Dear kfangurl: Is my love for kdrama frivolous?

Lali writes:

Dear KFG

Greetings! Hope you’re doing okay in these uncertain times. Recently, I was asked by a friend why people are watching a lot of kdrama these days and I found myself groping for a good answer. I couldn’t really gush with goggly eyes as I would before a fellow kdrama enthusiast. There’s the matter of availability and good looking actors, but that didn’t really feel to be at the heart of it. I also felt angry at myself for feeling apologetic about my drama choices (the person’s what you’d call a “serious” type and I didn’t want to be an object of his condescension). Does this mean I subconsciously subscribe to the notion of kdramas somehow not being up to the mark? I have been agonising about this for a while now. I want to be able to watch what I like without feeling guilty or hesitant to acknowledge my love for it to the world. And I could think of nobody better than you to provide a thoughtful answer to my predicament. The next time I come across this question, I’d like to bank on your eloquence and insights, please!

Let’s talk about this..

Dear Lali,

I feel you on this one, and quite a lot, in fact.

When I first started this blog, I’d felt awkward about it too, because I felt like people – especially people at work, or just more serious people in general – would find my interest in dramas frivolous and stupid. As a result of this, I kept this blog a secret for a good several years, before starting to be more open about it. As my friend Josh put it, I ought to be loud and proud, about the blog, and my passion for drama, and I’m glad I finally found the confidence to do that, even if it was a little late in the coming.

It occurs to me that since you sent me this question, a lot has changed in the world, in terms of the general public’s perception of kdramas, what with the world domination of Squid Game and everything. Suddenly, a lot more people have become open to the idea of watching kdramas, and perhaps by now, your friend’s perceptions have evolved, along with everyone else’s.

However, I thought that it’d still be worthwhile weighing in on the subject.

You might also find my post on “Why do we like kdramas?” and my post on dramas where we can learn about Korean culture &/or history relevant to your topic of concern.

As always, if you guys have other insights, perspective or stories to add, please share them in the comments!

MYTH VS. REALITY

That’s Myth on the right, and Reality on the left – and that’s us in the middle, tryna stop the Myth in its tracks! 😂

I thought a potentially useful way to discuss this, is to touch on the various myths that the general public tends to subscribe to, when it comes to kdramas.

Myth #1

Myth: They’re basically soap operas.

Reality: Perhaps it’s not such a widely held belief, now that Squid Game‘s taken over the world, but for a long time, I feel like many non-kdrama watchers believed that kdramas are basically soap operas. The truth is, there are many genres of Korean dramas, including but not limited to: action, crime, thriller, medical, legal, fantasy, sci-fi, melodramas, rom-coms, slice-of-life and more. There’s quite literally something for everyone.

Myth #2

Myth: There are only fluffy shows available.

Reality: Yes, Dramaland does offer a lot of fluffy options, but the truth is, there are many serious shows to choose from as well. And then there’s the thing where you can sometimes glean a lot of insights from shows that appear fluffy on the surface. Ergo, fluffy does not necessarily equate without substance.

Myth #3

Myth: They are only for bored housewives.

Reality: Bored housewives may have been the main demographic of drama fans many years ago, but that has definitely changed, over the years. In actual fact, there are many very professionally qualified people within the fandom who enjoy kdramas – including typically serious types like lawyers, professors, scientists, IT professionals and more.

Myth #4

Myth: It’s frivolous to watch fluffy shows.

Reality: The truth is, everyone’s entitled to enjoy light entertainment, if they feel like it. There’s literally nothing wrong with it. Many drama fans are equally capable of enjoying a frothy gumdrop of a show, as they are adept at analyzing an arthouse masterpiece. The fact that you find enjoyment in something fluffy, does not make you a person without substance.

Myth #5

Myth: It’s a waste of time.

Reality: The world at large values busy-ness as a state of being, and might be tempted to make fun of you for spending time on dramas, that you could be investing elsewhere. The truth is, everyone’s entitled to downtime. Plus, there’s the thing where you tend to learn a lot, while watching dramas, including but not limited to the country’s language, culture, and history. On top of that, there’s a lot that you can learn about what it means to be human.

A SAMPLING OF EXCELLENT DRAMAS ACROSS A RANGE OF GENRES 

Here’s a selection of very good dramas of various genres, that you might like to suggest to your friend. Of course, not all shows are for everyone, but I’d like to think that even the pickiest viewer would be able to find at least one thing to enjoy, from this list.

Bad Guys

I’m including this one because it’s very different from kdrama’s general reputation; it’s slick, gritty and fierce, and has enough testosterone in it to differentiate it from the “housewives’ soap opera” sort of label. A touch melodramatic in spots, but manages to be heartening and uplifting, even in the midst of its gritty swag.

Review is here.

Beyond Evil [Monster]

This one won Best Drama at this year’s Baeksang Arts Awards for a reason. It’s tightly written, compelling, and nuanced, and makes for an absorbing watch that engages both the heart and mind.

Review is here.

Chuno [Slave Hunter]

Magnificently lush and beautifully filmed, I feel that Chuno has a kind of operatic appeal, in that it strikes a powerful, emotional chord, as it tells its expansive story. It’s an excellently absorbing watch with lots of outstanding performances. Plus, there’s lots to chew on theme-wise, in this one, if you’re so inclined.

Review is here. Open Threads are listed here.

Circle

If your friend is interested in sci-fi, Circle is worth a look. It has its flaws, but it manages to be interesting and mysterious, while remaining emotionally engaging and thought-provoking, all the way through to the end.

Flash Review is here.

D.P. (Deserter Pursuit)

This.. is basically the opposite of fluffy, heh. I haven’t finished this one yet, but from what I’ve seen, this is very, very solid. It’s a gritty, unvarnished look at military service in South Korea, and the systemic problems that soldiers face.

Update: Review is here.

Designated Survivor: 60 Days

A remake of the American original, Show does a great job adapting the story to its Korean context, and is a great example of a politically themed show with broad appeal. Show leans idealistic, but it’s so compelling, well-paced, and emotionally engaging, and altogether stirring, that it doesn’t even matter.

Flash Review is here.

Healer

This is a great example of a show that feels like it’s got something for everyone. There’s action, romance, mystery, and melodrama, and Show is solid, on each of those fronts. A fun ride that  isn’t frothy, Show actually feels solid all the way through.

Review is here.

Into The Ring

Another politically-themed drama, this time at the municipal level. The humor is quirky, and the romance is secondary; Show’s main focus is one woman’s passion, and her personal journey, to honor that passion.

Review is here.

Joseon X-Files

A sci-fi drama that’s smartly written, and so quintessentially Korean. If your friend is into sci-fi at all, he should try to find this one.

Kingdom

I haven’t seen this one myself, but I know for a fact that this one has a broad appeal, because it’s the show that non-drama fans would talk to me about, out of the blue. Unfailingly, they’d tell me that they thought it was very good, and that they liked it a lot.

Life On Mars

A remake of the UK series “Life On Mars,” this one comes across as quintessentially Korean, both in sensibility and in its use of Korean history as its context. Really well done, with great performances from its cast, and very much worth checking out.

Flash Review is here.

Lost [Human Disqualification]

I’m still watching this one, but it’s so much the opposite of fluffy, that I had to mention it.

Show is achingly slow and melancholic, but is also hauntingly compelling, at the same time. From the get-go, it’s rich with thought-provoking ideas and themes that have to do with the state of being human. Lots to think about and lots to feel, in this one.

Review is coming!

Misaeng

A slice-of-life dramatization of the trials and tribulations, joys and foibles, of being a white collar office worker in South Korea. It’s noteworthy, that this one resonated deeply with office workers across Korea, while its characters captured the hearts and imaginations of viewers around the world.

Review is here.

Move To Heaven

A compact little series that uses trauma cleaning as a means to explore the delicate topic of death, as well as what it means to live. At the same time, Show also shines the spotlight on various societal issues, as it tells its story. Poignant and bittersweet, yet somehow still soothing to the soul.

Review is here.

My Mister

A beautiful, thoughtful, masterpiece of a show, that explores what it means to be human. Show manages to feel dark, real and gritty, and also, warm, beautiful and hopeful, all at the same time. A transcendental drama experience.

Review is here.

My Name

I haven’t seen this one, but have heard that it is very solid. Also, it’s the next buzzy thing after Squid Game, so I thought it would be remiss of me not to mention it. It’s also the opposite of fluffy, with its focus on vengeance. Reportedly, the acting, direction, and fight choreography is excellent.

Navillera

Heartfelt, poignant and aspirational, this drama is still in the running to be my drama of the year, despite this year serving up quite a few excellent shows. A wonderful story of dreams, and of love, and of humanity.

Review is here.

Sandglass

I haven’t seen this one, but it’s been widely acknowledged as an iconic work that gives audiences a good look at the 1970s and 1980s, one of Korea’s politically tumultuous periods, with the Gwangju Uprising as a key narrative point.

Secret Love Affair

An arthouse sort of masterpiece, Show is not only absorbing on the merit of the story around its leads, it also gives us a good look at the workings of the upper echelons of society. A rich, intricate work where there is lots to mine, if you are so inclined.

Review is here, and Open Threads listed here.

Signal

I haven’t finished this one myself, but Show is widely praised for being well-written, absorbing, and edge-of-your-seat compelling. Also, as a crime thriller with a fantasy twist, there’s nothing light or fluffy about this one.

Six Flying Dragons

Full disclosure that I didn’t personally love this one. However, Show has legions of fans, who adore it for a wide range of reasons, among them the writing, the acting, and the overall execution. This is also a good glimpse into Korean history, since it explores the founding of the Joseon dynasty.

