56

[Changing Tastes] From the whole nine yards to the rom-com dreamboat


Secret Garden

By @zgs1994

I started my dramaland journey with Heirs back in 2013. It was new and shiny and I remember during that one particular scene where Lee Min-ho slumps to the floor in crazy neon orange pants and dramatic tears, thinking, Oh wow, Korean dramas have made boy-sobbing look cool.

I then started gobbling up K-dramas like the starved soul that I was. There were so many genres! So many different concepts! And best of all, a limited number of episodes with a requisite happy ending. I was hooked and smitten.

Like any newbie, I watched anything and everything that I could get my hands on. From the body-swapping hilarity of Secret Garden to the plotless, logic-less To the Beautiful You to the pee-your-pants hilarity of Rooftop Prince to the fast-paced and slick story of Healer, I watched everything without discrimination.

And over the course of five years of drama watching, I’ve concluded one thing: I’m not a high-stakes kind of girl. Give me a fluffy rom-com with a middling conflict and a happily-ever-after and I’ll be the happiest girl in the world. I have learned not to touch tragedies or thrillers with a ten-foot pole. Most people avoid spoilers, but I need them to get through a drama!


Fight My Way

After trying everything under the sun, I’ve discovered that rom-coms are my ultimate drama bias. I find now that I cannot concentrate on high-stakes dramas like Lookout and Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People. They’re brilliant and amazing but every time I feel like the villains are gaining the upper hand, my brain just freezes and refuses to move on. I get impatient and cranky, and ultimately I feel like that kind of drama is wasted on people like me.

Rom-coms, on the other hand, are quite formulaic. They have a road map, they have heart and humor, and they make me laugh. Sometimes I get secondhand embarrassment, but that I can deal with. I especially love how shows like The Liar and His Lover and Fight My Way can balance out the trifecta of heart-humor-gravitas with nuance and realism. It makes people discuss characters and their flaws as if they are real people, because they’re relatable and lovable.

These days, that familiarity is what I look for. I love how Father Is Strange portrays an ordinary middle-class family. Even though I live a thousand miles away, I can still relate to the culture, to the family dynamics, and especially how the landlady and future mother-in-law interacts with her tenants.


Doctors

Similarly, the scruffy heroine and everyday hero of She Was Pretty were super cute, but it was the friendship between the two girlfriends that drew me in, because they were like me and my own BFF, and I found that connection to be such a hook for me. I know that many people thought Doctors was a totally plotless and fluffy drama, but for me I enjoyed it because of the teeny-tiny conflict. I loved its middling pace and the episodic format of the minor daily frictions between the characters at the hospital.

I know that rom-coms are fertile grounds for tropes like noble idiocy and forced separations, but I feel like if the narrative is right, even these trite tropes don’t hinder my enjoyment. In The Liar and His Lover, the couple separated for like an episode and a half, and when they made up I was so pleasantly surprised at how quickly the conflict was resolved. The end of noble idiocy opens the floodgates to fluff galore, and I love me some excellent, happiness-inducing fluff!

Ultimately, it’s the relatability that appeals to me the most in rom-coms. They’re simple stories about real people that can completely draw you in and keep you hooked. Rom-coms have a way of reinventing familiar friendships and relationships like no other genre. They can be heart-wrenching in a casual way too, but I find the safety net of an impending happily-ever-after quite comforting. The small conflicts allow me to get invested knowing it’s safe to take that ride. Rom-coms are my destination genre and I love it there.


The Liar and His Lover

 
RELATED POSTS

Tags:

56

Required fields are marked *

Nice. What I feel about watching dramas too. High stakes, murders, kidnapping, diseases, birth secrets just stresses me out. Life is so stressful already, I can't handle stress in dramas too, as exciting as it is. The tension becomes too much for me to handle. I'm not good at handling tension in real life and it turns out I'm not that much better at doing it in dramas. If a drama is good, it makes me engaged, which means, that I forget that it's a drama and starts to stress about it as if it's all real. :D It's why despite all the excellent dramas, dramas like TLAHL remains one of my favorite so far this year. The only exception to this is Circle, because the future timeline decreased the uncertainty somewhat of the present timeline, and the controlled environment of the future gave a somewhat reassuring feeling that I could handle the stress. :D

37
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

I want to clarify that I'm not against being gripped by emotions, but sometimes, I can't handle too much emotions. I like to watch a drama as an observer, rather than feel like I'm living one. I love that a drama can make me cry, but at the same time, I don't want to feel so much pain watching a drama that I have to be drained out of my tears. I don't know if I'm making any sense here.

