Hold on… she’s a Gummy what?

Comic/tragic/weird romance blossoms on My Girlfriend is a Gumiho

After watching the non-sequitur awesomeness of the “Gangnam Style” music video and the stunning brutality of the original Oldboy (2003) we have a question for South Korea: What are your flaky TV romantic comedies like?

Well it turns out that at least one of them is pretty damn weird. My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (a.k.a. My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox ) (2010) is the heartwarming yet relentlessly peculiar story of a college student named Dae Woong who unwittingly releases a supernatural monster from an enchanted painting. The creature is a “Gumiho” or nine-tailed fox which according to Korean folklore is an immortal shape-shifting monster that eats human livers. (This last fact turns out to be unfounded slander although this particular Gumiho is enthusiastically carnivorous.) The translated name is accurate; she really is a fox with nine tails. In human form her tails are invisible except in the moonlight.

Freed from her two-dimensional prison after 500 years the unnamed Gumiho takes the form of a beautiful woman and latches on to our hapless protagonist who now must explain to his family and friends why an attractive stranger is suddenly dragging him to expensive restaurants giggling and clutching his arm.

The Gumiho (eventually given the name Mi-Ho) isn’t really Dae Woong’s girlfriend per se; it only looks that way to his classmates who are jealous and his grandfather who thinks that the boy has defiled and/or impregnated an innocent woman and kicks him out of the house. In reality the Gumiho is just bossing Dae Woong around and making him buy her beef. Lots and lots of beef which she calls “cow.” “Buy me some cow!” she’ll demand with an innocent smile and Dae Woong will gulp look at his ever-diminishing cash supply and comply. He’s terrified that if he doesn’t do Mi-Ho’s bidding she’ll eat his liver.

There’s another reason why this odd couple sticks together. On the day that Mi-Ho got released from her canvas prison Dae Woong ran away and accidentally fell off a cliff. Mi-Ho used some kind of weird fox magic to restore his health but now he’s got her “fox bead” inside his body which is something that she’ll eventually have to retrieve if she wants to continue to live forever. On the other hand letting a human keep the bead for 100 days could transform the Gumiho into a human and as Mi-Ho begins to develop romantic feelings for Dae Woong this option begins to look appealing.

While the student and the fox monster are slowly falling in love an even weirder and funnier romance is going on in the background. Dae Woong’s unmarried aunt keeps bumping into Director Ban a cool and mysterious figure who always keeps a matchstick clenched between his teeth. Ban runs the “action movie school” that Dae Woong attends and his entire persona is modelled on action star Chow Yun Fat right down to the swooshing trench coat. They first meet in an elevator where the aunt farts and Director Ban nobly takes the blame for it. This bit of toilet humour is presented with dramatic music slow-motion coattail flapping and lingering facial close-ups. Later Ban catches her after she falls from a balcony and the two of them pose dramatically in front of a Gone With the Wind poster. It’s just one ridiculously overdone meet-cute after another kind of like an over-the-top “Taster’s Choice Saga” only with fart jokes. After a few episodes most viewers will get impatient with the main story and just want to see more of the burgeoning auntie-director relationship.

Each episode of My Girlfriend is a Gumiho is 65 minutes long (what the hell kind of time slot is that Korea?) and there are 16 episodes in the series which means that there are over 17 hours of this stuff free to watch on Netflix. We already have romances about sparkly vampires so why not shape-changing fox monsters?