When I first watched Goblin four years ago, I loved it so much, and it was so mindboggling to me at the time.
I’m actually rewatching Goblin right now (first time since it came out), and I still enjoy it, it’s still one of my favorite dramas of all time, and the feels are still amazing (and the cinematography and aesthetic still stands out), but the second time felt slightly less spectacular than the first time I watched it.
It’s odd because this is one of the only TV shows that I can tell you the plot of, explain the character arcs, defend any criticisms (like the age chasm; I can write about that below for the sake of putting it out there), etc.
I remember it so well, and I remember it with such a specific lens, with such specific emotions and thoughts. It’s like a memory, a well-maintained one. As I’m rewatching it right now, there’s a slight foreign feel to the experience.
I know many people who often work on fanfictions that face this dilemma, as their minds wander and deviate from the original plot, whether it’s with character changes or alternate endings, etc., and then when they come back to the show, they’re often shocked, or even averted from it.
But the thing is, with Goblin, I never really explored further beyond the show, but I still feel this way.
In essence, I’m still enjoying the show after a long time, but it just isn’t the same, and many things could be to blame. I get that. I’m an adult now, I have more life experience, my worldview is different, my drama preferences have changed, etc.
But I would love to ask about your thoughts on this dilemma.
Have you rewatched any dramas, either ones that you stopped early or finished completely; ones you love or ones you can tolerate, etc.? Do you have a specific guide to rewatching anything? Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever fallen out of love with a drama after rewatching it?
I actually forgot to add a sentence about a “slice of life” lens that I needed to adapt for my Goblin rewatch, shifting from a previous lens of expecting plot-heavy drama; point being, have you ever needed to change your viewing lens/perspective during a rewatch, either for the fun or it or because that’s required for an optimal rewatch?
Thanks for your question! Rewatching dramas can be a very interesting experience for sure, sometimes giving us outcomes that we didn’t expect, going in.
I rarely rewatch dramas these days since there are always newer and shinier shows on the horizon fighting for a spot on my drama plate (though with the Group Watches becoming A Thing on the site, that’s kinda changing), so the examples I have to share aren’t actually that many.
The way I look at it, there are two main factors or players in this relationship: you, and the drama you’re rewatching. In the sections below, I’ll attempt to break it down in a way that makes sense, and is helpful, at least to some degree.
Everyone, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts, insights and stories in the comments! 🥰
FACTOR ONE: I, THE VIEWER
Our Personal context
As you’ve rightly pointed out in your question, we as viewers don’t stay the same. People rarely ever do; we just can’t help it.
Over time, we gain life experience, which changes the way we view things.
We also gain drama experience as we watch other dramas, which also changes the way we might view a once beloved drama. Things that might have once felt fantastically amazing and novel, might actually now strike us as tired and clichéd.
Case in point, I watched Boys Over Flowers back in 2009 when it aired, and I was swept up in BOF fever along with everyone else. I thought Kim Hyun Joong as Ji Hoo was so cool and melty, and I slurped up all of the episodes without a second thought.
Now, though, as many of you know, I can’t bear even one episode of this show. When I attempted a rewatch some years ago, y’know, for old times’ sake, I found everything really cringey, not least Kim Hyun Joong as Ji Hoo. Whoops. 😝
The thing is, Show hadn’t changed; it’s the exact same show that I’d watched back in 2009.
But I had changed; my tastes in dramas had changed; the dramaverse and the type of dramas it produced had changed too. BOF just didn’t have any appeal to me, anymore.
Another show that’s suffered the same fate with me, is 2010’s Secret Garden.
At the same time, I feel that personal nostalgia plays a big part in how we experience a drama rewatch. For example, almost every drama fan will admit to having a huge soft spot for their gateway drama, flaws and all.
After all, how can you not have a soft spot for the show that started it all, right?
On that note, I think this gateway affection would also apply to the drama that introduced you to the awesomeness of a bias.
I’d imagine that, hypothetically speaking, if your bias was Lee Min Ho, for example, and if you’d first watched him in Boys Over Flowers, then you’d most likely be a lot more forgiving of BOF’s flaws, and you’d also mostly likely enjoy a rewatch of BOF more than I would, heh.
My gateway drama was 2006’s Goong (review here), and I have a great deal of nostalgic affection for that show. I’ve watched it 6 times now, and I have enjoyed it every time, even though I am cognizant of its flaws.
It just brings back all of those early giddy feels, and that’s priceless. 🤩
To be fair, Chuno’s an excellent show all on its own (more on that in a bit), but I will always have an extra fondness for it, because it introduced me to the amazingness that is Jang Hyuk. 😍
Our ability to switch lenses
This doesn’t apply to everyone, because not everyone actually feels that it’s worthwhile to play with the idea of adjusting their viewing lens, but I have found that adjusting my viewing lens can make or break a drama, for me.
Case in point, 2009’s You’re Beautiful, which I watched with a strict analytical lens when it first came out – and which caused me to hate the show.
I found the logic lapses ridiculous and insulting to my intelligence (ooh, snooty hoity-toity me! 😏), and I essentially rage-watched it to the very end, oops. 😝
However, thankfully, I was intrigued enough by everyone’s rave reactions, to give the show another try, some months after my initial watch.