21
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Ur making perfect sense to me :P
The fact that a drama can make me cry is always a good sign that it's a good drama and a plus in my book. BUT rather than for looking for a good drama, I'm looking for one that can make me feel warm and fuzzy and happy. In short, not just a good drama, but a good feel good drama. If I have to cry, I hope the drama can make me cry happy tears, or at least, I hope I cried because I felt touched and moved, instead of intense grief. Or if I cry out of sadness, I want to have that security even as I cry that this is just temporary and all will be well in the end so the tears are more like cathartic tears rather than gut-wrenching ones :P

16
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Love the expression "cathartic tears." I watch dramas to decrease real-life anxiety, not increase it. I don't mind crying either, but I'd rather cry tears of relief or joy vs anxious painful tears. Scenes about a parent's love for their child always gets me for example, but in a feel-good kind of way. :)

5
reply

Required fields are marked *

"They’re simple stories about real people that can completely draw you in and keep you hooked."
*nods frantically* hear hear

19
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Comment was deleted

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

If rom com means, all the "living under the same room" stuff, then hmmm. A lot of people are drawn towards it, which doesn't matter to me that much.
I do like all the other aspects of it like light hearted love story, slice of life themes, lots of spoilers, no tension or cliffhangers (the worst!)....I'll eat all of that like a piece of cake.

3
reply

Required fields are marked *

Most of the time rom-coms fly over my head.
It just becomes boring when a couple is in a relationship and acting cute all the time.
I have no problem with a couple in a relationship and being happy, but that faces life too, like in Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Ju. That was a real and nice rom-com that I'd have no problem watching again, because the execution was great :)

11
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Though I watch almost all kinds of dramas regardless any genres as long as they're great, rom-com will always have its spot in my heart and it's the kind of drama that will act as my comfort zone. But these days, I don't like how they mix romcom with psycho murders. I kinda feel frustrated because when I watch romcom, it's mostly because I wanna watch a feel-good drama and stress-free. It's kinda distracting when I'm so into the fluffy moments with the OTP, then suddenly it turns dark and it's time for the murderer's scene to take place. When I get so curious about the murderer, then all of sudden it changes into feel-good scene. Like I'm so confused on how I should put my mood into?

13
6
reply

Required fields are marked *

Same. It's so hard to find a straight-up love story recently.

8
reply

Required fields are marked *

I knooooow! Psycho murders are now being added to romcoms. For a person like me who almost always don't watch trailers (or synopsis at that), I'm was surprised there's suddenly a killer in a supposed romcom! I'm looking at you, SWDBS and SP

10
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

Both were interesting villains with backstories so its fine but honestly imma take my romcom without side dishes thank you very much (Yes, FMW and TLAHL, I like you the way you are)

25
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

tbh, even FMW was a teensy too encumbered imo, what's with the psycho vindictive bitchy ex-gf, psycho clingy immature intern, psycho creepy ex-stalker. Yes, they all turned out not that psycho after all but that didn't help for the dozens of episodes when I thought they were. All the violent fighting and injuries and Aera's birth secret and jealous adopted son and cheating was more than enough conflicts already imo. It was slighty too much, I wished it had been simplified a bit more, like how it was in the beginning, and stuck to its core story instead of adding all those new things but not developing them properly. Instead, they could have explored and resolved the beef with Tak-soo with more oomph, and gave more time for Aera's journey in her career like how they did in the beginning, giving so much time for her at the department store, and dealing with her friends, and taking on the microphone in the wedding, etc.

18
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

The creepy ex-stalker was when I started getting annoyed with FMW. I thought of SWDBS and was really ticked off that they might drag us down a scary dark alley in an already perfectly good show. Concern about where that story was heading did not increase my enjoyment of FMW one jot. Bleah.

7

Tbh, I skip almost all the scenes of the psycho killer in SWDBS, to me, it's so unnecessary. As for SP, I don't like it that I can't really skip most of Hyun Soo's part as the plot is kinda important as a part of the whole story.
But yes, thank God for FMY! I wish there'll be more of this kind of romcom dramas in the future! As for TLAHL, I put on hold for that drama because I can't really stand the heroine's character in that drama.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I wholeheartedly agree with the need for spoilers. I wouldn't be able to get safely (without heartbreak) through Reply 1994 without knowing who the husband is.

