⤷ Yoo Eun Jae (Park Hye Soo), Yoon Jin Myung
(Han Ye Ri), Jung Ye Eun
(Han Seung Yeon)
, Kang Yi Na (Ryu Hwa Young), Song Ji Won (Park Eun Bin) ↦ Age of Youth (2016)
“Others are just like me. Other people are people, just like I am. They feel as uncomfortable as I do, and hesitate, just like I do. There are plenty of people who are as nice as I am.” - Eun Jae
“Everyone has their own circumstances to deal with. And until you know the circumstances they’re in, you can’t tell people how to live their lives. I’m sure you have something like that about you, too. Something that others can’t understand about you, but you can’t help. That’s why you can’t judge people.” - Ji Won
“I hate you because I want to become like you, but can’t. So I can’t help but hate you. That’s why it smells. There’s a rotting smell coming from my envy.” - Yi Na
“Sometimes, I want to cry out loud. I want someone to hear me crying. I want them to hear me cry, and tell me everything will be okay. I want someone to pat me on the back, and tell me that it’s not my fault.” - Jin Myung
“Lies may be similar to makeup. Just like one puts on makeup to hide their naked face, people use lies to hide the truth. I tell more and more lies as my makeup gets thicker. Since when did I start feeling that going out with no makeup on was embarrassing? Since when did I become so ashamed of the truth?” - Ye Eun
Each of the Belle Epoque girls is meant to play some sort of female archetype. Eun Jae is the painfully shy introvert, who would sooner walk over hot coals than willingly enter into conflict with someone. Ji Won is her near-perfect opposite, loud and bubbly, the perennial friend. Yi Na is the femme fatale, dangerous and seductive. Jin Myung is the Good Daughter, putting herself through college while paying off her mother’s debts, incurred while her brother lays comatose in a hospital bed. Ye Eun is the quintessential girl. The one who dresses just as she’s supposed to, the one with the frat boy boyfriend, with equally perfectly-dressed girlfriends to link arms with and walk around campus, giggling over the latest gossip.
Yet, they’re so much more than these skeletal stereotypes might’ve forced them to be.
Eun Jae swallows her anger until she can’t anymore, until she boils over. She tosses Ye Eun’s designer handbag out the window and screams at her housemates. When we dig a little deeper, we see that she has nightmares. That she’d been brave enough to protect her mother when she’d suspected that her father might kill her.
Ji Won knows everyone, making friends is as easy for her as breathing. She is the glue that holds the Belle Epoque girls together. And she’s a pathological liar. Falsehoods slip out for her as easily as the truth does. She tells tall tales, spinning them until she can no longer take it back. Yet, even as she spins her web of lies (with the ghost inside the apartment), she holds the girls together. Though her “ghost” is a made-up story, each of her roommates has heaps of baggage. That little lie in the end allows them to come to terms with their pasts and face their problems. She is the anchor; without her, they drift.
Yi Na suffers from a serious case of survivors guilt, to the extent that she carries the little girl who died when she lived, around with her like baggage. She looks after her housemates like a mama bear, protecting them (see: Ye Eun) even when they don’t wish to be. She carries heaps of self-loathing along with her designer bags, flashes her luxuries at her friends even as she envies them.
Jin Myung stretches herself fifty different ways trying to do it all. And she wishes her brother would die, and put them all out of their misery. She wishes her mother would choose her, for once. She wishes she would stop having to be the one to sacrifice. She provides for them still. But she resents and she loathes, and it tears her apart.
Ye Eun shows off her perfect life, her perfect love life, while suffering through an abusive relationship. Through a petty, small, excuse of a man who puts her down at every opportunity. He is her captor, and though she knows what he does is wrong, she can’t help but crave his affection. She let’s go, eventually. She begins to overcome the abuse, one day. She’ll carry on with her life, because it’s what they do.
Every single one of these incredibly special girls has a spine of steel.
The media, society has a horrible track record when it comes to forcing women into boxes, restricting our actions. Yet Age of Youth takes hold of these archetypes and shows us all that there is no “one size fits all”. That one shoe fitting doesn’t mean it’s the only one you can wear.
“But Master Regulus had proper order; he knew what was due to the name of Black and the dignity of his pure blood. For years he talked of the Dark Lord, who was going to bring the wizards out of hiding to rule the Muggles and the Muggle-borns… and when he was sixteen years old, Master Regulus joined the Dark Lord. So proud, so proud, so happy to serve…”