Candy Girls of K-Dramaland: A Couch Kimchi Roundtable
What is a “Candy girl” and why do we love them? Join us as we discuss this K-drama standard, and let us know your favorites (or most hated) “Candy characters.”
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What’s a Candy girl?
A Candy girl’s purpose in a K-drama
You know you’re watching a K-drama with Candy girl when there is a …
Why we like Candy girls
What we don’t like about Candy girls
WHAT’S A CANDY GIRL
Tessieroo: *sings* ‘I want candy …’ That’s what usually comes to my mind when I hear the term “Candy girl.” Maybe we should begin by explaining what the term means and where it originated for those who aren’t familiar?
The term or idea came from a Japanese anime published in the 70s called “Candy, Candy.” The main character is an orphan named Candice, and no matter what horrible things happen to her or how badly she’s mistreated, she stays optimistic, cheerful, and loving.
Clockwatcher: According to “Master’s Sun,” it’s from a manga and refers to a poor girl who’s looking for a rich man to save her, but I think in regards to Korean dramas, it refers to that innocent, bubbly, hardworking, poor girl who stars in most romantic comedies.
Rinchan: It’s the character that fails at getting even in revenge dramas and freezes at skinship in romance. She is admired by all men because she is diligent and pure, but she’s hated by the second female lead because of her saint-like thinking. Most important, she is the target of every evil person, disaster, and hardship, but somehow, she comes out on top because of her ability to move the masses. LOL.
Tessieroo: Exactly. The “Candy character” is somehow able to make everyone fall in love with her, and that includes all the rich, single chaebol guys. LOL. She usually has 3 or 4 part-time jobs and runs around like a crazy person but always has time to help others. She’s that perky girl with a kind heart, a bit clueless but able to make everyone smile. I’ve heard it called the “happy virus,” a person who is able to make everyone around them happy.
Clockwatcher: And more often than not, she looks a mess. Sometimes, it’s because she’s too busy with her multiple jobs to think about visiting a salon or too poor to buy fashionable clothes despite carrying a handbag costing the average person’s one-month salary.
Rinchan: That’s why she stands out—she is a good person who is not draped in the rewards a good person deserves. When you first see her, you notice her train wreck appearance, but because there is so much more underneath, one can’t help but draw near to see if they are the real thing. Most of these chaebols are surrounded by superficial creatures worried about things like when the latest limited edition item is coming in so they can brag about their wealth.
A CANDY GIRL’S PURPOSE IN A K-DRAMA
Tessieroo: I’ve always believed the “Candy character” is written to be the normal person in a K-drama. She’s the one who has to get up early every morning, go to work, pay the bills, etc., and doesn’t spend her time in the shopping mall, buying the latest designer items. So, she’s basically there to offset all the rich, snobby people and acts as the catalyst for bringing about change in those people.
Clockwatcher: I think she’s a fantasy character. She’s the audience’s point of view; the one we can live vicariously through. Most of us aren’t as beautiful as the successful, evil second lead, so, she’s the one that makes us dream that we too can meet a rich, handsome guy who overlooks our average looks and bank account and gives us that “Cinderella” fairy tale. She also grounds the drama by adding some realism into a story about rich chaebols.
Rinchan: The “Candy character” stands as the most ideal human in terms of character. She influences people to be better. She teaches fellow characters, as well as the audience, that despite their dire situation, being virtuous is possible and hard work is much more valuable than living off your already rich family.
YOU KNOW YOU’RE WATCHING A DRAMA WITH A CANDY GIRL WHEN THERE IS …
Clockwatcher: A makeover. There has to be a scene where she transforms from an ugly duckling into a swan.
Tessieroo: So true! LMAO. For some reason the makeover scenes are usually my favorites. Also, she has a million part-time jobs and runs around in sweat-pants or frumpy clothes because who has time to look nice?
Rinchan: That’s really funny because the “Candy character” is always called out for being ugly or plain, but as soon as she is made over, she shines like a star.
Tessieroo: It’s hilarious to me when they try to make a gorgeous K-drama actress look ugly, and she’s usually so poor that she struggles to buy food, which means she’s always hungry and eats like a pig.
Clockwatcher: There is usually a “complex” male lead who is initially nasty to the female lead. He’s a handsome, rich chaebol with mommy issues or a dark past. His ex-girlfriend probably left him for her tennis career.
Rinchan: Or one as an art curator, opera singer, or ballerina. *cough* “Fated To Love You” *cough*
Tessieroo: LOL. It was a ballerina in “Heartstrings.”
Clockwatcher: She probably has a loving family to contrast against the male lead’s. More often than not, one of her parents is dead.
Rinchan: Not necessarily. She could have an evil stepmother like Dan Sa Ran (Lim Soo Hyang) in “New Tales of Gisaeng.”
Clockwatcher: True. If her family isn’t loving, then they are a burden. Her brother and/or father has a gambling problem, and at least one of them steals from her.
Tessieroo: She’s clueless about men, and she has a funny best friend or sidekick, who is always on her side.
Clockwatcher: She’s probably never had a boyfriend and has her first kiss with the male lead even if she’s like 35.
Rinchan: You also shouldn’t forget that after she has been kicked on, spit on, and put down by every character, mother nature steps in with a downpour lol. However, don’t be too sad for her, because a dashing male lead comes to nurse her when she falls ill. LOL.
Clockwatcher: LOL. Yes, we can’t be too sad for her because she usually triumphs in the end.
