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[Hey, that’s me] And my dysfunctional family


Life Is Beautiful

By Ally

I, again, was not going to write this month, but sometimes you don’t get to choose what you do. For me, writing is therapeutic, and I need a boatload of therapy right now. K-dramas are restorative too and sometimes hit more close to home than we realize, and in that proximity, we gain some lucidity in the choices we make. So, what do we see in K-dramas that draw us to them?

The theme of the month asked when we see ourselves in dramas. I’ve never seen me in a character. I’ve seen what I’d like to be, but not what I am. However, I have seen people I know and people in my family. I tell people all the time that I could write a drama with inspiration from my own dysfunctional family. I didn’t know how right I was until I recently went to a cousin’s wedding.

Get about a hundred of people in the same family together in one room and you have the makings of a makjang drama, I’m telling you. I have LOTS of cousins, and they are all younger than I am. seeing them and their families grow up, navigating life makes for some great fly-on-the-wall-watching and listening. I heard and saw parents who think their adult or near-adult children are about to make the most horrible mistakes of their lives (usually involving a love interest). Guardians thinking they are being taken advantage of or even abused, when they are really just being good guardians. And children stuck in the middle, possibly psychologically damaged for life, or stronger for having such crazy things said and done to them.


Boyfriend

What K-drama doesn’t have the overbearing mother contrasted with a loving one? We see the dichotomy in Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food between the mother and the father. They could be plucked out of my family (an alpha female with a beta male is my mom and dad). In Boyfriend, the female lead’s mother is so concerned about appearances, and tries to get her daughter back together with her ex in a loveless marriage. Yep, I’ve seen that too.

Or the mother who plays the victim card to get her way, guilting everyone into thinking she’s sacrificed the most, that everyone has taken advantage of her kindness which is really only lip service for getting her own agenda accomplished. Putting on a pretty face, but scheming in every way behind the scenes. (The queen dowager in nearly every sageuk ever, am I right?)


The Moon That Embraces the Sun

This is why I need some therapy today! The funny thing is the that these moms were in love once; they may have been discarded, and they may have been looked down upon as well. And it’s this cycle that we see play out in K-dramas, except that we hope the cycle breaks in our own lives.

My mother has been that over-the-top-you’re-not-good-enough-for-my-daughter witch to my sister’s husband, only to turn around and be entirely supportive of my brother when he was being cut-down by another mother who had been ostracized by her own father for dating someone unworthy of his daughter.

Sometimes we can’t see the rings that a drop of water makes on a pond because we’re in the water. But when we pull ourselves out and watch it from the shore we see how each ring is an extension of the other. I guess it’s getting to dry land that is the trick. K-dramas sometimes are that buoy that allows us to stop drowning for a second to see some clarity in our own lives when we see those near us behaving badly, or, at that very least, make us realize what we should not do to become those characters that we abhor so intently.

I really thought I had a normal family until just recently. I guess it really started with my sister’s would-be engagement when I realized I had a makjang mother who made her would-be son-in-law cry crocodile tears. He’s still scared of her to this day. I always say that all tropes happened to someone in real life. Trust K-dramas to make them feel real and fresh.

I still love my mom. She’s the mama bear anyone would want defending her cubs. And all the moms in my family are like her, so maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on them. (Nah, I’m still pissed!) But as dysfunctional as my family is, K-dramas always show me one that is even more so—at least we haven’t murdered each other…yet.


An Empress’s Dignity

 
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Congrats for getting published again @ally-le! I think most extended families have some drama, some to makjang levels (mine is the stuff of weekend drama...)
Your nuclear family is what matters the most, and from your OT posts it sounds like you are doing well with your husband and kids. :)
I mostly stay away from the gossip and the drama in my extended family. It’s interesting (and sometimes fun) to observe them put on a show at public functions or the occasional family gathering. It’s great writing material too!

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It’s incredible writing material! I sometimes wonder how much writers draw on their own families and life experiences. I can’t be the only one, right?

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I think so too. Think many writers take inspiration from the stories around them and the people they know. It is why family weekend and daily dramas are such an easy watch. On some level, you recognize these people and it feels relatable. :)

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I enjoyed reading your write-up! Gave me a chuckle, we all seem to have varying degrees of k drama characters in our families. Just gotta love em.

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I’m glad you enjoyed it! If I wasn’t laughing, I’d be crying!

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Hi ally, another fantastic essay! Girl, you are such a good writer!
My family drives me crazy but are nowhere near qualifying as drama characters. Does that mean ... it's just me?

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Lol! Are you the weird aunt with the cats? I’m sure you’re just as “normal” as I am.

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Ha, you already know that I AM THE WEIRD AUNT WITH THE CATS 🙀

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WEIRD AUNT WITH THE CATS HIGH FIVE

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👋🏽 TOTALLY! 😹

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Haha, my mom would have been that way, but now she's just desperate for us to marry ANYONE. Beggars can't be choosers. She's pretty nice to my brother's wife, though, and often mentions she doesn't want to be a mother-in-law like in the dramas.

