The Comfort of Korean Dramas: A Love Letter

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Despite me not being a fan when the show first ran in 2009, nothing makes me feel nostalgic like Boys Over Flowers.

Here we are. Another day, another post in which I wax on and on about how much I love Asian dramas, especially K-dramas. I’m a pretty recent fan, having only gotten into them a couple of years ago, but since discovering them on Netflix and subscribing to Viki, I found my love for these shows to be almost unmatched.

There’s something about K-dramas (and dramas from Asia as a whole) that cannot be captured in Western television. That something is what draws me to them so much. Perhaps it’s the emphasis on family dynamics, the often fairy-tale-esque romances, the amazing wardrobes of every character, or the sense that everything will be okay in the end.

Maybe it’s all of those things at once.

There’s also a lot to be said about the production values of said dramas, the sheer effort that gets put into them, etc.

And now…A DISCLAIMER:

Before I go on with this post, let me just say that I’m coming at this topic from a white, Western point of view. I live in the United States. I’m white as hell. I know these dramas present an idealized version of life like every television show does, and that they should not be taken as representative of Korea as a whole. I just really like these shows.

While K-dramas are as varied and nuanced as any other television show you’d find anywhere else, there’s a reason why they’re so popular worldwide. Many of them follow a specific set of beats, have certain types of humor and stock characters, and generally end on an upbeat note. Of course, your mileage may vary. Dramas are changing these days and you never know what you’ll get.

(I’m watching The Smile Has Left Your Eyes right now and ooohhh my god)

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Seo In Guk stars in The Smile Has Left Your Eyes as a really hot maybe-murderer and wow is he good in this show.

Anyway, like I said, I love K-dramas because I find them incredibly comforting. Unlike in many Western TV shows, nothing is too graphic. Nothing is too over-the-top. I’m no prude and I don’t care about violence in my fiction, but there’s something very reassuring about knowing you aren’t going to see a borderline-pornographic sex scene in the show you’re watching.

Dear reader, let me clue you in on another secret: I have never dated. Never been kissed. I’m a huge romantic but have issues with physical affection. I also have pretty severe anxiety and was emotionally abused by my father for my entire life until his death seven months ago.

I will readily admit these things to the internet, because I’m not ashamed of them. I’m also willing to bet this one one of the main reasons why I love K-dramas as much as I do. The romantic leads in these stories aren’t threatening. Their masculinity doesn’t look like the toxic masculinity we often see in Western media. Are a lot of the male leads in dramas trashbags? Yes. Do they often repent in the end and change their behavior by the end? Also yes.

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Strong Girl Bong Soon is a great example of how relationships and masculinity are treated in dramas. Park Hyung-sik’s character LOVES BONG SOON SO MUCH and isn’t afraid to show it.

I know K-dramas have a reputation for their ridiculous romantic plotlines and jerky male leads, but for me, it’s acceptable, even comforting to watch a romantic relationship blossom between two characters without having to see the extremes of these relationships. While I appreciate newer dramas and their more accepting approaches to sex (The Smile Has Left Your Eyes is a good example of this), I always have room in my heart for a romance that doesn’t quite go there.

In addition to romantic relationships, familial relationships are always a huge part of dramas.  This is definitely a West vs East thing, because we white Westerners don’t tend to put as much energy into our familial relationships than, say, a Korean person might. Family just isn’t built into the fabric of our culture like it is elsewhere in the world. Here dramas are, representing yet another thing I’ve never truly had in my life.

K-dramas, for me, are so much more than dramatic soap operas with ridiculous plotlines and good clothes. They’re a comfort, a form of entertainment that I know I can rely on to help me feel better when times are tough. Even the more serious dramas, like SKY Castle, fill me with a joy I can’t quite put into words.

TL;DR? Try watching a K-drama on Netflix.

You might just find something you love.

 

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