Although I seldom have SLS, I’ve held minority positions on the lead romance before. It should be no surprise to anyone that there are romances in dramas that do absolutely nothing for me but I navigate them successfully due to other aspects of the show. It’s a balancing act and somehow we manage to find a place of compromise for ourselves.
I suppose Hospital Playlist is a popular enough drama that it can lead to all kinds of controversies without trying. But the ones that baffle me the most are those surrounding Ahn Jeong-won and in particular, his romance with Jang Gyeo-ul. I don’t know why it is exactly, but there has to be something about him or or her or something that viewers see in him that elicits a whole range of feelings. Not all of them complimentary.
For me, Jeong-won has always been a character with sharp contradictions and that’s been the case from the start. On the one hand, he’s a sensitive, perceptive, thoughtful physician with plenty of clinical experiences under his belt. On the other hand, he’s an unworldly pubescent lad, his mother’s youngest child who hasn’t had a lot of experience with courtship and dating. There is a reason why he is good with the kiddies. So it shouldn’t come as any great surprise that there’s a “childish” side to Jeong-won that emerges now that he is dating someone seriously. Why? Because it is his vulnerable side. The side that he shows mainly to close friends and family. Occasionally to his little patients. To say that he shouldn’t be behaving that way… completely misses the point. As if this is some kind of breach of etiquette or ethical norm. Fundamentally this speaks to who he is… as a unique individual that’s not you and me. Outside of the formality and professionalism of the hospital he can be as childish and silly as he wants without fear of being ridiculed or mocked. There’s no one to sit in judgment of him and/or think ill of him for being himself. In that WG scene in Episode 3, the audience was in effect positioned as voyeurs. We were privy to a very intimate scene between a man and a woman revelling in the joys of courtship. We are the intruders on something deeply personal. The fact that he reiterated to Gyeo-ul that they should drop all formalities outside of the office, is a guide to understanding what that scene might be trying to convey. Outside of work he doesn’t see her as a co-worker. She is his girlfriend. Someone to go out on dates with. Someone to kiss and hold hands with.
It’s not hard to find evidence from the first season to convict Ahn Jeong-won of the crime of immaturity. I’m sure everyone remembers this scene from Season 1… This was Jeong-won throwing a bit of a tantrum during a conference in front of Seok-hyeong, med students and residents.
Then there’s this scene… where the Flawed Five are reminiscing about Seok-hyeong’s dad.
Here Jeong-won whines about Seok-hyeong’s Dad not paying him for cigarettes 20 years after the fact. The others can’t believe his pettiness.
And then there’s this…
He’s hiding behind Jong-su after being whacked by mother for talking about not marrying.
Just another more recent one from Episode 1 of this new season. Jeong-won complains that he usually ends up in the middle of the backseat. This is the sort of arguments kids have with each other.
Jeong-won has a childish, silly side that comes out now and again. Especially with his nearest or dearest. As do most of us… if we’re honest. Especially if our relationships are functional because we feel safe and there’s no risk of condemnation for acting up. As far as the drama is concerned it’s not just Jeong-won by the way. Ik-jun most obviously. Seok-hyeong with his mother. But Song-hwa too especially with regards to food. From time to time I notice that Jun-wan who is normally the most stoic, will bring out his aegyo with Ik-sun on video chat. And I haven’t started on the oldest recurring characters like Jong-su and Rosa yet.
I’m not saying that we can’t have different opinions about the quality of the production, the writing or the performances. That’s not what this is about. This is about facts and what the show is doing with characters. That’s a choice the writer made a long time ago right from before the first episode of season 1 to give Ahn Jeong-won a particular persona. When someone says that Jeong-won shouldn’t go full blown aegyo now that he’s dating, I honestly don’t know what that means. I don’t understand how the word “shouldn’t” is used here. Is it used in the same way we talk about verbal abuse and domestic violence? Is there some science behind it? Is there legal standing? Is there a secret holy writ on courtship that I don’t know about in circulation? Or is it subjective opinion that’s masquerading as fact?