Mental health representation in various forms of media, although still a work in progress, has definitely come a long way; and the same is true within the realm of Korean dramas. They definitely have gotten a bit better at portraying and tackling mental health issues over the years, regardless of the genre. And thankfully, this is true for JTBC’s “Clean w/Passion for Now”, a romantic comedy based on a web comic that deals with a mysophobic entrepreneur. Although the drama has a lot of flaws, and many were also shocked by the age gap of the two main leads; it did give us good performances, warm fuzzies, and a good look at mysophobia.
The drama aired Monday and Tuesday on JTBC for sixteen episodes from November 26, 2018 to February 4, 2019. It was based on a web comic by Aengo, and is currently also available on Netflix as well. There will also be an upcoming Chinese remake of the show entitled “Cleaning Elfs”.
“Clean with Passion for Now” tells the story of Jang Seon Kyul (Yoon Kyun Sang), the CEO of a cleaning company called “Cleaning Fairy” and who has mysophobia. One day, he ends up running into Gil Oh Sol (Kim Yoo Jung), a positive girl who is the exact opposite of Seon Kyul and who ends up working at his company. Hijinks and romance ensue after the two, although they clash in the beginning, end up getting closer to each other while they work together. Along for the ride are our main Cleaning Fairy crew- Kim Dong Hyun (Hak Jin), Hwang Jae Min (Cha In Ha), and Lee Young Sik (Kim Min Kyu).
Many felt uneasy by the huge real life age gap between Kim Yoo Jung and Yoon Kyun Sang, but in the context of the drama, although she did look really young at certain parts of the drama, at a certain point (thanks to the change in hairstyle), it didn’t seem as obvious as it was in the beginning half of the drama. This is a pretty mature role for Kim Yoo Jung, but it looks like she handled it well, and with a maturity beyond her years. Her comedic timing was great, and her emotional parts were well done, especially as she was able to hold her own against the more seasoned Yoon Kyun Sang.. As a child actress transitioning to older roles, she did great, and I do look forward to seeing her grow as an actress in the future.
I do know that Seon Kyul was supposed to be portrayed by another actor who opted out of the role, but I am very glad that Yoon Kyun Sang took on this role. Aside from looking like a gentle giant half of the time, his comedic timing was great, and the way he portrayed someone with mysophobia was well done. There are many ways in which portraying a mysophobic character can go wrong, but even though there were some exaggerated moments which I expected as it is a comedy, everything was done in good taste.
Personally, as someone with mysophobia, I was able to see myself in Seon Kyul, and some of his comedic reactions to things, such as screaming in horror and annoyance after realizing that a plastic bag full of food was crammed into his pocket, is spot on, as I react like that as well, albeit in my head.
As web comic adaptations go, it was just alright, however, I did feel that the last few episodes were a bit rushed with them trying to finish up plot points which resulted in two whole episodes of unnecessary melodrama that ended up undermining all the good character development that was done for Oh Sol and her family.
However, I really liked the way mysophobia was handled here- they gave an actual logical explanation for why he’s mysophobic, showed the struggles of someone with mysophobia, and the various ways people do react to it. I also liked that his character journey was still organic all the way through and that even though we did have unnecessary melodrama so late in the game, it didn’t undermine his journey at all.
I was also surprised at how much this drama affected me as it got me to look at myself as well, realize some things, and open up about it as well.
While definitely flawed, “Clean with Passion for Now” is a charming and warm hearted romantic comedy that tackles mysophobia in the right way, and has great performances to boot.
Now you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers!
As mentioned earlier, although I did cry during the last two episodes, I really did not like how they only tackled the melodramatic plot points towards the end, and it felt like it added too much unnecessary melodrama to the point that all my good will towards Oh Sol disappeared. I also felt like most of the supporting characters’ actors were underutilized, especially in terms of Kim Won Hae.
Song Jae Rim’s Choi Ha In/Daniel Choi was a great second lead, but at times I felt that his characters became a little inconsistent at times.
I was a little bit iffy with Oh Sol at first, but as the drama progressed, until the last two episodes, I ended up growing to like her, especially when she showed her more mature side. This started from the moment she started empathizing with Seon Kyul instead of thinking that he was just weird, and when she decided that she wanted to help him not for her sake but for his. Aside from this, I did enjoy her character arc in which she discovered that although the cleaning industry is a physically taxing and unglamorous job as compared to office jobs, it is one that she does enjoy and one that does suit her.
I found it very interesting that Seon Kyul took what many perceive as a weakness and turned into a strength by creating his own cleaning company. And I am glad that despite everything that happened and overcoming his mysophobia, that he still decided to run a cleaning company. It was also interesting that although he turned his weakness into a business, it also was a security blanket for him, as he refused to overcome it because he didn’t see the need for it, and subconsciously, to spite his grandfather (who was the cause of his mysophobia) as well. I like that he decided to overcome it for both himself and Oh Sol, and I’m glad that even though they ended up breaking up for two years, that he still persevered and overcame it for his own sake. To be honest, seeing Seon Kyul overcome it and seeing the difference in which he did seem more liberated and lighter, actually inspired me to overcome my own mysophobia as well. Also, Yoon Kyun Sang did a great job in portraying his character, and I’m glad that in the end, he was the one who ended up taking the role.
Despite its many flaws and weaknesses, this light and cute romantic drama had good performances, and was able to tackle a mental health issue, mysophobia, in the right way. Hopefully others who do have mysophobia like myself, will be inspired to also overcome it; and hopefully, others will be more educated about it as well.
Have you seen “Clean with Passion for Now”? What did you think of it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
Image Source: JTBC