[Changing Tastes] The leap from makjang to mundane
by Guest Beanie
For as long as I can remember, our local TV stations have been airing K-dramas and have even made a timeslot especially for them. But I only became interested in them after watching Baker King Kim Tak-gu. I was immediately taken in by Tak-gu and his tough road to success. Despite the makjang in it, there was something sincere and down-to-earth about it. That feeling stuck with me and left me wanting more. But I only casually watched dramas like Temptation of Wife and Giant until I watched Secret in one sitting and fell into the hole that is K-drama addiction. And even then, I was only interested in melodramas and watched the likes of Angel Eyes, Operation Proposal, and Nice Guy.
Melodramas always managed to capture my heart despite how ridiculous they were or became. In fact, I might’ve liked them because they were so distanced from reality that I could just turn my brain off and be entertained. The predictability turned into a positive type of familiarity which felt warm and cozy. Watching them gave me a rollercoaster kind of feeling in that I could see the twists and turns from afar but I screamed when they came anyway, not to mention the mixed bag of feelings. The heartbreak of seeing half of the OTP not recognize the other because of truck-of-doom-induced-amnesia. The satisfaction of seeing birth secrets finally come to light. The glorious feeling after the leads get their well-deserved happy ending after being thrown every obstacle out there.
But then I stumbled upon Dramabeans. It somewhat felt like I entered some sort of wonderland where I got to read about the dramas I enjoyed immensely and read about how others feel the same way. But what really amazed me was how much fans actually thought while watching dramas while I was suspending disbelief left and right without care. I watched dramas because, as an over-thinker and worrywart, I found them relaxing. So I was fascinated by how people, the recappers especially, deconstructed dramas and that elevated my watching experience. I became addicted to DB and read pretty much every article I could get my hands on.
And while doing so, I happened to read a Year in Review where a certain drama caught my eye because of the reviews. That drama was Misaeng and I hesitantly started it. It was difficult to watch but seeing Jang Geu-rae get left behind searching through containers of squid was so incredibly heart-wrenching that I decided that I had to see him succeed and be that guy in the prologue. This decision changed me and the way I saw K-dramas forever. I was afraid that it would put me to sleep but it put me at the edge of my seat countless times. Presentations had never been so nerve-wracking (and they weren’t even mine!). I never knew that a boss calling his subordinate “our kid” could be so touching. And I definitely never knew that a drama could be so heartbreaking without crying scenes.
I watched Miss Korea soon after, which was like sipping coffee on a rainy day. Then Answer Me 1988 which pretty much wrung all the tears out of my eyes. And then Cheese in the Trap which was refreshing for at least half of its run. Dear My Friends broke my heart into a million pieces. And Age of Youth made me feel like I’ve found my soulmate in drama form. Slice-of-life dramas show that characters don’t have to be super-rich or super-poor or super-tragic to be interesting. The people working for the chaebol CEO can be interesting main characters. And CEOs aren’t always rich, some are on the verge of bankruptcy. The heroine doesn’t have to work a million part-time jobs to deserve her happy ending. And there’s still something after the happy ending. In-laws, parents, and grandparents can be main characters too. They can be more than the obstacle to an OTP. And female characters can be friends without fighting over guys.
Of course, even these mundane dramas can be very dramatic. There are still villains whose actions don’t make as much sense as the rest of the series. I’ve even seen the truck of doom a few times. But what I most find endearing with slice-of-life dramas is that they can move me and make me feel various emotions without making me feel like they want to move me. They do it so subtly, I find myself tearing up uncontrollably, unknowingly.
And whereas makjang is a staple in dramaland, slice-of-life dramas show up rarely. But because they’re rare, they feel more precious. Slice-of-life isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It might even feel like watching them defeats the purpose of watching dramas. I’ve been called masochistic for liking “depressing” stuff. And, well, I guess it is kind of weird that I’m watching dramas that can be too painfully real at times to escape from real life.
I haven’t watched a melodrama in a long while so I’m not sure how I feel about them now. But, I guess, it speaks volumes that I haven’t tried watching again since the wind blew me to a side of dramaland that I never knew of before. And I’ll happily stay here.
Dear My Friends
- [Changing Tastes] Same old love with my own customized rules
- [Changing Tastes] How I became a feminist through dramas
- [Changing Tastes] From a hater to a lover
- [Changing Tastes] Understanding that things get complicated
- [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