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[Changing Tastes] From a hater to a lover


White Christmas

By @sleepypie1212

When I started watching K-dramas, I was a college senior, hardheaded and practical and such a snob. I was an intellectual, damnit, and I knew that anything that involved hearts and starry-eyed declarations was beneath me. Even Romeo and Juliet earned my scorn—a pair of children playing at love, I’d tell people, shaking my head. Why were we so obsessed with them? I’d kissed a boy or five by then, and been left mostly unmoved by my various romantic experiences, so I thought I knew everything. If that’s all love was, why were the masses so fixated on it? Clearly, they weren’t as smart as I was.

Basically, I was not a big rom-com girl, and my early K-drama watching habits reflected that. I was way more into the heroics of City Hunter and Gaksital, the sick mental twisting of the students in White Christmas, the bromances that took front and center in School 2013 and Shut Up: Flower Boy Band than I was the flat-tasting romance of shows like Lie to Me or Scent of a Woman.


Coffee Prince

But the thing about K-dramas is that, almost inevitably, you’re going to have a loveline at least somewhere in your story. And the more I experienced them, the less my nose assumed its habitual place in the air. I defy anyone to watch Eun-chan and Han-gyul in Coffee Prince fall in love and not be moved. I consoled myself that that was probably a one-off.

And then Se-ryung and Seung-yoo in The Princess’s Man happened, and while their story was certainly set against a backdrop of epic politics and action, that wasn’t what I was watching it for. I was watching it for the way they did crazy stupid things for each other, and fought for each other, and defied their families, and their values, and their pasts for each other.

For the way they smiled at each other.


The Princess’s Man

After that, the couples I was entranced by came thick and fast—Do-hyun and Ri-jin in Kill Me, Heal Me; Jae-yeol and Hae-soo in It’s Okay, It’s Love; Hang-ah and her puppy prince in The King 2 Hearts. What I didn’t realize was that I was falling in love for the first time in the real world, just as my fictional characters were in theirs. My ability to empathize with and enjoy what I’d once dismissed as cheesy fiction was a newfound experience, and I was shocked to discover that now I was disappointed if a show I watched didn’t feature a single longing gaze or back hug (cough*Liar Game*cough).

I would sit on pins and needles for unnecessary things like plot to get out of the way so I could finally melt into a puddle of satisfied sighs when the hero and heroine made eye contact for the first time. Instead of rolling my eyes when the hero made a grand gesture, I found myself acknowledging that maybe it was unrealistic… but who cared? I wanted the fireworks in the sky, the roses in hand, the triumph of love over every obstacle the world could present.

I still loved (and love) shows like Bad Guys and Angry Mom which don’t necessarily tell love stories. But I don’t sneer at love-centered premises anymore. Instead, I queue them up, grab a pillow to hold onto when the feelings get too much, and let myself savor the delightfully delicious absurdity of time-traveling scholars falling in love with actresses or amnesiac grim reapers rediscovering their long lost true love. Maybe love doesn’t look like that in the real world, but maybe that isn’t the point. Maybe the point is that humanity is in love with love, and maybe, just maybe, that is one of our best and most redeeming qualities.


The King 2 Hearts

 
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I am the opposite! I am that practical college senior right now... the "intellectual", the one who doesn't believe in all that starry eyed looks, the one who scoffs at the couples on the escalators and trains who can't keep their hands off each other. But somewhere deep, deep inside my heart, is a little part that is inexplicably addicted to romance stories in K-dramas. The dramas I watch and love all have a strong romance plot.

I like to think that it's because realistically, I can't afford to let myself fall too hard because broken hearts are hard to heal. But in a drama? Oh, I can live vicariously through all the characters. Bring on the love!

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I kind of believe in the "one true love" for each, but not in this dimention.
Meanwhile, i watch Kdramas with and without lovelines, but if they have it, and they are worth watching, i melt and repeat badly, in order to find in front of my screen what i dont have in front of my eyes... ?

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I felt this comment on a molecular level. I am such a cynic in real life when it comes to romantic love and faithful partners but man, I will go down with an epic k-drama romance. I'll sink to the bottom of the sea with my ships if I have too.

I enjoy being able to live vicariously through k-drama romances in a way that I would never allow myself to do in real life. Broken hearts are way too much of a hassle. No thank you.

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I'm like you too, love rom com but in real life PDA a bit too much

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Thank you! It's a lovely piece!

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guess that's quite a worthwhile journey there! i suppose i'm with the majority who started dramas in pre-teens, so i was obviously in love with the romcoms, fantasy & melodramas! & slowly got into the mystery, crimes & thrillers as i grew older.. though i still don't know how to appreciate politics (except Punch, thanks to Kim Raewon's awesome acting ??), especially sageuk ones. ?

