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[Escapism vs. Realism] When realism is what draws you in now


Because This Life Is Our First

By @whoopeeyoo

I’d been watching K-dramas for escapism even when I didn’t know what escapism was, at ten years old. I was escaping from the usual Filipino telenovelas, from homework, and from my mom checking to see if I did it (because we were both busy watching K-dramas). In college, not only did I escape in the love stories K-dramas offered, I also used fansubbing to procrastinate. Instead of writing and editing my own school papers, I edited subtitles for 49 Days and Protect the Boss. K-dramas meant escaping the real world, be it real-life events or real-life obligations and responsibilities. With K-dramas, I forgot my own problems and concerns because all I had to worry about was how the hero and heroine would get together in the end. Or if the subtitles appeared long enough for people to read them.

Surprisingly, with my tendency to run away from real life and escape into fiction, I have never gravitated towards fantasy. I have always favored K-dramas (and in general, stories) set in the real world, populated by characters who resemble people I actually know. Of course, contemporary K-dramas don’t always fit this mold because I don’t personally know a Candy or a third-generation chaebol (Or do I? Maybe he’s just keeping it a secret?). K-dramas already tend to present the real world as just a tad bit more magical than its drearier version that I’m familiar with. Up until now, I wanted fantasy out of realism. Specifically, all I wanted was fluffy romantic comedies. Little to no romance in the plot? Pass. This made me picky about the K-dramas I watched because I stayed away from a lot of workplace dramas, medical dramas, and legal dramas. Those were all too real and heavy for my fluff-loving heart.


Chief Kim

This year though, a shift has happened. I did something that my past self would have never even considered. I picked up Chief Kim, even though my brain was telling me to stay away. First of all, it’s a workplace drama and it’s about a small department saddled with receipts and finances and accounting. With no romance in sight. On paper, it seemed like a snoozefest to me. I only picked it up because of Namgoong Min and because I got curious about how a workplace drama was raking in the ratings in South Korea. How delighted I was to be proven wrong. Chief Kim was such a great mix of office hijinks and heartwarming stories. The characters were ones anyone could root for and even the supposed villain was layered and hard to hate. But really, it was gut-bustingly funny at times, and then sometimes I wouldn’t even notice that I was crying because I was so moved. So warm, that show.

That was a turning point for me. I became more open to trying K-dramas I would never have touched before. I never thought that I’d watch a show like Forest of Secrets, but the hype was too difficult to ignore. I started it and ended up binging it until the wee hours of the morning. It was mind-twisting, heartbreaking, and definitely one of the best K-dramas I have ever seen. It was far from the fluff that I was used to and unlike Chief Kim, it wasn’t entertaining or amusing. It was stressful because corruption is real.


Forest of Secrets

I got into Falsify after that. Basically, you could say that Namgoong Min has singlehandedly widened my K-drama horizons. Corruption! Journalism! An evil conspiracy plot! Sign me up! I also loved Bad Guys so much that I don’t even know myself anymore. Where was the girl who only watched fluff rom-coms? Long gone was my aversion to non-romantic plots. I was now open to darker themes and conflicts.

Of course, I still continued to watch my romantic comedies, but I found myself appreciating them now for how well they portray real life. Like a lot of fellow beanies, Because This Life Is Our First has taken over my life now. And what I love most about it is how close to home everything is. From Ji-ho’s career struggles to all the gender norms and expectations the characters face to that frustrating mix of love and a bit of resentment between parents and their children. I used to love K-dramas for how fantastical the “real world” its characters lived in was, but now, what reels me in is that my real world is being represented—my struggles, my woes, my personal issues—in such an accurate way that I end up almost catatonic from seeing my life on TV. I used to wish that I could be K-drama heroine, bringing over all the boys to the yard. Then here comes this drama where I don’t have to wish because I feel like a part of me has been donated to make this heroine. Although of course, it still leaves me wishing for a roommate like Lee Min-ki.

So while I still watch K-dramas for escapism, now it’s only to escape obligations and responsibilities and deadlines. Nowadays, I try to spot and appreciate how a drama grounds itself in the real world, be it with its realistic and relatable characters, or the social and political climate it tries to subtly criticize and subvert. Maybe it’s growing up, I don’t know, but I now have a newfound appreciation for fiction mimicking real life and for real life itself.

 
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Such a awesome post @whoopeeyoo ! Agreed about the gritty realism in the Kdrama keeping me hooked.

also

I don’t personally know a Candy or a third-generation chaebol (Or do I? Maybe he’s just keeping it a secret?)

Hahaha! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the enemies-turned-bestie guy you know is a secret chaebol who will soon turn into your main lead! ;)

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Thank you for the kind words, @irishrah! Gritty is the exact word I should have used in my write-up. Haha! I will definitely let you know if I uncover some secret chaebols among the people I know and it would be doubly better if we end up starring in our own rom-com. Haha!

