Broadcast on KBS, “Sassy Go! Go!” is one of the teen K-dramas of 2015. I won’t dive into teen K-dramas here. I might save it for a longer round-up article.
However, I will say “Sassy Go! Go!” is definitely the teen K-drama which had the most potential to be the most original one this year. First of all, the title itself and the cheerleading competition background were a promise to comedy and laughter. And that’s the way KBS promoted it. I mean, cheerleading is such common in US teen dramas that it made the setting seem even more unusual in a Korean drama. I had hope during the first two episodes. While I didn’t think the way the funny antics to present the war between the F-students-but-so-cool Real Kings and A-students-but-so-despicable White Tigers were actually funny, I was willing to go with it if Show was taking this approach to the fullest. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. My three biggest disappointments were :
1 – it was the Soo Ah Show
Do not get me wrong. If Show had been sold to me as the story about a girl willing to do anything to live up to her mom’s expectations, I would have been all for it. Chae Soo Bin as Kwon Soo Ah gave a solid performance to portray the pressure that can drive a teen student to commit suicide. I liked how she was unapologetic but still tortured by her evil actions. Objectiveley speaking, the fact that 12 episodes out of 12 were either centered around her or about the reactions of other people to her actions made “Sassy Go! Go!” the Kwon Soo Ah Show.
2 – the falsely strong lead character
It was my understanding that Show was about the bright Kang Yeon Doo and how her mindset is so outside of the box in the Korean educational system. She just wants to enjoy her youth and make memories with her friends. I wanted to like Kang Yeon Doo. I think Jung Eun Ji did a good job at making her likeable, but the writing turned her into a parody of the Candy girl, for me. I personally don’t like when the plot insists on talking about a strong female character but shows me the opposite. After the first 2 episodes, Kang Yeon Doo just moved and acted whenever a male character was involved. Ha Dong Jae (N), Yeol (Lee Won Gun), Seo Joon (Ji Soo), teacher Yang Tae Bum (Kim Ji Suk). At one point or another, Yeon Doo was used as the righteous voice, as the girl who fights for justice and cares about everybody, even those who hurt her… Except that she never succeeded on her own in the battles that mattered. I think Show was aiming for a character development based on her learning how not to be hot-tempered and to understand the tricks to find her way into this school system while staying true to herself. She was the mouth to condemn wrongdoings, the shoulder to lean on but never the one to bring the change.
And that aspect stood out even more for me here because Kwon Soo Ah, the villain, actually struggled, stood up for herself. Yes, she got the support of her friends and teachers, but ultimately she always owned up to her evil actions. Kang Yeon Doo, as the lead character, had no ultimate purpose, nothing to overcome for herself. Not even the fact she attended this school to make her mom proud while her mom herself wanted her to transfer when she realized the unfair treatment her daughter received. For someone who attended a school to make her mom happy, she really didn’t look like she made any effort to actually try to study and not get kicked out by breaking simple rules. To put it simply, I didn’t like how Yeon Doo was patronized by Yeol all the time and about everything. Do not get me wrong, if Show had been sold to me as pink romance, as the story of the girl with low grades who falls in love with the hot first-rank genius student, I would have been all for it. I love me some clichés like that. However, Show surrounded their romance with events that made Yeon Doo look so clumsy and clueless while Yeol was always the cool and smooth and chilvarous guy… At this point, even the usual “oh.em.gee” scenes didn’t give me as much feels as they were supposed to.
I was ready for these feels, Show, I was ready.
Anyway, Yeon Doo was isolated as a character. When the most important discussions, the most important scenes happen without the lead character in them, can this character still be considered as a lead? Show was so persistant on that love triangle with the two best friends Yeol and Ha Joon that Yeon Doo seemed to have no life aside from her scenes with them or with Soo Ah. Her character was one-dimensional while the other characters had several layers that Show succeeded to remove one by one to make them take a step or two forward in this life journey of figuring out who you really are.
3 – The lack of comedy
As every teen K-drama show I’ve watched so far, “Sassy Go! Go!” didn’t dare taking on a full comedy approach that would have been original. It played the safe card with cliché twists about bullying and parental pressure. Child abuse and sexual harrassment were a new trope here, but these are serious issues and Show went the easy road by brushing it off with an idealistic and quick resolution. And that’s my main problem with “Sassy Go! Go!”. The lack of logic that made things happen just for the sake of them happen didn’t mean that it was funny. I never managed to follow the balance between the light fluffy teen stuff and the dark angsty life-threatening situations. Ha Dong Jae was the perfect vector for dead-pan comedy. He didn’t have a lot of screen time, but whenever he did, his honesty lightened up serious situations and his apparent dense side was even funnier in comical situations.
I could write a very long essay on what I didn’t like about the show. Like the parents. I won’t even start. With that said, I don’t regret watching “Sassy Go! Go!”. My lack of enthusiasm is simply because I had other expectations based on the promo stuff before the drama aired. The three things I enjoyed the most :
1 – the bromance
It’s pretty safe to say that bromance is a key ingredient for K-dramas now. Yeol and Ha Joon’s friendship was strong and beautiful to witness. Their scenes together were always intense and the way Yeol always took care of Ha Joon and expressed with words the love he had for him was a nice touch. That’s why I enjoyed even more how Show didn’t try to play with our feels with the love triangle. Ha Joon was never end game and Show made sure to tell us that he was fully aware of it. His only one confession to Yeon Doo wasn’t about trying to get a chance with her. It was about honesty between two friends… Ugh! And he even used a Gummy bear metaphore. Food analogy always gets me! Here, these 2 scenes sum up all the feels I was here for: love and bromance.
Ha Joon saying that he doesn’t mind sleeping here because Yeol will hug him to keep him warm… Show went straight for the feels.
2 – the secret ship Teacher Yang/Coach Nam
Aside from the fact, I really didn’t like how Coah Nam Jung Ah (Lee Mi Do) was overly sexualized. Her character was just awesome. Show took the time to give her a few scenes here and there to highlight her own struggle as a contractor coach in a sports that isn’t popular in Korea. She’s the one who brought all the kids together and taught them about real friendship. In my mind, Tae Bum will definitely contact her later on and she will have fun teasing him as they fall in love and build a true relationship.
I was shipping so hard!
3 – The journey to friendship
Cheerleading, as explained by Coach Nam in the video above, is about joy and unity. It’s about having a sense of belonging to a team, knowing that you have people to count on. Ha Jeon and Yeol counted on each other, Yeon Doo and Ha Jae counted on each other, Soo Ah only counted on herself. Each one of them learned to step out of their comfort zone and create new and what seems to be long-term friendships. I kind of wish there would have been more cheerleading practice scenes, but I’ll take what I already have. In the end, they managed to create a solid bond.
“Sassy Go! Go!” didn’t cheer me up, per se. There were so many depressing issues going on that it wasn’t the pick-me-up-make-me-all-fuzzy-inside kind of drama that I had imagined it to be. Show kept going back and forth between romance and angst, with angst being 90% of the plot. Show was like a bottle of overwhelming feels that popped out open just at the most random and unexpected times. When things were bad, they were really bad. When things were good, they were really good. So… it wasn’t realistic, it wasn’t that funny either. However, I enjoyed it for all the cute feels about friendship it still managed to give me.