I have an aunt who's Last Empress-level makjang. If there's nothing dramatic going on in her life, she manufactures something. Luckily, my cousins didn't inherit this trait and are relatively normal.

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That’s my aunt too!!! And kinda why I wrote this piece!

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I should say aunt(s), but can only claim one of them as blood-related (thank goodness).

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Congrats ally! I remember reading bits on discord but this is way amazing! You're such a good writer. Being in a big family equals lots of drama (usually). And lol at the last part! Yay to no killings, and I sure hope it always stays that way. Hehe

This is poetic~~~ Sometimes we can’t see the rings that a drop of water makes on a pond because we’re in the water. But when we pull ourselves out and watch it from the shore we see how each ring is an extension of the other. 

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It was after I vented on Discord that I decided to write this! I felt more people could relate and who doesn’t love a good makjang with family squabbles? If you can’t beat them, join them, I say!

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I really didn’t think this one would make the cut. I didn’t even talk about “Life is Beautiful,” which I have good intentions of watching, but haven’t got to yet! But what a nice family photo they make! And that’s the kicker. In family photos, we all look so well adjusted and normal and (dare I say) photogenic as well. It’s what you see when you’re close to us that are the stuff of nightmares! Thanks again! This really never gets old! 😘🥰

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that photo make me realize that mum and dad in Life is Beautiful are the same ones in "Father is Strange" !!

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That photo had me puzzled. The Mum and Dad looked familiar but I couldn’t place the kids( I’ve only seen Father is Strange)

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great write-up, @ally-le !
this really should have been called "An Ode to the Misunderstood Over-bearing Mum of KDramaland: we don't get it, but we love you any way."
ha ha ha
and trust me: we all have some degree of dysfunction in our respective families. Don't let anyone's picture-perfect family fool you.
*wink*

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let´s see.
alpha mom and beta dad, yes.
possibility of being switched and granny not acknowledging me, yes.
scheming + overbearing mom yes.
Dad doing a second grade job.
I also have relatives who look down on my parents because I am an artist and I am not famous.
Mom sticking her nose into everyones´ business.
violence, aggression, hitting, lots of hitting.
schizo aunt
family house with all the generations (was, but not where we permanently live)

basically it is a typical loser family and love interest is no dream guy for anyone

the found family and circle of friends + work family is the best though. I never expected to form close bonds with people, being sociophobic, but really I have met some great people (and I have decided to not let it bother me that we never go out or they move on and I am easy to leave behind, maybe that´s a good thing... my dear oppas are always there for me). .... Now, a real brother or sister, that is something I will never have :-( and I won´t get to be an aunt. But I have the kids of my friends, I am auntie to them and they like me. wacky aunts and uncles really make life more interesting. Kids trust them more than parents sometimes...great to be in that role.

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It sounds like you need to write a book! I’ll be waiting ;).

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Or a 50 episodes daily drama

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actually if I write it down like this it really does seem I have material enough for a century long saga

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Great article as always @ally-le. Families can be great. I wouldn't trade my immediate family for anything, but extended family........well, they are an interesting bunch.

For example, I recently learned that the aunt who was always snooty and judgmental towards anyone who got pregnant outside of marriage was and is on very shaky moral ground herself: 1) She was knocked up when she got married; 2) 95% sure she covered up an assault on one of her children so it wouldn't impact her husband's political career (also explains somewhat, why their kids fled their city as soon as they graduated high school; and 3) Her husband passed away last year, and she has since started seeing her high school sweetheart who happens to still be married to his terminally ill wife.

I'm pretty sure this could be a weekend drama.

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What’s up with insane aunts??? And thank you!

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this could be a high rated melo

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..." these moms were in love once"...

Maybe, maybe not. It is dangerous to ascribe motive when you don't know it. It removes possibilities that lead to revealing the truth.

"The past is a foreign country" - It was a different time, and different social conventions and expectations. Women had different choices and were forced into (or planned) different outcomes. We are talking allegiances, hidden secrets, and yes even avoidance of worse outcomes.

We get court if we transpose our version of the word "love" to mean the same as for others, past generations or even different cultures. There is always something that gets lost in translation.

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I was just speaking from the actual mothers I know in my family who did marry for love and not arranged. It’s amazing to me how soon we forget those feelings, how strong they are, and what we would do for those we love. But then again, they probably think they’re doing what they do out of love too. Thanks for your insight though. It’s not that long ago that my family tree came out of the inner and outer courts of palaces where love was a luxury and marriage looked more like a chess game than a personal choice.

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We all forget how different our present is from the very near past and families are full of myths to cover uncomfortable truths.

In my home it was into the 70's were unmarried mothers were having their children taken away at birth. Yes, my family also has it all. Mothers married off to another man after pregnancy to undesirable man, women getting pregnant to escape brutality, and yes the cliche of a fake pregnancy to a married man. All couched in family conversations as loving each other....which is why it is always a risk of being devastating experience when sitting with very old drunk family members.

