Due to housing and financial problems, many young people are forced to sacrifice their dreams and plans, such as getting married and having children. Solo living has become a new social norm that clashes with traditional views on marriage. tvN's Because This Is My First Life
looks into this phenomenon through the eyes of people in their thirties, and inspires discussion on the value of marriage.
Yoon Ji Ho (Jung So Min, My Father Is Strange), who graduated from a prestigious university, dreams of becoming a successful writer but she ends up working as a nameless assistant writer. Since her brother is about to be a father, she has no choice but to move out. She eventually moves into the apartment of app designer Nam Se Hee (Lee Min Ki, Dal Ja's Spring), who rents his place out to help pay off the mortgage. Ji Ho decides to leave when she realizes that her housemate is a man. Knowing that he won't find another tenant better than Ji Ho, Se Hee offers to lower the rent. He even proposes a marriage contract with her in hopes that his mother will stop pressuring him to get married.
Ji Ho and Se Hee view marriage as a business deal and get what they need through this relationship. However, they soon discover the considerable costs of marriage: the burden of assumed responsibilities and intrusion of personal privacy. Neither of them wants real married life, not just because of their financial situation but also because of their desire for freedom and self-determination. Moreover, in the eyes of Ji Ho, marriage only marks the start of a new unknown journey in life. Her uneasiness and anxiety are well expressed through the recurring motif of "Room 19" from British novelist Doris Lessing's 1978 short story To Room Nineteen, which follows a desperate mother who insists on defending her private space even though her husband misunderstands her and thinks she is having an affair.
The true-to-life relationship between aspiring entrepreneur Won Seok (Kim Min Seok, Innocent Defendant) and his long-time girlfriend Ho Rang (Kim Ga Eun, I Order You) resonates particularly strongly. Due to pressure from Ho Rang, who plans to marry before 30, Won Seok gives up his unprofitable business and works in an app company for a more stable life. Feeling stressed, he splits up with Ho Rang to break free from the shackles of wedlock. Though Ho Rang soon finds a marriage-minded man, she decides to start a new life alone because marriage without love is meaningless to her. The drama reflects young people's struggles between dream and reality, and guides people to rethink the true meaning of marriage.
Because This Is My First Life was at first criticized for being similar to the hit Japanese drama We Married As a Job!, which is also built on the idea of contract marriage. However, the former differentiates itself by taking the concept in a different direction. While We Married As a Job! examines the value and role of women in the labor market, Because This Is My First Life sheds light on the rise of solo living and studies the nature of marriage through its down-to-earth plot and realistic characters.