Korean Drama 101

oh my ghostess wordpress webIt’s a slow season for dramas right now, and that’s given me time for important updates to the blog.

For a month now I’ve been editing and updating the Korean Drama 101 page. It isn’t as sexy and exciting as recapping new shows, but I want to provide information about K-dramas for non-fans, new fans, and viewers who don’t identify with the label “fan.”

K-dramas have a way of turning viewers into fans, it’s true. But when I first started looking for information on K-dramas, I was uneasy with the devoted fan culture around K-dramas. The word “fan” comes from “fanaticism,” after all. It implies a certain insanity.

I’ve come to love how large, varied and thoughtful the fan community is, and I’ve accepted the label “fan” myself. But I still don’t believe that enjoying K-dramas needs to entail a loss of reason. At least no more loss of reason than any television-viewing.

These shows are a multi-million dollar industry that touches roughly half the households on the planet. We don’t have to be “fanatics” to want to understand them better. And we certainly don’t have to be fanatics to recognize that sometimes they tell very good stories.

So share this page with your friends, teachers and next-door neighbors! Along with my updates to Korean Drama 101, I’ve also beefed up the index to my reviews with more links. If you haven’t explored the site in awhile, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to browse around.

I have a bunch of upcoming posts discussing funny hats, Korean vampires, the mysterious addictiveness of K-dramas, and a review of the 2012 drama that you need to watch right away. Stay tuned!

And thank you all so much for reading! Every time I get a comment, I have a huge smile and I type a little faster. ♥

9 thoughts on “Korean Drama 101

  1. Hi …have a nice weekend.. ♥
    I just remember something that bug me since 2 days, (hope you don’t mind it)
    do you think drama fans tend to analyze more than enough?
    Like taking drama too seriously than what the drama meant to be while forget the enjoyment when watching it (drama with little story but rely on character so the story isn’t that much to write)

    or the opposite, don’t want to admit the drama flaws or the character flaw because they enjoy it so much despite the story wasn’t all that neat as it seems (most likely with -quite- a big premise but what actually stand out is the cute interaction between the OTP)

    sometimes I think that shut off my brain can make me enjoy a drama as full entertainment then when I turn it on, I get annoying by a drama just because I can’t believe why it have to be like that to look cute/fun, or it just my personal issue.
    it feel like watching crime drama for the lead interaction since at the end the culprit will get the punishment they deserve but none of that interaction actually matter in solving the case, ^^

    • I love this question and it gave me a lot to think about. I think it depends on the fan. Some people get great enjoyment out of analyzing stories, especially stories they like. Other people don’t want to analyze stories they love, because they are afraid they will find flaws. For instance, when I love a book, I reread it several times. But I know someone who never re-reads a book she loves, because she’s afraid she won’t like it as much the second time. For people who feel that way, any analysis can seem like too much. I can understand why lots of drama fans feel like this.

      On the other hand, analyzing is sometimes how fans show devotion to shows. For me personally, I don’t get annoyed by too much analysis. I do get annoyed by analysis that comes from the wrong motivation. If someone is analyzing merely to criticize, I feel like they’re wasting their creative energy. Analysis should also include statements about the ways a show succeeds, too. “Constructive criticism,” as my teachers used to say. The reason to analyze is to figure out why we love what we love, not to tear down the efforts of those sleep-deprived K-drama writers and makers.

      The challenge is that no story is perfect. There are always imperfections to varying degrees. Once we start analyzing what we love, we notice the flaws as well. And that’s why we sometimes think we’ll enjoy a show more if we “turn off” our brain, like you say. But I’m going to go deep here: we can make choices about how we love things, whether they are stories, artworks, places or even people. We can choose to accept the small flaws if we love the bigger picture. The little flaws can even be part of our love for something.

      Falling in love with a person is very different than loving a piece of art, but in both cases we risk falling out of love if we look too closely. Staying in love with a person means accepting that person’s limitations. Same with a story. There are always limitations, which is one reason fans are always looking for the next drama to fall in love with. (This is fortunately easier and more socially acceptable than continually looking for a new person to fall in love with.)

      A related question I’ve been thinking about is “why do some K-drama fans write so much?” It seems like the shows with strong characters make such an impression that we need to reach out and talk to other people about it. For some of us, it’s hard NOT to write about K-dramas! And with that, I’ll cut myself off and work on a post I’m writing about artistic obsession. 🙂

      • “why do some K-drama fans write so much?”
        my personal reason is because I had no one to talk with regarding Drama topic,
        I love movie and Drama, especially JDrama and KDrama but none of my friend actually watching it, and when watch they don’t have anything to talked about.
        Sometimes it bother me when they don’t have comment on something controversial or questionable and if I talk, they just listen.
        They’re good friend, it just my friend prefer light drama and when the story gets heavy, they resorted to fangirling, they like the comment of the love story, how they looked good, how handsome the actor/actress is and how cute they as couple, it’s fun and it really fun when we watch the same things,it just doesn’t happen often.
        My closest critique buddy is my sister, but we live far away, so it’s hard to just talking about drama when we have many things to talks and she just watch K-drama (idk why she can’t watch Jdrama or anime) ^^

        regarding the love perception, sometimes I wanted to know why I can’t enjoy a drama and some analysis helps me but also some analysis can ruin my view.
        So I agree that we personally found what we love and it’s not wrong to love it ^^ (NIce)

        Do you think there’s still perception that it makes you a shallow commenter and doesn’t take the story seriously when you didn’t comment about the story?

