Just like her male counter part, the third-wheel female rarely is a favorite of mine. Most of the time she’s a character that is beyond ridiculous; determined to be vindictive, back-biting, self-righteous and manipulative. Therefore, I was tempted to choose female characters that weren’t actually involved in the couple equation, yet were stand out characters like, last year’s Kim Bu Ki (The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry) or 2009’s Chae Eun Soo (Slingshot). But since I took so many liberties with the last category, I decided to try and find a female that I actually liked in the relatively textbook “thirdie” position. It was hard but I think I found someone worth writing about.
I actually narrowed my pick down to three true-blue female “thirdies” and found that two were portrayed by the same woman. Therefore, as much as this post is about a character, I thought it would negligent not to draw a little attention to the actress who played both.
In 2010, Lee Si Young starred in two dramas as the third-wheel female. Both characters were very different in personality and appearance, but were women after my own heart. As we all know, “thirdie” characters are usually annoying or forgettable but Lee Si Young has a way of creating characters that are neither. Honestly, in both roles she became more memorable than the main couple and had me rooting for her story over theirs.
Out of the two, one took the cake (literally); the undeniably funny, weight conscious, cake-grubbing, Bu Tae Hee of Birth of the Rich. To be honest, I truly believe I may be one of the fifteen people that watched that drama from beginning to end. And I will readily admit, I watched it almost entirely due to the loud and flamboyant, loyal-unto-death Bu Tae Hee!
Birth of the Rich surrounds the rich and those wanting to be or remain so, therefore, it’s not surprising that Bu Tae Hee was a spoiled, obnoxious, rich, pompous princess. I can’t say that these adjectives don’t partially describe her even now, but they definitely don’t define the entirety of who she is. Tae Hee is the self- proclaimed nemesis of the main character Lee Shin Mi and tries her darnedest to remain so throughout the entire drama, and though she and Lee Shin Mi never truly see eye-to-eye, they did find a way to co-exist due mainly to Tae Hee’s huge bleeding heart.
Her entire life she’s been in love with Chu Woon Suk, a friend of the family, whom has never paid her any romantic attention. Determined to be the skinny girl of his dreams, she drops forty pounds and throws herself at him at every turn, hoping and praying to get her chance but it never comes, not until Choi Suk Bong arrives. Though Tae Hee approaches Suk Bong in order to create havoc in the imaginary romance between Woon Suk and Shin Mi, she immediately begins to like him and finally (through the course of mysterious mishaps) believes him to be family. Once she has this realization, there is no turning back from treating Suk Bong as a confidant, cousin and friend.
This stuck-up princess befriends the poor boy because though she wants to be an elitist, in her heart she’s a good judge of character and a sucker for family ties. She doesn’t begrudgingly envelope and protect Woon Suk, she willing embraces him, busily trying to shield him from hurt or pain. Hilariously honest and forthcoming, she stops at nothing to uncover Woon Suk’s truth, while also being the one true believer and consistent supporter of her childhood love.
Tae Hee is a bundle of gooey goodness for me because ultimately she truly is an adorably innocent, naive girl, who wants love and appreciation. She’s touted as an insecure rich girl with a fat-girl complex and a grudge but at her root, she’s a daddy’s girl that loves hard and gives more love than people know or deserve. Her heart is huge, willing to give of her entire self for those that she loves. It’s true she wanted to sabotage Shin Mi and Woon Suk’s relationship and perhaps put a kink in Suk Bong’s romance but it was rooted in a heartfelt determination and desire for two men that meant a great deal to her to find lasting happiness. Tae Hee tried to be the typical “thirdie,” mucking up the lives of the lovers but became an ally and encourager for everyone involved. Instead of being a malicious baddy, she’s marvelously batty. She begins as a silly nuscance but surprisingly became the best listener and a major player in achieving the goals of Woon Suk and Suk Bong, healing Woon Suk’s wounds through her unconditional love, perseverance and loyalty.
Though Bu Tae Hee made a larger impact on me as a viewer, Lee Si Young went on to play Yoon Hye Ra in Playful Kiss, which personally was a very benign drama for me. I’d love to say I hated it, for I definitely didn’t love it but I find that would just be too strong; it ultimately falls in the indifferent drama category. The thing I think that was truly interesting in the drama was that the set of “thirdie” characters were so likable, it had a Hi My Sweetheart effect on me. I believe the characters have the same setup but executed much better in Playful Kiss (oddly enough).
Yoon Hye Ra is a goal-oriented and level headed college student, who meets and becomes Baek Seung Jo’s tennis and study partner and later “almost” fiancee. In a romance like Seng Jo and Ha Ni’s, the “thiridie” could make or break the romantic development, depending on the force or motivation of the character and the progression the feelings of their partner. Therefore, the third-wheel truly has a chance of swooping in and claiming the lead as their own. Thankfully, though Hye Ra cared deeply for Seung Jo, she actually respected her friends and their feelings. She cared for Seung Jo enough to realize that she was the third-wheel and allow Seung Jo to do what he wanted; accept Oh Ha Ni’s adoration.
Almost from the moment she met Seung Jo, she could smell that something was going on between he and Ha Ni and addressed it head on. I won’t say she out right fought for him but she definitely made her intentions known and stuck around genuinely until it only made sense for her to step out of the equation. Ultimately, Hye Ra was unaffected and gutsy. For, a weaker woman would’ve become possessive or restraining and made ultimatums or under-minded Ha Ni and Seung Jo. Instead, understanding Seung Jo, she never pressed him but watched and waited, hoping for the best, without being relegated to passivity. When she saw the train going in the opposite of her destination, she wished Seung Jo and Ha Ni well and got off. I won’t venture that one woman was better for Seung Jo over the other, for I believe both women would’ve given him a fine life, therefore, in my opinion, it makes Hye Ra’s decision to respect Ha Ni as a woman even more poignant. She notices Ha Ni’s dedication, determination and resilience and admires her. Probably even envies her. Though she also sees Seung Jo’s mind and heart completely invested in Ha Ni, I believe it was Ha Ni’s steadiness that finally convinced Hye Ra that it was truly the best thing to let Seung Jo go. Hence, she accepts Ha Ni as Seung Jo’s choice long before he verbally admits it himself and for that I found her to be a woman of honor.
Often times, we meet third-wheel females that are desperate and deceptive, willing to do anything to keep the person they claim to love but neither of these women fall into that trap. They were genuine about their feelings and intentions but didn’t manipulate or settle for less than their conviction allowed. They felt angry and disillusioned, jealous and at times used but they were courageous to stand by their true feelings, live with integrity and remain authentic. Lee Si Young did a wonderful job making the “other woman” into a real woman, giving them layers of truth that couldn’t be skirted over. No matter how much you may have wanted to hate them, the likability of these women surpassed many third-wheels on-screen today. They were so raw and realistic that instead of disdain I was delighted to see them and desired for them to make the right choices that would lead to their own long-lasting happiness. It was easy to empathize with these women and consider how you would react if entangled in such a love-triangle. They made decisions like grown women living their lives, trying to make sense of the world they were in. These characters aren’t the most magnificent but they are certainly women we could learn a few things from: loyalty, honesty, transparency and respect.
Onuki Yuzuki(Tsuki no Koibito)