The Mystery of Love 2.0 – when love and tech collide: A Review of The One and Love Alarm (Season 2)

I’m sure if you surveyed the average person, they would tell you that they wanted to find love (if they haven’t already.) However, that journey is a tough, steep one that holds many challenges for several reasons. Social media, and much later, dating apps have already transformed the dating process massively in a relatively short space of time. The two most recent dramas I’ve watch watched on Netflix explore how technology (and science) could further impact dating and relationships in the future and what the effects on individuals lives could look like. Worth a watch or not? Have a read and decide.

The One

The One, Netflix review - the downside of scientific matchmaking
Rebecca Webb (right) with co-founder of The One and close friend from university days, James (left).

This is a new British sci-fi drama and Netflix original consisting of 8 episodes, based on a book of the same by John Marrs. I watched it recently after seeing it in my upcoming list of shows and being intrigued by the blurb (the apps good ol’ algorithm never seems to fail, eh?) In the drama ‘The One’ is the name of the company which provides a matching service based on DNA. It’s as simple as you think – people take swabs, send them to the company and find out who their biologically destined match is! The series follows Rebecca Webb, co-creator and CEO of The One as she goes through desperate lengths to find happiness herself and maintain her position of power at the top of the company. Yet, as the series goes on we find out Rebecca is a woman with a lot to hide and this begins to look less and less possible as secrets are revealed and lives are lost. Definitely worth a watch.

Although, a slightly deterministic approach to love upon initial reading, the interesting thing about this matching approach is that choice does play a huge role in the success of matches. This is contrary to what many of the users of the service seem to think in the drama. Their mentality is ‘we’ve been ‘matched’ so you must be my soulmate, we’re meant to be!’ Which, as you watch the drama, will find to not necessarily be the case. DNA alone cannot be a sole indicator of a good partner, several other factors have to come together to create a successful relationship. As many of the characters discover – secrets, selfishness and lies can easily put an end to any potential happiness you may have or think you serve with your match.

Love Alarm (season 2)

This K-drama is based on a popular web-toon (online comic) of the same name. In the drama, relationships are largely dictated or guided by a widely used app called Love Alarm, which is able to notify you if anyone within a certain radius from you has feelings for you. It was originally created by the protagonist’s (Kim JoJo) former classmate, Chon Duk-gu – an illusive and shy character, who admits he created the app because of his difficulty deciphering the feelings of people around him. To simply the app, it helps users answer the question ‘does my crush (or partner) like me back?’

Is Love Alarm season 2 getting renewed? Here is everything you need to  know!!
Promotional poster for the show – from L to R – Sun-Oh, Kim JoJo and Hye-yeong

For those that have battled with frustration caused by mixed signals from someone they liked, this app sounds quite dreamy. Yet – since there’s always a yet – it doesn’t take long to discover it, like the DNA matching service in The One, has its problems. We don’t necessarily see how widespread usage of the app is working, but rather we see a microcosm of its effects through the drama’s main characters. One obvious effect it provides a very awkward and public display of unrequited ‘love’. If two individuals are in close proximity of each other the app will notify one of those people that ‘someone who loves you is within close distance’. However, for the other person…it won’t which can be both scary and heart-breaking.

The app starts to act as an obstacle for characters who are in relationships on the show. For example, Sun-oh’s girlfriend reveals that she dreams about him ringing her love alarm – something he is not able to do when they’re dating. Similarly, due to events from the previous season, Kim JoJo is not able to ring the ‘alarm’ of anyone she likes because she has a feature called a ‘shield’ installed on her app. In her relationship with Hye-yeong, this slowly starts to torture her as she begins to suspect that maybe this is saddening her boyfriend and causing him to doubt her feelings for him.

To Conclude…

Overall, I would say that both dramas show how technology – as we undoubtedly already know – can do more harm then good, even if created with the sincerest intentions. We already use much tech at work and in the home successfully. But with widespread and frequent usage in many circumstances we run the risk of using tech as a crutch, much to our own disadvantage. It tends to happen gradually and then – next thing you know, you can’t remember the birthdays or phones numbers of your friends with your phone, for example! (Based on a true story.) In both shows, we see technology has altered the process of dating and its requirements for many people. The agency seems to shift from self to tech so instead the characters fall into the trap of not thinking for themselves enough. Don’t get me wrong, love is an amazing thing but I think it needs a bit of mystery and effort; surely then the product is more rewarding?

All is Fair in Love, War and death

Cast of the show: in the middle hugging – Dong-baek (right) and her son, Pil-gu (left)

Can someone be your miracle?

This is what the Netflix original K-drama When the Camellia Blooms (2019) tries to answer. Dong-baek is a 30-something year old single mum who runs a bar in the small Korean town of Busan. Although she is super nice and meek, she’s an outcast in the town, stigmatised by her single motherhood and the fact her bar has become a popular hangout spot for all the local women’s husbands. Out of jealousy their assumption is that she must be selling much more than drinks to them to attract them there. Of course, the reality is much simpler than that – the men have looked all around for a viable refuge free from prying female eyes and Camellia – Dong-baek’s bar has slowly become just that.