        • I’m glad the internet gives us a way to talk to people outside our circle of friends! I think that’s a big reason for the great online conversations. I got my sister to watch a couple K-dramas and she enjoyed them, but she has a totally different kind of brain than me, and doesn’t get so much into analyzing stories.

          I’m not sure I understand your question: “Do you think there’s still perception that it makes you a shallow commenter and doesn’t take the story seriously when you didn’t comment about the story?” Do you mean that comments about the story are deeper than other kinds of comments?

        • @Odessa… you phrased it better than me ^^
          I think every comment is worth, it’s not a harm to actually talk about the acting or the physical portrayal because a drama is not just about story telling but the presentation, not every one can related to same story so they maybe don’t have any opinion other than what presented in the drama,
          the directing+location is a plus too, because what really worth it the content on the comment, is that a constructive criticism or just magnifying the flaw,

          thanks for replying, it’s near weekend so I hope you the best weekend ^^

  2. @anastasya, I think we write so much online because there is no one to discuss this with!
    I tried showing my friend City Hunter and she burst out laughing at LMH, is he a guy or a girl? So… lesson learnt.
    Kdrama viewers are a niche audience, and the online community is a surrogate friend circle to discuss the shows. Writing itself leads to forming more cogent thoughts, something more meaningful than “Kya!! Oppa is so cool!” is what I feel.

    @Odessa, what you wrote about love is spot on. I myself am guilty of focusing too much on the flaws to appreciate the bigger picture. That’s why She was pretty is a bumpy ride, I love the overall tone, but the flaws make me pull my hair. But I’m learning, and Liar Game is proof of that. Nam Da Jung was annoying to a fault at times, but as the show progressed I learnt to appreciate why she needs to be that way for the story.

  3. So it seems I need a signature line – “what pranx said”

    The experience is not limited to k-dramas. My first experiences with online forums for a tv show was on a british newspaper site. We have watched and discussed (or mocked if appropriate) British, Irish, Belgian and French shows as well as a lot of scandi-noir. For me as a north american who watches UK tv this was a way to discuss the shows with people as I was watching them. Most of them air months later here. My friends don’t look at me sideways when I say I am watching Downton Abbey and discussing it on a forum. And let me tell you Downton Abbey is filled with historical anomolies and in my opinion is execrable. But I have stuck it out to the end and made the experience better by laughing at it with the online crowd. However I don’t think my friends would be so understanding if I said I was discussing King of Dramas online despite the fact it is infinitely better.

    I notice flaws in continuity as well as consistency errors. This is who I am. I notice them regardless of the format or country the thing I am watching is from. I am likely less harsh on ones from places more foreign to me. Discussing them in detail sometimes lessens the pain (if someone comes up with a remotely plausible explanation) but never makes it worse. That being said many times I can also enjoy a show with errors that make me cringe if there is one or two things I love about it.

    For me I see the types of issues with She was pretty to be quite different from the annoying character of Nam Da Jung. Ok well Siwon’s character is quite annoying but that is not what makes me pissy about SWP. The characters in SWP fail to be internally consistent and I think we are going to have a lot of plot holes at the end. Of course I won’t know that until I have invested my full 16 hours but still I am concerned. Plus the most recent episodes had several continuity issues. The Nam Da Jung issue is about not liking a main character and hence not wanting to watch further, and then later finding out that characteristic was required for the story. In her case a lot of the story was about the two of them growing away from their stances of always/never trusting. Character growth is a reward for watching people we don’t like initially.

    I may have already posted about Life is Beautiful. If I am repeating myself my apologies. I loved this show and wept copiously, but it had both flaws and a lot of characters that I did not like and found to be almost caricatures. The flaw was one of acting style. I still think the show would have been better if the acting was different for the scenes I thought were poorly acted. But changing the characters would lessen the story and so on repeated viewing I don’t find them annoying. I can hardly believe I stuck it out for 20 episodes before being swept off my feet. Spoilers ahead: What kept me going was the mother and the two gay men. She was fabulous and a gay relationship is not something I have really seen in a k-drama in any sort of realistic normalised way. (as realistic as a k-drama can be for any romantic couple)That was fascinating enough to keep me there for the first 20 episodes. I think it is in episode 21 that all those annoying characters find out about the sexual orientation of the son. The reaction each had was different and if they had not each had the annoying characteristics it would not have made so much sense. They were all reactions that could happen even if they were not the ones we were expecting. And this comes back to Odessa’s point on k-dramas being about the emotion. People like this would probably not exist but they did represent emotions that really do exist. If you happen to have 63 hours to kill I strongly suggest it 😉

    (I hope that ramble made sense and was vaguely on topic, if not I hang my head in shame because I really did try)

    • @ Erin: So glad to read your comments on Downton Abby! The inaccurate social history in that show makes me positively writhe in pain. But it has a kind of holy status among American TV critics. I suspect a big reason I enjoy non-English TV is that I don’t have to deal with listening to what “experts” think of it. Also when a K-drama is full of implausible characters and implausible behavior, I don’t take it as personally as I do when TV messes with British history.

      I enjoyed reading your thoughts on Life is Beautiful. I get very intimidated by anything longer than 30 episodes, but it sounds like an interesting piece of envelope-pushing.

      I hate to admit it, but I’ve given up She was Pretty. I thought the good cast could keep me going. But the characters became so inconsistent, and the makeover was the final straw. I feel somewhat betrayed by the show. It started promising.

  4. @erin, you are a global watcher! Any Indian stuff on your radar yet?
    Also glad to know that you are also annoyed with SWP! I find Sung Joon particularly confusing and also Hye Jin’s makeover.

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