I am now a kdrama fan for quite a few years with several dramas under my cap. Of late, I feel that I’ve grown too critical. The kdrama world is no longer my escapist fantasy and stress buster. I keep nit picking. I feel disappointed (there’s that magic charm missing) by recent dramas (True Beauty, Lovestruck in the City just a few examples). I would have enjoyed these premises earlier. Should I just keep watching old dramas? Can you help?
Thanks for your question! It just so happens that I’ve been ruminating along similar lines lately, not because of a personal sense of jadedness with dramas (thankfully), but because of what I’ve been observing in conversations among drama fans around me. So your question comes at a perfect time! 😉
I happen to find myself in the happy – though admittedly quite rare – position, of still enjoying my dramas a great deal, even though it’s been 14 years since I started consuming them seriously.
That said, the progression of going from a casual viewer to a more critical one is perfectly natural, so you’re not alone! In this post, I’d like to explore this, and offer some personal tips and suggestions for how to mitigate the natural process of becoming more critical, while still preserving your love for and enjoyment of dramas.
Everyone, please feel free to chime in with your own thoughts, insights and stories in the comments! 🥰
Also, you may have already noticed this, but I’m taking this opportunity to spam you all with (at least somewhat relevant) screenshots from 18 Again, because it’s a wonderful, lovely show, and I hope you’ll watch it, if you haven’t yet!
A FEW THINGS ABOUT BEING CRITICAL
Just to be clear, it’s not a bad thing to be able to critique a show’s shortcomings. The fact that you’re able to critique a show, means that you’re growing in knowledge and awareness, and probably also learning to make correlations between your dramas and real life.
However, I’ve found that there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. As you might have found from your own experience, nitpicking at a drama not only spoils your own enjoyment, it potentially spoils others’ enjoyment too.
What I found about nitpicking is, if you set out to see flaws in a show (or even a person, for that matter), you will always find something to criticize. This is a negative sort of spiral, because the more you nitpick, the more aggravated you’ll be, and the more aggravated you are, the more stuff you’ll find to nitpick.
This is why I generally don’t enjoy reading reviews or recaps that are particularly snarky. The post might be intended to be fun, but for me, it just lands as a way of increasing negativity, and it also has the effect of spoiling – or at least dampening – the watch experience for me.
To be clear, this isn’t the same as having a balanced critique of a show, where you’re able to point out Show’s strengths as well as its weaknesses. That’s something that I don’t mind reading, because then it doesn’t come across as an attack on the show in question (and that’s why I try to offer a balanced look at each drama that I review).
You might also find my Musings post on my evolution as a drama viewer interesting, and tangentially relevant to this topic. 😊
MY PERSONAL APPROACH: 10 THINGS THAT WORK FOR ME
Here’s a quick rundown on the various tips and techniques that I personally use, to maximize my enjoyment of my dramas.
After watching them seriously for so long, and writing about them for almost as long, there are definitely some challenges that I face, in keeping the drama love alive. And yes, there are times when I feel a little burned out, not gonna lie. However, the fact that, after all is said and done, I still do love my dramas, even after all this time, is testament to the fact that these tips do work.
I hope you’ll find them useful!
1. The right attitude
I kind of referred to this earlier, but I can’t stress enough, how important it is to bring the right attitude with you, when you approach a drama. Avoid bringing an overly critical attitude with you when watching a drama, because if you keep looking for things to criticize, you will find them.
On the other hand, if you bring a more nurturing attitude with you, where you’re looking for things that Show is doing right, and are able to give Show the benefit of the doubt, when you notice flaws during your watch, you’d have a much better chance of enjoying what Show has to offer.
Notice that you aren’t blind to Show’s flaws; you can see them, and still choose to focus more on the things that Show is doing right.
2. The viewing lens
The viewing lens is one of my most useful tools, to be honest. More often than not, when a show isn’t immediately working for me, a suitable adjustment in my viewing lens can take a watch experience from meh to great, and it’s quite remarkable, what a difference the right viewing lens can make.
Sometimes it does take me a while to find the right viewing lens, so I make an effort to be patient with finding the right lens. If a second lens doesn’t quite work out, I try a third, and maybe even a fourth. Sure, sometimes a show just doesn’t work for me, no matter what lens I try, but with this process, I find that I end up enjoying many more shows than otherwise.
For example, I found 2018’s Are You Human Too? SO much more fun with an absurdist lens, and 2009’s You’re Beautiful went from “This is stupid” in my head, to “This is fabulous!” when I put on an OTT, manhwa lens. Also, shout-out to Oh Hae Young Again, which (I felt) was mis-marketed as a rom-com, when a melancholic melodrama lens works so much better, to bring out what Show has to offer.
3. The importance of being flexible
I think it’s helpful to keep an open mind in terms of how to interpret what a show is doing.
[HIGH-LEVEL SPOILERS FOR MR. QUEEN]
For example, in Mr. Queen, our male protagonist lands in the body of a queen, and Show, in the interest of developing a loveline between the king and queen, decides to eventually cause a meshing of the male protagonist’s personality with his female host; ie, the two become one.
Some viewers had problems with this, along the lines of whether this was fair to our male lead, and what implications this had, in relation to issues like personal agency and gender dysphoria. Some viewers also expressed discomfort at a scene where a doctor is shown dismissing the queen’s concerns, albeit with good intentions.
Personally, while I can see where these viewers are coming from, I find that thinking too hard or too long along those lines, has the effect of spoiling the pleasure of the watch, while a different way of looking at it is helpful.
