Review: “The Good Bad Mother,” a heartfelt drama about motherhood [MUSE]


Lorna Ding

What makes someone a good or bad mother? This is a question that kept coming to my mind as I watched the Korean drama, “The Good Bad Mother.” 

To me, there is no definition of a “good” mother or a “bad” mother. It’s not a rubric where you can check off boxes for being good or bad. Media, however, tends to capture motherhood in black and white; a good mother is always patient, and a bad mother doesn’t display affection. What makes “The Good Bad Mother” so unique and captivating is how it captures the intricacies of motherhood. 

The drama is set in the countryside, where Jin Young-soon, the mom, raises her son to be an apathetic prosecutor using harsh discipline. When her fourth-grade son, Kang-ho, has a field trip, she refuses to let him go. Kang-ho then writes “bad mom” as his reason for absence on the field trip form. His mom often tells him, “Don’t eat until you’re full. Otherwise, you’ll fall asleep while studying.” Under his mom’s iron fist, Kang-ho grows up to become a prosecutor as his mom wishes but hates his mother. 

A sudden car crash changes the mom and son’s relationship. Kang-ho survives but is paralyzed and loses his memories, placing him in a seven-year-old’s mindset and giving Young-soon and Kang-ho a chance to mend their broken relationship.

Viewers have often speculated that the name “The Good Bad Mother” stems from how Young-soon was a bad mom when raising Kang-ho in his childhood but became a good mom after his accident. I don’t agree. To me, the drama’s name emphasizes how perspective affects perception. From Kang-ho’s perspective, his mom is often a bad mom. From Young-soon’s perspective, she is trying to be a good mom.

There is one scene that really encapsulates this concept—the scene where Young-soon stops feeding Kang-ho, who is paralyzed, in order to motivate him to move his arms again. The drama first shows Young-soon acting nonchalant in reaction to Kang-ho’s cries for food—a reference to her being a bad mom. But, as soon as Young-soon closes the door to Kang-ho’s room, she drops to the ground with tears in her eyes as she says, “I’m sorry, Kang-ho. Let me become a bad mom just once more.” 

Obviously, Kang-ho and Young-soon’s relationship is very different from the relationship I have with my mom, but despite the differences, the drama is incredibly relatable. I’m sure my six-year-old self who once had an argument with her mom about practicing piano and left the house saying she would never come back but came back after realizing she had nowhere to go would relate to Kang-ho’s feelings of resentment. At the same time, I know my mom would be able to understand Young–soon’s intentions; she wants the best for Kang-ho.

So, to answer the question: what makes someone a good or bad mother? After watching the released episodes of “The Good Bad Mother,” I don’t think there’s an answer to this question, and perhaps, the message of the drama is to leave you with no answer. Perhaps, it’s not the good or bad that matters but the fact that humans are multifaceted and flawed. We’re neither good nor bad. We’re both.

The “Good Bad Mother” is streaming now on Netflix. Watch the trailer here.

On this blog, members of the Carmel High School chapter of the Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists (and the occasional guest writer) produce curations of all facets of popular culture, from TV shows to music to novels to technology. We hope our readers always leave with something new to muse over. Click here to read more from MUSE.