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What a lovely story. Thank you for sharing!

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Hello, Convert. I totally feel you. <3

My love for love is irrational. I have unexpectedly high expectations now, but who cares? If they can melt me into a puddle of goo with their swoony behavior than I'm just going to gobble it up and ask for more! <3

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Maybe the point is that humanity is in love with love, and maybe, just maybe, that is one of our best and most redeeming qualities.

❤❤❤

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I really love this part too! <3

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@sleepypie1212 Your last sentence was written so beautifully I was sad that your piece was over. I agree with the hearts 100%!

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I'm a born hopeless romantic so that's not the case with me but I like the journey you had to finally be in love with love. It was a good read, thank you! Cheers!!!

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Oh, I'm the exact same way! When I started watching Taiwanese dramas I was in middle school, and back then I watched the rom-coms without really understanding the romantic aspects but I still enjoyed myself (mostly because of the comedy). In high school I watched a Kdrama or two but mostly focused on Jdramas, which have fewer lovelines. In my high school days I had zero interest in romance and thought that all rom-coms were eyeroll-worthy pieces of crap filled with terrible cliches. Like you, when I began watching more Kdramas I gravitated towards the City Hunters of the Kdrama world. In college I really started to watch tons of Kdramas and noticed the same progression... I began to actually LIKE the romance. High school me would probably scoff at many of my favorite dramas now. I think that Kdramas have allowed me to enjoy the more emotional part of my personality. Before, I used to bottle up any and all "unnecessary" feelings and I stayed far, far away from romance if I could help it. Nowadays, like you said, I am completely in love with love--not just romantic love, but all types of love. I honestly think that my Kdrama-watching experience has made me a better, more empathetic person.

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That was such funny journey ^^! Thank you for sharing.

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"One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love."

I'm not that into love stories anymore, but sometimes I just need that small amount of romance and love story to sweeten my life, just like how we need sugar.

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I'm all in for romance & stuff, I actually avoid the *tough* themed shows & just wait for a gooey romantic setting, but I have to say this, WHITE CHRISTMAS WAS LIT. Seriously, its one of the few exceptions I've made from my continuous viewing of *love only* shows.

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That last sentence gave me goosebumps, @sleepypie1212! Great article and now you got me queueing Queen In-hyun's Man. Hahaha!

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I'm sort of the opposite. When I started watching dramas I was an immature 12 yr old and I went from shoujo to j-dramas to k-dramas, so I only cared about dramas that focused on romance. I avoided anything that didn't have romance as the main focus. But eventually there were dramas that I started watching for romance, but ended up caring more about other factors. Now although I still like cute, fluffy romcoms and what not, I get excited for dramas that promise little to no romance and end up getting disappointed when romance is added to dramas where I don't think it was really necessary (like The Best Hit).

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I still love rom-coms but I still hate Romeo and Juliet. I'm what you call a cynical romantic (I'm sure this is a thing), I love love and I love watching other people in love even if I don't quite believe in romantic love myself. My biggest thing on being sold on a love story is my ability to feel a deep chemistry from the leads and/or an ability to see myself falling in love with at least one half of the OTP. And I'm not talking about the person portraying them but the character itself. If I'm unable to feel one of these two things, I'm most likely not going to like the show and/or the OTP. A lot of drama leads aren't people I could consider falling in love with in real life but I have falling in love with a lot of heroines and they have been the ones to sell me on the love the writer insists the couple has for each other. Recent examples off-the-top of my head include Hae Soo from Scarlet Heart and So-rim from The Liar and His Lover. I have to be able to feel like I could love these women myself if I was a man for me to believe the love.

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Same, I enjoy watching people slowly fall in love. Love in first sight such as Romeo and Juliet and how they'll constantly all over each other bugs me.

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I agree with so much of this, particularly the part about finding the heroines lovable. I really like seeing other characters care for characters I like (it doesn't even matter if that feeling is romantic). I hate Romeo and Juliet for a host of reasons, including the love-at-first-sight aspect that renebean mentioned. I hate it when a couple forsakes everyone and everything else for their love, and I hate it when that love gets ugly (either because the relationship is pure melodrama or because everyone becomes irrational and blind to rational considerations). If I'd rather slap sense into a character than root for his or her happiness, I'm probably not interested in the romance.