SKY Castle

A compelling social satire that manages to make its characters come alive, even as it makes its cutting social commentary, via its dysfunctional, social-climbing characters. Solid, and very much worth a look.

Review is here.

Squid Game

How could I leave this off the list, since Squid Game’s quickly becoming many viewers’ gateway into kdrama? It’s bloodthirsty, but it’s much more than a simple bloodbath. The story is engaging and well-told, and the characters are flawed yet (mostly) sympathetic. Plus, there’s lots of thoughtful social commentary to be had as well, if you’re so inclined to engage with it.

Review is here.

Stove League

A solid, heartwarming underdog story that should be appealing, even to non-sports fans. If your friend is a baseball fan, definitely recommend this one to him. It’s heartfelt and engaging, with excellent performances from the cast.

Flash Review is here.

Stranger [Secret Forest]

This show is widely loved and widely acknowledged to have the much coveted trifecta of great writing, great directing and great acting. I’m still watching this one, but I have to say, it does live up to the hype.

Open Threads listed here.

Sweet Home

I’ve got Sweet Home here, just for the fact that it’s horror and therefore the opposite of light or fluffy. Also, aside from the bloody horror stuff (which I think really isn’t that bad), Show is thought-provoking too, in that it weaves important themes and questions into the arcs of its various characters. It’s these themes that elevates this show, so that it’s not just another horror flick.

Flash Review is here.

The Light In Your Eyes

A very special snowflake of a drama, that might appear to be a romance, but really isn’t. It’s best to go in blind for this one, and just trust that Show knows what it’s doing. Show is rich with thought-provoking themes, including, but not limited to, the resilience of the human spirit, despite our frailties.

Flash Review is here.

Tree With Deep Roots

A dramatization of how King Sejong created the Korean alphabet, Hangul, as a reading and writing system that would be accessible to everyone. I remember finding this a fascinating  and compelling watch, when it aired.

Two Weeks

Two Weeks is a great example of how Korea manages to inject heart into so many of its dramas. It’s action-centered, with our protagonist on the run and on a mission, for much of its story, and yet, it’s so, so full of heart. Adrenaline-pumping and heartstring-tugging, at the same time.

Review is here.

Youth Of May

An excellent dramatization of the Gwangju Uprising, which happened in May 1980, that brings that period of history to vivid, poignant life via the struggles and experiences of our characters.

Review is here.

IN CLOSING

I hope this post offers you some perspective and food for thought, as you navigate more conversations around kdramas and why they’re awesome, and worth your time and your passion.

Like I mentioned earlier, if you guys have insights, perspectives or other thoughts to add, please share them in the comments!

Thanks, everyone.

Smooches. ❤️

~kfangurl

We’re loud and proud drama fans, y’all ❤️

POST-SCRIPT:

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!

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Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
29 days ago

I enjoy K dramas but I have also enjoyed American and British dramas, and some Chinese dramas. I think any culture would have its mix of well directed, well acted quality productions as well as the banal or exploitative make a quick buck shows. I just want to give a shout out to Chuck, one of my all time favourite American TV series, which comes to mind as a show K drama fans might enjoy. It is mainly comedy but balances with a decent amount of spy action and suspense, along with a multi season will-they-or-wont-they romance that really brings the feels and reminds me of K dramas in how chaste and idealistic the main romance is. So a bit like Healer. But with more nerdy in jokes about comic books and Star Wars that really tickle a niche audience that I happen to belong to! Another top favourite is Veronica Mars, at least the first season. Season 2 and 3 were very good but not as tight and excellent as 1 in my opinion. I also found Battlestar Galactica, the 2000s remake, very unique and thought provoking.

For BBC period dramas, my favourites are Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, and North and South with Richard Armitage, super romantic and with great social commentary about class divides.

Paulina
Paulina(@soilseothuaidh)
30 days ago

It’s very interesting that you mention Plato. It got me thinking about it and wondering if it’s not actually Plato who is responsible for the way our tv shows are what they are. Plato’s idealism led him to believe that art was about mimesis, i.e. copying the world, and that the representation was always doomed to be poorer than the ideal. He didn’t value art much and thought it was to entertain at the same time warning about its corruptive influence. It is widely accepted though that the Western art theory has mostly relied on Plato’s thought. So maybe Plato is the culprit here? 😂

Which takes me to another question, namely, whether as a matter of fact the reason behind kdrama’s appeal is in its roots in the Eastern tradition. I know next to nothing about it and I wonder if there are people amongst us who would be able to tell us more on this topic. I have seen traditional Chinese opera shows a few times in my life as well as Indonesian wayang and I can say that it was definitely an experience involving all senses and evoking emotions. Defnitely art as I understand it.

Doing some quick google search I’ve learned that Confucius pointed out to the relation between art and ritual and to the social dimension of art leading to harmony. In this sense I think art could be seen as healing and transformative. So, on the surface at least, it sounds quite close to Aristotle’s thought but it would be great if someone knowing more about it could perhaps explain it in more detail. 

Paulina
Paulina(@soilseothuaidh)
30 days ago

I still can’t stop thinking about this topic and recently Aristotle’s Poetics came to my mind, and so I had a look at it again, after a long time. I must say it was very illuminating and helped me pinpoint the difference between our kdrama shows and everyday TV. Who would have thought that this ancient work can be so relevant today! 😊
 
Aristotle says that every play must consist of 6 elements, namely, Character, Plot, Diction, Song, and Thought. He discusses these elements in detail and to me our kdramas definitely tick all of his boxes. He also very interestingly explains what it is that makes some plays not real art (and complains a lot about his contemporary playwrights not following the poetics rules and creating mediocre plays).
 
Most of all though, focusing on tragedy, he further explains that it “is an imitation not only of a complete action, but of events inspiring fear or pity”, in other words it needs to involve the audience emotionally. The main character on the other hand, has to be “a man who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty”, by which we can understand our humanity and human vulnerability. Through the emotional identification the play leads us to catharsis, “tragic pleasure”, as he puts it, and the feeling of being cleansed. There has been a lot of discussion what catharsis actually means but the way I see it is that the cleansing comes from the realisation of the audience’s unity, the shared humanity and vulnerability.
 
So, in this sense I have no doubts that kshows (at least the once we discuss here) lead to Aristotelian ‘catharsis’ and I think this may also explain why we need this community. That’s because tragedy, as a genre, ticking all the Aristotle’s boxes, requires the audience to share the experience, it cannot become art if experienced alone. 

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
30 days ago
Reply to  Paulina

What a cool perspective! I don’t know much philosophy, although Monty Python’s “Bruce’s Philosophers Song” is my hand-washing tune of preference.

It would blow Aristotle’s mind if he were told that some time in the future, strangers from all over the world would be able to bond over drama, in real time, and thus allow it to be fully realized.

Last edited 30 days ago by j3ffc
merij1
merij1(@merij1)
30 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

I barely remember Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. It was so long ago and so much has happened since. Ah, good times. And bad.

But I do recall the notion that poetry and drama serve a purpose in showing us truths about ourselves that we always had access to but couldn’t see clearly because they was too close.

Great post, Paulina.

Last edited 30 days ago by merij1
Paulina
Paulina(@soilseothuaidh)
30 days ago
Reply to  j3ffc

I think you are right! It totally would blow his mind big time. 🥰

Trent
30 days ago
Reply to  Paulina

@Paulina — Boy, I sure wish you had been around for our Money Flower discussion a few months ago, because we spilled more than a few electrons over how and the extent to which the protagonist resembled a classical Aristotelian tragic hero… good times, good times.

I’ll see if I can muster up some more substantive response to your excellent comments later, when I’m not on my mobile, walking the dog, etc.

Paulina
Paulina(@soilseothuaidh)
30 days ago
Reply to  Trent

I regret it already. Will definitely add Money Flower to my watch list. And how amusing that I read your post walking the dog myself. 😊

Trent
30 days ago
Reply to  Paulina

I would definitely give it an enthusiastic endorsement; I would probably never have seen it had KFG not plucked it out as her editor’s pick for a group watch, and turns out it’s definitely one of the highlight dramas of the year for me.

(Not a universally held view–there are smart folks who think it’s basically just bad people scheming to do bad things to other bad people…which, okay, not necessarily wrong, but there’s a lot more to it, in my opinion. For instance, speaking, as we have been, of art, there is a wonderfully mannered and controlled tone to the direction and presentation, that has the effect of heightening the often objectively outrageous plot events. And to an extent that I don’t think I’ve seen until SLA (our current group watch), the musical soundtrack and accompaniment is really almost an extra character).

If you do ever pick it up, try glancing at the archived open threads every couple episodes–in addition to KFG’s great episode notes, there’s some real value-added comments from a range of thoughtful and smart commenters…

Paulina
Paulina(@soilseothuaidh)
30 days ago
Reply to  Trent

👍 Will do.

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago

I have been sitting out this fascinating ongoing discussion about the relative merits of K-drama and American TV as an art form, largely because I am unqualified to participate. But it IS an interesting question and I do have a comment to contribute to the SLA discussion that I’ll save until this weekend post on that thread, leaving me to wonder about the American side of things. So a few thoughts:

1. I think artistic merit was pretty low on the mission list for most network TV, which was designed to be mass entertainment and garner big ratings. I think the ambition level did rise with the advent of cable/streaming (HBO, Showtime, and eventually Netflix), which I agree is the truer comparator with the dramas we are discussing here, but looking for artistic merit in mainstream TV is a lonely errand as others have noted.

2. But there are exceptions. And I would like to note one that may have flown under the radar. Of course, I’m talking about The Addams Family. (Snap, snap!) The original series, 1964-65, 64 25 min episodes (or about 20 80-min episodes of Hospital Playlist, of which there are a total of 24 to date).