Please don't think I am excusing male behaviour here...that is just a whole other conversation with the same levels of behaviour wrapped "love"-not love.

If you are lucky enough to actually have the happy family of TV sitcoms and adverts I think you are blessed...but for many it is a gothic tale.

I guess my point was that assuming "love" in parents is a generalisation and there are just too many exceptions to trust it.

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I feel for your brother in-law who cried. I'm sure your mother means best. Sometimes, dramas don't illustrate the complexity of the issue of why a mother behaves the way she does (might i cite as an example: the last empress? LOL). But-- and I by no means mean your mother WHATSOEVER-- I HAVE seen such cruel, irresponsible overbearing mothers that are even worse than what dramas illustrate. So when I do see such over the top but REAL characters onscreen, I can't bare to sit through it. When it's too real, it's too hard to stomach.

I hope youre doing fine, and don't worry, Family is dysfonctionality (is that a word?). As long as you have a supportive shoulder to lean on and a bit of perseverance, you can stand anything. Fighting!

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Thank you, @justme! I’m doing just fine. I can be very diplomatic when I need to be. That’s what I’m known for at work and in my family. It’s what I stand on to keep me sane most of the time. Thanks for your concern. My concern is in those that don’t have the power yet to escape some of this abuse, but they will, I’m certain of that!

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@ally-le alpha mom and beta dad describes my family as well!

@stroopwafel, this is not a "Hey, that's me" but this post made me think of all the stories in my family and I thought if there was a theme of the month "Dramas from our lives/families" I have one that would make a great makjang...

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@moonbean
Sure, toung-in-cheek reveling at the makjang of it all is cathartic at times but little more than a guilty sugar hit. Its just a drama version of owning our shite so others can't. Now, figuring out how to break the cycle...I want to read that post.

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Suffice it to say for now that like all weekenders all characters were redeemed in the end and they lived happily ever after. ;)

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@ally-le such a great post and so recognisable!

Families are endlessly fascinating because of the ability that some people have to hurt the ones they love. All in their best interest of course...

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Thank you, @cloggie! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Families are truly enigmatic. I hope when I become an elderly matriarch, things will settle a bit. But in reality, I’ll probably be writing about my disrespectful and confused grandchildren!

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Thanx @ally-le. I relate so much to this. Whenever my mum, my sisters and I are trying to think of ways to make money one of us always says "You know, we could sell our(extended family's) story for a truckload of money. It's so crazy it has to rake in quite a bit". I think the reason I have trouble watching daily dramas is because the characters are so crazy they remind me of the crazytown I grew up in and ultimately escaped from. While my mum is the sweetest thing ever, my aunts and uncles are on a whole 'nother level of crazy. One silver lining is that the crazy brought me,my mum and my sisters close together that you couldn't mess with us if you spent your whole life trying. So maybe the crazy was worth it.... Nah, I'm glad I left. "At least we haven't murdered each other". No truer words.

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I was gonna skip commenting because I thought my mom was pretty "normal". Then I remembered she is still not talking to (slight exaggeration, she talks, but only the bare minimum) her sister who ran off with a man my mom didn't approve of. Prime makjang material there. For context, It's been 30 years....

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@palaa
That is probably why your mother is "pretty normal".

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Great post, Ally.
I feel the same, not relating to any specific character but the depiction of a makjang mom or a dysfunctional family hit close to home. Sometimes, it hits too close that I'd rather not watch the show. At other times, it helps in (wishful)thinking I must not be the only one going through the same craziness or abuse.

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Thank you @ally-le. I came this summer after a long year home and my uncle created a life destructive drama I've never could think of. Alcohol can make so damage in already selfish brain. It's heartbreaking because until now I pardoned all those bad things he'd done but from now on he is finished with me. He's a spoilt brat and he's very possessive even on that stuff he shouldn't lay his hands on. He's like a typical mafia Don Pedro - one minute he's laughing with you and the other one he wished to have you wiped out of his life.

When I was little I preferred my dad's family but while growing up I started to read in between the lines and I love my whole family but prefer the more simple, easygoing, non materialistic, food and art loving mum's family. You don't choose your family only your friends and acquaintances so you have to deal with it and love with all those crazy things going on but what's enough it's enough! I am very sensitive and sensible person who is always trying to sort out all the problems or who when seeing injustice opens her mouth and opens the sleeping volcano so I can't sleep properly and have nightmares and live dreams when you awake with more anger, tears or possible resolutions. It's one month I can't sleep normally having all those things named and it's sooooo exhausting so I believe the writer of Let me hear your song (I'm not watching though, no time, no taste for dramas) that the heroine is not having a sense of danger because your senses are so twisted.

Anyway when I was a teenager I was all the time thinking my parents are not as good as those of my classmates or friends and when like adults we were chatting I discovered that my parents are the best among them and I love them so much although they have their flaws but who doesn't?

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I think you are healthy and doing the right thing cutting ties with your uncle. You don’t need that destruction in your life, no one does. And my parents are the best too!

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