Every once in a while, you come across a drama that, despite your best efforts to resist, you can’t help but fall in love. This month I’ve chosen to talk about one such drama, mostly because I’m still overflowing with Bok Joo feels and I’ve got to vent them somewhere!
Going into Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (역도요정 김복주), I really had no idea that I’d fall as hard for this drama as I did. I actually put off starting it because to be perfectly honest, sports dramas just don’t rank that high on my must-watch list, and I didn’t really think there’d be much this drama would have to offer. Sitting here, on the other side of this 16-episode sleeper, all I can say is, I’m really glad I decided to ignore myself and give this drama a try.
Inspired by the life of South Korean Olympic weightlifter, Jang Mi Ran (장미란), Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (역도요정 김복주) is a delightful little coming-of-age story that weaves together the lives of a handful of students at one of Seoul’s sports colleges and their families. Like many school-based dramas, there’s a lot of on-going competition between characters and a whole lot of silliness but there’s also a healthy dose of realism which makes the entire story surprisingly refreshing. After all, it’s not often you find a drama relationship develop naturally out of a solid, healthy friendship, nor is it often that you can so easily see yourself in a drama’s characters.
However, with Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (역도요정 김복주), I was able to find both and as such, I couldn’t help but invest myself in the drama. I found Bok Joo (Lee Sung Kyung, 이성경) to be a surprisingly real character, and one that I very much wanted to see succeed, in every aspect of her life. As Joon Hyung (Nam Joo Hyuk, 남주혁) pointed out at the end of the drama, she’s a very warm person and as such, she has the ability to draw people to her. I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that she was a very open person. There wasn’t ever anything she kept hidden about herself. She acted on her feelings, she owned up to her mistakes, she talked about everything she was going through and as a result, you could see the warmth of her heart, even when her behavior was less than admirable. (I think everyone who’s already watched this drama can admit that Bok Joo had a rather terrible habit of lying. Even if she never really lied to be vicious, she still had a habit of covering up the truth which usually caused more problems than solved them. Hmmm… Can someone say, life lessons?)
To complement this story’s plucky heroine, an equally dynamic hero stands beside her. Overflowing with charm, oozing charisma and far too handsome for his own good (Ugh! That darn smile was almost the death of me!), Jung Joon Hyung (Nam Joo Hyuk, 남주혁) could easily have been written as nothing more than just another pretty face. But he wasn’t. Instead, he was given a story and a heart that wove itself together with Bok Joo’s so well, you really couldn’t find a more perfect drama OTP if you tried. Of course, just like our heroine, Joon Hyung had his flaws. His over-inflated ego and his vexing nature made him absolutely awful sometimes, especially towards Bok Joo. (The tsundere is strong in this one!) However, as the story progressed, the horrible was replaced with sweetness and by the end, I found myself loving him just as much as I loved Bok Joo.
Of course no coming-of-age story is complete without a heavy dose of competition and a lot of family drama, and this one had both. Bok Joo’s nemesis, Song Shi Ho (Kyung Soo Jin, 경수진), did an exceptional job of making life miserable for both Bok Joo and Joon Hyung, and an even better job of making me hate her with every fiber of my being. However, as the drama progressed, and her own story unfolded, I found myself softening in my feelings towards her so much that by the end, I was wishing her all the best. (Don’t you just love good character progression?)
As for the family drama, there was enough to keep things interesting without going overboard. Sure, things with Joon Hyung’s family got a little dicey near the end, but it never became unbearable. I really liked the way Joon Hyung’s family was portrayed. Sure, they had their problems, just like every family does. And yes, some of them really were self-imposed and ridiculous, but they managed to work through them without permanently damaging their relationships with each other. To see such a healthy family in a drama is always nice, especially in a story involving students of any age, because it gives the kids a safe place to run to when they’re dealing with life’s trials. Not only that, but a healthy family is a big reason why these kids are so easy to love. Being raised with love, they know how to give love to others, be they friends, acquaintances, colleagues or even enemies and that’s what makes these kids so freaking irresistible. You can’t help but love a kid who loves others. Or at least I can’t.
While this drama really is an adorably sweet little story, it’s not perfect by any means. I had a very hard time liking Joon Hyung at first because he was really a rather nasty little brat. His constant teasing of Bok Joo was awful and the fact that he calls her “Chubby” throughout the entire drama really irked me. Actually, the entire perspective on body size and fat-shaming in this story was awful. Anyone with eyes could see that Bok Joo is a perfectly healthy girl and the fact that she spent her entire life believing she was overweight and ugly, simply because she didn’t look like one of the rhythmic gymnastic girls, was heartbreaking. The fact that Bok Joo signed up for sessions at a weight loss clinic only makes things worse. I know she only signed up at the clinic to drool over Jae Yi (Lee Jae Yoon, 이재윤), but the fact that a doctor was willing to “treat” her, knowing full-well that there was nothing medically wrong with her, was rather sickening.
Sadly, Bok Joo wasn’t the only girl portrayed as fat and ugly in this drama. Oh no. The entire weightlifting team was filled with people who were considered ugly. It didn’t matter that these kids were athletes training just as hard to become national representatives and professionals as every other student at the school. Because these students belonged to a “lesser” club, and because they were forced to abide by a different set of rules about weight and body build required by their chosen sport, they were often looked down on and ridiculed. It didn’t matter that various members of their team had medaled in competitions, and were being scouted by pro teams, all that mattered was that they were “fat” and “ugly” and therefore unlovable. It broke my heart a thousand times over, watching Bok Joo and her friends be called names and be treated poorly, just because they didn’t fit a set (and ridiculous, I might add) set of beauty standards. No one wants to go through life being called “Chubby” or being labeled as “The Uglies” and to see that kind of behavior portrayed as acceptable in a drama was beyond disappointing. No one should be made to feel like less of a person simply because they don’t look a certain way. Ever.
Even with its flaws, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (역도요정 김복주), is one of the cutest dramas I’ve watched in a while. There were a lot of squealy “Oh my gosh they’re so cute!” moments, some rather funny moments, a couple of heart-stopping-make-your-knees-wobble-take-your-breath-away moments, some moments that made you angry and even some that made you cry, all of which I loved. I’m such a sucker for a drama that pulls on all of my emotions, especially when it’s full of adorable characters and sweet sunshine. Really, I spent most of my time watching this drama with a big smile on my face because it just made me feel good and that’s why I’m recommending it to you. Because sometimes you just need a warm fluffy drama that makes you smile.
Did you watch Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo (역도요정 김복주)? Do you agree with Leah?