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I never knew all I was going through was escapism. I personally am very emotional so when i get annoyed or sad it is very exaggerated and i can't control how am feeling. But quite on the contrary, Kdramas give me a better avenue to channel my feelings and it helps me escape from it all. I thank God everyday for giving my a serendipity encounter with kdramas....they give me better glasses in viewing the world hence why am so in love with “Because this life is our first“.

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I'm so glad you've found kdramas too. Feelings are such tricky things and finding an avenue to channel it is important. I also love how discussions about Because This Life is Our First help in widening my world views and looking at things from other people's perspectives because we each have our own emotions and thoughts and reading and connection to what we watch. I'm so glad that not only it serves as something to escape to but it also sparks realistic discussions.

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Yes to this so so much, the discussions and variety of opinions make the drama watching so much more fruitful and fun.

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Thank you Beanies for recommending "Because This Life is our First" I already binged watch the episodes. There is a sense of familiarity about the show that resonates through our own personal experiences. I was crying about how Ji Ho described her scratchy banged up suitcase which reflected her rough struggles in life as an adult. That moment was just poignant and beautiful. I loved the women of this show. Seldom in K dramas that I liked all the women characters but this show made it possible:) Fom Ji Ho's hilarious girlfriends (the green jokes and teasing the innocent Ji Ho are just so funny). Bo Mi the office secretary I adore her too with that dry humor wearing pink to keep her female identity.. lol.. The mothers are also heart warming especially Ji Ho's mom. I also wished more back story on her.

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Beautiful post! I also enjoyed chief Kim very much. Never expected to like it so much, but I did. And it also made me cry once in a while. And I was perfectly fine without any romantic plotting line. There was no need.

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I was also perfectly fine without any romantic plot because I agree that there was no need. It seems like most people never expected to like the show as much as they ended up doing. I'm so glad I took a chance on the show! And thanks for reading my submission!

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lovely writeup!
I was a bit skeptical about chief Kim but after the first episode I was totally in love with the show. from yul as a glutton to the Denmark dream of chief Kim it was a fun ride. I'm here hoping for news of a second season for this hilarious show.

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Thank you for your kind words!

I was so happy that I gave Chief Kim a chance. Like you, by the first episode, I've fallen over this oddball and wacky workplace kdrama. I would be so over the moon if a second season happens!

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The very last drama i watched which was made closer to reality would be Argon. An 8-episode drama which depicted both sides of reporters. The good and the bad. News which shows both the light and the darkness of this world.

One who want to bury the secrets and show all the good side of them, and the other who tries to go deeper and deeper in search of truth and facts. It shows how much information can be manipulated just to get a favorable result on one party's side.

I am upset that this wonderful drama wasnt a regular normal 16 or 20 ep. I loved this one more than Falsify which i dropped it around 4 eps.

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I've been interested in Argon but I remember the lack of English subs so I was discouraged. But after I learned that it was on Netflix last week, I knew I'll be watching it pretty soon. If only Stranger Things season two didn't drop that weekend too, I might have already been done with it. But then the news of Kim Joo-hyuk's passing shocked me and I'm torn between watching it for his memory or waiting a bit because it's going to be heartbreaking. Thank you for your thoughts on the show though because it sounds like something really good. I admit that Falsify wasn't great but it was easy to watch and surprisingly hooked me too.

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I binge watched it last week.
OMG! Kim joo hyuk , the lead actor is dead? I just read your comment, and googled it. That is such a devastating news. I really loved him as both an actor and his personality. He was a really a nice man. This news really broke my heart. Its just been i think 3 days after i watched Argon. This news reminded me of the last time i saw him in the ending credits of Argon, walking out of the broadcasting station.

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Thank you so much Dramabeans for the chance to contribute! And let's be real, I just wanted to write about Because This Life is Our First. Hahaha!

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I'm glad you did and happy that this show is receiving lots of love! I watched Chief Kim too and it was one of the best dramas this year... But This Life Is Our First is the one at the moment that makes me giddy with excitement every week... Jung So Min seems to be picking great projects and it's so good to see Lee Min Ki in a drama again!

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Seo Yul the Gluttonous Sociopath and Chief Kim TQ Psycho 😍😍😍

You know, 2017 widened my horizons as well: Chief Kim was my second office drama, and yes, I also went into it solely for Namgoong Min (and came out with a huge crush on Junho lol). My first office drama was Misaeng last Christmas, which was a real eye opener to slice of life dramas. I realised that rom-com fluff no longer cut it for me, and that I wanted fictionalized realism I could identify with. That is what keep me going back to sageuks as well, like Rebel: Thief Who Stole the People. But currently, I am as obsessed with BTLIOF as you.

