In need of a drama to watch? Consider tuning in to the adorable romance between Cheng Zhen and Zheng Xi. In “Love or Spend,” Mo Cheng Zhen and Pei Zheng Xi are given an ultimatum by their BFF mothers to find their rightful partners or be set up with each other by their 32nd birthdays. The two childhood friends scramble to find partners, but as rivals are introduced and feelings begin resurfacing, Cheng Zhen and Zheng Xi have a difficult time understanding their mixed emotions. Curious to know more?
Check out these five reasons why “Love or Spend” is a must-watch!
1. It has our favorite romance tropes
One of my favorite tropes in dramaland is having leads who have known each other for an incredibly long time tip-toe between the line of friendship and romance. From childhood to adulthood, Cheng Zhen and Zheng Xi have been inseparable — they have been neighbors since they were children and are co-workers now as adults. Whether it be playing the cat’s cradle game to de-stress during their break at work or having late-night balcony talks, Cheng Zhen and Zheng Xi seek out each other’s company — to such a great degree that even those closest to them question their relationship. The close physical proximity and the friendship cultivated over time create the foundation for these friends to explore the exciting journey of defining where friendship ends and romance begins.
2. The drama addresses social issues
The synopsis of this plot might sound like a typical rom-com; however, this drama stands out by boldly tackling social issues such as gender politics in the workplace and same-sex relationships. Cheng Zhen (Jennifer Hong) and Zheng Xi (Kingone Wang) work in the same office, but Cheng Zhen often does not get the recognition she deserves for her skills and leadership. She must continuously fight against the prejudice that women are incapable of being good leaders and will leave the workforce upon getting married.
The drama also addresses the taboo topic of same-sex relationships. Pei You Xin, Zheng Xi’s youngest sister, struggles with her sexual identity. As those closest to her find out about her relationship with another woman, You Xin realizes that her family’s acceptance of her sexual orientation will not come easy. This plotline worried me because I was not confident that a drama would be bold enough to continue the relationship and even suspected that it would somehow wrap this plotline with You Xin just being sexually confused. Instead, the drama chooses to show the process by which her family members come to understand her and realize the prejudices they hold about same-sex relationships.
3. The romance is fun and mature
What makes this drama noteworthy is that it is able to create heart-fluttering moments while also showing the mature side of Cheng Zhen and Zheng Xi’s relationship. Sometimes dramas get too one-sided with the male lead doing all the swoony actions or the female lead always being there emotionally for the male lead without getting that in return; however, this drama emphasizes how well Cheng Zhen and Zheng Xi play off each other’s strengths and shows how their years of friendship have built a strong foundation of trust. Whether it is Zheng Xi accepting that Cheng Zhen can prove herself worthy as an employee without his help or Cheng Zhen finding ways to keep Zheng Xi from relocating to Vietnam, these two consistently find that balance of when to support and when to hold back and respect the individual choices made by the other.
4. Strong character arcs for the secondary characters
Secondary characters are often delegated as characters for comic-relief. While it is true that these characters do provide humor in this drama, they are also given full stories of their own.
All of her life, Pei You Xin has only thought about her piano lessons. When she begins to question her sexual preferences, You Xin begins to explore a life outside of her protected bubble.
Pei You Ting, You Xin and Zheng Xi’s sister, has a lack of motivation and drive. She drops out of school and works under the same company as Zheng Xi thinking it will be easy since her brother is there. Along the way, she finds the importance in the work she does and earnestly works hard to gain recognition for her efforts.
Lastly, Mo Cheng Han, Cheng Zhen’s brother, is seen mostly chasing after girls, but as viewers, we see him seriously pursue and let go of whom he thinks is his true love. Cheng Han is more than meets the eye. Hidden beneath his outgoing and jokester exterior is also someone who has deep emotional scars from when his father left the family.
All of these characters are given trials and pushed to become better versions of themselves, which makes this show refreshing to watch, since they are transformed into meaningful and relatable people.
5. It subverts the trope of a love square
Most rom-coms cannot do without a love square, but if they must have one, I would prefer they take the route this drama did.
Cheng Zhen’s love rival Vivian is introduced into the drama — an ex-girlfriend of Zheng Xi who wants to rekindle their relationship. Normally, one would expect the rival to do her best to sabotage the relationship by creating misunderstandings, but Vivian chooses to win back Zheng Xi with her own charms and merits. She makes it clear to him that she wants him back and finds opportunities to recreate the spark they had when dating.
Zheng Xi also has a potential rival. Li Yang, a co-worker, courts Cheng Zhen. He is also transparent about his feelings for her and is proactive in making her consider him as a dating partner.
“Love or Spend” has checked off all the aspects of a good drama in my book. It achieves the right balance of fluff and maturity and provides us with plenty of characters to root for.
Has this drama also passed your checklist as a to-watch drama? Check out “Love or Spend” on Viki
isms is a new features writer for Soompi. I’m a big fan of Asian dramas and love watching variety shows!