[Changing Tastes] To binge or not to binge, that is the question
by Guest Beanie
Flower Boy Next Door
When I discovered Korean dramas at the end of 2011, I was on the cusp of some major changes in my personal life. My introduction to Korean entertainment was a movie that popped up on a Netflix suggestions list. I gave it a try, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed the slapstick humor and quirky storyline. My curiosity piqued, I decided to see what else was out there. A simple search on YouTube brought me to the contract marriage drama Sweet 18. Even though the language, familial relationships, and cultural references were difficult (impossible?) to understand, I was hooked. I consumed all 16 episodes in a few days, my first-ever taste of binge watching.
It was not my last. For weeks, I scoured the Internet, trying to learn more about this new world. Sites like MySoju and DramaCrazy were popular at the time, serving up subtitled episodes in 15-minute chunks. I zipped through lists of the most watched dramas, swooning at Lee Jun-Ki in Iljime, laughing at Shin Min-ah in My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, and seething at the injustice in Padam Padam. I’d only been marathoning K-dramas for a short time when I discovered Boys Over Flowers, the first show that made me put my life on hold. From the moment the lyrics to “Almost Paradiiiiiise” drifted through my speakers, I was hooked. Never had I been more concerned with the outcome of a fictional character’s relationship than poor Jan-di’s!
Boys Before Flowers
While I was happily engrossed in K-dramas during my personal time, things weren’t going so well for me at work. My employer had lost a lot of clients, and as my hours were cut back more and more, I filled my days with dramas. If I’d been working my usual schedule, staying up until 2 a.m. to watch Jan-di choose between Jun-pyo and Ji-hoo would have been a problem. I probably would have ended up looking like Kim Seul-gi in Flower Boy Next Door. But with fewer shifts, I had all the time I needed to get lost in the fantastical worlds dramaland had to offer. And there was so much content to consume! I had over a decade’s worth of trendies and melodramas to catch up on, after all.
Then the company I worked for closed. There had been signs that the business was not doing well for months, but it was still shocking to hear that my job had disappeared like a chaebol’s memory after a run-in with the Truck of Doom. Thanks to the sluggish economy, it was difficult to find something new right away. So what did I do during my period of unemployment? Marathon dramas, of course. Escaping into stories of cross-dressing nuns and birth secrets helped me deal with the pain of losing my job. Immersing myself in Gil Ra-im’s unpredictable life in Secret Garden made me forget about my own for a time. I mean, who has worries when Hyun Bin’s dimples are twinkling back at them from a computer screen?
As the months went on and my list of shows began to dwindle, I realized that dramas are a finite thing. Yes, I had hundreds of shows to go through when I started, but eventually they would run out. That was when I discovered the joys of watching dramas as they air. Instead of spending my days powering through half a miniseries at a time, I could watch two episodes a week and stretch out the experience. The first show I ever live-watched was The King 2 Hearts. If only I knew then what I know now, I probably would have started with something else! Waiting six days to find out the outcome of Earnest Bot’s mission was a bit too much for my tender heart to bear. But I made it through to the end and never looked back.
Around the time I started watching dramas live, I found another job! Unlike my previous position, I now had a regular, full-time schedule. It was exactly what I was looking for, but it sure did cut into my drama watching. Gone were the languid days spent clicking on one episode after another. I barely had a chance to get in one or two hours between cooking and cleaning and having some sort of social life. So I said goodbye to binging for good.
I consume my dramas in much more reasonable chunks now. While I still enjoy the same variety of genres that I did when I was marathoning, I try to limit myself to no more than two or three shows during the week and one on the weekend. Shows that aren’t at the top of my list are saved for the rare times when I don’t have enough currently airing dramas to watch. If I’m lucky, I might get in a few episodes back-to-back on a Saturday, but my days of marathons are behind me. And I’m okay with that! I’ve come to realize that I actually prefer watching shows over a period of weeks instead of days. It gives me a chance to enjoy the content for longer and to be part of the experience while it’s airing. Which is a major element of the Dramabeans community after all.
It was pure luck that I stumbled on Korean dramas when I did. I was able to fill my time when I had way too much of it, while being both entertained and learning about a country and culture I have come to greatly admire. And while I no longer need to spend my hours living vicariously through Jan-di or Ra-im, it was great while it lasted!
The King 2 Hearts
- [Changing Tastes] The leap from makjang to mundane
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- [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