spunk city

Things I learnt from Kim Mi Young aka The Snail, From Fated to Love You.

This post is about the character of KMY, why The Snail is arguably the real hero of this drama.

On the surface KMY is just like 99% of other K-drama heroines. Middle-class background, downtrodden, meek, and low in social stature. She gets bossed around by everyone, and even admits to being as disposable as a Post-It, hence her nickname in the office. 

Normally I can’t get behind such a character. My other favourite kdrama heroines all have a hefty dose of spunk - City Hall’s Shin Mi-Rae, or The Greatest Love’s Goo Ae Jung. These characters were brought low by their circumstances, not their personalities. 

But Kim Mi Young starts out as being a pushover; until the first revelation I had about her - she’s not out to please everyone, she’s out to make people happy. It’s an important difference because it makes her servile actions about raising people up, as opposed to lowering herself. As a result, her charm is in making people around her feel important. For some people, this brings out their ugly pride, for some others, it simply makes them feel happy and loved. I think this charm of hers has been used as an effective device in this show, to show who are the ‘bad guys’ and who are the 'good guys’.

She is the much needed foil to show how Goen is truly a good guy, and not just acting on some moral responsibility to the baby. Many fans remarked on the utter romance of this show, and I think a big part of it is due to the idea that with Mi Young, only the best possible type of man would identify and behave well around her giving nature.

But that’s just the beginning. By ep 3 or 4, Goen starts calling her Dal-paeng-ie. The Snail. In the early part of the show, the metaphor is an awful, derogatory one, referring to her stickiness and her moving into the rich man’s home with her humble home on her back (which is hilariously objectified in her big-ass luggage that she drags with her whenever she travels). However, as the show progresses, and we see the timid snail withdraw into her shell to weather every storm with a stoic calm, we realize that shell is made up of something very tough. The tender snail reels from the emotional hits, but she always finds a way to hide in that shell of hers. It’s a refuge, yes, but one that strengthens her. She may retreat, but guess what, she never goes away. The retreat is merely temporary, and then she’s back with some gem of a statement, one that cuts through the BS and identifies the core of the matter. In Ep 11 - SeRa tells her to go away and stay away. She does, for a little while, but then she comes back (hurray) and doesn’t even confront SeRa. She just looks her in the eye and says, “I want to be there to care for him and protect him too.” That’s it. No accusations. In fact, she’s super gentle with SeRa, knowing that she can’t undo the marriage or the baby, or the loss of SeRa and Goen’s relationship.

Another thing about the timid-tough duality of Mi Young is the way Goen can’t convince her she’s Super Glue, ie. someone so worthy of love that her absence would hurt those who love her. You see, the protective shell doesn’t come without a price. She’s so vulnerable, that she withdraws at everything, including Goen’s too aggressive assertions. Rather, she needs to be coaxed to come out of her shell, and not surprised too often for her to stay out of her shell. In other words - romance, because Goen must woo her gently and incessantly. There are so many swoon-worthy moments like this, from Ep 1-10, that I’ve lost count.

Lots of characters are moulded on metaphors with some animal or object. MuLan was the family dragon, for example. That’s nothing new. What’s new here is that … hehehe SNAIL. The common, humble snail is turned into the most heroic creature. With the lovely mix of fantasy and reality that the producers have chosen to inject into what is a pretty maudlin and common storyline, the story of Mi Young the snail is imbued with mythic qualities. 

Slow, quiet, calm Mi Young, blinking her big eyes through her round lenses, is probably my favourite kdrama heroine to date. All because they turned her into a snail, unflinchingly using the whole metaphor - The icky, sticky, tender, timid, tough Snail.