Title: It’s Okay to Not be Okay 사이코지만 괜찮아
Release Date: June 20 – Aug 9 2020 (Netflix Canada)
Starring: Seo Ye Ji, Kim Soo Hyun, Oh Jung Se
Here’s the trailer
This Kdrama follows the lives of a children’s author and a community health worker- two people who appear to be complete opposites. While this leads to many clashes and differences in opinion at first, the two discover that by finding a middle ground, they can help balance each other out, helping one another to heal their psychological wounds.
This is in many ways the classic Kdrama- as we watch an unlikely pair fall in love. It is soon revealed that they are deeply connected through their childhood – something that both brings them together and threatens to tear them apart.
The Lead: A Familiar Villain with a Twist
You know that evil girl in every K drama ever? The rich, self important girl, who is often the daughter of the CEO and has a claim to the main lead before our leading lady comes into the picture? This character will often be the lead’s fiance (or trying to be) and is constantly fighting the leading female character to win his attention.
This character acts as the leading lady’s rival and is at some point defeated much to the viewer’s satisfaction. But what if the roles were reversed?
In It’s okay not to be okay the mean b**** plays the lead while the nice girl who has a hopeless crush on the lead male is swept to the sidelines.
While this is unusual, one might still expect that the mean girl will become nicer as the show goes on- that being around the main lead will make her the the sweet leading lady we are used to- but that is not the case.
It is refreshing to see that while her relationship does help her to grow, she does not feel the need to change who she is to please others. Instead as an audience we learn to accept her for who she is recognizing that it is okay not to be okay sometimes and that people need to be accepted for who they are. This is truly something special and we’ve got to give this drama a round of applause for it!
The majority of the drama takes place in and around the OK Psychiatric Hospital where Moon Gang Tae works as a caregiver. This setting gives us the opportunity to get to know many residents at the hospital and the various challenges they face.
The leads are challenged by trauma and antisocial personality disorders that become difficult to navigate as they intertwine with one another.
Ultimately the characters discover that it is by loving and supporting each other – by working together that they can become stronger people.
Butterflies play a key role in the story as they come to represent the trauma Moon Sang Tae experiences as a child.
We learn early on that Gang Tae and Sang Tae must move every few months because of Sang Tae’s fear that ‘the butterfly’ will find them and kill him.
While this does become a tangible symbol by the end of the film- there is still a lot more to it than that.
In the drama, the butterfly is periodically referred to in its Greek form- that it represents “psyche”.
In this sense the butterfly represents a deeper understanding of a person- getting at ideas of psychology, philosophy and the soul.
Psyche from mythology was a mortal woman who Zeus took pity on and released from death by transforming her into a butterfly – granting her immortality and the ability to fly freely. In this way the butterfly symbolizes the soul of the dead who must endure trials and tribulations before achieving immortality.
Taking this interpretation into consideration, it is easy to make the connections between who the butterfly is, why they identify as a butterfly as well as Sang Tae’s uncertainty and fear.
As a western viewer, I was missing out on what the butterfly could represent culturally in Korea – here’s what I learned:
Butterflies appear frequently in traditional Korean art and are often paired with flowers (this explains Lee Sang In’s insistence that the flowers in Sang Tae’s mural must be paired with a butterfly).
While butterflies depicted on their own represent joy and pleasure, butterflies paired with flowers symbolize prosperity, contentment and harmony within a family or between a couple.
This symbolism knits together the drama’s key thee of finding love, contentment and balance within a family.
The Butterfly Effect
With the butterfly as such an important symbol, we can’t help but think of the Butterfly Effect. This concept was formulated by Edward Lorenz who asked the question “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”.
The idea that one small event can hugely affect the outcome of the future has been widely adopted and has since been coined “the butterfly effect”.
Without giving away too many spoilers- it is clear that Moon Gang Tae and Sang Tae’s mother’s small misstep set off a series of events that would deeply affect the future.
The Fairy Tale
Fairy tales are an important element in this drama. Sure- Ko Moon Young is a children’s author, but WHY the fairy tale genre?
What is a Fairy Tale?
Fairy tales are short stories that stem from myth and folk stories which typically involve creatures such as dwarfs, fairies, goblins and other mythical entities. While the details of the stories often seem surreal and unlikely, fairy tales at their heart reveal truths about human experience and nature which is often universal.
Ko Moon Young uses the grotesque to express herself for at the heart of her violent stories she reveals her own struggles through harsh lessons she learned as a child.
You may have been confused realizing that Moon Young stories do not at all resemble our familiar understanding of the fairy tale in stories such as Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. But Disney has made a lot of changes to how we understand these classic stories.
Fairy tales are originally much darker than you might think!
For example- did you know that in the story of Cinderella the step mother cuts off the evil sisters toes and heels in order to squeeze their foot into the glass slipper?
Did you know that in Sleeping Beauty, princes and knights who tried to rescue the princess before the allotted 100 years were caught up in the rose thorns and strangled?
Disney has completely redefined how many of us understand fairy tales- romanticizing the genre. In this way, Moon Young’s children books thought it may at first seem strange to you, are actually much more accurately depicting the genre.
It wouldn’t be a good Kdrama without a twist at the end! And while you should have seen it coming- we’d be surprised if you figured this one out before it is revealed.
I was surprised and that I really should have caught it- but this twist was right under my nose!
Overall, this was a relatively unique drama in which I learned something about myself and something about others.
While it isn’t an all time favorite, I defiantly enjoyed the drama and would recommend it!