Occasionally a drama surprises me. Not because I have low expectations of it but because I expected something completely different, primarily based on the synopsis.
And that’s precisely what the Korean BL Love Class has done. It surprised me.
I haven’t seen a lot of talk about Love Class, and I’m honestly not sure why.
Or maybe I do know.
For a Korean BL, Love Class seems less like the BLs fans have gotten used to watching out of Asia (including Korea) and more like a Korean drama with a gay lead.
As a fan of Korean youth dramas where the lead character spends much of their time wishing to be noticed by their unrequited crush while experiencing a myriad of obstacles along the way before finally being seen, Love Class did not disappoint.
If anything, it held true to everything I like about youth dramas.
This may also be the reason I haven’t heard much about it.
I recently did a write-up about the shifting change in the BL industry with a particular focus on Thailand. Although South Korea is newer to the BL scene than some, they’re certainly not holding back on content. And they’re taking a lot more chances with their storytelling at a much faster pace.
Rather than stick to a specific BL formula, they’re willing to risk trying out different concepts. From the indie feel in Blueming to the ensemble comedy in Oh! Boarding House to the historical romance attempts and webtoon adaptations, Korea said, “Let’s try a little bit of everything and see how it goes.”
And it has nothing to do with intimacy, although it’s nice when that’s included. It’s like they’re trying on a variety of clothes to test out which outfit fits better.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
But at least they’re willing to try.
Love Class tried, and it worked for me. Although it takes off running and never slows down, it felt realistic, especially considering the setting.
In Love Class, life is all over the place; people use each other, stalking is an issue, and homophobia is real.
And the South Korean location matters.
It’s easy as an international viewer to forget that screenwriters write the BLs we watch with a much different experience with homosexuality than ours based on where they live. We tend to compare our reality with what we see on screen, and it colors how we experience it.
While dramas are supposed to require some suspension of disbelief, there’s also a lot of honesty in Love Class.
Cha Ji Woo (actor Han Hyun Jun) took center stage for me. Although his awkward personality and kind nature tended to overrule his common sense, I understood him because there was a time when I was Ji Woo. He lived my high school experience. From having no friends to his easy personality, he personified what it means to be easily manipulated by others. I even understood why he didn’t report Yu Na’s stalker, even though it was wrong to ignore it. Because, like Ji Woo, I’ve also been there. Only, in my case, I was the victim like Yu Na. But I knew who did it to me. I was a thirteen-year-old girl who knew who my assailants were, and I chose not to report them out of shame, fear, and embarrassment. I’ve regretted it ever since.
School of any kind is chaos. There’s always a lot going on. From gossip to crushes to dating to partying to assignments, every moment is full of drama. Love Class depicts this well.
It’s all over the place because that’s what youth is. It’s all over the place.
This brings me to Lee Ro A (actor Kim Tae Hwan), a confident but closeted gay with an unrequited crush on his shy, awkward junior.
And, oh, how I also related to that.
But what I found myself impressed with was how the supporting cast was presented. While Ro A’s friend and roommate Kim Nam Jun (actor Yoo Hyuk Jae) sometimes frustrated me because of his willfulness, I loved that Korea steered away from using the catty female as an antagonist and brought in a gay man who has unrequited feelings for his friend.
As a bisexual female, I’ve grown weary of how women tend to be villainized or overlooked in BL dramas. It’s nice that Korea does seem to avoid this trope, generally concentrating on the couple and their growing feelings. In Love Class, Nam Jun is not only a jealous gay; he shows viewers that jealousy isn’t limited to females and straight antagonists. It also exists in the gay community.
And that’s where Yu Na (actress Ryu In Ah) comes in. The beautiful and overly popular Yu Na is sweet, intelligent, and coveted by many, which leaves her in a precarious situation. Being stalked has made her wary of men, and she selfishly clings to the safety she feels in Ji Woo’s presence. I didn’t blame her for that. As a former victim of bullying and sexual assault, I am also wary of men because my perpetrators were male. It’s made relationships complicated for me, making feeling safe with someone easy to confuse with love.
Love Class is full of everything that made my youth complicated. I was the awkward Ji Woo, but I was also the closeted gay like Ro A who crushed on classmates. I was the frightened Yu Na, and I was the crushing Hye Won (Kim Hye Jin) who thought the handsome student teacher in my history class could do no wrong. There were times I was even Nam Jun, my jealousy over unrequited crushes making my heart hurt.
I didn’t deal with my problems the same way each of the characters in Love Class did, but I understood where they were all coming from. And that’s a challenging task for a drama to accomplish.
I went into this drama expecting two men to fall in love while studying marriage and family. And while they did fall in love, they also made new friends, realized new things about themselves, and discovered that it is possible to see quite a bit of the world from a classroom, especially homophobia.
While it seems excessive that an entire class of students would quickly write off two men based on a dating rumor, it did feel uncomfortably real. Especially considering the recent news of gay artist Holland’s attack in Itaewon, South Korea. And it called out the reality that, while not every student would react the way they did in the drama, they would probably whisper privately about the matter or avoid Ji Woo and Ro A. Even if they didn’t have a problem with them being gay, they might fear what being associated with them would do to their reputations.
And they specifically brought attention to the BL industry, using the whispers to point out that one is more likely to see a gay relationship on television than it is to see an openly gay couple in public.
And for South Korea, that may be the reality.
It’s also the reason why Ro A runs in fear. He doesn’t want to bring that kind of attention or pain to Ji Woo. But he doesn’t realize that losing the person you love is a much greater hurt than standing up against the world with the person you love beside you.
In the end, everything came together. Yu Na broke free of her fear, Nam Jun brought Ji Woo and Ro A together, Ji Woo realized his feelings, Hye Won finally caught her professor’s attention, and Ro A quit running.
It ended the way all youth dramas should–full of lessons learned and love realized.
And that left a good impression on me.
If you are looking for a youth drama with gay leads and sage advice, then Love Class is the one for you. Check it now on Gagaoolala.
Rating- 4 out of 5