I came to k-dramas late in life. I had just retired. I had little time during my working life to really enjoy watching television or leisurely surfing the internet. So when I retired I plan to make up for lost time. With the help of my Favorite Nephew I got myself setup. I soon found that the television programs available was not very entertaining( must be generational thing). I struck gold with the internet. I was able to starting steaming some of my old favorites.
It was while I was checking out the HULU site that I came across a genre called K-Dramas. It was a whole new universe. My first drama was a costume one. I loved the costume dramas on PBS so I was curious to see what a Korean one would be like. The drama I chose, as my first foray into k-dramas was “The Moon Embracing the Sun”. I was in love by the end of the first episode. With each new episode I wanted to know more about history behind the drama, the music and the actors. I did not know that it was going to be one hell of a magical journey and along the way I would become a fan-girl to K-pop idol,( at my age) discover Japanese anime and manga.
As I continued on my journey of discovery, it soon became apparent that I would have to change my whole concept of the drama in western terms. The Asian culture requires a different set of rules and mind set.
When I started this blog, it was with the intention of chronicling my adventures as I discovery Korean/Asian dramas and culture.. What I did not anticipate was life’s other little detours. These little detours demanded a cut into my drama and blogging time. Well.. I am back on track and will try to pick up where I left off.
When I said a different mind set and rules I meant that the basic plot structure is there, but how it is deliver is totally different. In the Moon Embracing the Sun, I was confronted with a love story, with more twist and court intrigue then Romeo and Juliet and a little of Dallas thrown in for good measure. Love triangles, wicked mothers, fathers, assorted relatives,evil villains coming out of the woodworks.
I soon learned that this plot holds for all k-dramas. You have your parental/children conflicts complicated by siblings rivalry usual over a love interest or inheritance. But central to all of this is class or social inequality. Imagine, an American soap opera minus the overt sex dressed up in gorgeous costumes, in the case of the comtemptary dramas the latest fashsions over layed with an incredible music sound track. The acting in many cases is quite outstanding given the amount of emotional dredging done. Even the comedies can have you crying from time to time. It changed my whole concept of the drama in western terms. As I said Asian culture requires a different set of rules.
The first thing I noticed, as each episode of TMBS(The Moon embracing the sun) proceed that there was two protagonists. This seem to be standard for all Asian dramas. In the course of the drama they will trade roles of being the antagonist or protagonists, depending on the plot. In Western drama this rarely if even happens.
Each plots/drama has a basic theme regardless of what type of drama or era it is:
1) The hero/heroine must over come many obstacles. These obstacles vary depending on which era the drama takes place. They range from clash of class and culture to politic, religion and fantasy with a little supernatural thrown in.
2) Family/love conflicts: There will always be some sort of family conflict going on between parent and child, between siblings and illegitimate sibling (every drama has one or two). There is the conflict between rich and the poor ( this is a constant theme). The main conflict of all, the love triangle (sometime a four way).
3) The Mistaken Identity: Every culture’s literature has it, but Asian drama like to mixed it up a bit with gender blending, body swapping and cross dressing. The best example of this is The Coffee Prince, My Secret Garden, The Painter of the Wind and The King and the clown. It is never played explicitly except in The King and the Clown and even then it was pretty tame by western standard.
The Korean drama fall in to categories of Dramas and Melodramas. They, in turn, has many sub categories. This can be very misleading if you try to apply the western definition. An example is when a drama is listed as melodrama it can be either a romantic drama/comedy or a suspense/comedy and so on. Even the must dramatic drama seen to have a little comedy relief.
An example is the current 2016 hit “Goblin: the lonely and great god”. It combines supernatural with fantasy set in both present and the past. Offset with great acting and just the right fashion and music background to keep the viewer’s attention. It had lots of comedic moments balance with the dramatic (tear jerking) moments standard for any K-drama.
One of the biggest different with K-dramas is the male actors ability to cry and still remain masculine. You do not find many western dramas that require that much emotional emoting in a single drama. I think it is that ability to show that emotional side what attracts so many non Asian females to these dramas and also because absence of overt sex.
I know as a female, I am attracted to a man who is comfortable in his own masculinity to openly show emotion. I want to be treated with respect and not feel threaten. I think a lots of the female viewers of these drama wish for an OPPA( special male friend). This respect or restraint is show even in the crime/gangster dramas.
I am not saying that all k drama lacks sex but they leaves a lot to the viewer imagination. That is not the case for Asian/Korean theatrical dramas/movies, case in point, “A Man and a Woman”. I was quite surprise by the two sex scenes. Again they were not as explicit as some western sex scenes can b, but because of the direction and acting it was very erotic.
I have spent the past year emerging myself in “Hallyu” the phenomenon of the spread of Korean POP culture.
K-dramas have become a fast growing fad outside of Asia. It is being fueled by the number of k-pop idols entering the acting scene. I will be blogging later on, about my journey as a “Fan Girl”( groupie with an Asian twist)to a k-pop idol and on k-pop.
I know I have not touch on other Asian dramas. It is not that I have not been watching them, it just many of them tend toward a formal stylized format that reflect their ancient heritage. The Chinese, Thai and Indian dramas are tend to incorporate that in their modern dramas. Their dramas are vastly different to western dramas and the Korean drama. I find Korean dramas borrow from all of them but wrap it in a better package. It is quite amazing but K-dramas are more popular in those countries.
They have taken notice and I have seen in some of the more recent dramas from other Asian countries that they are leaning toward a looser style. And if I am completely honest I have to mute them. It is the sound of some of the languages that are distracting, specially the Chinese. And so I lose a lot when I can not hear the emotion in the dialogue and the dramas are not as appealing to me when viewed that way. . I am working on getting past this and hope to have a full list of other Asian dramas to recommend.
Like any drama fanatic I have my favorite dramas and stars:
The Moon Embracing The Sun- Kim Soo Hyun
My Love From Another Star-
The Good Doctor-Joo Won
Marriage Contract- Lee Seo Jin
Scarlet Heart: Ryeo(Korean ver.) Lee Joon Ki
The King and the Clown-
Goblin: the lonely and great god- Gong yoo
A Man and a Woman-
Train to Busan-
These are just a sample of some of my favorite dramas and stars. Along the way I have discovered a lot of interesting things about Asian culture, Korea in particular.
I hope you have enjoyed my journey,which is on going. I leave you with the must used cliché in k-drama “FIGHTING” ( loosely it mean “hang in there”).
Senior signing off for now!