OK, so it’s a comedy. I know that I am in the minority here by not thinking that comedy is by definition lower form than drama. But consider this:

a. A cast of characters so iconic that they’re readily recognizable nearly 60 years after their debut (and even drawn from as close as Americans get to anime: New Yorker cartoons).
b. On face a kid’s show, but upon closer reflection, a darn keen satire on “normalcy”, in which the most individualistic characters are almost always better people than the so-called society in which they move. Consider this bit of dialogue:

Lurch (monstrous butler): “Mail.”
Gomez (oddball patriarch), expectantly: “Oh! Is it a bill?”
Lurch: “No.”
Gomez, disappointed: “Oh, well.” 

Super simple, to be sure, but not in any way a joke for kids. Yet my grandson loves this show. 

c. Incredible set and costume design, highly individualistic and beautifully rendered (the B&W cinematography can be breathtaking). 
d. A decidedly adult love story between two unique individuals wedged in between all of the above.
e. Best OTS EVER. (OK, only one song. But it’s a banger, as the kids say.)

OK, I don’t want to go too far with this (I hear some of you saying, “too late for that, Jeff”) but a show like this has a lot of the elements that we adore in K-dramas. I loved it when I was a kid and I love it even more now.

3. So here’s an interesting point, even if you accept that The Addams family is “art”, which I do, one of my points is that it almost certainly was not intended as such. Its creators tried to establish a fun, commercial series, and created something special by accident. 

4. Oh, and Buffy. Love, love, loooove it. I think it’s every bit an artistic success as the best K-drama. But, here the need for 22 44-minute-episode seasons (84 eps over 7 years) required that the good stuff get diluted (there are plenty of 16-episode K-dramas with their share of filler, too.) So, yeah, we got “The Body” and “Becoming” but also “Beer Bad”. If it were practical, I’d almost suggest a group watch, just to see what everybody thought. And a more normal episode, not one of the special ones (maybe “Fear, Itself” for Halloween). So two more points before ceding the floor:
            a. A well edited 16-episode season of Buffy would kick butt.
            b. I would totally watch a K-drama remake. Who would you all cast in the main roles? (Here’s mine: Sung Dong-il as Rupert, Buffy’s “watcher”.)

Last edited 1 month ago by j3ffc
JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

– YES! Adams family is fantastic and stands the test off time and definitely art even if it was an “accident”.

Yes! I soooo agree 16 well edited episodes of Bufffy would kick butt. I do love Buffy, I was a true hard core fan for its entire run even putting up with some new characters that never worked for me.

OMO! I LOVE that idea of a Buffy K-Drama remake. Im so in!!! Oh I love the idea of Sung Dong-il as “Rupert”. Now who would play Buffy?!!!!

Since so many of the Kdrama actors seem to have musical theater backgrounds, do we have any musical Shows or Movies from Kdramaland?

Just think about Buffy’s Once More with Feeling in the KDrama remake 🙂 Such a creative episode with all the clever lyrics in all those singable songs that I know every word 🙂

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

Great point about the music, JJ. Despite there being a lot of great music in OSTs and the fact that a lot of K-drama actors cut their teeth as idols, I’ve elsewhere asked why we don’t get more musical moments in K-dramas. It just doesn’t seem to be much of a thing. What does appear to be a thing is when hyper qualified actors pretend to be bad dancers (thinking Reply ’88, Hometown Cha Cha Cha (which even has a dance in the darned title!!!!!)).

Last edited 1 month ago by j3ffc
merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Are musicals a thing in k-drama?

j3ffC
j3ffC
30 days ago
Reply to  merij1

merij1, I don’t think so; I remember KFG saying something to this effect in a discussion a while back (I looked but couldn’t find it, but because it is apparently dog care time here on the blog, I stopped since I had to feed my beasts). They are probably not cheap and original music hard to come by, but I would slurp a good one up as I love me dancing and singing and stuff.

The little musical interludes in Be Melodramatic were great, which is what spurred my question.

Paulina
Paulina(@soilseothuaidh)
1 month ago

Just to add my two-pennies-worth to this very interesting discussion.
In short, I think for me personally what draws me most to kdrama is its artistic value.

I probably need to explain first that I’m someone who’s never been able to watch television. That is not out of any snobbery but simply because I could never get focused enough on any show without my attention immediately wandering off, so I was never able to get through to the end of a programme, whether that was a sitcom or a game show, or whatever else. I used to watch the news but after the Grenfell Tower fire I stopped even that, which means that I no longer need to pay the TV licence fee. However, as a result, it’s very likely that my view of Western TV shows is not too well-informed.

Nevertheless, following the discussion here, I started wondering about the difference between Kdrama and American/British drama that makes it possible for me to watch the former but not the latter. The conclusion I’ve managed to arrive at is that soaps like Coronation Street or Emmerdale or short TV series like Black Mirror, etc. are mostly meant to be time-fillers. They might be solid, good entertainment but never too challenging and never pushing any artistic boundaries.

On the other hand, watching kdramas I’ve always had an impression that the people who have created them really cared not just about making a good product but that they tried to create something with an artistic value. That requires treating the audience not as consumers but as equal peers and engaging them in the experience that emerges as a result of them interacting with it (as per Wolfgang Iser).

So, when I think about My Mister, Lost or SLA, I definitely consider them Art. But also, I feel that even shows like CLOY or Coffee Prince, etc. focus on the artistic interactive experience too and not just on delivering an easily digestible product.

Of course, there are some commodity-like kdramas too, like the ones dropped by KFG, but these are not what we are discussing here, are we? 😊

manukajoe
manukajoe(@manukajoe)
1 month ago
Reply to  Paulina

I get what you’re saying, but there are tons of western TV shows that can be considered works of art (or to be more than fillers at least) as well. Some that come to mind: E.R., West Wing, Sports Night, Buffy (maybe?), The Good Wife, The Wire (so I’ve heard). Even shows from my childhood like M.A.S.H. and Happy Days are a bit deeper than they first appear I think.

I don’t think this is the fundamental difference.

Paulina
Paulina(@soilseothuaidh)
1 month ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Hi manukajoe, as I mentioned, I’m probably not the best informed. 😊

I might have seen maybe two episodes of ER in my life and had a few glimpses of MASH. I’ve never heard of the other shows you list. From what I remember about ER it had solid storytelling and was touching on some social issues current at the time. As for MASH, I only remember that there was a lot of dust and noise there and that the show was loosely related to Joseph Heller’s novel and hence had some anti-war overtones.

Again, I might be wrong but I can’t recall the soundtrack being of any particular significance in the story-telling in either of them, or the cinematography and lighting creating a specific mood in different scenes, or symbolism of props adding to the multidimensionality of the story, or intertextual references to literary works from world literature or visual arts, etc, etc.

Whereas you can find all these elements in kdramas, even the fun ones, like Yumi’s Cells, for instance. It strikes me how much thought has been put into this little show and it can be seen in many, sometimes tiny, details. I think generally kdramas are created having an intelligent audience in mind willing to put some intellectual effort in decoding the various layers that the creators very carefully plan. As a result, active engagement is required from the viewer, and, as Iser, but also other scholars posit, this is what distinguishes a piece of art from a consumer product.

At least this is how I explain my kdrama fascination to myself. 😊

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Paulina

so so true! from all the above mentioned american shows i only watched “the good wife”, and the story was kind of interesting, but in no way did it have the aspects of korean dramas that we all love and appreciate greatly. so that is my experience.

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Paulina

@Paulina – YES! I agree with you about my draw to Korean Drama Shows as to me they appear as works of Art whereas American Television rarely if ever felt like works of Art. Yes, they told good stories, engaging ones, interesting characters, etc. I am not knocking all of American TV as they definitely have had some stand out Shows.

My only point is on the whole Korean TV Shows, network or cable, seem to be far and above American TV Show body of work. Korean TV Shows seem to be better story tellers and they usually can get the job done in one season, thankfully. And they take us on an emotional journey which I do not think I have ever felt as if I have been on an emotional journey with American TV Shows. Now that could be do to the short format of Korean TV Shows vs. American Shows that can go on for numerous years (ER, Grey’s, Friends, Cheers, Fraiser, etc).

I remember when I first started watching Korean Dramas I would take snapshots of a scene and send to my friends saying doesn this look like a scene out of movie and this is a TV Show!

I do see though many American Films as being works of Art, though. I have only seen a couple Korean Films as I havent gone down that rabbit hole, yet 🙂

Paulina
Paulina(@soilseothuaidh)
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

Yes, I agree with you completely. There are very many American (or British for that matter) films that can be undoubtedly considered works of art.

And it’s true that kdramas feel more like proper films than simple TV entertainment.

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Paulina

@Paulina – Most definitely British films, too. Didnt mean to leave them out, I am just more well versed in American Films even though I have seen my fair share of British Films, too. 🙂

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

add to it scandinavian countries, middle eastern. lately there are quite interesting iranian and turkish productions. unfortunately, we here do not have enough opportunity to see russian productions, they can be very interesting and artsy.

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

@eda harris – YES! Of course, did not mean to exclude any countries at all. I have seen some excellent turkish and middle eastern productions as well. Just more familiar with Western TV and Films, so speaking from that knowledge base. Thankfully, Netflix has opened a door for sharing of more international Shows and Movies.

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

@ede Harris – Also Bollywood turns out some fantastic creations 🙂

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

agree.

