Discover more from The Urban Lily Talks Tropes
My Roommate is a Gumiho (2021) Push You, Pull Me
I’m being a bit silly but I was reminded of Doctor Dolittle for some reason. In the famous tale of the doctor who talks to animals, he is given a two headed creature by some grateful monkeys during one of his featured travels to Africa which he brings back to England — a pushmi pullyu. When he wrote about this mythical beast, I doubt Hugh Lofting had romance in mind.
A push-pull is a well-used trope in the rom com playbook. If the writing’s good you can see why it’s warranted but if it isn’t, it can feel “tropey”. That is to say that there’s really no good reason why either of the leads should be indecisive or having any kind of cold feet.
I suppose for some people the thought of a 1000 year old nine-tailed fox romancing a 22 year old university student has all the elements of yuck. But perhaps because he looks like Jang Ki-yong who looks 28 rather than a 1000 bearded sage-immortal, we give it a pass. Or it could be that Fox aka Shin Woo-yeon is a bit of a clueless clot about the affairs of the heart, that it doesn’t quite feel like he’s actually taking advantage of an inexperienced lass in love. (He sure doesn’t kiss like an old fogey either) The way the writing goes, it feels that he’s just as lost/inexperienced as she is about their relationship. As a result of recent developments, he thinks he knows what’s best one minute and then changes his tune the next making up as he goes along because even with 1000 years under his belt, there are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt in his philosophy. It’s rather clever of the writers, in my view, to make Woo-yeon work extra hard for the last marble. The old tricks don’t really work… and his liking of her is causing all kinds of emotional havoc for the them and it leads to a good old fashioned push-pull.
One can argue of course that the push-pull is a non-event in comparison to others that have come before. It may even be deemed unnecessary. It is unnecessary if Woo-yeon does what he usually does but tables have been turned on him. He can’t just take what he wants because this is a woman he likes and he doesn’t want to drain all her energy either. Plus he can’t go around romancing other women to charge up when he’s in love with someone already. (Yes, it’s a bad time to develop a conscience). I can see his predicament.
I’d be the first to say that this isn’t the kind of show I default to. But there’s genuinely nothing I dislike about it. Not the love triangle. Not even the so-called second male lead that’s increasingly becoming less unlikeable. Yes, he was a scumbag (there’s really no nice way of putting this) for betting 100 000 with his friends that he can win Lee Dam’s affections. (These sorts of gambits are alway bound to end badly and in tears) But his liking of Dam has him on an important trajectory called “character growth”. That’s not to say that I want him to be with Dam or that I have burdened with any kind of SLS (second lead syndrome) but scumbags (especially in a good drama) deserve a chance to turn over a new leaf even if it takes him the entirety of the drama to do so. I don’t find him a nuisance because a) the actor is very good b) Sun-woo’s role in all of this forces Woo-yeon to think about what it is he really wants from his relationship with Dam… and life in general. No, I don’t dislike Sun-woo. And no I’m not about to set him up with any daughter of mine. He’s not there yet. But he’s not a caricature and that should be a cause for some celebration.
At this point I have no idea what the Mountain Spirit is up to. I can only suspect that he’s messing around with Woo-yeon just before the latter makes the final leap into becoming human. Why do this? To snap him out of his complacency perhaps. Is Woo-yeon genuinely interested in becoming human? Is he willing to do whatever it takes to be human? Does he even know that means? It could be that Woo-yeon the egghead needs to experience the deepest longings of the heart before the transformation is complete. Especially because he has been taking all this time to get to where he is.
I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say that Kang Ha-na and her character Hye-sun is almost the best thing about the show. I think we cottoned on a while back that she’s far more in touch with humanity’s complexities than her fox friend. What she lacks in book learning she makes up for with her shrewd insights. She is undoubtedly hilarious but most importantly she is a good friend to those she attaches herself to. I adore her blossoming romance with Jae-jin. It’s time I think he found himself a woman who will appreciate his true value. He’s a sweet fellow with so many good qualities but for some reason lacks discernment when it comes to romance and allows himself to be taken advantage of by terrible human beings. His judo moment was a gem. Who knew? And Hye-sun blushing over him stroking her hair in praise of her was oozing with cuteness.
I wouldn’t call this show a guilty pleasure because it’s a show that generally plays by its own rules. Despite the so-called age gap, the leads have a healthy dynamic and openly communicate for the most part. I don’t really see Sun-woo as a threat because Dam is absolutely clear in her own mind (even if she wavered for a few minutes about the energy drain) who she likes. For me at least the love triangle is really about the development of the male leads more than it is about a rivalry between two men over a girl.