by Bloom C, April 27, 2021

[Caution: This article contains spoilers]

[This article is written subjectively from my point of view]

Sometimes, when life gets too stressful, a guilty pleasure is just the right medicine we need to escape reality. Once in a while comes along an Asian drama that is so wayward and filled with toxicity that it becomes delicious to watch and one can hardly look away. Such are  dramas that I would not be in a rush to share my obsession of to the world. However, there is something about watching toxic people navigate inside their worlds that is hard for me resist.

I find mature drama guilty pleasures even more entertaining because they give us the opportunity to experience the leading couple’s romance through marriage. Most dramas usually end before the marriage begins so it's pretty refreshing to see life after happily ever after.  Below are three mature dramas that I find to be highly recommendable guilty pleasures.

Samee Tee Tra (Thailand)

Karat is a beautiful heiress and socialite who has not had much luck with love as all of the men she married in the past cheated on her and died (lol). Her arrogant, spoiled, and volatile personality makes her difficult to deal with for everyone aside from her friend since childhood, Peung. Unfortunately, Karat discovered that the only reason Peung has been so tolerant of her is because she was having an affair with her dead husband and is pregnant with his child. How can one recover from such a torn heart? For Karat, it is to find another man who will mend it, and that man is honest and straightforward Pisut, who is not tolerant of Karat’s spoiled and immature behavior.

The Bad

Karat’s parents do not serve as positive role models for her and her sisters, their dad is constantly spending time with another woman instead of focusing on his family. It's no wonder her mother has become a bitter and cold woman as well as a bad influence on her daughters. Due to her lack of having healthy relationships with the people around her, she seeks to be loved without first learning to love herself and thus winds up in a cycle of toxic relationships.

This fact is supported by the fact that she falls in love with Pisut while she is on vacation healing from a recently dead husband and from discovering that he had been having an affair with her best friend while he was alive. Karat not only fails to give her heart time to process and heal, she also gives herself no time to rediscover herself and find happiness within her before moving onto another man. In addition to the fact that she has all the money and riches in the world, Karat is a living and breathing disaster.

Karat is not the only issue in the relationship, however, because Pisut does his share of noble idiocy to put in some damage on an already broken woman.

The Good

Pisut is a good influence on Karat, unlike everyone around her, he is determined not to give into her tantrums. Through the fear of losing someone who genuinely loves her for who she is and challenges her to be a better person, we see a positive character development in her. Deep inside, Karat has so much love inside of her and for the most part, we see it through her interactions with Pisut, his mother, and her own sisters. The romance between the two leads is what got me so addicted to the drama as it gives us two very different individuals trying to make it work despite outside forces intervening.

Summer's Desire (Taiwan)

Yin Xia Mo is an orphan and student and girlfriend of the wealthy Ou Chen, but trouble in paradise comes in the form of bad boy Luo Xi when Xia Mo’s foster parents also take him in. Ou Chen unable to deal with the new foster siblings growing closer together, allows jealousy to consume him and uses his wealth to force Luo Xi out of the country. Unable to tolerate such overbearing and controlling behavior, Yin Xia Mo ends their relationship. Devastated from a broken heart, Ou Chen ends up in a car accident the same night Xia Mo breaks up with him and he loses his memory.

Five years pass and Luo Xi returns successful as a famous superstar, unable to forget Yin Xia Mo, who is now an aspiring actress. The two begin a relationship as Luo Xi helps Yin Xia Mo’s career take off. Unfortunately for them, Ou Chen regains his memories as the couple’s relationship gets serious and is none too happy that they have been enjoying a sweet romance while he suffered from memory loss. Ou Chen begins a journey of revenge on Yin Xia Mo and is determined to make her suffer just as he did.

The Bad

Both male leads have an obsession with Yin Xia Mo, which somehow gives them the inability to respect the decisions she makes in her life. Ou Chen is especially controlling to a point that he is clearly abusive to Yin Xia Mo as he refuses to allow anyone to get closer to her. In their teenage years, he isolates her to the point that she has no friends outside of him. Not surprisingly, he is just as toxic as an adult as when he was a teenager. Ou Chen is unable to reflect on his own actions and how he played a part in his own circumstances, rather his only focus is that Yin Xia Mo broke his heart.

Luo Xi on the other hand respects Xia Mo and gives her room for growth, however, his insecurities get in the way when Ou Chen is involved. Rather than communicating with Yin Xia Mo about their misunderstandings involving Ou Chen, Luo Xi behaves immaturely and ends up hurting her. Naturally, Yin Xia Mo moves on and it is only at this time that Lou Xi regrets his actions and is unable to accept Yin Xia Mo’s decision to move on from him.

Yin Xia Mo herself spends most of her life putting others before herself and constantly taking care of others and thus always ends up in relationships where she is unable to put herself first.

The Good

The drama explores the complications of relationships of teenagers with absent parents and how those relationships help to determine who they become as adults. Although Ou Chen inherits his wealth, all three teenagers grow up to be successful and ambitious adults, very much focused on their careers. Ou Chen as an antagonist has the biggest character development as he learns to reflect on his own actions and how they hurt other people. 

What I found to be very interesting about this drama is that despite their toxic traits, the main leads end up in somewhat of a healthy marriage in which they unconditionally support each other (despite the way they ended up in that marriage in the first place).

New Tales of Gisaeng (Korea)

Da Sa Ran is a beautiful college student majoring in Korean classical dance and works part time performing as a side gig. Sa Ran’s mother passed away in her young age and her father remarried a superficial woman who unfairly favors her own daughter and ostracizes Sa Ran. Fortunately for Sa Ran, her world becomes rosey when she meets Dan Mo, a rich and arrogant chaebol. It takes Sa Ran time to warm up to him and his misogynistic outlook, but she discovers that deep inside, he is a good natured person who was simply misguided. The person responsible for such a misguided way of thinking is Dan Mo’s patriarchal father, who is overbearing and cold to his own wife but pours all his love to his puppy.

Dan Mo’s father is insistent on his son marrying into a family of reputable background and does not approve of his relationship with Sa Ran. As a result, the two end their relationship and Sa Ran joins an academy for gisaengs and begins training after experiencing the difficult heartbreak.

The Bad

This drama is saturated with awful and selfish parents who project their own insecurities and toxicity onto their children. I found it amusing that their own marriages were broken and unhealthy, mostly due to the fact that they were arranged, and yet they remained insistent in their children following the same path. The children of the wealthy all exhibited superficial, arrogant, and immature behaviors compared to the children who grew up in poor families. It is through their interactions with Sa Ran and the harsh realities away from their parents’ influence that they are able to develop into decent people. 

Furthermore, I am convinced that somewhere in the middle of the drama, the screen writers lost their minds and the network just went along with it.

The Good

Character progression is the gem of this drama, as each and every character that begins as intolerable in the beginning ends up becoming endearing. I ended up cheering for people I initially hated and hoped they would find happiness. 

The drama truly does an interesting job exploring gender roles through marriages in a country that is patriarchal like South Korea. The drama begins with the women settled in their roles as wives who comfortably serve and follow their husbands' decisions until they each slowly break out of such roles. I enjoyed watching them each find their own voice and learning how to navigate between avoiding straying too far from culture and yet taking themselves from situations in which they are taken advantage of.

One thing to take away from the list above is that even a drama filled with damaged people who move around with toxic behaviors and ideas can have teachable moments. I find people with such an unhealthy way of thinking and behavior interesting to dissect and analyze who they become, the person they are, and how they impact their children and others around them. If anything, they are a good indication for how essential therapy is in life. 

mature toxic people guilty pleasures mature dramas