Paulina
Paulina(@soilseothuaidh)
30 days ago
Reply to  eda harris

Yes, Scandi noir, I love it! Glad you’ve mentioned it. 😊

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

totally agree, art is the operative word here, that was my first enchantment with chinese historical dramas in particular, but of course the koreans are not far behind (it’s just that the chinese ancient clothes, colors, designs, jewels, men and women’s hair styles – just everything, are way more colorful and interesting. i really do not like especially the korean women’s dresses and in general, their hair styles, etc. sorry. these dresses would be good for pregnant women, may be.) but then a lot of other elements of these dramas became as important as art, like history, their politics, traditions, etc. i stopped watching anything else, may be this obsession will pass… who knows. meantime, i am truly grateful for them.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

forgot to mention, also the acting. i never dreamed that they would have these mind-bogglingly handsome actors, some talented beyond my imagination and expectation.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

hope nothing else will pop into my mind, but if you talk about art and you did not see the chinese movie “falling flowers”, it is a must.

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

@eda harris – my first exposure many years ago was to Chinese Movies and they definitely are moving Art pieces. Gorgeous.

I really am specifically talking about TV Shows comparison to Korean vs Western (American) TV shows.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

i always felt there was not enough of them, i am talking about chinese movies. especially by zhang yimou. and akira kurosawa was my absolute favorite.

Jiyuu
Jiyuu
1 month ago

I’ve always loved a well-told story that sucks me in completely. Through the years I’ve gone through phases of consuming good stories in specific forms: books, anime, American series, indie films and documentaries, manga, Japanese dramas, finite BBC and HBO series, books again, and now dramas (mostly Korean). 

With a few exceptions, once I’ve moved on, the previous forms rarely capture my attention again. So I’m not sure how long I’ll be consuming kdramas but I’m gonna enjoy it while I can.

What I love about kdramas is (1) they’re like extended movies. This means that good stories are fleshed out but there’s a definite end to it. And the cinematography of most (especially those produced in the last decade) are gorgeous, with great OSTs to match. 

Kdramas are also (2) generally “safe” to watch with or without family around. As I got older, I think I’m looking for “cleaner” and more hopeful storylines. I’ve seen enough gratuitous nudity, torture/gore and general depravity that I can’t muster up the interest to watch a show with it even if the story is supposedly good. I would probably have been more curious about Squid Game if I haven’t read Battle Royale first and its many iterations. And I’ve seen enough dirty politics too that Designated Survivor: 60 Days fascinates me with its dream of what could be. Interestingly, I also enjoy Ghibli films more now than when I was its actual target market. 

Last major reason would be that (3) some of the cultural values are closer to my own and it reminds me to correct the lapses I have. How good characters react sometimes brings my attention to how I should react in a similar situation. (On a side note, my Arab friends enjoy Turkish dramas and Bollywood movies more rather than Hollywood ones because of this too.) It’s not strange for me to see on leads being scolded by their elders (from time to time) or them living with extended family members.

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago

Also, for those interested, a podcast discussion on the international rise of K-dramas, with the panel including an exec from Kokawa and Anisa Khalifa from the “Dramas Over Flowers” blog. I was amused to hear which non-Squid Game drama that some of the audience (via email) noted as their gateway show and one of the panel recommended as a first watch. About 40 snappy minutes.

https://the1a.org/segments/more-than-squid-game-the-international-rise-of-k-dramas/

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

– Thanks! Been listening to it!

Georgia Peach
1 month ago

Fangirl, I have feared that people who have watched Squid Game will believe this is all KDrama has to offer. They will dip their foot in this drama and say they’ll not go any further. I know CLOY and MR. Sunshine were hits but they certainly didn’t get the hype SG has. Someone commented the popularity of SQ comes from the perverse nature of our world. Not so sure they are wrong. Thank you for this excellent list.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago

I watch kdramas because I like them.

The Shallow Ahjumma

phl1rxd
phl1rxd(@phl1rxd)
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

😅💖🤣💖

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

as one ahjumma to another: i love your sense of humor.

Annette Chung
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

That is exactly how I would answer others. No need to explain yourself to someone else, to be honest! Especially when, like OP felt like the other person might judge them for watching kdramas. However, if I feel that the other person is not out to mock me, and is willing and truly curious, this post would be helpful to forward along.

Elaine Phua
Elaine Phua
29 days ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Ah the perennial question.. In an Asian culture, what age will you stop being called “Miss” or “young lady” or whatever equivalent and start being called with respect by young strangers. A particularly sensitive issue for ladies! 😂😂😂 Getting called Ahjumma in Korea, “Aunty” in Singapore… Ahem only saying this cos I’m on the brink of Aunty-dom. Anytime now…

manukajoe
manukajoe(@manukajoe)
28 days ago
Reply to  Elaine Phua

I am a single middle aged white guy, used to attend a Chinese church (mostly Singaporeans and Malaysians). I had mixed feelings about the cultural habit of calling people “aunty” and “uncle” past a certain age, regardless of their marital or family status. I realise it’s a sign of respect, but to me it also feels like a kind of ageism: now you have to play this role in society, you are no longer a person with your own dreams, desires, ambitions, now you are just an aunty/uncle. (That’s me coming from an individualistic western culture.)

Bee
Bee
1 month ago

Another thing we need to mention is the short length of kdramas. This is one of the magical things about k dramas and it is what keeps us wanting more and more (a lot of us are addicts at this point, haha). If you have a short attention span like me, you would understand this. I’ve started some of the best US-made shows with all enthusiasm but then I get bored around the 2nd/3rd season 😄. It really amazing that kdramas can tell stories that evoke all the emotions in us within 12-16 episodes. I think they should be applauded for that.

With regards to answering why we love kdramas, I really don’t explain anymore, my family understands it and have accepted it 😂 (Well, they had no choice but to). It’s the same way I love k-pop and k-osts and ballads. I don’t have to explain myself, why should I? I stopped watching westernised movies and series a while ago and honestly, I don’t see my self going back to their lifeless and emotionless movies. Let’s not even talk about the shock factor (sex scenes) and all the agenda pushing shows 🙄.

Anyway, please I need new recommendations for kdramas (Note: I’ve watched most popular ones, I just need those hidden gems) I have most of the week free, so I would like to spend it wisely… watching kdramas of course! (wink*)

Bee
Bee
1 month ago
Reply to  kfangurl

Thanks! I finished Navillera yesterday and picked up moment of eighteen today. I would have never watched Navillera without your recommendation, it was such a beautiful story. I’m hoping to enjoy moment of eighteen just as much. Wish me luck!

Georgia Peach
1 month ago
Reply to  Bee

Bee, my sentiments exactly! After some 290 dramas over the last 8 years…my family just will say…I know you’re drama watching, but dAnd off I’ll go only to pick back up where I left off.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Bee

i recently finished “mr.sunshine”. here is a bit of feedback on this drama, and see if you would be interested, although you would have to widen and lengthen your deficit in attention span. it does include spoilers.

in reality, i hate to rain on somebody’s parade, and since a lot of people truly love this drama, i apologize, but what must be said must be said.
i can not relate to this drama but from a truly split personality perspective, since it has the “good, the bad, the ugly” and more. all that the other viewers write about it is mostly true – mind-bogglingly beautiful scenery (the scene where ae-shin is walking with eugine on the icy lake takes your breath away and will stay with you forever etched in your visual and emotional library, whether it’s in your brain or in your heart, and the entire story is kind of symbolic of walking on thin ice at all times), in general the choice of sites in the drama can be used for tourism in korea – guaranteed to work even today, the cinematography is up there with the most outstanding dramas and/or movies from all times, the characters especially the main 3 males and the female hotel owner hina are extremely multidimensional, like it is in real life and their continuous development is very satisfying, the acting of all actors is as good as it gets, especially lee byung-hun as eugene choi (i first saw this actor in “all in” while i was chasing after ji sung, and discovered lee byung-hun, and the rest was history… his charisma, his manly charm, his superb acting, his ability to go from extreme toughness to extreme softness – he was raised to my top best korean actors from that moment on) and he does not disappoint in “mr. sunshine”, he stays true to himself as an artist, as always gives it his all, and shines with unmistakable inner beauty. one more thing that i noticed, when he gazes at ae-shin or even other people, he slowly blinks just one time, and the blink is like a cat that blinks to his/hers owner expressing love, it’s really special, if you know cats. the other actress that i enjoyed very much is of course the adorable, mysterious, badass kim min-jung as kudo hina, she truly kept me on my toes, with her non-ending french designers dresses, hats, jewelry, her quirky intelligence and female intuition, her courage, her undeniable charm. these two characters or i should say actors kept me wanting to see more and more of them, even when i wanted to just leave this show many times throughout, the slow paste of it drove me crazy, the lengthy looking in each others eyes for minutes at a time without any movement or action – i wanted to scream enough already, we get the idea, we are not dumb… the heart breaking good byes between ae-shin and eugen, too many, not justified and always coming back together just to say good bye again – really? some other things that annoyed me to no end i will mention later here… the other two characters that is worth mentioning is yoo yeon-seok as goo dong-mae, perfectly cast in this role, so strong, gorgeous looking, evil, always with endless pain bubbling to the surface, always staying a step ahead of death, and byun yo-han as kim hee- sung, the tipical spoiled rich brat, always gambling, loosing and drinking on the account of others. both of these characters, one was born in the lowest class of that society, the other was a son of the richest aristocrats in this area. dong-mae like a ticking bomb always on the verge of exploding and taking down all around him no matter how, who or what. kim hee-sung, the aristocrat, who loves all things beautiful, easy going, trying to charm everybody no matter who, making a joke out of any situation. frankly, i did not like these two all the way till the last third of the drama, and then they kind of woke up, tapped into their own morals, grew on me and developed into characters that slowly charmed my heart and i got deeply invested in them all, only to be devastated at the brutal end. the question for me, was it worth spending so many annoying hours of this drama, to finally get to the last third part and especially the last 5 episodes, to finally get so emotionally attached to this characters only to be completely heart broken at the end? i truly did not answer that question yet. and now the most baffling part of this drama – the main female character, ae-shin. i think her character was completely screwed up by the writers, she was the only one one-dimensional as it can be. yes, they wanted to show her burning patriotism for her country and cause, but they deprived her of humanity. wasn’t she a physical body like all of us, in flesh and blood and all? didn’t she have emotions that a woman would express through some kind of affection to the love or her life? the one who gave up ALL that he had in this world for her, his adopted country that he was so proud of, his military career that he loved, his best friend, and finally his own life in exchange for hers. (by the way, eugene choi succeeded somehow to express his love without touching her ever, but it felt like he was stopped by her inner desire to avoid any physicalness) and at all times, there was not a single hug, kiss or any other form of expressing love. how on earth can that be? even when they got married, no hug, no kiss – nothing. and i understand the writers or directors idea of showing extreme patriotism above all, but show at least something… something that would move us and make us believe that she really loves. i did not expect them to passionately make love in the apothecary or in the field, i understand the korean sensitivities in this regard, their extra conservative attitude especially at that time, i even understand the beauty and depth of the most pure form of love, (like ning yi and fengzhiwei in trop where you did not see much of physical expressions of love but you could definitely sense it), but at least some kind of physical interaction i would like to see. that was my greatest disappointment and the biggest flaw of this drama. and last but not least i wanted to mention the politics in this drama, although very interesting, educational, thought provoking, but it was supposed to be kind of the background to the love story and anything else, but took over and became the major part of it. although i appreciated the lessons about korea in general in that period (and it made me truly hate the japanese cruelty), it was too much of it and became simply boring many times. now that you know “the good, the bad and the ugly” you decide if this drama is for you, if you can tough it out until the third part of the drama.