18
5
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yes, I'm also a spoiler-kind of girl - like I would read the last few pages of a book midway to find out the ending before I continue and the same applies to shows that I watch. Thus watching shows live can be rather stressful esply if the ending sucks... 😖

16
reply

Required fields are marked *

I watch dramas with spoilers too. I need them to help me handle my emotions better. The extreme anxiety is not why I watch dramas. And I avoid horror movies like plagues.

10
reply

Required fields are marked *

I read all the spoilers and I read the end of books first.

12
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

I skip to the end of books, too! Why waste time on a book if the ending is horrible? It drives my friends crazy.

11
reply

Required fields are marked *

Omo! I did that too! For ALL 3 Replies! :D

2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Omo, I'm the same. I've been feeling so guilty for dropping good dramas, but I also mentally check out once there's too much tension in a drama, no matter how good it is, and how well executed with tons of quality it is.
I think it's a defense mechanism, the moment there's too much at stake, too much tension, the moment I sense things are going to go terribly wrong for the heroes and the villains are going to be cackling in victory, albeit even temporarily, I run away out of fear. I just can't take it. I either check myself out emotionally and watch it with detachment (and then stop caring as as result), or just follow the drama through recaps, having contented myself that I've been able to appreciate its "quality" for enough episodes (usually anywhere from 6 to 12 episodes) that I can follow the rest of the story removed from the stress.

I find myself appreciating dramas with much lower stakes (mostly slice-of-life), or at least, if with high stakes, kept at low-tension. Nowadays, dramas that are able to keep me engaged are not because of their plot, but because of how much I care for their characters, and how little stress I feel watching them. Even the best dramas can make me feel less engaged if I check out because of the too high tension. It's a hard balance to make, keep a drama not too tension-filled and too full of nail-biting twists that I don't run away (but I like clever twists like in PU 38), but also engaging enough that I care (usually through thorough character-building).

Examples of dramas I can watch stress-free include the characters-focused dramas like Answer Me series, Weightlifting, KES's dramas, Liar, PU 38, Shopping King, Surplus Princess, Splish Splash Love, or dramas where the heroes have a supernatural advantage that I can feel reassured enough (Circle with alien, QIH's man with talisman, Goblin, From another star, and Healer (let's face it, JCW fighting skills is nearly supernatural in that drama. Hee.)

31
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

How could I forget Chief Kim in the list!! Chief Kim too!

6
reply

Required fields are marked *

Bravo for nailing precisely why I enjoyed dramas with mainly banters and/or slice-of-life discussions between the hero and heroine about their feelings and/or their common and differing take on how to handle love and relationships and friendships that are nearly always panned by Beanies as boring like Dots or Doctors (or also praised like TLAHL or FMW or Replies). I also love dramas with comedy in them like Best Hit or Chief Kim. It helps swallow all the more "dramatic" plot better.

I also enjoy the more eventful and high stake dramas, but I usually have to read spoilers when I arrive at a cliffhanger scenes (like when a secret is about to be discovered by the enemies or the heroes are backed into a corner) before deciding whether to proceed with the episode or wait for another week. That unfortunately increase the chance for the drama to be dropped in the middle if I fall too behind. :(

24
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

I like DOTS too. I loved the relationship between Yoo Si Jin and Kang Mo Yeon, they were relationship goals imo. But we're in the minority looking at all the comments hating the drama in the Mr. Sunshine news article. :( Oh well.

10
reply

Required fields are marked *

for me DOTS is actually best of Kim Eun Suk drama. I like too.

9
reply

Required fields are marked *

There are so many good thrillers, sageuk these days but my inner romantic self just want a good straight-up feel-good rom-com that is disease-less and criminals-less with no annoying cliche mothers-in-laws either. Is that too much to ask?

13
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

No, I wish for the same. Now that FMY has ended, my craving for romcom has grown even bigger.

3
reply

Required fields are marked *

Admittedly, it's the rom-coms that drew me in as well. And this piece could have been written by my husband, who has doggedly refused to watch anything else, except Goblin--that was an aberration, but had heavy doses of comedy along with the melo.

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Usually what makes a rom-com for me is the couple and heroine. This is more important to me than just a straight up rom-com, so I also want to add Master's Sun, You From Another Star (best heroine ever), Queen In Hyun as rom-coms I enjoy. Couple goals and heroine crushes in all of the. If we were to stick to just straight-up rom-coms, my fav rom-coms always have my fav female heroine in them like TLAHL (Sorim is love), FMW (Aera), 1997 (Shiwon), Woman who wants to marry (gf squad), Marriage not dating, etc. That or they need an adorable couple like in WFKBJ or SKL or TLAHL or SWDBS I can fall in love with.

