[Changing Tastes] Understanding that things get complicated
by Guest Beanie
When I was a teenager I was a bit rigid—a wet blanket, a stick in the mud, a know-it-all, Hermione from the first half of the first Harry Potter book, essentially. Right was right and wrong was wrong and people playing around in the middle were indecisive and morally weak (…I know). So when dramas had love triangles what went on for too long, or had characters that made choices that they knew were wrong, I would lose interest. How could I respect a character who had to make a hard choice and choose wrong?
The first dramas I watched were Nobuta wo Produce and Kimi wa Petto, which of course had conflict and character growth moments, but the characters always chose right. Pick your friends over meaningless coolness, pick the boy who loves you over status, and so on.
The first Korean drama I watched was Goong. I think that drama wore me out in the latter half because of recycled conflicts and stubborn character writing in general, but also because I couldn’t understand the conflict at all. You like each other or you don’t. You tell each other or you shut up. Be decisive.
I tried My Name Is Kim Sam-soon and Coffee Prince next and they went entirely over my immature head.
I stuck to lovely dramas that I still like, like You’re Beautiful and My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho because I could understand those conflicts better. They were motivated by outside factors. You’re Beautiful was a gender-bender like Coffee Prince, but Coffee Prince was driven by internal conflict that I couldn’t grasp (Do you like him/her or not? Why the bleeding hell was she not telling him that she’s a girl? Why all the crying? Gah!), while You’re Beautiful was driven by outside conflict (people interfering, threats made, stupid family history) which could be frustrating in its own way, but I could understand it.
Then life came ’round, as it does, and kicked me in the shin, poked me in the eye, slapped me on the back of my head, and told me that I don’t know crap. And life was right, as it usually is. People took on layers, right was mixed with wrong, wrong was mixed with right. There were no clear answers, no truths to make things easier, no absolute right option hiding behind a bush that if I could just sit still and wait long enough, would present itself to me like a rabbit to a zen hunter.
Then my drama watching experience changed.
Those internal conflicts I found so galling and tedious before became necessary for me to really feel a drama knew what it was doing. Dramas like My Name Is Kim Sam-soon and Coffee Prince were rewatched with new eyes and appreciated with a slightly bruised but bigger heart.
School 2013 about did me in. In the past I would have grumbled about a lost friendship, about the lack of communication and stubbornness, but the older me empathized with the sadness of things left unsaid.
In shows like Two Weeks, it was no longer the chases with the cops, or the outmaneuvering of the bad guys, or Lee Jun-ki that got me the most (though I definitely enjoyed those things, don’t get me wrong)—it was all that regret. It was his wanting to fix things, to at least do one thing right. It was all the things he did wrong the first time, like when he tried to get his girlfriend to have an abortion, that grabbed my interest.
In a way, the changes in my drama-watching were a reflection of me in general. When life made me grow up a bit, it brought me a lot of pain, but it also brought me depth of insight and empathy for people in hard places that I truly believe has made me a better person. And a better drama watcher.
If all storytelling, however farfetched and out there it may be, is telling the story of people, then my changing tastes allowed me to truly see stories that I would have missed. The real story in between all the chaebols and mergers and amnesia and convoluted meet-cutes. The story of people making choices the best they can, mistakes and emotions all included.
- [Changing Tastes] Real life is sometimes more bizarre than makjang dramas
- [Changing Tastes] I came for the cultural differences and stayed for the commonalities
- [Changing Tastes] From the whole nine yards to the rom-com dreamboat
- [Changing Tastes] When your feelings have feelings
- [Changing Tastes] Rom-coms without the rose-colored glasses
- [Changing Tastes] From someone who doesn’t like change
- [Changing Tastes] My dad always said I’d learn to appreciate history someday
- [Changing Tastes] I’m sorry for ever doubting you, family dramas
- Theme of the Month: How have your K-drama tastes changed over time?
- What’s your dramaland catnip? Tell us your stories!
Tags: Theme of the Month