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

@eda harris — Interesting thoughts, thank you for taking the time to write them out and share them. Like you, I just wasn’t able to love Mr. Sunshine like a lot of people seem to do. I respect different parts of it and what it seems to be trying to do, but I just couldn’t wholeheartedly get into it.

A couple of points in response to what you say: first, I kind of disagree with you that the politics was supposed to be background to the love story. My impression is that it’s the opposite, the love story was meant to be secondary to the politics, or rather, to the historical epic. I think part of the whole point of the drama was that this was a grand, pivotal, tragic period of time in Korean history, and our characters were just doing what they could to find meaning and fulfillment, or even just to survive, while caught in the powerful currents of history and politics. Of course any love story is going to be muted and somewhat back-burner in that context.

And second, interestingly you and I seem to have had exactly the opposite reaction to the two leads. I respect Lee Byung-hyun as an actor, but I just couldn’t get in to his character Eugene Choi in this. Conversely, I found Kim Tae-ri’s Go Ae-shin quite fascinating. Interesting how different reactions can be, huh? I do agree with you about Kim Min-jung’s Kudo Hina, who was absolutely one of the highlights of the entire show.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

trent, i had no problem with kim tae-ri’s acting per say, i did have a problem with the material she was given, the writing of her role in particular, and i explained the reason.
in regards to what was supposed to be main theme of this drama – politics or the love story, now that i think about it after reading your comment, i do have to agree that politics is probably as important as the love story in this drama. i am now watching the sungkyunkwan scandal (i am breaking my teeth trying to pronounce it) which is also a lot of politics, but what a breeze, what a pure delight. and last but not least, doesn’t ancient korea’s politics mirror washington politics, with all these political factions, and the hate it generates…

Bee
Bee
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

Thanks eda! Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy “Mr Sunshine”. It had so much potential, but just wasn’t hitting the right spots for me. I dropped it at episode 4/5. I’m not a fan of historical dramas or dramas with historical plots. Although, I absolutely loved Mr Queen because of the sense of humour 😄. You should check it out if you haven’t!

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Bee

thanks. went on my list.

Carulhein
Carulhein
1 month ago

Thanx KFG and Lali, I will most definitely draw from this post, because I would love my family and friends to love K-dramas with me. I’ve watched a few on your list and enjoyed them all, but just a question: Am I the only one who loved Arthdal Chronicles and can’t wait for season 2? I never hear anyone mention it. 🤔It was my very first K-drama. I read a post by a politician I follow on twitter, who mentioned it, and decided to check it out. Long and short of it is that I loved it and now there’s no brakes 😁

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago
Reply to  Carulhein

@Carulhein, I thought Arthdal Chronicles was not bad at all. Too bad it ended rather abruptly. I usually don’t like multiple season dramas, but I would watch a second season of Arthdal if it ever got made.

Carulhein
Carulhein
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

Hi Snow Flower, I have come to love the one season format as well. But when I watched Arthdal, I was used to more seasons, so I just assumed that there would be another and didn’t mind so much. Now, I need a conclusion. If I can find the writers of Vagabond, I’ll wring their little necks 😁

Natalia
Natalia
1 month ago
Reply to  Carulhein

Hey Carulhein, I also liked Arthdal Chronicles and I wish someone had told me before I started watching that there will never be an ending to that story!
Also, Vagabond: I didn’t like it that much, but I agree, the ending was quite exasperating.

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Natalia

@Natalia – I wanted to watch Arthdal Chronicles, but heard it was pretty bloody so I decided to pass on it. Now I am super glad I didnt watch it because if they do not have a definitive end to the story…..
Ridiculous the ending of Vagabond….

Carulhein
Carulhein
1 month ago
Reply to  Natalia

Hi Natalie, they are making season 2 at the moment. I don’t think it will be out soon, but I do hope it ends there.

Carulhein
Carulhein
1 month ago
Reply to  Natalia

Hi Natalia, I retract my words. Apparently it has been renewed, but production hasn’t started yet😭😭

Last edited 1 month ago by Carulhein
Jiyuu
Jiyuu
1 month ago
Reply to  Carulhein

I liked Arthdal too. The show starts sloooow and it was tiring following the threads initially but my sister loved it so I kept watching until I really did like it. It’s from the writer of Dae Jang Geum and Queen Seon Dok.

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Carulhein

welcome to the party! it took over my world, once i stumbled over my first drama, which was a 50+ episode chinese historical drama – the colors, the scenery, the jewelry, the sets, the photography, and most importantly – the acting – i found it all enchanting, fascinating, exotic, educational, and on and on. i was sold, and no desire to go back to any western productions. chinese historical dramas are still my first love, but i am totally into the korean dramas also, especially thanks to kfangirl and all the comments that follow.

Trent
1 month ago

As always, appreciate your analysis of an interesting question. And you picked some real gems to showcase; of the 30 shows you offer up, I’ve seen (or am currently watching) 16 of them, and there are some really excellent shows there that I would have no qualms about advocating for in any forum discussing great dramas, regardless of origin.

Reading through some of the responses here…I mean, I respect everyone’s sincerely held opinion, but I can’t help but feel my innate contrarian perking up.

Don’t get me wrong, overall, I love kdramaland. By my count, I’ve seen around 75 dramas in the last year and a half. There have been some really outstanding, deeply moving shows in that group. Also, a fair number of mediocre and “enh, mildly entertaining at best” shows as well.

I would specifically push back on at least a couple of ideas. First, I don’t agree with the proposition that Western television drama (and of course that’s an almost hopelessly broad category) is debased, fallen, or so far lost as to be uninteresting or to have nothing of particular relevance to say to people. I don’t begrudge opinions that may in fact incline toward that view; I just disagree with it. The flip side of that is that I don’t see kdramas, for all their collective strengths and positive characteristics, as uniquely elevated or inherently so much better than other TV drama traditions and sources.

And second, and relatedly (and this maybe/probably will spark broader disagreement): I think kdramas, considered broadly, have various lacunae and blind spots that collectively make the whole endeavor less than it ultimately could be. I think that individual dramas’ efforts to address various gaps and troubling issues in society with sincerity and nuance are to be applauded. I also suspect that at least some kfans see those same efforts as misguided, and this is what at least some mean when they say “Western influence is ruining kdramas” (or words to that effect).

I think various dramas’ efforts to acknowledge, for example, the existence of same-sex attraction (one example: Coffee Prince) and the existence of transgender people (one example: Itaewon Class) are a step forward in their further maturation. I don’t think a show like D.P. is an example of unwholesome Western influence; I think it’s a relatively unflinching, well-done grappling with a real societal problem. I don’t think My Name is an overly Westernized violence-fest (has it been criticized along those lines?), it’s a slick, pretty entertaining cops-n-gangsters revenge tale with some real heart and emotion. YMMV, obviously.

Anyway, bottom line: Kdramas? Yes, great, love ’em, ride-or-die ’til the end. Uniquely marvelous pinnacle unequaled in the history of audiovisual dramatic arts? Not…so much, no.

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

Trent, I left one “amen” aside and it’s all for you. Bravo.

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Ditto, for your very fine comment below, which I’m basically just riffing on here.

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – What would you consider “uniquely pinnacle unequaled in the history of audiovisual dramatic arts”?

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ — I’m not sure that there is such a thing, to be perfectly honest. (I was also being more than a little hyperbolic in expression to heighten the distinction I was trying to draw). Different works affect different people differently (to state the obvious); even shows that are very high quality aren’t going to be loved equally by everyone, even those with discerning taste and good will. Do we still feel confident saying one is the pinnacle while the other is lesser? (I know I’ve shifted the goalposts a bit, talking about individual works, where before the reference was to a field more broadly).

Take a recent example that will probably resonate with, or at least be familiar to, many here: I’m coming around to the view that I might not see any show this year that affects me personally more than My Mister did. Although I went into it knowing it was spoken of very highly by people of good taste and discernment, it still exceeded my expectations. Compare that to Nirvana in Fire, which I enjoyed very much and have tremendous respect for, but I’m still never going to love it as much as, say, @phl1xrd and others do, nor did it hit me at any point with the same emotional force as My Mister managed at several places. Does that make MM superior to NiF? I don’t think it does; I certainly wouldn’t attempt to argue that there’s such a thing as an objectively right answer to the question.