20
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Another adorable couple I forgot is Kim Yeol and Kang Yeon Doo in SGG.

9
reply

Required fields are marked *

Romcom and melodrama are the genre that drew me in to kdrama world back to early 2000s, but after 2010 I started to love crime / thriller drama more, sageuk has been always my fav genre even from before. I also love slice of life drama, with less romance. I sometimes envy for those who just discovered kdrama and their first drama are like BOF, Heirs etc. I just can no longer appreciate / enjoy romcom nowadays because everything seems so predictable. Now I'll just watch the first few epi, skip in the middle if I feel boring and maybe watch the last 2 epi. It's also up to the casts as well.

I wish romcom will be lesser than 16/32 epi (in general other genre as well, but some drama need longer epi) and I hope it will come true. 20/40 epi is too long for this genre - such as Suspicious Partner.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm always hopeful and wanting romcoms in my life, but more often than not, they disappoint me. I have a running spreadsheet of all dramas I watch (I know I'm crazy *covers eyes*), and the dramas I drop most are romcoms (unfortunately!)... somewhere along the way, they just lose steam for me. I can't handle the noble idiocy, time skips, or forced conflicts when you know they're just going to get back together in the end anyway. Romcoms with a great OTP and tight storylines are hard to come by, but I love it when they're done right. Some of my favorites are SKL, WFKBJ, Jealousy Incarnate, and It's Okay That's Love. For Romcoms to work for me, I need to like BOTH leads (but sometimes even that can't save a show for me - I'm looking at you SWDBS). Yea not feeling all the thriller/romcom mixes that are so popular these days. I wish they'd do more slice of life romcoms like Reply 1997 and Weightlifting Fairy - just a solid lead couple who are navigating through life together with a lot of cute along the way.

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I love this. I do enjoy higher stakes dramas off and on, but I love knowing there's always a comforting romcom (or 30) to go back to when I need to chill.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Umm...but what about changing tastes...i think this post is more like the catnip thing.
Anyway... very well written post!

1
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Hehe, I think this post is more of a 'unchanging tastes' in the HeadsNo2 tradition. It narrates a journey of self-discovery, which I really liked: she tried other types of dramas and that helped discover why she loves rom-coms. :)

4
reply

Required fields are marked *

Rom-Coms will always be my crack. I like the fluffy escapism. Yes, my viewing habits have expanded, but I'll never forsake the rom-com.
They wouldn't be a "thing" if lots of people didn't still enjoy them - tropes notwithstanding. So, I have to admit I get a little bothered when people badmouth them and/or expect them to be something that they are not. I see so many people that are vocal about rom-coms being vapid, and how they need something with more substance. Those types of shows are good too, but I don't always need that kind of entertainment. Sometimes I just want to sit back and let my mind relax with something simple and uncomplicated. We all like our entertainment served differently and there's room on the couch for all of us! :)

9
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

there is no longer rom com which I can relate to nowadays. It's not like i hate rom com. i love some feel good rom com which i can relate too. like can we get married?

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Are you me?! I found the scene where Lee Min-ho breaks down and cries the best immersion I have ever known from him character-wise and I've seen all his dramas post-BOF. I loved the character of Choi Young, my favorite character of his, but I found that I didn't quite enjoy his performance because something felt lacking. I also loved all the other shows you mentioned except Fight My Way which was dull as beans for me. I love rom-coms forever, as evidenced by my user name, but sometimes I love high-stakes drama too like Lookout. Noirs aren't really my thing though.

6
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Ahahaha, I will never ever graduate from rom-coms. I usually start thrillers like Lookout and Rebel but end up dropping them in the middle. My nerves grate when the evil guys start being more winsome than the heroes. :D

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Oh wow this is me , I completely agree! I love dramas but hate too much conflict in the plot. Dramas for me are just fantasy no need for stressful plots full of villians, murder and sadness. I love a good rom com with just the right combo of fuffly and slice of life aspect like the reply series. While I also like other genres too I will always return to dramas like secret garden, heirs, and it started with a kiss.

6
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I completely relate to this! 😍

6
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I feel this way, in part because I prefer stories that investigate the lives of individuals and families and that reveal their personalities. I LOVED Reply 1988 for that reason. For me, that was the pinnacle of Kdramas and nothing else has compared (although "Fight for My Way" came pretty close, for many of the same reasons.