I read other viewers’ comments on what they enjoyed about the show, adjusted my lens accordingly to something much more campy and silly, and was shocked – shocked, I tell ya! – by how much fun I had, on my rewatch.
Suddenly, the logic lapses were funny instead of insulting, and I had a grand time.
Huh. Who woulda thunk it, eh? 😉
I do think that a more open-minded approach to dramas, and a willingness to try on different viewing lenses to find one that works, can open up a world of possibilities, not just with current watches, but with rewatches as well.
I personally think that’s so cool, because even without Dramaland producing more shows, you get to enjoy so many more dramas. 😉
Our ability to appreciate the actual dialogue
This might not be true of everyone, but over the years, I’ve found that I’ve picked up a good amount of Korean while enjoying my Korean dramas (you can read more about my perhaps unfair Korean-learning advantage here).
What this meant, is that sometimes, while revisiting shows some years after I’d first watched them, I’d find myself understanding a lot more of the dialogue, which made for a much richer watch experience.
Case in point, 2002’s Winter Sonata, which I’d first watched very early in my drama journey. At the time, I was fully dependent on the subtitles provided in the DVD box set, and had no idea that I might be missing out on nuances not reflected in the subtitles.
Some years later (maybe 5 or so years later?), I decided on a whim that I’d like to rewatch Winter Sonata, and found to my utter surprise, that the dialogue was a lot richer than what was reflected in the subtitles.
Woah. 🤯 It felt like I was watching a whole new drama, almost, and it was great.
I had a similar experience with Goong, where I realized on a rewatch, that certain key scenes were actually more significant than the subtitles suggested (I translate those in my review of Goong, which you can find here).
What a fantastic find, to have my gateway drama come alive with additional reasons to squee! 😍😉
A simple but important personal factor, I’ve found, is our mood. Sometimes, we’re just not in the right mood to enjoy a show, and if we were to power through despite not being in the mood for it, we’d likely not end up having a very good time at all.
So if you weren’t in the right mood on your first watch, but found yourself in the zone on your second watch, it’s highly possible that you’d enjoy the show much better on your second watch (and vice versa, of course).
When I’d first attempted 2018’s Terius Behind Me (review here), I was definitely not in the right mood, and I came away after a few minutes of episode 1, feeling convinced that this drama wasn’t a good fit for me.
Happily, though, I thought to give Show a second try, based on the very positive reactions that I’d seen from other viewers, and I ended up enjoying it a great deal.
It’s arguably my favorite outing of So Ji Sub‘s, to date, and I’m so glad I didn’t end up missing out because of my mood. 😅
Our watch environment
Last but not least, I wanted to mention that our watch environment can make a huge difference to how we experience our dramas, and this applies to rewatches as well.
Traditionally, I’ve mostly watched my dramas in my own bubble, at my own pace, so it’s only recently, that I’ve really dived into the community watch experience.
With our recent group watch of Chuno (details and Open Thread links here), I was delighted and blown away by just how rich the community experience is, with everyone bringing their own insights, knowledge and thoughts to share, every step of the way. 🥰
This was my third watch of Chuno, and the community experience legit made Chuno feel more fresh to my eyes than I’d thought possible. How fantastic is that, that an awesome drama is now even more awesome, to my eyes? 🤩
PS: If anyone’s keen to try out the group watch experience, we happen to be just starting group watches for Dr. Romantic and Money Flower. Details are here, do join, everyone – even if you’ve watched the shows before. 😉
FACTOR TWO: THE SHOW ITSELF
The other big factor in this whole rewatch equation, is the show itself. Can the show stand up to a rewatch?
When we approach a rewatch with a more discerning, experienced eye, some dramas inadvertently crumble. This is because our more informed eyes can’t help but spot flaws that we’d missed the first time, but seem glaring now.
And, if we don’t happen to be wearing forgiving, nostalgic lenses to buffer it all, this can be quite a sad, disillusioning sort of experience. 😬
This is why it’s perhaps better to leave some dramas as they are, and not risk sullying your happy memories of them with a rewatch, I think.
On the other hand, some dramas are well able to withstand the test of time, and I tend to think that these are dramas which are objectively outstanding.
For example, I feel 2015 C-drama Nirvana In Fire is an all-around masterpiece (augh, so glorious!), and multiple people have told me that they’ve watched the show many times.
My mum has watched it 5 times now, and she says that she picks up on new details each time; it’s just that rich. 🤩
With shows like this, a rewatch will always be a rewarding experience, I think. ❤️
I hope you find this post useful, and that it helps you gain some insight into your own rewatch experience!
Also, it occurs to me that you might also find this Dear kfangurl post, on what makes a drama addictively re-watchable, and this Musings post, on what makes drama crack stay fresh or turn stale, interesting. 😊
Like I mentioned earlier, everyone, please feel free to add your own thoughts, insights and experiences in the comments below. As they say, sharing is caring. 🥰
I hope this post helps!
1. If you feel that I missed anything, or if you have your own insights that you’d like to share with the rest of us, do tell us about it in the comments!
2. Do you have a question of your own? Drop me a comment here or on the Dear kfangurl page, or send me an email!