Or take a more provocative example (and one more apropos to this discussion) from a recent conversation we were having: do you think “Becoming 1&2”, “The Body,” “Hush,” “Once More with Feeling,” etc. from BtVS suffer that much in terms of innovative storytelling, quality of entertainment, or emotional force in comparison to various kdramas that you might pick out? I don’t, or at least I’m not convinced (I would entertain argument to the contrary…).

I’m wandering far afield here, so last point: even if we grant, for the sake of argument/discussion, the existence of a uniquely marvelous pinnacle of nonpareil excellence in the dramatic arts, I’m quite confident that I’m not qualified to identify it. I simply don’t have the depth or range of experience, much less the critical discernment. As I’ve said before, I’m just some dude on the internet with opinions.

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

Trent: of which BtVS discussion do thee speak?

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

– Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Trent and I had a discussion on Patreon about Buffy the other day 🙂

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

Thanks. I’ll wander on over to check it out…

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

– Its in one of the General threads in Announcements here
https://www.patreon.com/posts/announcement-and-57618278

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

Ah, that’s right, it was actually in the post KFG made about the recent Kim Seon-ho blowup and Hometown Chachacha. We were talking about how events in actor/creator’s life affects how we perceive a particular show. (I brought up Woody Allen; @JJ mentioned Joss Whedon; I responded with a comment about Buffy, etc.)

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffc

Ah, sorry. It came up briefly in one of the drama exchange open threads over on KFG’s Patreon.

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

No sorry needed….🙏😁

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – One more question for you 🙂 Which more recent Western TV Shows can you name that do not fall into this Category you mentioned of not being debased, fallen or uninteresting? Outside of shows from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Cable, etc. I am talking more Network Shows over the past years.

“First, I don’t agree with the proposition that Western television drama (and of course that’s an almost hopelessly broad category) is debased, fallen, or so far lost as to be uninteresting or to have nothing of particular relevance to say to people. I don’t begrudge opinions that may in fact incline toward that view; I just disagree with it.”

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ — Well, the very first thing I would do is challenge the constraint that you’re laying down here: why do I have to pick shows outside of “Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Cable, etc.”?

I think there’s fairly widespread critical recognition that the real vanguard of Western television in the last couple decades, at least, has been in cable (and now OTT streaming as well) shows. When critics talk about the recent “golden age of television” or “peak TV,” they’re usually pointing to so-called “prestige” dramas pioneered by cable networks, most famously HBO.

Turn it around: if we’re going to knock out cable network shows, then do the same for K-dramas, so no shows from tvN, OCN, jTBC, etc. That immediately takes CLOY, SKY Castle, Goblin, Itaewon Class, Hospital Playlist/Prison Playbook, all of the Reply series, My Mister, IOTNBO, Romance is a Bonus Book, Flower of Evil, Beyond Evil, Secret Love Affair…among many others that could be named, out of consideration. Do you really want to cede that ground if we’re discussing the best that dramaland has to offer?

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – For the sake of argument, I wanted to put in a constraint because most definitely HBO started to lay the ground work for some different without network rules excellent Shows to come out of HBO back when things began to change. Such as OZ, Big Love, Six Feet Under, True Blood, Entourage to name just a few.
I think its more of a challenge to find excellent compelling American Network TV to compare against Korean Network TV from which Coffee Prince hails, I believe. Remember Alias and Lost? Shows that were different and started off excellent and suffered from multi season fatigue. And GRey’s Anatomy was new and different went it started 17 years ago as well as was ER. Other interesting Network TV – Fringe, House, Bones, 24, Scrubs, NCIS, Ugly Betty, Pushing Daisies…
Thats fine, I am happy to knock off the Korean Cable Network Shows as some of the earlier ones I have seen did come from the Networks most notably Coffee Prince, School 2013, Chuno. I am sure there are many others to name that I do not know. And the one you listed are all newer ones that have been able to take the ground work laid for them by their predecessors and improve in some areas (slicker productions, more current stories) and bring more current stories (mental health, same sex relationships, transgender) to life. 
I will fully admit my bias that I am disgruntled with American TV in general and the direction most Shows seem to be going these days with how can they shock us and emotionally manipulate us instead of telling great dynamic stories.

merij1
merij1(@merij1)
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

Deadwood

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  merij1

@meij1 – Ohh right!!! Forgot about that Show 🙂

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

@Trent – Let the opinions begin!!! 😉

My Sci Fi Buddy and I made a list of all the Western Shows we could think of that we thought were great after going down the Korean Netlflix Rabbit Hole as I like to call it about a year ago. We listed out American, Canadian and British Shows we thought were high quality and could be held up “against ” the Korean Dramas we had been watching on Netflix. Our list spanned over years (50’s to present) while we were comparing to our list of Korean Drama shows we just had started to watch in the past year available to us. Now, we are in the camp of those who loved TKEM and could not think of an American Show in comparison of quality storytelling to TKEM. And both of us are HUGE Buffy fans as well. While we had a long list, I kept saying, “yes, but this over years of watching” while we have been looking at more recent Kdramas or more specifically those available to us on Netflix and Viki which seem to be more recent ones.

For the time period, Buffy, definitely, was creative, innovative story telling with a true strong action female lead for a television show breaking so many stereotypes while being blonde, lol! I will not take away from what Buffy did back at that time for all of us fantasy, sci fi, comic book fans, etc. How many episodes stand the test of time particularly the ones you mentioned? Of course, Hush, The Body and Once More with Feeling do without question. However, as a Body of Work, I have to mull that one over some more especially when comparing to the show you mentioned Coffee Prince. Now, that show stands the test of time.

For me, personally, I think American Movies have made more of an emotional impact on me over the years than any American TV Shows (well my So Called Life was pretty ground breaking at the time) and that for me is the difference when comparing American/Western TV Shows to Korean Dramas who generally get it done in 16 episodes. Whereas how many seasons did Friends, Cheers, Big Bang Theory (love it and that could have stayed on for forever in my opinion), That 70’s Show, etc go? How many people got tired sticking with these Show? How many people complained about the storylines over time or lack of creativity or just being tired in general?

Sometimes, I pop over to Western Shows that I had started in the beginning who are are several seasons in and I pop right back out after seeing way too much violence, nastiness, skin, etc. For me, again, personally, I really see Western TV going more for
shock value and who can do it bigger and better and more shocking! At the expense of really good solid storytelling which I find more of in Korean Dramas from the ones I have seen up until now. Is it perfect? Of course not. But, would I rather sit through a just good enough Kdrama than suffer through most American Shows out there right now. Absolutely.

🙂

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ — I think you (and others) do make a good point about length, although I don’t think it’s necessarily a conclusive one. The compact size of most of the kdramas we tend to talk about is a real thing and definitely one of the attractions–it allows for a discrete, self-contained story to unwind and come to a (hopefully satisfying) conclusion (although not nearly as often as we’d like… we just had a “Dear Kfangurl” post and discussion about why so many dramas fail to “stick the landing,” didn’t we?).

U.S. shows, especially more “old school” network shows, would run to multiple seasons of over 20 episodes a season. Keep in mind that that was quite a different model, though. Those shows were much more focused on single episode stories, and much less concerned, if at all, with multi-episode or even multi-season story arcs. The rise of the season long or series long narrative arc became far more prevalent with the so-called golden age of “prestige TV” pioneered by the cable nets in the last couple decades…and probably not coincidentally, the “seasons” got cut way down in length, from over twenty shows a season, to say, 8-12 shows per “season.”

Also keep in mind that when we gather round to discuss “kdramas,” we tend to focus almost exclusively on the 12-24 episode series. But there is a whole world of what I kind of informally think of as the stodgy network family-friendly kdrama shows (analogous in my mind to the bland comfortable stuff that runs on CBS/ABC/NBC/Fox in the U.S.) that run on KBS/SBS/MBC and that are the same sort of comforting, multi-generational family dynamic dramas (or so I assume, I haven’t watched any of them), and those run for a long stretch of episodes: My Only One (106 episodes); Once Again (100 episodes); Mother of Mine (108 episodes); Homemade Love Story (100 episodes); My Golden Life (52 episodes), are just a few examples of many. Those are all shows that appeared within the last 3 years, and are in the top ten for network ratings based on raw audience numbers.

And beyond that, when we start to want to talk about how a “body of work” holds up across the entire length of a series’s run, well, I sense this is going to end up circling back (as these type of discussions usually do, one way or another) to a question of taste and personal preference. I mean, just to take the example you cite–you’re not sure Buffy really holds up over the entire run, but then compare it Coffee Prince, which you say does? I mean, fair point about Buffy, we can debate how it holds up and how consistently it maintains quality over time (I suspect fairly well, but that’s a shaky conclusion since I haven’t revisited it in over 15 years), but I’d have no qualms about arguing on the side of Buffy against Coffee Prince, which I’ve expressed a couple of times now I didn’t particularly care for. Y’all can say I’m wrong about Coffee Prince, which, fair enough, but there it is.

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

Star Wars, of course!🤣

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snow Flower – How could I not realize that 😉 Is it Empire Strikes back or all of them 😉

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ, I meant the whole original trilogy, with The Empire Strikes Back as the emotional center. And speaking of unequaled pinnacle of audio-visual storytelling, there is Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the very first Gesammtkunstwerk. (Auto complete got really confused, ha!😀)

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snowflower – I thought the Ewoks were the emotional center 😉 Totally teasing 🙂

Ahhhh, thanks for teaching me something new. While I know a little of Wagner’s works, I have not heard of Wagner’s Ring Cycle 😬

Snow Flower
Snow Flower
1 month ago
Reply to  JJ

@JJ, I have nothing against the Ewoks! They were cute.

