Long time no see, readers. It has been a while. Without getting personal, this last year has been hectic for me, which has had some consequences on my TV habits. I am no longer able to keep up with television weekly, so I have been stuck on what to write about, because I rarely consume western media anymore.
Key word: western.
The last entry on this blog was about “Dramaworld”, a TV show about a girl whose kdrama addiction ended up bringing her into the actual “world of kdrama” where she changed things up to her liking. Little did I know, soon I would be relating to that girl a little more. Thus, the title.
Yes. I am an addict to Korean dramas. And let me tell you, they are pretty damn great.
I can hear your thoughts: “Taylah, but you used to watch so many great shows, how come you have fallen that pit of hell? Aren’t they basically soap operas?” And, that my friends, is where you are 100% wrong. Let’s address some of the biggest misconceptions about Korean dramas, some of which “Dramaworld” fell into, and one of the reasons why I don’t love “Dramaworld” as much as I did upon first viewing.
‘All Korean dramas revolve around romance’
This is the biggest and strongest misconception. While yes, many of them do, the truth is “kdrama” is not really a genre, but the umbrella term to describe Korean fiction on TV. Which means inside of the “kdrama” umbrella we can find romances, thrillers, melodramas, school/teen dramas, fantasy, science-fiction, etc.
‘Everyone’s acting in kdramas is… well, dramatic.’
False. There is a ridiculous amount of talent in the Korean entertainment world, and most of these actors are not only good at acting, but also pretty good at singing, dancing, and at making you laugh in a plethora of Korean variety shows. It is worth noting there has been a more recent shift in dramas where the acting has become a lot more subtle and understated at the same time that the topics they touch have become broader and more serious. Not to mention, most actors debut pretty young, so someone you may not like in a show from 3 or 4 years ago may be doing a fantastic job right now. The actors work consistently and progressively learn how to be better and it is very easy to find yourself having new favorites all the time.
‘How can you distinguish all of them? Don’t they all look the same?’
This one is just racist, but it needs to be addressed, because it is something I have unfortunately heard said out loud, to my face. It is absolutely not hard to distinguish anyone and while some of them do look alike (because, guess what, that just happens in life), it really is no different than trying to distinguish between all the white guys named Chris in Hollywood.
‘The romance in kdramas is chaste or boring’
This one is a little harder to call a misconception, as it is somewhere in the middle. Korean dramas that include romance tend to focus a lot more on building up feelings between the protagonists before throwing them into bed together– that doesn’t mean that it never happens (and sometimes it happens right away), or that the displays of affection are chaste or boring. While this is true for many, some of the hottest kisses I have ever watched on TV, I’ve seen on kdramas. Sex scenes? For that you would have to switch to movies, but honestly I don’t feel like they are 100% necessary. Sometimes a good fade to black is just as good.
To top it off, you have the instant gratification. Are you shipping something like crazy? Guess what, the drama wraps itself up in an average of 16 to 20 episodes, so you will probably see them making out by episode 8. It’s fantastic.
‘All kdramas follow a series of “rules” or “tropes”‘
Another one that is somewhere in between myth and reality. While you do see a pattern in several shows of the same genre, the truth is that the same applies to western media. What I do love is that kdramas are starting to become self aware of such tropes and are actively trying to subvert them. But, to be perfectly honest, some of them remain delightful, so why change something that just works, every time?
‘There are are just so many of them. Where do I start?’
While I am no expert yet, I have made it through over 40 shows in the last 6 months, so I can give you a small list of my favorites. Most of these can be found in two websites: Viki or Dramafever (Dramafever currently only works in the US, while Viki holds the licenses for most dramas in Europe) and I have gathered them all in a list here.
So, what has changed about my perception of “Dramaworld” in the last year?
A year ago, I would have considered “Dramaworld” to be my first kdrama, however the more I watch, the more I consider it what it is: an American show about a white girl who loves them. While it does nail some of the tropes, it isn’t exactly one, and while I do not find it a mockery, it is kind of mocking a very specific subset of romantic dramas, but that is the point of it. Is it bad? Of course not, but now I do agree with the criticism that inserting a white girl into one and making her the protagonist defeats one of the things that makes kdramas so great, which is that they are quintessentially very Korean, and they show you things about a culture that while very similar to our own, is very, very different. This means that you will sometimes be frustrated– for example, their “respect the elders” mindset allows for bosses, parents and teachers to be terrible people to those “below” them, or they have a very limited view of sexuality– but you will also be educated on how a completely different society works. And there is nothing wrong with learning.
A year later, I would not want to be Claire Duncan myself, despite the fact that I can now relate to her addiction a lot more.
So what happens to the blog from now on? Taylah Talks TV will remain the blog that it is, that is, it will mostly focus on western media. However, if you wish for me to make a Korean drama “Starter list”, I will very gladly expand on the list I provided above, with some dramas that are more easily accessible to start off for someone who has never watched one. If you want that, please let me know in the comments below.
See you soon!