I Am Legend was not a melodrama but the overarching effect was one of sadness. There was no death, illness, long separation, and other cruxes of traditional Korean melodrama, but it was sad from another source- identification. There was a strong element of dreams deferred, gnawing regret, and hopes dashed. Many can identify with the fear of having their lives turn out as such. I Am Legend anchors these universal emotions in the microsphere of its flawed heroines and heroes.
Legend revolves around the lives of the four members of the Comeback Madonna Band who also happen to be pegged in Korean society as ‘ajummas’. A woman would be called an ajumma if she looks or is past her late twenties and/or is a mother. The four ajummas are lead vocal and guitarist Jeon Seol Hee played by Kim Jung Eun, bass Hwa Ja played by Jong Ji Min, 2nd guitarist Ah Reom played by Juni, and drummer Jang Shin Yeong plays Su In.
The drama introduces the individual lives of the members, which includes their hobby of almost weekly private jam sessions together as a means of relieving the stress from the daily grind in their lives. There were suggestions that the storyline would go the way of struggling ajummas conquering stereotypes, ridicules, and other societal and legal hurdles to become a successful female rock band. Instead, that became the backdrop to a manifesto on the temptations and pitfalls of fame. With a lick of fame, motherly responsibilities are thrown in the blender, with ambition of marrying well, pride and dignity can practically be sacrificed, and with fear of failure, priorities sidelined.
The characters were initially two dimensional and the effort to give them character arcs fell short, not due to effort and good intention but to the time constraint of the drama. It was hard to swallow how everyone can abruptly become such prodigal moral sons and daughters in the short span of an episode or two.
In regards to the music, which naturally was the drama’s OST, it was a running commentary on the story and characters’ emotional development. Furthermore, as all the members really have some musical background and inclination, it wasn’t too difficult to transform their collaboration from a fictional band to a real one with scheduled live performances. In the drama, the performance scenes of the band were training ground of sorts as they were filled with real invited audiences attending ‘real’ concerts. The drama’s extensive OST was packaged and sold like a real debut of the Comeback Madonna Band. With many nods from fans and enough interest, although the drama is over, the Comeback Madonna Band is still alive and well rocking at venues near Seoul.
Although I Am Legend didn’t turn out to be any notable legend, it did shine a flashlight on many unglamorous aspects of Korean females entering the autumn of their lives hedged in their circumstances between traditional expectations and modern aspirations. For that alone, it is worth a watch.