As for Wagner, the Ring Cycle (The Ring of the Nibelung or Der Ring des Nibelungen in German)is a set of 4 very long operas that deal with a magic ring of power and all the bad things that happen to everyone who gets a hold of it. Wagner wrote not only the music, but also the text for all of his operas. He also invented the leitmotif, a short but distinct musical phrase associated with a character, object, or an idea from the storyline. This technique has been used by many composers since. It is especially useful for movie soundtracks. The music of John Williams for Star Wars is a great example. Another one is Michael Giacchino’s score for the TV show Lost.

JJ
JJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Snow Flower

@Snow Flower – YAY! I didnt have anything against Ewoks either. People who love Empire Strikes Back though usually werent a fan of the Ewoks 🙂

Oh thats amazing, Snow Flower about Wagner. Thank you for sharing with me and educating me 🙂 I love it!

ngobee
ngobee
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

Hi Trent,

some really good points here. I love kdramas because they’re damn good entertainment. They basically made lockdown bearable for me and my family (that’s when we discovered them)because they offer such excellent escapism. Well-paced storytelling, attractive actors, genre mix, you name it.

Do they offer “something for everyone”, though? I don’t think so. As you say, they’re rarely inclusive. I suspect those working in the entertainment industry hold less conservative views on the whole, but the plots we’re shown do not reflect this. It’s very often outdated morals in an incredibly attractive package. And it’s also ironic that those pretty Korean idol boys inspire Western young men to break free from male gender stereotypes while in their own country they’re nothing less than free, having to hide any relationship.

Watching the products of this outwardly so homogeneous culture remains a complex experience. I stand by enjoying them, but always tell people they have to find out for themselves if it’s for them.

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  ngobee

— we are in violent agreement! I got into kdramas about a month and a half after “lockdown” started (although parenthetically, it wasn’t truly a lockdown; lockdown in the U.S. was more or less a joke…but you know what I mean, right?), and I stick with them because (at their best, at least) they are compelling entertainment. And also because I find it really interesting and in some sense satisfying to do a deep dive on a large body of work that is at least somewhat in conversation with itself, and to follow the trends and influences and dramatic vocabulary and group of actors that are traveling across and through these various dramas.

And yes, I also agree with you about the limitations and the “known quantity in an attractive package” point. One reason why I look with interest at dramas that attempt to flex their wings, so to speak, to explore new ideas and perspectives, even if they seem like “baby steps” (example: in Be Melodramatic, one of the main character’s brother is in a same-sex relationship! He and his partner even get asked to leave from a coffee shop because the owner is uncomfortable…hey, even acknowledging the prejudice is a step forward, right?!).

eda harris
eda harris
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

trent, for me, the allure is in the element of education – it opens up a world of people, their struggles, traditions, foods or even how they present their meals, and even politics, that i knew almost nothing about, and yet it is part of my own world that inhabit, although a gazillion miles away. all other elements are of course important to me, but they are bonuses.

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  eda harris

@eda harris — I actually agree with you about the element of education; I might rephrase it as cultural immersion or something like that, but we’re talking about roughly the same thing. I too like to feel the sense of exposure to a whole new world of traditions and social mores and history and customs and so forth and so on; it’s certainly a big part of the draw.

(I do have to constantly remind myself that just because I’m a tourist traveling in a different cultural stream, it doesn’t qualify me as an expert, much less any sort of quasi-native; and also, have to remember to always try to be respectful and not be an ill-behaved tourist–avoid the “ugly American” stereotype, as it were).

I would say, however, that this aspect–the element of education or cultural immersion–is more or less orthogonal to any attempt at a comparison of the relative merit of kdrama (and C-drama, if you want to throw it into the mix) versus American drama (and Western drama more broadly), because it makes it a fundamentally unequal comparison: by putting novelty, cultural education, exposure to the new and different as a positive element on the kdrama side of the ledger (which it is, to be clear)…there’s nothing that can fairly balance that on the Western side (at least for those of us raised in Western culture), because “the fish doesn’t know it’s in water,” that is, we grew up in the culture, it’s all around us, we can’t experience the same sense of wonder and education and encountering a new and exciting thing in the same way that we do when we become immersed in kdramaland. That doesn’t mean kdramaland is fundamentally better (although it may be… that’s the thesis up for debate), just new and different to this particular audience (for values of “new and different” meant to encompass everyone not raised or at least living for some time in Korean culture).

Gloglo
1 month ago
Reply to  Trent

Hi Trent. Very good post indeed. I couldn’t agree more with you on this. It’s a good thing that many new kdramas do address social issues in a nuanced sensitive way. It shows an awareness from kdrama producers of needing to move with the times and be responsible when addressing certain social issues.

I have noticed, however, that kdrama newbies do not appreciate these efforts all that much… Coffee Prince and Itaewon Class come across as not all that progressive to those who do not watch many kdramas or Asian dramas in general, but rather conservative and reactionary in their efforts and “not enough”… People need context. If you see kdramas in a vacuum, you are not going to get the positive messaging out of it. You need to put the work into them and see the value in the storytelling, the acting and the sentiment beyond sometimes very glaring blind spots in social issues. You also need to familiarise yourself with the patriarchal and hierarchical society in Korea to appreciate the “rebellion” in some storytelling choices (Something in the Rain and One Spring Night come to mind).

I suspect that what many kdrama lovers dislike about Western drama is not necessarily their increasingly more progressive social messaging but rather the latest preference of Western drama for antiheroes of questionable morals. I myself do not dislike a good flawed and even problematic hero (I actually prefer them to the most obvious “good ones”). However, I find it difficult to relate to more classical antihero immoral actions and enjoy them less -I know that they provide good exciting television and, if the antihero is well portrayed, we get to understand the antihero and the systemic social set-up that has turned him into an immoral person so that we root for him (ie Walt in Breaking Bad or Beth in The Queen’s Gambit), but for me, they are just less satisfactory to watch. Why? Because a good antihero story is supposed to present this protagonist in all its glory, with honesty and with no interest in making them likeable. I personally find it hard engaging with these stories, although I’d never question their quality, general appeal and importance. For me, it’s just matter of taste, no judgement attached to it.

Trent
1 month ago
Reply to  Gloglo

@Gloglo — Excellent points, about both the crucial importance of context in considering progress, and about the fascination with anti-heroes (and I would add, relatedly, “shades of gray” or narrative ambiguity).

From a certain perspective, what Coffee Prince and Itaewon Class are doing are so-called “baby steps”…but baby steps are still steps, and in cultural context, seems to me to still be kind of a big deal.

And people’s taste for anti-heroes and shades of gray in their storytelling is definitely highly variable (as I think we see just from this comment thread).

j3ffC
j3ffC
1 month ago

Interesting question and thoughtful responses by all. To begin, with respect to KFH’s responses to myths 1-5: Amen. Amen. Amen. Amen. And amen.

I consider myself a “serious person” (although I do try to have a sense of humor, which is something different entirely) and have enjoyed literature, film, music, and drama, of all types, since I can remember. And am here because I love K-drama as all of us do.

When friends asked me about my enthusiasm, I used to point out the qualities that drew me to K-drama in the first place. In no particular order: a glimpse into a fascinating culture different from my own, high production values, clever and original plot lines, excellent acting by attractive people, the diversity of the shows (and the high percentage of love stories and romantic comedies, which are my favorite genres), and the typical singe-season format. I was guilty, at first, of calling them “Korean soap operas” but gave that up pretty quickly. (I think that my wife, who is not a fan, still thinks of them that way.)

Nowadays, I just say that they’re good and that they ought to give one a shot.

I do stop short of the conclusion that K-dramas are all good and everything else is crap, though. To be honest, I’ve been watching TV for many decades now and I can’t remember a time when most of what was on wasn’t crap, in one form or another. I think that the more apt comparison with K-drama are limited series (Netflix, HBO, elsewhere) than old-school network programming. These are the shows that my wife picks and I’ve enjoyed a lot of them. I thought “Queen’s Gambit” was original, evoked its setting and time period perfectly, and was courageous for featuring a female anti-hero who was beautifully acted – all features that most of us would admire in a K-drama. And I know that some folks here are not fans of that show due to its depictions of drugs and sex, which I understand and respect, but in my opinion it was quality tv. 

And for those of us who appreciate how K-dramas bring a sense of positivity, hope, and heart to our screens, I’d suggest a look at “Ted Lasso”, which I unabashedly loved. At some time, I’d be interested a discussion of “The Chair”, starring the brilliant Sandra Oh, and which had some interesting Korean/American (including Mexican!) cultural exchanges. 

Bottom line for me: keep an open mind, but seek out the best and ignore the rest.

Gloglo
1 month ago
Reply to  j3ffC

Well said. There are good and bad shows everywhere. US shows have their strengths, Spanish shows have theirs, as do Korean, British, Italian and so on. Keeping an open mind is so important. That’s how one finds those little gems that are so often overlooked. I have heard great things about The Chair. I must give it a go!

Gloglo
1 month ago

This is a very good questions and these are all greats answers by kfangirl and everyone. I only have one more thing to add:

At the chore of this VERY patronising contempt for kdramas I don’t think there is an East/West dichotomy, but rather a terribly misogynistic attitude that transpires from every single culture East of West. I don’t know if any of you have noticed this, but anything in the media that caters for women and what they traditionally like because it mostly deals with emotions, like romance, melodrama, costume drama and romantic comedy, tends to be maligned and called “fluff” equally everywhere… Funny that genres that men traditionally enjoy, like thrillers, epics, dystopias, film noir and cartoons, are never measured with such harsh standards of quality… It makes me truly wonder…

More than once, when people ask me about my love for kdrama, I’ve been tempted to justify it and list all those kdramas that deal with non romantic themes as soon as people ask me for recommendations… As if I were embarrassed about my preference for the romantic ones… In fact I love romance and I don’t care where it comes from or if it was written 400 years ago or yesterday… Nowadays when asked why I like Kdrama I always say the same: South Korea produces a lot of shows written by women for women and after many years and so many iterations the storytelling is very refined and knows how to deliver emotion on screen.

