A few months ago, an astute reader raised the question of favorite and least favorite posters, and why K-drama posters are so often bad. The question has been haunting me ever since. Why do fans have to put up with so many lousy publicity images? Will there ever be a good K-drama that also has a good poster?
Choosing a K-drama often requires ignoring the poster. I learned this early. The second K-drama I ever watched was Me Too, Flower, with this surreal poster:
Are they flying? Jumping? Falling out of an airplane? The description of the show says it’s about a depressed policewoman and an “undercover boss,” but the poster suggests it’s about professional trampoline artists.
In the end, this poster turns out to have nothing to do with the show it’s advertising. Me Too, Flower is relatively dark, more of a melodrama than a romantic comedy. The whimsical mood of the poster belongs to a different show entirely.
Me Too, Flower has a poster that is bad in two ways: 1) it doesn’t relate to the show, and 2) it makes me think the person who designed it was taking hallucinogens. But most bad posters are merely bad in the first way—because they don’t connect to the show. This is especially annoying when you like a show with an awful poster.
The best example of this is Secret Love Affair, which many readers here have commented on. The poster makes our heroine look like a predator, which is far from the truth.
But I’m equally annoyed by the poster for It’s Okay, That’s Love, which turns a poignant image from the show—the bathtub—into a prop for this misleadingly happy-go-lucky image:
It’s a good poster in one sense—it’s sexy and sweet. But the mood here is way too cheerful for this bittersweet series. If you expected the series to be like the poster, you’d be confused and disappointed.
Those are my nominees for Weirdest and Most Hopelessly Misleading K-drama Posters.
I don’t have a good explanation for the Bad Poster. My working theory is that the publicity departments work completely independently of the production team. How else to explain that the people making the posters don’t even seem to know if the show is a comedy or a melodrama?
Another possibility is that no one cares whether the posters are misleading or not. The point of the poster isn’t to suggest the mood or narrative, but to send one simple message: “There are attractive stars in this show.” The poster for I Remember You is a great example. It tells us nothing about the show except that there’s eye candy. We can’t even guess the genre, much less that it will be a sophisticated detective story.
I suspect the budget also determines the mediocrity of most posters. It’s tough to show mood or narrative twists in a two-dimensional photo. A really amazing poster requires time, money, and great graphic design, which is a separate art from making dramas. It’s cheaper and easier to keep it simple. Take some good pictures of your stars and leave it at that.
Are there actually any good K-drama posters? Posters that make us want to watch?
I’d like to nominate this poster for Orange Marmalade. No single image could fully convey this show’s crazy smorgasbord of teen romance, vampire parable, Joseon-era fusion sageuk and twenty-first century high school musical.
But this image (which comes from the first episode) does capture the show’s mood and style. Orange Marmalade gives us sympathetic teenage vampires who are just trying to fit in. But the heroine’s tendency to look at the hero’s neck just a little too intently is also part of the story. The show is sweet but also a little unsettling, and more than a little strange. Just like the poster.
Another one that makes a good poster all by itself, while also capturing the spirit of the show, is King of High School Savvy. It might be unfair to give Seo In-Gook another shout-out here, but I have to. This poster keeps it simple—no crowds of characters, just our hero and his double identities. If a character is going to have an alter-ego, shouldn’t the poster show that fact? (The Kill Me, Heal Me poster completely fails on this front.)
I think most of us try not to let posters mislead us. Part of the fun of K-dramas is the incomprehensible titles and illogical posters, right? But it’s hard when these are our first impressions. And it’s too bad that for my friends who don’t watch K-dramas, these images are as far as they will ever get. Good shows deserve good advertising! Of course, then maybe we wouldn’t need bloggers. ♥