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[Hey, that’s me] Pieces of me

Ready for a bit of a letdown? I’ve never actually had a full-fledged “Hey, that’s me!” moment. I’ve never met a K-drama character that summed me up, or felt so close to my own life experiences that it was uncanny. But, what I have instead are moments in each and every story where I can see pieces of myself, no matter how big, no matter how small.

If the stories that we read, watch, or listen to didn’t move us — well, we wouldn’t read, watch, or listen to them. Stories that we don’t attach to emotionally are often abandoned. We’ll say something like, “I couldn’t get into it,” or “I didn’t like the main character,” or even more telling: “I couldn’t relate to it.”

That feeling of not being able to relate to something — that’s what drove me away from American media and into the delicious world of K-dramas. Here, on the opposite side of the world, there are heroines I can believe in, heroes I can hope for, and stories that I can relate to (no matter the level of crazy!)

But what does “relating” to something really mean? The textbook definition is “to feel sympathy with or identify with.” In other words, we recognize something of ourselves in another person, situation, or circumstance. It’s a valuable emotional experience because it helps us learn about life, people — and most importantly, ourselves.

It just so happens (at least in my experience) that we can relate to a story that’s somewhat close to our own experiences (definitely Cheers to Me), or as far from our own as we can get (Descended from the Sun, maybe?). Stories are such powerful inventions that there is always something that can speak to us, and always something that we can recognize.

In Cheers to Me, for example, I could more than see myself in the calm, thoughtful, and somewhat solitary lead character. I’m not as proficient at going to dinner by myself as she was, and I haven’t left my job to wander and explore the world, but I could still relate to her. And maybe even be inspired by her.

On the opposite side of the coin are dramas that are not remotely close to my life, and lead characters that are nothing like me — but still, there’s something I can recognize in their stories, and it pulls me in. Nothing in my life matches up to the storyline in Descended from the Sun, but there was a corner of my heart that fell for those scenes of sweeping romance. Similarly, I haven’t aided and abetted a rogue operative/vigilante like Healer or City Hunter (yet?!), but I can fully support it every single time it happens in dramaland.

Sometimes, I can relate to a drama emotionally that I can’t relate to at all on paper, kind of like in the crazy melodramas that I love so much. Take Come Here and Hug Me, for example. It was full of soul-killing foul play, murder, and devastation that gratefully I have not experienced in my own life.

But storytelling done right gives you avenues to understand the emotions of the characters — and sometimes even ways to overcome your own emotions, whatever they might be. In fact, this is kind of the function and purpose of catharsis — to allow us to feel and process emotions and events from afar. All of this to say: you don’t have to relate to a drama’s facts in order to relate to its emotions, or experience its story.

Dramas seem to have an eerie way of knowing what we’re looking for. Or maybe, because we’re looking for it, we find the message we need. Sometimes I can relate to a drama character and be inspired, or even comforted. This might be my most favorite way to interact with a story. It looks different for everyone, of course, because we are all moved by different things.

But when I’m feeling like an old maid, dramaland gives me stories about women who got second chances and new beginnings (Romance Is a Bonus Book, One Spring Night) — women who might think they’re passed over, but are actually sought out in life and in love.

And I can’t forget dramaland’s delightful assortment of heroines who are hellbent on writing their novels or screenplays or scripts. Writing is hard, and takes hours of thankless slavery — but I’ve gotten endless encouragement and energy from watching the determination of heroines who muscled on in dramas like Full House, Two Outs in the Ninth Inning, Temperature of Love, Gogh’s Starry Night, and more.

While I might not have a drama character that I feel defines me, or is walking around with her head on my shoulders, or my experience under her belt, I still feel closely tied to each drama that I watched and enjoyed.

Whether we relate to the facts, the emotions, or the situations in a story, there’s always a part that we can connect with, because stories are universal. We humans might be wildly different, but we’re also very much the same. There’s always a piece of ourselves — our heartbreaks, hopes, and dreams — that we can recognize in a good story.

 
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What a wonderful piece to read.
‘Dramas seem to have an eerie way of knowing what we’re looking for. Or maybe, because we’re looking for it, we find the message we need. ’
this hits me right in the heart. it’s like, I’m searching messages for myself by watching dramas. It can be an interaction, a word, a phrase or a plot which I find relatable and I use it as a support or as a comfort whenever I need it.