Her son Pil-gu on the other hand, is anything but meek – he has a vicious bite and has become a very avid protector of his mum who is often not only teased by adults but sometimes gossiped about by his age mates at school. In one amusing scene he shouts at some kids for using his mum’s first name – an indicator that to them she isn’t worthy of respect. However, Pil-gu is slowly getting tired of being his mum’s defender, he’s aware the other kids don’t have to be as protective of their mothers and that he’s perhaps doing too much for what is expected of a child his age. He had his annoying moments (like being insistent on his mum not dating) but if I truly tried to see things from his perspective I could understand the fear behind his behaviour. His mum and him against the world is all he has ever known, so he was understandably worried about a disruption to this dynamic.

When it comes to miracles Dong-baek is very sceptical, after all life has been very hard to her. No matter how hard she works she can’t seem to catch a break or make enough to make ends meet. We learn that she suffers from abandonment and trust issues- these stem from the childhood trauma she has around her mum abandoning her. The drama digs more into this set of events later on towards the end, so the drama is worth a watch until the end.

To make matters worse, Dong-baek is being targeted by a serial killer, nicknamed in the town ‘The Joker’ who has stumped the local police force for several years. There is no common thread between the victims except for notes left at every scene with the same words –  ‘stop being a joke’. She has a few close run-ins with him which mess with her confidence and make her fear for her safety. I think the murder plot line helps to sustain the dramas pace and entertainment. We get to play a mental whodunnit as we try to figure out which character we knew had the most motive and means. All I knew was that it had to be someone local that we’ve been introduced to already as an audience. 

Dong-baek reconnecting with her estranged mum.

Overall, this is a heart-warming story of family, love, friendship and redemption. I cried and I laughed. Although Dong-baek seemed annoyingly coy at first, you do grow to love her; every time you put her in a box she defies expectation and surprises you which is something I really liked. Not only does she toughen up as the program progresses, she learns the true meaning of love and friendship through her relationships with Pil-gu, her mum and her boyfriend, Yong-sik. Dong-baek is played by the actress Kong Hyo-jin who starred in one of my favourite dramas, It’s Okay, That’s Love. To some extent the drama is self aware of k-drama romance cliches – at one point Yong-sik askes Dong-baek if they want travel to an island and she refuses, replying that its likely to lead to the cliche of them missing the last boat and having to share a room together at a random inn. And there is no doubt she is very right – that cliche is all too common.

Other dramas that may be of interest that look more at parenthood; Hi,bye mum, Love and Marriage, Was it Love? and One Spring Day. They’re all available on Netflix.

Trailer for When the Camellia Blooms.

For more Netflix reviews from me you can find some here and here.

These are my obsessions: K-dramas

 

Interesting-Facts-About-South-Korea-Flag-republic-of-korea

My addiction/ love of K-dramas came after watching my first good one. I say this because the first actual one I watched (Jealousy Incarnate) didn’t really grab my interest so I thought nothing much of it. With each episode in that series being over an hour long and barely keeping up with the subtitle pace, it definitely wasn’t love at first sight. That changed when I sat down with my uni housemates one night to watch the drama ‘Cheese in The Trap’. Thinking back to then, it wasn’t the greatest drama I’ve watched but I was firstly, amused by the name and secondly, as I continued to watch the drama in love with the protagonist’s relatable awkwardness.

It escalated pretty fast after that. I mainly watch crime and romance shows and although I feel South Korea does them best I have watched a few from China and Taiwan. For me one thing I do love about K-drama’s is they are free from most of the Western clichés you see (particularly in American dramas). However, they still have clichés of their own. Basic things I have observed:

  • Fate, loyalty and friendship are big themes you will find in some shape or form in each drama. For instance, in a few romance dramas the main characters have unknowingly met in their past as if to imply they were destined to be together. Exhibit A: the show Cinderella and Four Knights.
  • K-dramas can be a bit more conservative when it comes to romance; this probably partly because TV is more closely censored than film (which is another ball game- you only need to watch one to realise.)
  • Female characters can be marmite. My likability for show does strongly depend on the depictions of females within it. Females that are always damsels in distress or highly emotional slowly annoy you; although I’ll make an exception for The K2.
  • No-one is ever as they seem in a good K-drama. Even the ones you come to hate/love have a backstory or change sides due to events within the drama. This adds a layer of realism to the dramas as they seek to portray the complexity of individuals; humans are complicated things after all.

 

A lot of K-pop singers dabble in acting also but this is something you’re unlikely to realise unless you research the dramas and actors like me. (I’m weird like that.) I also like watching behind the scenes footage and cast interviews since they can be pretty funny. For those that want to test run a series; I will be posting some of my recommendations up soon 😉 I also have another obsession I will be revealing in a part (2).

Have a good weekend.