 I’m also reluctant to give people suggestions of particular shows… I honesty believe that Westerners need to deep their toes in Kdrama and find their own way, unbiased. It’s a learning process and there is not one answer. I’m one of those people who loved Secret Garden and Heirs, and I’d sooner recommend Secret Garden, Crash Landing on You, Start Up, and Run On than something heavy like Secret Love Affair for example. I absolutely loved Secret Love Affair, but to give that show the justice it deserves you need to have a few “easier” kdramas under your belt to grant it the justice it deserves. I feel that people unaware of Korean society would find it pretty unrelatable.

And that “bored housewives” assumption is just so offensive and misogynistic at so many levels… As if there was something inherently less about being a housewife and as if the work of housewives was so little and worthless that, “of course they are going to be bored”! You can tell these people have never being housewives!😆

Natalia
Natalia
1 month ago
Reply to  Gloglo

Good point, Gloglo. Indeed, there are misogynistic elements in this whole discussion. Also, so many people have a need to dismiss everything loved by other people. How many times haven’t we heard: “You watch Game of thrones? That sucks”, “Marverl is for nerdy morons”, “Seriously, you don’t think that Squid Game’s a good show”, or whatever. My personal opinion has always been that if a thing has its fan base, it’s because it relates to some people and I have absolutely no right to judge, or try to prove that I have superior tastes or something. The only shows I can absolutely not stand are reality type shows like the Bachelor, but even then, what an idiot would I be to say to a fan “You watch this crap? Try watching Bergman instead, his films are amazing”.

wonhwa
wonhwa
1 month ago
Reply to  Gloglo

A big yes to the misogyny issue – there has always been a tendency throughout history to write off entertainment created primarily by/for women as frivolous and “less than” compared to entertainment created primarily by/for men. In the US, this is compounded by a critical apparatus that often rewards works that are dark, gritty, ironic, emotionally distanced, violent and cynical (think The Sopranos, Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones) over works that focus on character relationships and emotional engagement (it’s not a surprise that many of the same critics who call kdramas “soap operas” wax eloquently about films like Old Boy and Parasite). I think this is also one of the reasons Squid Game has broken through because it is, well, dark, violent, gritty, etc.. I don’t think any country’s entertainment industry needs to produce just one kind of content, but I do think there is often a tendency on the part of kdrama watchers to apologize for liking content focused on romance and emotion as if this is a bad thing. I think we should be asking instead why love, empathy and care for others aren’t values more generally celebrated as worthy topics for storytelling.

reaper
reaper
1 month ago
Reply to  wonhwa

As a straight 24 year old man I have never told anyone that I like kdramas or the fact that my fav shows are romantic comedys.
Never in my right mind would I tell anyone 😀
I mean just telling people at a party that I don’t drink alcohol gets a crazy :OOOOOOOOOO reaction.

Just trying to add the fact that it is in general weirdly received by “the public”

j3ffc
j3ffc(@j3ffc)
1 month ago
Reply to  reaper

We are here for you, reaper.

reaper
reaper
1 month ago

I think korean dramas give more to their watchers. Like humanity, kindness or critical thinking. And not just “crash boom pawh” like american shows do (exeptions prove the rule).
But when I look at this list I have to say, talking about actual korean dramas, shows like my name, squid game and sweet home shouldn’t be mentioned because their are very westernized. And rely on the same tactics as american shows do… hype, shook and edginess or over the top violence.

Bee
Bee
1 month ago
Reply to  reaper

You took the words out of my mouth, the humanity, kindness and critical thinking of kdramas is just next to none. They just evoke all the emotions in you and make you feel things and situations you’ve never been in. The world needs to catch up to dramas but I’m kinda scared because I don’t want kdramas to ever change due to “westernisation”

reaper
reaper
1 month ago
Reply to  Bee

I am afraid of that too. The problem is the westernization is already happening and at a lot faster pace than I would like it.
All the netflix dramas are pretty much just american shows with korean actors.
And watching normal broadcasting kdrama the reasoning behind actions gets shallower with every show.
It degrades into something meaningless.

Antonio
1 month ago

The real question should be: how is it possible to continue watching Western shows after discovering kdrama (and cdrama)?

The last excellent things produced in the West, in my opinion are Downton Abbey, The Office and Friday Night Lights. Nothing really watchable since the identity politics and politically correct were in fact imposed on everything.

Natalia
Natalia
1 month ago

Lali, I think that your friend’s question is wrongly put to begin with. He wouldn’t ask you “why do you like American TV shows”, would he? I think that you could explain to him that “Kdrama” is not a genre, at least not any more. It is just an origin indication, and that aside, korean shows can be as diverse as US shows. For instance, there is nothing in common between Secret Love Affair, Kingdom or My Name (besides people speaking Korean) as there’s nothing in common between Big Little Lies, The Walkind Dead or The Wire (besides people speaking English).
As a crime/thriller/horror etc fan, what I do like about Korean shows is that I find that there often is a little bit less plastic gore, if you know what I mean, and more heart in them. Also, I appreciate that they tend not to overexploit gore (or sex for that matter) for shock value purposes, and I hope I make myself clear on this…
But even if you hate “serious” (used with a lot of quotation marks!) shows and you prefer romance, I think heart is your answer too. I am not a big fan of romance in Kdramas or elsewhere, but I do acknowledge that, somehow, in kdramas the romantic couples usually seem to have purer feelings.

Natalia
Natalia
1 month ago
Reply to  Natalia

Edit: Now that I have read comments by other friends here, it is fun to realize that we all think more or less the same, in that there’s more humanity in Korean tv shows. No wonder we are all fans then! 😄

Kay
Kay(@kdramakisses)
1 month ago

Great post! We definitely shouldn’t be ashamed of what type of shows we like to watch. I’m one that likes a wide range from silly tropey rom-coms to soapy melos to crime thrillers to epic historicals. They all offer something different to enjoy.

While I understand it’s easy to praise the well-written, thoughtful masterpiece type shows, people underestimate how much work goes into making a hilarious comedy or even an over-the-top makjang. Fantastic dramas can be found in all genres. Luckily, more people are starting to realize the wide variety in kdramas, and that there really is a little something for everyone 🙂

Gloglo
1 month ago
Reply to  Kay

“While I understand it’s easy to praise the well-written, thoughtful masterpiece type shows, people underestimate how much work goes into making a hilarious comedy or even an over-the-top makjang.”

Amen.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd(@phl1rxd)
1 month ago

Fangurl – I think Joe nailed my feelings on this matter. Western media has lost its soul and it is quite sad. KDrama, no matter how violent it can get (e.g. in some detective|murder mysteries) there is still a measure of humanity in the characters. Joe is right – there is more hope in KDrama.

manukajoe
manukajoe(@manukajoe)
1 month ago

Can we turn it the other way around?

I think Western dramas often rely on shock value to be edgy and get an audience, sex, violence, abuse, drug use, incest, sexual violence. It’s often a bit cheap and clumsy.

Korean TV dramas don’t tend to go that way do they? (although I admit I haven’t watched the more violent ones, and Korean movies can be pretty shocking). It seems to me the drama is more often mental, emotional, internal, social, related to struggles and stresses of living and surviving in the world. There’s more hope I think.

phl1rxd
phl1rxd(@phl1rxd)
1 month ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Joe – you took the words right out of my mouth – perfect explanation!

manukajoe
manukajoe(@manukajoe)
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Phew – thanks! I never know if I am talking rubbish or not!

MC
MC
1 month ago
Reply to  phl1rxd

Adding on – Joe, you said it so perfectly. I tried to watch some Western dramas / watched when my husband watched and though they were great shows, they just felt too depressing for me. The Handmaid’s Tale is essentially torture porn, imo, Breaking Bad is just sad at the state people get to, and don’t even get me started on House of Cards – clever, twisty but so dark (in terms of the lengths people go to). Honestly many comedies are black comedies too. So I love Korean and Asian dramas for their values, for reflecting what I see (am Asian) and also the fact that the seasons don’t drag forever and ever and jump the shark. Plus Korean dramas are full of heart and well told stories. The handsome/ pretty actors and actresses are just a bonus!!

manukajoe
manukajoe(@manukajoe)
1 month ago
Reply to  MC

Exactly. I was thinking of The Queen’s Gambit when I wrote my comment, that’s the most recent I watched. I mean I like shows like Big Bang Theory and Brooklyn 911 but they’re pretty shallow. Haven’t watched Western drama apart from these for ages.

MC
MC
1 month ago
Reply to  manukajoe

Oh how’s the Queen’s Gambit? everyone said it was so good but somehow it didn’t appeal to me, gave me dark vibes. I actually really liked the Crown but I didn’t bother with the recent Princess Diana season because everyone was just bashing the actual royal family forgetting that this is dramatised and not exactly accurate (though the royal family is wrong in many ways but people are too quick to cancel people). I do really like Brooklyn 99 it’s one of my favourite shows to watch/ rewatch because it’s just silly and funny. But yeah I only watch korean dramas and documentaries/ cooking reality shows on netflix nowdays. Huge waste of my money I admit 😂

manukajoe
manukajoe(@manukajoe)
1 month ago
Reply to  MC

Queen’s Gambit was ok, a bit one note. The first episode is dark but after that it’s not really. The chess is good. The drugs alcohol and sex is boring.