Can Love Become Money? is turning out to be far more thought-provoking than I ever would have expected from watching without subtitles. Let that be a lesson to me! Episodes 8-9 address bullying in its many varieties and degrees, a hot topic in Korea right now. (If Koreans figure out how to reconcile the contradiction between inclusiveness and hierarchism, they might just pave the way for the rest of us.) The writers display sophisticated and compassionate insight into the origins of abusive behavior. When Ma In Tak despises Da Ran’s “weakness,” they show us that his extreme measures to make his point arise from his own abandonment issues, and the vulnerability they make him feel. This is one of the major points of departure between American and Korean drama. It’s a given that the behavior is not the person. Transformation is always on the table.
Da Ran has deeper flaws than your average Spunky Heroine. Anyone with a heart would empathize with her situation, but her judgment leaves a lot to be desired. She can be superficial, vain, self-serving, and even mean. However, when she articulates her pain and indignation to In Tak from the heart, she touches us as well as him. And he, for all his deficiencies, has the capacity for self-examination and to recognize truths, even unpleasant ones. He has a way to go in understanding his own behavior towards Da Ran, though!
I’m particularly intrigued by the bully-on-bully interactions. There are plenty to choose from – everyone in Can Love Become Money? is after something, and pretending to be something they’re not to get it. Thanks to one con man, Ma In Tak has already seen his own behavior in a new light. What can we expect when yet another con man faces off with a lovelorn rapist loan shark?
Despite all of this deeper meaning, it’s still Korean drama, so there is eating, beating, silliness, and tears. And a gay joke! Oh, and let’s not forget kissing that appears to produce actual enjoyment for both parties (and their bodies touched, not just their lips!). Not between our primary couple, of course. They constrain themselves to romantic bandaging.
That is, until…