I decided to take a simpler approach to this, and just see it as our queen being encouraged to accept herself for who she is, and this landed a lot better. Also, I do think it’s a very valid idea, that we continue to change and evolve over time, and as we do so, it’s important that we learn to embrace ourselves, rather than fight ourselves. I also rationalized that if our male protagonist was to be truly comfortable and content while inhabiting his new body, that he would need to accept his new self, for what it is.
With this tweak in how I viewed what Show was doing with the character, I was able to continue enjoying my watch of Mr. Queen, rather than be troubled by possible dark undertones.
4. Managing expectations
I find that it’s helpful to manage our expectations, and here are two big ways in which I tend to manage mine.
First of all, I think it’s helpful to remember that not every show is going to sweep us off our feet, and that even if a show doesn’t have that magical x-factor that leaves you breathlessly wanting more, it can still be a solidly enjoyable watch.
Second of all, I think it’s helpful to figure out what Show is trying to be, vs. what we want it to be, and manage our expectations accordingly.
For example, I think many viewers were expecting Sisyphus to be a much more serious, more tightly written story, and were disappointed to find that it isn’t quite that, at all. Rather than be disappointed by that and either rage-watch the show or drop it altogether, I’ve found that a space opera lens has been really helpful in allowing me to enjoy Sisyphus for what it wants to be, rather than what I’d hoped it would be. Once I adjusted my expectations (and my lens) accordingly, I’ve been enjoying my watch of Sisyphus a lot more.
5. Be willing to try new things
This is pretty general, but I find that being willing to try new things has been helpful in my quest to enjoy my dramas as much as possible.
As you might already know, rom-coms, melodramas and slice-of-life are the types of dramas that I naturally gravitate towards, with the odd soft spot for high-school stories. If I were to only check out shows that fall into these categories, however, I would’ve missed out on so many good watches.
For example, I’m not big into crime or action shows as a general rule, but I really enjoyed 2014’s Bad Guys. And even though I generally don’t think of myself as a makjang fan, I really found 2019’s The Last Empress a rollercoaster of a good time.
On a related tangent, while it doesn’t always reap rewards, I’ve found that sometimes, giving actors, writers &/or PDs another chance is totally worth it. For example, you guys probably know I really, really didn’t take to 2018’s Something In The Rain. So when the same writer-PD team came out with 2019’s One Spring Night, starring the same male lead, no less, I was.. hesitant, to say the least. But, following my morbid curiosity turned out to be a really great decision, because I ended up genuinely enjoying One Spring Night.
6. Don’t be too influenced by popular opinion
Sometimes you might like something that others don’t, and vice versa, so don’t be too quick to judge a show without actually checking it out yourself.
For example, lots of viewers were really mad at 2018’s The Third Charm, but I ended up really enjoying it, when I watched it. And, lots of viewers were very vocal about how boring 2020’s Do You Like Brahms? was, but I personally loved how Show managed the characterization of its introverted characters, and the development of their relationships.
If I’d blindly followed the very loud waves of popular opinion, I would have missed out on these shows, and that would have been such a pity.
7. Be patient
I totally understand the desire to watch a show that grabs your heart and soul; that kind of watch experience is precious indeed.
I say, be patient, and those gems will come. Many viewers grumble about how Dramaland is full of tropey, unoriginal dramas, and while it’s true that there seem to be more uninspiring dramas to sift through now compared to before, it’s also true that every so often, Dramaland gifts us with something special.
Back in 2017, I went through a drama slump, where most of the dramas that were out there, just weren’t doing it for me. But then Father Is Strange came out, and it reeled me right in, with its warmth and its quirky characters. And then, in 2018, the absolutely wonderful My Mister arrived in Dramaland. Imagine if I’d quit Dramaland in 2017? I would’ve probably never watched My Mister, and that would have been a tragedy indeed. 😱
So I say, be patient while waiting for those gems – and then savor them when you find them. ❤️
8. Explore older gems when newer dramas aren’t grabbing you.
Sometimes it’s helpful to reach into the annals of Dramaland, when newer offerings aren’t doing it for you. There are lots of great older shows to choose from, especially for those of us who are relatively new to dramas. And, if you go back far enough, those early dramas can feel like a breath of fresh air, because narrative patterns and drama tropes weren’t even in place yet.
For example, 2000’s All About Eve was made long enough ago, that I found it a relatively trope-free refreshing watch, where couple dynamics even leaned rather healthy. No unnecessary prolonged misunderstandings in this one, that I can recall! 😉
You can also check my Full List, for more inspiration.
9. Don’t be too disappointed when a drama doesn’t work out the way you want it to.
Dramaland’s always serving up new dramas, and, adding on the extensive anthology of existing shows, there are literally thousands of dramas to choose from.
So, don’t be too disappointed when a drama doesn’t work out for you the way you want it to. Coz there are always more dramas out there, ready for a chance to win your heart.
10. Take a break and switch it up
Last but not least, I find that it’s helpful to stay in touch with how you feel.
If you notice that you’re feeling a bit jaded with the dramas you’re watching, it can be a nice change of pace to either take a break, or switch things up by sampling some variety, movies, other countries’ dramas, or other genres of drama.
They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder; I’ve often found that taking a break from my dramas by doing or watching something else for a bit, can make dramas feel that much fresher and funner, when I do eventually go back to them. And as you’ve seen, I do always go back to them. ❤️
I hope you find this post useful, and that it helps you with some ideas on how to best enjoy your dramas. You might also find this Dear kfangurl post, on how I pick dramas to watch, useful &/or 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!