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Yep I love all the rom coms from all over the world. ? Y'know when I first read Romeo and Juliet I remember how crazy I thought it was but not because of the story but because of society's perception of it. I love the play and all the film adaptations especially the 1968 version...AMAZING acting. Society holds up the story all wrong though they make it out as a standard of romance/true love. I think they miss the message of how powerfully dangerous/unpredictable emotions like love and hate can be. I mean Romeo starts the story in love with Rosaline and by night swears only love for Juliet. Oh the fickle heart. It's a whole family drama with two young kids at the center who make all the wrong rash mistakes because their brains are on that love drug while their families are feasting on that hate life. Anyways I find everyone so fascinating and irresponsible in that story.
I totally related with the need to fall in love with your characters in a rom com/love story. If they find each other fascinating I should be feeling that fascination and affection.

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Yes, exactly. Romeo and Juliet is not a rom com, it's a tragedy. And it's tragic not because the "true love" of the titular characters was thwarted, but because two families lost their children to their own unwillingness to resolve a conflict. It is in every way the opposite of a rom com: their relationship is purposely set up as impulsive and lusty rather than as "true love"; and the conflicts come not from within the relationship--not from narrowly focused, interpersonal conflicts--but from large, structural, society-level problems. The story is that the elders sacrificed their children to their pigheaded hatred; it wasn't about love at all.

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This is sweet. For me, I like (and always have liked) KDrama (and to a lesser extent JDrama) romance much more than romcoms or romantic dramas from here in the US. Here it often feels like same-old same-old, but I love watching the way very different cultures portray the "ideal" love and the obstacles to get there.

For instance, KDrama characters in their 30s and beyond still contend with family disapproval and complications to a level almost unheard of here. Contract and arranged relationships crop up a lot as both OTPs and NOTPs, which aren't even a thing here. Older characters are allowed to be more innocent in dramas (as opposed to US shows, where we pretend that basically everyone has sexual experience by the time they leave high school). Gender lines sometimes blur--men are allowed to be romantic to a level almost unseen in our shows, and gender-bent situations like Coffee Prince have a type of conflicted attraction that doesn't really even exist as a trope here.

In the end, I still love the universal feel-good experience of a happy ending, but I'm a lot more interested when I get there through a cultural route other than my own.

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"Older characters are allowed to be more innocent in dramas (as opposed to US shows, where we pretend that basically everyone has sexual experience by the time they leave high school)."
This statement is one of the reasons I love Kdramas. I wonder why people assume that it's impossible for people to not have had any sexual experiences even into their 30s. There are so many factors that can lead to this, and frankly I feel a bit weird about everyone hating on people in their 30s who are more innocent sexually than others.

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I also like that kdramas focus on other factors of love than just physical attraction. They focus much more on emotional connection and companionship.

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I have mixed feelings about how Korean dramas handle intimacy, since some are more adult than others. I like it if the show addresses sex in a realistic way. Whether that approach is explicit or implicit should really depend on the themes of the series.

As much as I love HBO, some of the explicit scenes are strangely alienating. While I am inclined to agree that the lack of censorship on American cable networks can result in unrealistic excesses (and a focus on anti-heroes that are often unlikable), some Korean dramas go a bit too far in the other direction. Isn't it hard to portray romantic relationships realistically without addressing physical attraction and intimacy? Maybe that's the point, but I sometimes find the fantasies steeped in pure intentions a little sad, especially when I read comments lamenting the differences between the fantasies and reality.

For me, the best romances are grounded in something real you can relate to, such as friendship, a shared dream, an irresistible impulse, or some other bond. You can understand why the characters love each other, but you can also understand why other priorities in their lives might accentuate or conflict with those feelings. Above all, the implied intimacy feels more real than some of the more explicit romances or the paint-by-numbers clichés in lesser dramas. The best romances also know how to give viewers a taste of what they want without spoiling their appetite for more. I would argue that both American and Korean shows are guilty of giving viewers too much of what they demand, whether its explicit content or insufferable fluff/melodrama.

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Nailed it.??

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As I grow older I value that aspect in Kdramas so much more. Please date for a while, meet each other's family, wait for that first kiss, etc. it's actually pretty cool. It gives you time to really consider the person and to bow out less awkwardly if it doesn't work out.
I like when the intimacy makes sense to the plot like in Fight My Way. I had no problems with the speed of their relationship but again they were friends for like 20 years.

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I love US rom com but like you I think romantic dramas/comedys seen from a different cultural perspective are so interesting! I'm a big fan of the work coming out of Korea, the U.K. And India for that reason. I actually like it when I don't understand why there's a problem to the OTP getting together but have to figure it out. Very satisfying and informative.

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Another beautifully written post! Lovely!

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What I didn’t realize was that I was falling in love for the first time in the real world, just as my fictional characters were in theirs.

So simple and yet so powerful. Had goosebumps when I read this and the last line.
Beautifully written!
I won't call myself the complete opposite but I did start kdramas for romance.

