Now that Can Love Become Money? is available on DramaFever with English subtitles, I succumbed to the temptation to find out what it’s all about. Yes, I know I said in my un-review that I was happy to be free from the distraction of ridiculous plot twists. Perhaps I exaggerated a little.
But not about the plot twists – they are every bit as ridiculous as anticipated. Yeon Jung Hoon is deliciously slappable. Comic gifts that were merely hinted at in Vampire Prosecutor (mostly in scenes with Lee Won Jong), are given full rein in Can Love Become Money? His stock of sneers, pouts, glares, and evil grins is bottomless. We love to hate him.
However, there’s more serious subtext to this “romantic comedy” than I expected. We’re starting to see that even the characters we like are deceiving others for their own ends. A particularly nasty character brings this to our attention at the end of Episode 7. Despicable as he is, we have to concede the point. While the motivating backstories of unsympathetic characters unfold, sympathetic characters bare their claws, and it becomes harder to tell the difference.
A big initial turn-off was the implied rape and total physical subjugation of Uhm Ji Won early in the series. It’s supposed to explain her choices for the rest of the plot, but nothing so heavy-handed was necessary. Yoon Da Ran isn’t overly fastidious about ethical considerations. I’m seeing a lot of near and implied rape in Korean drama lately (two Vampire Prosecutor episodes, Love Rain hotel scene, etc.). In Can Love Become Money?, the perpetrators subsequently become comic characters, while Da Ran seems more traumatized when her underwear shows than she was by a group sexual assault. That’s troubling. People who write rape into plots should talk to some actual rape survivors first.
However, women also fight back in Can Love Become Money? In Episode 4, Ma In Tak is mercilessly dressed down by the friend of a woman he has humiliated. Her no-holds-barred psychological profile of him is a revelation to Yoon Da Ran – who does her own venting later.
The casting of 31-year old Wang Bit Na as an aging has-been actress is a puzzlement. Yoon Da Ran’s catty put-down of Hong Mi Mi (translated as “expired goods” in fan subs) was toned down to “she’s not so great” in Drama Fever’s subtitles. Was this because it was mean, or because Uhm Ji Won is actually the older actress (34)?? Hong Mi Mi is all over the place: seductive, whiny, confident, desolate, compassionate, calculating. I can’t figure out who she is.
As for Jo Yeon Woo, at first Kim Sun Woo seemed refreshingly likable. He gets a little ugly with Wang Bit Na, however, and what’s on his hidden agenda, anyway? In Episode 7, things with Wang Bit Na take an unexpected turn, and one wonders whether it can possibly end well.
Since I’ve seen a number of later episodes without subtitles already, I have some idea of what’s ahead. Transformations, for sure – a recurring theme in Korean drama. Sometimes it’s genderized, with love changing men to better human beings, while it changes women to better packaged ones (ala Love Rain). However, this time I think we are in store for personality changes all around. Do I even believe people can change that much? I’m not sure. But I love to watch the timid become brave, the selfish discover the suffering of others, and the crusty crack open to reveal a gooey center. Hmm, I think it’s lunchtime.