Ally: Javinne and I thought it would be fun to talk about our favorite friends of last year, and since we both have a certain fondness for 20th Century Boy and Girl, we chose this K-drama to analyze what it means to be a “forever best friend.”
Javinne: If you’ve read the “In Defense of…” series, you’ll know that Ally thought this was an underrated gem of a show that was glossed over last year because of the Beanie juggernaut, Because This Life is Our First, which was on the exact same night, on the same weeks, and which ironically was similar in the friendship department, with a group of three girlfriends who knew each other from childhood. We actually think that 20th Century Boy and Girl had a more compelling group of girlfriends who spent so much time together that they knew when they needed each other before any of them said anything, and there was no animosity or jealousy between them, at least after the required we-all-like-the-same-cute-boy-in-high-school trope. So, without any further introduction, here come our questions!
#1 Do they know each other?
Ally: I think this is the foundation of any friendship, don’t you? We have to know each other through our faults as well as our strengths. In 20th Century Boy and Girl, these friends rode in the same “Bongo van” which is where they get their nickname. They are together almost every waking moment. Not just the girls, but also the only boy in the group. No wonder they all had crushes on him. We never see the fallout of them liking the same boy, do we? We just know it happened, and that Jin-jin ended up going out with him, which the other two friends were certainly aware of, just like they knew they were dating in adulthood. They read the signs like the backs of their hands, and they knew her better than she knew herself.
Javinne: Totally agree. These characters have known each other since forever, and I would like to echo LollyPip, who said that “they seem to know each other’s needs without having to ask, whether it’s support, laughter, or just a new handbag to cheer up a friend on a rough day.” I remember I loved that scene, because Ah-reum didn’t need a new bag, but she was never shy, so she requested one for herself alongside one for Young-shim, who really needed it. I felt like Ah-reum didn’t want Young-shim to feel humiliated. That was the way I interpreted it and I loved it. I loved that Jin-jin was humble enough to say she also had debts, but of course she gladly got the bags for the girls. Another great example was in Episode 23 when Jin-jin and Ji-won confessed to the girls that they were going out and they cheered loudly, only to stop abruptly and ask, “Is that how you thought we’d react? We already know.”
#2 Are they a good friend to others?
Ally: So many times in K-dramas, one lead just accepts friendship or love from the other characters, and never do we see them actively giving back what they have received. Second lead females are notorious for this. People seem so forgiving of their selfishness and this leaves me scratching my head. What 20th Century did well was show that friendship is a very reciprocal relationship. If one person feels neglected, they’re not going to stick around. Period.
Javinne: Yes, In the case of Jin-jin you can really see how she is also the good friend. It’s not that her world revolves only around her, which would be typical from a vain superstar, but she is such a wonderfully loyal friend to the other girls that it’s beautiful to see how she cares. For instance, Jin-jin putting her reputation at risk while in the middle of a scandal, in order to visit her friend who was in the hospital. I loved that even when it led to more scandals, she never regretted it. And her friends were even more loyal towards her as a result.
#3 Do they have fun together?
Ally: So, this seems like an obvious question, but don’t we all have friends that are all drama, and no fun??? I drop these people like lead weights, but it seems that K-dramas wallow in the drama, and it’s rare to see people actually having fun together without getting drunk or letting a truck of doom ruin it. I thought it was so refreshing to see a group of girls laughing with and at each other, dancing in the rain, making one of them feel needed and accepted, even after a horrible day, when no one seemed to care about her. Do you remember this scene?
Javinne: How can I not remember? It brought me to tears with the hugest grin on my face, almost dying of envy, because I have never had such supportive friends, at least not nearby, so that we could do something like that together.
#4 Do they share the same values?
Ally: Why is this important? These friends knew the values that were important to each other, one to be married, one to support her family, and one to have a career and to help her misogynistic father, who was actually very proud of his attorney daughter, even though he was horrible to both her mother and to her. The friends all understood these underlying complexities and were supportive of them.
Javinne: They live in harmony with their values and I know this is a simple thing, but in Episode 28, Ji-won (our lone Bongo group male) rolled all three girls up in blankets on the floor, saying how lucky Jin-jin is to have friends who will bring snacks and be kimbap rolls to make her feel better. It felt so natural that they would be like that, so organic, that I envied them again for their friendship.
Ally: Love is what inherently binds our Bongo group together (notice I said “our” because I feel like a part of them too!). You can see that these girls would go to hell and back for each other—so unselfish, loyal, and self-sacrificing. Javinne, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you through this. I love that although we are from totally different backgrounds, we can find a connection through K-dramas. You’ve said that you don’t have many true friendships like what is depicted here, and it has taken me up to my midlife to find friends as loyal as these. I hope all of us are lucky and blessed enough to find our forever friends in this lifetime, bound by love.
Javinne: Yes! And also with the help of technology, we have developed different types of friendships, like virtual ones (all of us Beanies!), and we can keep in touch with those in other countries. And there is the magic of making a connection (sometimes a very special connection) with pieces of art like books and Korean dramas. And last but not least, we still can develop friendship that will last until we are old, and I promise to find you there, hopefully writing with you about a drama (a la Dear My Friends). May God keep us alive for a long, long time.
We hope we’ve convinced a few more people to watch this drama for the friendships! It’s taught us how true forever friends are never absent when we need them the most and will sacrifice their own reputation to be that forever friend, no matter the cost.