WHY WE LIKE CANDY CHARACTERS
Tessieroo: Because she’s usually someone to whom we can all easily relate. For me, it depends on how she’s written. If she’s a brainless idiot, then I can’t relate at all. For example, the lead female in “Liar Game” is pretty dimwitted, BUT she’s excessively compassionate and wouldn’t harm a fly. Nam Da Jung (Kim So Eun) works part-time jobs to pay off her Dad’s debt and always puts others before herself. I initially found her very annoying, but she grew on me once I figured out she’s not as dense as I thought.
Rinchan: Da Jung is not dimwitted. *Sniff* Her heart is just fluffy. She is optimistic and chooses to see the good in people, although she might suffer for it.
Tessieroo: I prefer the “Candies” who are written as benevolent but intelligent, like Se Na (Krystal) in “My Lovely Girl.” She may have been poor and had to work hard to get anywhere, but she was smart and had a backbone. She never allowed anyone to walk all over her. When her rival tried intimidating her, she gave it right back and didn’t cower in front of the bad guys.
Clockwatcher: I dropped “Liar Game” because of the lead. I just couldn’t take her innocence. How can someone who has spent several years hounded by loan sharks still have her mindset? But I digress. I like “Candy characters” because who wants to live in a world where only the rich and beautiful find happiness? Granted, the “Candy characters” often end up with wealthy, beautiful people, so, there’s some hypocrisy there, but I like optimistic stories. We want to see qualities like hard work, courage, and drive lead to success. We want to see women who find happiness just being themselves.
Rinchan: I like “Candy characters” because they are nice, and their story is one about the underdog rising to the top. It is something we can relate to because it is something to which many of us aspire. I don’t necessarily mind if they are weak or naive because they can become strong and knowledgeable. I expect to see either growth in my drama characters or at least some form of advancement in life, and candy characters provide this. I can understand why Da Jung could continue to think that way because despite being hounded by loan sharks one of her closest allies was her loan shark. Although I am reserved about who to trust, it is interesting to watch someone who is so trusting. Even if there are bad people in the world, there are more good people in who are trustworthy.
Clockwatcher: In other words, they give us hope.
WHAT WE DON’T LIKE ABOUT CANDY GIRLS
Tessieroo: I don’t like it when they blindly believe anything they’re told, even if they know the person doing the telling is not their friend. It drives me insane. Since they usually only see the good in other people, it never crosses their mind that someone might be out to hurt them, their family, and their friends.
If they don’t have the smarts to fact-check things they’re told, then I have no patience; that’s not being kind, it’s being stupid! Even worse is when they find out the truth later and it shocks them? That’s when I’m ready to reach through the screen and smack them. LOL.
Clockwatcher: Are you still talking about “Liar Game”? LOL. My major issue with “Candies” is their over-saturation. When I saw YoonA on a scooter in the teaser for “The Prime Minister and I,” I recall rolling my eyes and thinking, ‘I bet she’s going to bring sunshine into his life.‘ What’s wrong with sunshine? Absolutely nothing. I definitely prefer sunshine to rain, but the problem is when almost all characters “bring sunshine” in the same manner. It’s a little old and tiring that so many female leads are cheerful, spunky, poor girls who end up with a chaebol.
Rinchan: Yeah, I hate it when they are so sweet they give you diabetes. I mostly hate it when they never learn. It is annoying when they let the same person fool them over and over again.
Tessieroo: My favorite “Candy girl” of all time remains Go Eun Chan (Yoon Eun Hye) from “Coffee Prince.” I don’t find her clueless at all, plus she’s a bit of a tomboy, which I love. It was great fun for me that she couldn’t be bothered with all that frilly, girly stuff like makeup and dresses because she was just too busy. It wasn’t until the older, intelligent Han Sung (Lee Seon Kyun) invited her to be his date to a party that she tried dressing up, which ended in complete failure. In my head, I will forever have the scene of her with too much makeup on, wearing a black dress with strawberry print, and picking her undies out of her behind as she walks towards the car. LMAO!
Clockwatcher: I’m currently enjoying “Birth of a Beauty.” I think she started off as a Candy-type who was innocent, naive, and hard working but has grown out of it.
Rinchan: I liked Go Eun Sung (Han Hyo Joo) in “Shining Inheritance.” My heart ached for the disaster called her life. She didn’t start off poor, but eventually, she lost her wealth and family. She wasn’t dumb, but she was good to others because she could sympathize with them. There was no blind faith present in her character, but she had a way to change the hearts of others.
Clockwatcher: For me, it’s Nam Da Jung of “Liar Game” because it’s the first time a character’s “Candyness” annoyed me so much I stopped watching after two episodes.
Tessieroo: Me too. As I said, I sometimes can’t swallow how stupid they’re made to be. I also can’t take the immaculateness. Sometimes, they’ll react like this: “OMG! he touched my hand!” Pffftttt. It’s too much, especially if they’re over 30.
Rinchan: Probably any attempt at a male candy character would be a fail for me. Do they even exist?
Clockwatcher: LOL. That sounds like a disaster. For whatever reason, innocence in men just isn’t very attractive.
A cynical, heart-broken, tortured chaebol often needs someone from a different world to show him that happiness can be found in the simple things. That’s where a “Candy girl” comes in. She isn’t impressed when he drags her on a $100K shopping spree. In fact, she’s disappointed at his frivolous spending because she understands how hard it is to earn a single dollar. Instead, she shows him (and us) that the best things in life are free. Is she idealistic? Sure. Realistic? Perhaps not. Can she be annoying? Hell, yes. But does she make us smile and give us hope for a few hours a week? Absolutely, and that’s why we love “Candy characters” in Korean dramas.
Join us next week for a discussion about the rise and popularity of cable TV dramas!