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Aw same here. I was sucked in by secret garden though now I would probably find his behavior borderline disturbing.

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I'm kind of the opposite now that in some cases I'm more interested in other aspects than romance. For example recently in suspicious partner I found myself much more interested in the mystery and office hijinks than the romance. I also appreciate dramas that have little to none romance like chief Kim and signal, as life isn't just romance.

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What a beautiful transformation you describe. I can SOOOOOO relate! I'm not typically romantically minded - "chick flicks" being at the bottom of my watch lists, favoring more thriller, crime, drama, fantasy/historical adventure. But after getting caught up in "Goblin: The Lonely and Great God", I'm exploring more Asian dramas. Quite a few have landed on the reject pile after one or two episodes, but there are some treasures. And the more I understand about Korean culture (in particular), the more I can relate to the idiosyncrasies being portrayed. And now, adding to this new pleasure, I've found Dramabeans XD

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Lovely article. ? as for me, I have always been a sucker for romance. Romcoms are just my thing. Its only later on that I learned to appreciate the police procedurals, whodunnits, suspense thrillers, fantasy and sageuks etc.

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Coffee Prince is everything! I used to look down on people who watch kdramas and love kpop culture in general. I thought they were corny and generic. But once I laughed and cried with my Chan, I never look back. Now, I only watch Kdramas and mostly listening to their soundtracks. Just few years ago, it's impossible.

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Coffee Prince, The Princess' Man, The King 2 Hearts, It's Okay It's Love, Kill Me Heal Me... Here's a Drama Stamp of Approval for you!
It's not that you were a snob, it's just that you've always had an eye of the good stuff :D

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Wow! I love how you put your thoughts into words. I especially love your ending sentence :)

I think you'd be a great recapper for dramabeans. ???

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I have to say, I have the opposite experience. I started out loving the mushy romances but these days, as more adult responsibilities take over my life, the more cynical I have become. I still do enjoy the well-made rom-com (1% of Anything was addictive and heartwarming!) and am enjoying Bride of the Water God (more for the fantasy and fish-out of water than the romance though) but romance without substance, or romance being the focus when so much more potential exists in the premise (cough - Man to Man - cough) ends up irritating me to no end. I couldn't watch Suspicious Partner due to the overuse of cliche after romcom cliche despite the interesting whodunnit aspect. Back when I watched City Hunter, I would forward the action and suspense scenes in favour of the romantic moments, but my adult self now cringes at them. I suppose back then, as a starry high school discovering all the pretty, giggling with fellow girlfriends overthem while dreaming about our future boyfriends had an impact, but now as an almost grown-up , having the opportunity to talk and do interesting things completely unrelated to romance, it has certainly reflected my changed tastes. Even though I want to watch Weightlifting Fairy and Strong Woman, I can't stomach the romance anymore.

Hence is interesting to note that others go through the opposite experience. Thanks for sharing!

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Kindred spirits you and i. This is in a word my story and relationship with kdrama.

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When I first started Kdrama, all I had were love-centered plots. I loved them...they were cute, no matter how realistic. Maybe it's because I got older and such that I stared looking at a lot of the love-centered plots as "meh." It might've started around "Marry Him if You Dare," whose ending was the disappointment of disappointments. Also, looking at all those lovey-dovey plots, no matter how unrealistic they are, are like the reality of what I can't have. Lee Jong Suk's performance in W, was like a nail to a melting heart.

Since then, I've exchanged a lot of romance plots for Crime! Action! Justice! and Surgeries! I still enjoy a romance plot every now and then, if the storyline is good.

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Y'all... this post made me want to fall in love so badly. T,,T

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aww that last paragraph warmed my heart...I've actually never been in love yet I adore the rom-com stories that kdramas portray so well. I too sometimes need a pillow to clutch when the emotions are too intense :)

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This post is love.

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awwwww!!!

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Are you me? This was my journey through dramaland exactly. I actually rewatched City Hunter recently and enjoyed the romance when the first time I watched it (in college, of course. How is it everyone was a romance snob in college, lol) I cringed and skipped through all the parts with NaNa.
I don't know if there was a particular drama that changed my mind, but Korea just has a way of making you squee over the perfect otp. I don't think I could ever handle a straight rom com a la boys over flowers or heirs and a broody mean CEO and overly perky Candy will always bore me to tears, I always end up drawn into the romance of whatever I'm watching, and fiercely defending my ship to its dying breath (TAE KWANG DESERVED SO MUCH BETTER AAAAAKDKFJIE). And even when I've been aching for a solid bromance bw a male and female lead for forever, when it actually happened (forest of secrets) I can't help myself from shipping it.

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