‘The Director Who Buys Me Dinner’ Review: An Unsettling Dinner Date Invitation

Bite size romance dramas are perfect if one wants to savor some good stories without devoting a lot of their time. Most TV shows are usually known to have one-hour-long episodes; add to that sixteen such episodes, and it will easily take up a major part of your day. But when it comes to short dramas, which feature a dozen episodes of less than 15 minutes each, they are simply too irresistible to ignore. Along with long-running episodes, K-dramas also offer bite-sized entertainment. Usually the genres are romance, with a choice of character tropes. Boy love aka BL or girl love aka GL stories are usually featured in such short dramas and are quite fan favorites for the densely packed emotions in such a short amount of time. But history has been a witness to romance dramas that portray inappropriate behavior under the guise of “cute” behavior. Sometimes, in an attempt to show more story in less time, the makers often lose track of the story, and it becomes a mishmash of overlapping plotlines that don’t give a satisfactory conclusion to the story initially promised. The latest BL drama to hit the K-drama block, ‘The Director Who Buys Me Dinner,’ falls under the aforementioned tropes. The drama completed airing last week, and I have a lot to say about it. 

Spoilers Ahead


‘The Director Who Buys Me Dinner’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Series?

“The Director Who Buys Me Dinner” is touted as a reincarnation romance story between an office employee and the CEO of that company. Adapted from a webtoon of the same name, the drama spans just ten episodes of about 15 minutes each. The male leads meet in modern-day Seoul in their office, where soon begins the cliched trope of a push-and-pull relationship between a cold CEO and a bubbly employee.

The short drama follows the story of CEO Min Yu Dam of M Entertainment and his newly appointed assistant secretary, Seol Dong Baek. There is a past-life connection between the two. Yu Dam has a curse where he remembers his life from 300 years ago, the time when he and Dong Baek first met. His curse will only be lifted if he truly falls in love with Dong Baek in his present life. On his first day at work, Dong Baek is late to work but manages to reach his office. He had applied for the performance management team, but he was assigned to the secretary team. The secretary team works  directly for the CEO. On his first day at work, Dong Baek is asked out on a date by the CEO. Without any rhyme or reason, he simply puts forth the question and Dong Baek gets flustered. He also goes ahead and mentions a heart-shaped mole on Dong Baek’s chest.

On their next meeting, Yu Dam proceeds to unbutton Dong Baek’s shirt and kiss him on the chest. Such non-consensual behavior in the workplace is a major red flag, but the makers found it perfectly fine to portray on screen. In today’s times when there is a need for sensitivity towards gender, sexual orientation, and also personal boundaries, dramas like “The Director Who Buys Me Dinner” gloss over the reality and present the inappropriate actions as acceptable and fairly common.

In an attempt to add more layers to the story, the makers added a past-life reincarnation tale for the main leads that made no difference whatsoever. It neither moved the plot along nor did it provide sufficient justification for the characters’ present behavior. Despite the past-life angle, the story still falls flat. In their past lives, Yu Dam and Dong Baek were a nobleman and a lowly commoner, respectively. Dong Baek initially had no name because he was born in a brothel and is hence considered lowly. For all his goodness, he meets Yu Dam, a nobleman who names him Dong Baek. Thus begins their tale of love. But Yu Dam’s family is against this relationship. They also find it against the natural laws to name a nameless person. Yu Dam and Dong Baek plan to elope but Yu Dam’s family finds out and orders for Dong Baek to be put to death. Yu Dam goes to save Dong Baek, but it is too late. In the present day, in a quest to get rid of the curse, Yu Dam tricks Dong Baek to join his secretary team in order to get closer to him. We are also introduced to the second male lead, Denis, who is an artist at M Entertainment. He clearly has several issues that he needs to deal with with proper guidance, but instead he relies on pills, rude behavior, and a complete disregard for those around him to get through his day. He seems to have some annoyance with Yu Dam, but there is again no explanation in the story as to why. In a blink-and-you-miss-it flashback, we see that there was a masked assailant who shot an arrow at Dong Baek, thus fatally wounding him. We can only see the masked assailant’s eyes and as the audience, we are made to assume that it must be Denis in his past life. In the finale, we see that Yu Dam asks God to save Dong Baek’s life after he was hit in the chest with a knife during a scuffle with Denis. As a result, Yu Dam ends up losing memories of his previous birth and also the time he “dated” Dong Baek. Dong Baek instead wakes up with his past life’s memories intact and asks Yu Dam out for a dinner date this time, and the show ends.


Review

“The Director Who Buys Me Dinner” attempted to show a decent BL story by employing all the cliches from the “Romance Tropes 101” book. But the attempts fell apart one after the other, owing to the messy plotline, undefined character arcs, depiction of red flag behavior at work and in a relationship, lack of chemistry between the leads… the list goes on! Yu Dam kissing Dong Baek’s chest without his consent just to prove a point, Dong Baek going along with all this behavior without so much as a squeak against it—all this behavior gives out the wrong message to the viewers. In these modern times, when there is a lot of healthy discussion and representation of the LGBTQIA+ community, such shows only bring the whole matter down to fetishized form. Sure, love and romance are one of the many unpredictable experiences in one’s life, but dishing out incorrect tropes under the guise of love is simply wrong.

Speaking of the supporting cast, their presence didn’t make an ounce of difference to the main storyline. Denis, who is portrayed as the third party in the romance between Yu Dam and Dong Baek, is simply unpleasant to watch. He definitely has some issues that need to be worked on, but there was no sensitivity in showing them on screen. He seeks out Dong Baek, but in reality there was no need for a love triangle, which only added to the forceful addition of a romance trope. In an attempt to pack a lot into a small box, the makers started with several ideas but failed to execute even one to its fullest. “The Director Who Buys Me Dinner” had potential to become a good BL story had the story and the arcs been steadily and maturely presented. There are a lot of moral and logical holes in “The Director Who Buys Me Dinner.” If you’re looking for a show that is short and sweet, then please do not watch this one because it will only leave a bad aftertaste. There are better BL stories out there that deliver on their promise and leave the viewers wanting for more of the healthy and loveable characters and story arcs.


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Nandini Iyengar
Nandini Iyengar
Nandini has grown up on a healthy diet of books, movies and shows. Hailing from a multicultural background, Nandini has tried indulging in art from different corners of India that came naturally to her. Taking the influence further, she delved into foreign languages and indulged in content from across the globe. When she is not watching anything on her laptop, she can be found daydreaming or picking her pen to write a few words of fiction.
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