Nevertheless [Episode 1] — Exploring perspectives.
Nevertheless is a Korean drama (k-drama) that aired from June till August. Unlike the usual k-drama format of two episodes each week, and 16 episodes in total — the drama followed a pattern of one episode per week with only 10 episodes in total.
This format is usually followed by dramas with low production value, but that was not the case here. The reason behind this (maybe) is that the webtoon is only 40 chapters long, and it makes sense to compress each of the 4 chapters into 10 episodes.
However, the drama very pointedly does not follow the webtoon’s ending. Something which was disliked by a lot of viewers.
( Spoilers Ahead — read it if you do not watch k-dramas, you are never going to watch it anyway)
The drama has a very consistent theme, which is made known to the viewers right from the first few minutes of the episode. The main character, the female lead is called Yu Na-bi. Nabi is the Korean word for “butterfly” — and that is the central theme of the story.
How a seemingly metamorphosed butterfly, is in reality, very much a caterpillar that slowly turns into a butterfly.
The Episode begins with Yu Na-bi going to her boyfriend’s exhibition. Her boyfriend is disturbingly older than her and started dating her when she was 18 (or probably younger) and he was her instructor. He exploited both the unbalanced power dynamics between a student and a teacher as well as the large age gap between the two which gave him a greater advantage. We see through flashbacks how he is extremely obsessive and likes to impute meaning to the littlest of her actions- thereby, making her conscious of her every movement around him. There is no space to breathe.
However, a seemingly naive Na-bi is not able to pinpoint it as problematic. The final straw comes on the day of the exhibition — which is presented to us in the first scene. Her boyfriend has modeled the sculpture after her, in an intimate position and presented it for the world to view.
To worsen things, he named the sculpture after her — Na-bi. So when he calls her name in the exhibition, everyone wondering about the muse is immediately aware of it. Safe to assume, the relationship ends then and there.
There are two important takeaways from the first episode which is relevant for us:-
1. It is revealed in a later episode that Na-bi wanted to major in art and not sculpture. However, it can be inferred that her now ex-boyfriend drove her decision towards majoring in the latter. So, in episode 1 we can see her slowly losing interest and being unable to finish off her piece. Being reprimanded by her instructor and in general, being morose and unmotivated about her work.
In parallel, we see Yun Sol, an extreme,y talented Sculpture major, and Na-bi’s friend. In later episodes, we find out that Yun Sol and her best friend Ji-wan (also a sculpture major) dating and finding happiness being with each other,
However, it is incorrect to draw a parallel between Yun Sol and Na-bi’s characters. Rather, it was Ji-wan — who much like Na-bi chose sculpture because she wanted to stay beside her despite never being talented in art. Unlike Na-bi, Sol is always around Ji-wan and her goal is not to excel at something she had no talent for but to stay with her love, which she did.
Na-bi is different, she is talented but lacks motivation. She was inclined towards art and now the reason she chose to major in sculpture is no longer a part of her life. This signals that she needs a person to depend on, she needs to be cocooned properly, so that her creativity can spark and flourish. She needs her own Sol. And this is where the male lead steps in — ParK Jae-eon.
This is the second takeaway from the episode — it is revealed to us in a much later episode that Park Jae-eon first saw Na-bi at the exhibition. The camera reveals to us that while everyone was focusing and speculating on the very NSFW sculpture and the muse, Park Jae-eon’s gaze was fixed upon Na-bi, unbothered by the chaos around him.
Going by his words, he fell in love with her the moment he saw her in the exhibition. This is the first instance where he is distinguished from the other people around her. While it is obvious that he came to know of and about her much later, this instance reflects that he viewed her devoid of her context. He viewed her through his own eyes.
The conflict — the MacGuffin in the story — is the perspective. The entire narration is viewed from Na-bi’s perspective.
This is why so many viewers hated the male lead.
Much like Na-bi we also saw him through her eyes, through all her ruminations and doubts about him. The reason this conflict was exponentiated was that Jae-eon saw her through his eyes. The viewer is never introduced to his perspective. We only understand his perspective through a second reality, we see it from Na-bi’s understanding. There are very few giveaways on what the male lead thinks of her.
The main point is that neither character knows how to meet each other halfway. This conflict drives the story forward.
(More on Jae-eon being Nabi’s Sol, later)