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Amen, amen and aaaaaa-men.
You know that song from the musical Once on This Island?

"You listen very hard you hear her call us
To come share with her our laughter and our tears
And there's mysteries and miracles befall us
Through the years

Life is why
We tell the story
Pain is why
We tell the story
Love is why
We tell the story
Grief is why
We tell the story
Hope is why
We tell the story
Faith is why
We tell the story
You are why
We tell the story.

So I hope that you will tell this tale tomorrow
It will help your heart remember and relive
It will help you feel the anger and the sorrow
And forgive.

For all the ones we leave
And we believe
Our lives become
The stories that we weave."

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Also, I feel many of my fave heroines are people I would've loved to know and hang out with in real life. They aren't just universal representations of classic conflicts or the human condition, but have quirks and back stories uniquely their own. While I relate to some of them, and I do have moments of "OMG that is ME!" more often than not they stand on their own as really fascinating personalities. The fact that they're NOT me and say or do things I would never have done myself is part of the escape and sense of livint vicariously thru them. If they were me they would be a tired writer who had too much coffee, watching kdramas instead of the article that was due yesterday. I daresay a show based on me wouldn't rate very well😂 (although there would be a lot of coffee and pizza PPLs)

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This is me too! I don’t think there have been anyone in dramas that I’ve really identified with. However, I do identify with the relationships depicted. Between friends, lovers, family members, this is why I watch kdramas!

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I've seen myself in characters such as Jang Hyesung from I Hear Your Voice, Choi Aera from Fight My Way, and Manager Oh from Misaeng. Many of the doubts, confusion, and struggles that they've dealt with, I've somewhat experienced also. However, there are also characters such as Cheon Song Yi (You From Another Star) and Cindy (Producers) that I have little in common with personality-wise but found myself relating with so much. Like what you said, there is indeed a piece of ourselves that we recognize in a good story.

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Thank you, it's a very beautiful article!!

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can i just say thank you a million times? this is how i feel on so many levels! you have a wonderful way with words that says just what my heart feels. dramas are an important emotional outlet for me and i relish and learn from them.

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Yes.

The heroine in Romance is a Bonus Book .....my life is nothing like hers, but their was a moment when she was contemplating that even though she was a certain age she still had so much life left and how did she want to live it?

That one little moment really resonated with me.

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Thank you for this! Dramas seem to have an eerie way of knowing what we’re looking for. I agree! Whenever I feel in need of anything, whether its advice, comfort, or an emotion I can't quite grasp, I can trust that the drama I'm watching will somehow provide it. So I keep coming back because K-drama is like a long-time best friend who I can always rely on.

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Yup! Living vicariously through the dramaland characters is definitely how it is for me. Haha.

Which is why I appreciate the wider variety of female characters we get nowadays. Much less candy and damsel in distress, much more relatable and inspiring and kick ass.

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I loved it miss v. You seem to pinpoint thoughts I have in my mind that are all messed up and write beautiful essays about them. In whatever thing I watch, whether it be tv show or drama or movie or heck cartoon, I search for the thing or scene I relate to and yes, I can never fully 1000000% relate to a character when I think of it. It's just that moment in time. How they react. I truly enjoy your pieces.

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I simply just really honestly truly like this article.
Thank you @missvictrix

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"Dramas seem to have an eerie way of knowing what we’re looking for." man i really agree with this statement and can identify with it as when i choose to watch a drama it just feels right for the season and moment of my life that i'm living in...I find it comforting when themes from dramas i'm currently watching find a way to resonate in my daily life and it happens more often than you would think, btw this was a well written essay <3

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Ready for a bit of a letdown? I’ve never actually had a full-fledged “Hey, that’s me!” moment.

@missvictrix I felt the same way when I saw the theme of the month! I've never related to a character entirely but it was always more of a miss-mish. Threads here and there...

While I might not have a drama character that I feel defines me, or is walking around with her head on my shoulders, or my experience under her belt, I still feel closely tied to each drama that I watched and enjoyed.
🙌🙌

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