Okay, so 질투의 화신 aka Don’t Dare to Dream aka Jealousy Incarnate is so not what I expected. The summary just did not give away many details. A love triangle? Cool? What else? So I didn’t go into it with much context and I’m glad I was willing to give it a try! A much better summary would be: A weather forecaster, Na-ri, works at a news network and is struggling to make it big in the business. She’s thrown for a loop when the reporter she had a crush on three years ago, Hwa-shin, returns to South Korea from Thailand. At the same time, his best (and possibly only) friend, Jung-won, begins to crush on Na-ri. So, yes, love triangle.
However, the biggest focus of the series coming in are the struggles of the characters individually: Na-ri lives with her brother in a house with a few other tenants. The young girl, Ppal-gang, is the niece of Hwa-shin, who left for Thailand after destroying his brother’s/her father’s reputation. Her mother also works at the news station, but doesn’t take care of her. When Ppal-gang’s father ends up in hospital after a drunken accident, she blames Hwa-shin and her mother entirely. Na-ri’s younger brother and another boy in the house make it their goal to look after her. Then there’s Hwa-shin himself, who, thanks to Na-ri’s accidental discovery while giving him first aid, learns he has breast cancer. It’s something I’ve not seen much, if any, representation for in English or Korean shows (or any other that I can think of?).
Hwa-shin spends a good bit of time in denial and has a negative reaction to what he considers a mark on his masculinity. It’s really heartbreaking to see. It takes a lot of women – Na-ri, the doctors and nurses at the hospital – to convince him to get treatment. In fact, the show spends a lot of time focusing on Hwa-shin’s journey after receiving his diagnosis. I’m really glad the show highlighted a topic as important as this and it’s not used merely as a dramatic and discarded plot point, it’s a big focus. You see Hwa-shin’s struggles and eventful acceptance of his cancer that leads him to getting the help he needs. He also doesn’t go through it alone. Na-ri’s mother and grandmother both had cancer, so she gets screenings every six months. It brings them into each other’s orbit and they slowly grow close.
Na-ri is also dealing with work complications, as no one takes her seriously and the sexist regulations from one of the directors is making it a wretched place to be. Hwa-shin, despite his irritation with her appearances in his life, starts to fight her corner at work, like highlighting how she’s a ratings success to the other anchors. Jung-won, a rich businessman who supplies the network with clothes, also begins to take an interest in Na-ri’s success.
The friendship between Hwa-shin and Jung-won is bromance material to the max, guys. Check out this set on Tumblr, I MEAN THE CUTENESS! And then there’s this one. I STAN A SHOW WHERE THE GUYS ARE TRUE AND UNAPOLOGETIC BESTIES.
I’m only five episodes in, but I’m really liking 질투의 화신! It covers important topics with care and comedy, and the characters are super likeable. Definitely recommend!