A Second Lead Love: On Flower Boy Next Door
One of the characters of Flower Boy Next Door, Oh Jin Rak (Kim Ji-hoon), a cranky cartoon artist, has had a crush on his neighbor, Go Dok Mi (Park Shin Hye), for several years now. She is more or less a shut-in, hiding away from the world, pining for the man across the street, who she regularly (innocently) peeps on. She’s damaged and has taken to trying to avoid others in case they hurt her. So Jin Rak watches her from a distance, anonymously leaving cute little notes on her milk carton everyday, all while sorta trying to protect her.
In K-Drama, there always exists a 2nd male lead character who, although impossibly nice and perfect, never gets the girl and basically ends up alone at the end (the most famous example being that one dude from Boys Over Flowers). The rude jerk who’s the lead usually gets her. Flower Boy subverts this by having Jin Rak be lovably grumpy, and Enrique (the main lead) be sweet and good-natured. But, Jin Rak still remains the second lead. The thing is that Jin Rak never even really seems to be in the running. For most of the series, although he’s with Go Dok Mi fairly frequently, he mostly observes her. He’s not involved.But what I think this show does, more than other ones, is argue that Jin Rak’s position, his approach, is completely wrong. The show becomes an argument against the second lead.
The tragedy of Flower Boy Next Door is that Jin Rak, although a good guy, remains forever on the outside looking in. He treats the object of his romantic affection as someone beyond his reach – he puts her on a pedestal. To him, Go Dok Mi is like a weak animal he must protect, and although it comes from a good place, he never truly sees her as a “woman.” She remains an ideal that’s unreachable. There actually comes a point in the series where Oh Jin Rak actually tells her that he doesn’t need her to change, that he likes her just the way she is.
In essence, he is more witness than participant. Although he tries to throw his hat in the ring as a potential suitor, Jin Rak is never really sufficiently involved in Go Dok Mi’s life. Most of his relationship and knowledge of her come from the observations he’s made about her, not from actually interacting with her. There are even some scenes where the only thing that Jin Rak can actually do is helplessly watch as something happens to Go Dok Mi. Who is he to step in, for example, when someone else takes her away to the beach? What can he do?
His problem is that his love precludes the possibility of a true connection. By telling her that it’s okay that she stays in her apartment all the time, he says that the status quo is okay, that he’s happy with just being her neighbor, as long as she stays where she is; maybe with time she’ll come to care about him. But that isn’t what Go Dok Mi needs in her life. Her pain isn’t going to be soothed by just hiding out. She’s flawed and has been hurt and she’s never gotten quite over it. Jin Rak, although he loves her, never challenges her, never calls her out on her crap – his love doesn’t encompass those things.
So when another guy comes along and pushes Go Dok Mi to leave her apartment, to smile, to live, all Jin Rak can do is watch. And it’s this that made the series seem so heartbreaking at points. All he can do is be a witness to Go Dok Mi’s gradual return to the outside world. He watches her knowing full well that her smile isn’t for him, and that this new glow that she seems to possess isn’t because of him either. None of it is his. And he must live with it.
How To Find It
Luckily for everyone, this one is available right on Dramafever.
Flower Boy Next Door (2013)