TGIM = Thank God it's Monday. (Only beanies say that). 😂

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Ack, I really have to watch Misaeng before the year ends. It feels like I'm the only one who hasn't watched it and all the rave reviews are at equal parts making me excited to watch it and scared of the hype. I really must get to it ASAP!

And yes, I subscribe to TGIM nowadays too. What BTLIOF does to us is so unbelievable. Hahaha!

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"From Ji-ho’s career struggles to all the gender norms and expectations the characters face to that frustrating mix of love and a bit of resentment between parents and their children. "
I wish people write more about Ji Ho's mom, Ho Rang, and Su Ji. I really love the women in this drama, they are so relatable, so "real", I feel like I have seen elsewhere in my life where the women around me frustrated, struggled, and were reprimanded for the same reasons they have. Even Se Hee's mom, who always has to stand between the men of her life... I can see it in my Mom and me...

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I wanted to write about them too but I was cramming this feature and ended up not to. But like most people, I do love the women in BTLIOF too. They're real people with real struggles and such strong and compelling women at that too. Even Se-hee's mom was relatable, true, trying to be the diplomat in two immovable rocks.

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Even though you thought you were just procrastinating, thank you so much for subbing 49 Days and Protect the Boss. Those were two of my favorite shows, and I really depend on the people who do the subs. I could not have seen those without you and the other people who do it with you. Thanks to all of you!

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Thank you! I was only an editor but I loved doing it because I adored those dramas too! I long since quit fansubbing but my stint made me appreciate them all the more because the time and effort subbing one episode takes is surprising.

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Or if the subtitles appeared long enough for people to read them.

Ah, life in the 21st century. Thank goodness for the "back" button (in players that have it).

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I just flashed back to those times HAHA

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I agree with so much of what you wrote! I find myself drawn towards shows where characters deal with a lot more uncertainty whether it be in society or in themselves. And while I still love a good saguek or mystery thriller, it's dramas like Age of Youth and Because This is Our First Life stick with me longer. They still have troupes and impossible coincidences, but remain more relatable. Still escapism, but a different sort i guess~

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I love what you said about still having tropes and fateful encounters but remaining relatable. That's exactly how I feel too. And that they're a different sort of escapism, I wholly agree.

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I feel the same way. I refrain from watching rom-com sometimes and try new genre. I watched secret forest then bad guys. Totally hooked. You should also try signal. It is quite stressful also, but thrilling.

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Signal has been on my list! Very high on my list, actually. Although I'm going through the 2017 dramas first before I work my way backwards so maybe by December I would have seen it. So excited to watch it too! I've only heard rave reviews about it.

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I saw a screenshot from Because This Life Is Our First, I clicked. It's as simple as that.

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MWAHAHAHA BTLIOF is indeed clickbait

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Hi, fellow Filipino! Great job in writing this stuff; it's a great read! Like you, I must say that I'm more into dramas that are very much closer to reality. My favorites would be Reply series, Age of Youth, Misaeng, and my/our current favorite, Because This is My First Life. Watching dramas like these are great escape from the usual telenovelas in Philippine television. LOL.

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Maybe that's why I never purposefully watch makjang kdramas because I've had more than my fair share of Filipino telenovelas. Hahaha! And YAY PH REPRESENNNNTTTT~ Nice meeting you here!

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Hahahaha, our Filipino (and Mexican) telenovelas were indeed makjang! Now, if only our kdramas would also air 5 times a week in our favorite tv channel, with perfect subs so no horrible dubbing needed.

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I never thought of drama watching as an escape for realism, until the recent articles on these topics. For me it was always treated as something like reading manga or watching anime, just a form of entertainment. An appreciation for all arts you could say.

I never noticed I prefer more realistic dramas until I watched Misaeng and nothing ever hit me as hard as that drama. I was in my first job straight out of university when Misaeng aired and seeing Kang Sora's Ahn Young Yi and Siwan's Jang Geu Rae's character experience the same difficulties in the workforce as I did. It really hit me hard, I still remember crying so much when Ahn Young Yi was being told off by her boss since I just had the same experience a few days before. I think that's when I noticed my preference and taste were gearing towards realistic and believable situations. Candy girls and Chaebols weren't working for me no more, because I was in a different stage of my life. My eyes were opening to new things not limited to school and family, I wasn't only seeing things through rose tinted glasses as I used to when I was studying.

Now I prefer dramas with stronger female characters, better written plots, although I believe the less time I have to watch dramas has also made me super picky on which to follow as well. Then again there will always be those sweet indulgent dramas, where you know you're just watching to escape reality.

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