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

>> I find the safety net of an impending happily-ever-after quite comforting. <<

I love this and I love your essay. I also find it true that especially after a recent death in the family, the rom-com territory is where I want to live. Intrigue in a sageuk is manageable but I'm glad to ignore evil plotting and violence in anything in modern dress these days. The great thing about kdrama is that I can change my tastes again should I want to!

6
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I relate to this. I love intricate complex thrillers full of twists and turns like anybody else, but there is certainly charm in simplicity and mundane day-to-day scenes in those dramas you mentioned. What others despise and look down on as empty waste of time in "uneventful" scenes, I see it as pleasant time spent getting to know the characters more on a personal level, and once I got to know them well and love them, I see those scenes as a grand time hanging out with people I like.
It's the same for real-life to me as dramas. When I want to get to know someone, I prefer getting to know them in simple settings. A coffee shop conversation, rather than a car chase, where I'd be more concerned with escaping rather than have time to actually know them. Ok, so maybe not a car chase, but if I go to the amusement park for a date, I focus more on having fun on the rides than on the people I'm going there with. It's why I prefer to have simple dates. <3 Of course, there's excitement in a car chase or an attraction park, but I'm just making the point that there is also a pleasant time to be had for simpler things.

Just like how I would never get bored hanging out hours for hours, days after days, and even years after years, just talking with my friends, or if more in line with watching dramas, just having fun watching them talk and bicker among each other, I also don't get bored when I watch characters I like just spending time with each other doing nothing special but sharing their time and thoughts with each other. It's the charm of slice-of-life rom-coms for me.

7
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

While I still watch a lot of dramas, I find myself needing a fluffy rom com to balance out all those other emotions. I need to feel good to de-stress after a long day at work or after watching thrillers that make me unsettled.

I love the giddy feeling of romance and crushes. When there is too much of that and my brain starts to need new stimuli, I will go back to other more 'intellectual' shows.

Wait, this really sounds like rom coms are my catnip.

5
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

That's why I always say that what I want out of a drama is people with problems I will never have but everything is still tied up with a pretty bow at the end. Life is stressful enough, thank you very much. My tastes vary based on my mood, but I can definitely relate to needing to take a break if the drama gets too "dramatic".

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thanks for the collumn.
1- We like different rom-coms but I feel about mine the way you feel about yours.

2- There have been so many dramas that have yuge followings that I couldn't even try. My nerves can't stand the suspense of thrillers and mysteries, and my stomach can't stand the brutality of some procedurals. As a result I am committed to rom-coms, workplace and slice of life dramas.

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I love me some romcoms and the formulaic storyline calms me down since I know what to expect. And its a guarantee that it will be a happy ending. Its usually my go to when choosing dramas. 😊 I also love TLAHL and FMW! 😄

21
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

i'm the Switzerland here! i like shows that mix both thrillers and rom-com well. extreme of any kind is not that interesting to me although they sure have their own moments. when life is too simple, it's thrillers and mystery, sometimes even melo, all the way for me! and when life is tough as it is, the fluff in the spare time is my fix!! :D

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

this is like the catnip threads all over again! there's something that everyone likes and loves!

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

So me! I was nodding while reading through. I started Kdramas as my entrance to a whole different world, like an escape to my day to day real life. Thus, I usually watch dramas that are relatable, and does not make me think too much. But from time to time, I do try checking other genres maybe 'cause of the lead actor (yes LJG & Gikwang I've watched ALL your dramas) or I got interested with the plot. Though I always find comfort whenever I watch rom-coms, slice of life dramas.

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

yes yes.. so true.. i must have romance in my dramas, no matter the stakes in the drama lol

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I love rom coms too, but I realized I like romance in a slice of life type of dramas...I dont like the cinderella, candy, too sweet kind of drama...I prefer a romance drama which is realistic, showing real life type of conflicts and situations that could happen in the real world

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Oh wow, this got posted and I never even knew. :D

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I used to watch a lot of rom-coms, as well, but then I started venturing into more high-stakes, crime dramas, starting with Big Man and
Doctor Stranger (which also pulled me into medical dramas). Then, when I saw Pinocchio, I realized I was really drawn to the whole suspense, mystery genre. It was all good because Pinocchio, though suspenseful, still maintained a light fluff of romance in there that was adorable.

But, then Yong Pal came out, which was my ultimate Doctor-Crime fix. Then, Monster, which was like Big Man all over again with too many added episodes. Then, K2, and when K2 didn't come out fast enough, I had to go and watch Healer, and that sealed my destiny. And, with all the crime-thriller dramas coming out, I'm just loving the suspense!

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *