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[Escapism vs. Realism] Don’t pull my head out of the clouds


Splish Splash Love

You could call drama-watching as a whole a form of escapism, which I’m sure needs no explanation to anyone who’s spent sixteen hours marathoning a drama to avoid writing that term paper, updating that resume, or filing your taxes. The procrastination monkey is very real and mine likes to be fed tasty dramas. But since I have no plans to cut back on my addiction (what am I, crazy?), I thought about this month’s theme in relation to my drama tastes and my level of addiction to particular genres.

If you asked me what my favorite all-time dramas are, they’re pretty evenly split between realistic, slice-of-life dramas like Misaeng and Answer Me 1997, and supernatural fantasy dramas like My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho and I Hear Your Voice, but I would still tell you that my overall taste is for fantasy. The reason, I think, is mostly immersion—how much I get immersed in a fictional world has a lot to do with how addicted I get to any particular drama, and how much time I’ll spend thinking about it even when I’m not watching it.

Fantasy dramas trigger the addict in me because I get excited thinking about a whole new fictional universe that operates differently from my own, with its own rules and mythology that are waiting to be explored. It doesn’t matter that I may have seen a hundred time-travel dramas; each time I start a new one, I’m hungrily gathering clues about this drama’s particular wormhole, its rules, and its price (because as we know, there’s always a price). Good fantasy dramas make this a natural part of the setup and a crucial building block in the narrative, where the protagonist is learning the rules and testing them at every turn—whether they’re quick on the uptake (Queen In-hyun’s Man) or slow (Tunnel)—and I feel a jolt of satisfaction every time a new discovery is made.


The Lonely Shining Goblin

Worldbuilding is crucial to my immersion, and by that I don’t necessarily mean the CG budget that the director gets (even though you really can’t discount the importance of that in this genre), but the level of intricacy in the rules and the way the fantasy world is written that makes it possible for us to believe that a manhwa character could step out of fiction into reality if he became self-aware enough (W–Two Worlds), or that mistakes in your past life mean you could spend the next one as an amnesiac reaper (The Lonely Shining Goblin). I willfully want to keep my head in the clouds when it comes to dramaland, because escape is what I came for, and dense, intricate fantasy worlds help keep me there.

When worldbuilding is done right, one question feeds into the next and down the rabbit hole I go, working out theories like I’m trying out different puzzle pieces to see if they fit into the overall picture. Sometimes you realize that you asked more questions than the drama ever planned to answer, which is a bummer when you get to the end and are left hanging. But I enjoy the game aspect of puzzling things out in and of itself, which is why I like mysteries and fantasy worlds.

Above all though, I’m drawn to fantasy because I’m an idealist at heart. Fantasy fiction defies the limits of our universe, and we get to explore what could happen if people weren’t hampered by time or death, if regret could lead to second chances, or if love were strong enough to endure reincarnation, true enough to recognize you in the body of someone else, or everlasting in the absolute sense of the word.


You From Another Star

It’s not that love stories have to conquer death or last nine hundred years in order to move me, but a supernatural element adds another layer of conflict to explore, often with heightened stakes. Boy meets girl can make my heart flutter, but there’s no denying that alien meets girl exponentially raises the stakes. In real life, even the best of relationships can end for boring, mundane reasons; in supernatural romances, people cross dimensions and galaxies and centuries to be together, which just speaks to the romantic in me.

Ironically, sometimes the fantasy elements that I love most are the ones that are simple metaphors for realistic, everyday problems. A girl who doesn’t listen to the people she’s supposed to help meets a boy who hears everyone’s thoughts (I Hear Your Voice). A girl feels worthless as a high school student with no prospects in the real world, but in Joseon she’s a math whiz and a genius inventor (Splish Splash Love). A girl feels like a freak for having superhuman strength, but she meets a boy who finds it hot that she can protect him (Strong Woman Do Bong-soon).

Because no matter how otherworldly the fictional premise, it’s really how it relates to the things we universally fear or desire that makes a fantasy drama land with us emotionally. Does that mean I actually like escapism that’s really realism in disguise? Beats me.


Strong Woman Do Bong-soon

 
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And now WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING is a new addition to the list

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absolutly. and as much as it is fantasy, I am caught by the plot because I do have this weird relationship with my dreams, they don't become true but somethings let me know a posible situation happening (like somebody I know dies if my teeth fall or that somebody's health will be bad) and sometimes insomnia. That's one of the reasons I loooove this show. Plus LJS's in it and Suzy is doing pretty good so far.

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Did you just read my mind but write them even better than how I would describe them?!!! Watching dramas is totally escapism for me and fantasy is right up my alley. Il Mare is my favourite example and I can watch it over and over and feel the heartache each time. I love the plot that Do Kyung's regrets propel his conscience to the past so that he will not make the same mistake (Another Oh Hae Young). My heart broke into thousands pieces when I realised Pak Ha and the Crown Prince will never be together (Rooftop Prince). Why can't Kdramas have another savvy and super brilliant Joseon time traveler again (Queen In Hyun's Man)?
Oh and thank you for using Splish Splash Love as the screencaps. YDJ is my bae, just wish he will be back in dramaland soon. With Kim Seul Gi perhaps?

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More Yoon Doo-joon and Kim Seul-gi? Yes, please!

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Sign me up!

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Have you been watching Live Up to Your Name? I didn't think anything would ever touch QIHM in terms of satisfactory time travelling, but LUTYN has a kick-ass heroine and equal parts swoony but dorky Joseon doctor. Highly recommended! :)

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Live Up to Your Name easily my top 5 favorite drama and one of my favorite drama couple.

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Yoon Doojoon+Kim Seul Gi is a combination truly created by the drama gods.

I thought Splish Splash Love would be just cute and funny but the way they looked at each other....wow.

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Depends on what to consider the "fantasy" part... I would rather believe aliens are real than someone having THAT library.

and of course, no fantasy is fantastic enough for me not to twist another gear on it (mostly by adding zombies, ninjas, gangsters or all, but I am open to other options). Other peoples´ fantasy is just my normal, and their normal is a tragedy, and... oh, btw I saw a unicorn in the forest the other day. no, really. White, in the bushes.

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That library was indeed something else! How I wish I could teleport myself into it. <3

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Just curious though, which library are you guys referring to? 😊

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Love this post Girlfriday. It's like you been inside my head. Xoxo

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I'm surprised that I actually watched most of the dramas you mentioned except for Tunnel (which is on my list).

And it's been a long time since I read an article written by you GF (not watching WYWS). Amazingly written as always! 👏👏👏

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Tunnel is truly a masterpiece and you are very lucky that can bingewatch it, because watching while is till ongoing was so painful to wait another week, and in some episodes even 2 weeks for the next episode. Enjoy it, and if you like it, try Circle is sooo good too.

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I've read good reviews about Tunnel and I need Yoon Hyun-Min on my screen xD. I'm done with Circle, that was another masterpiece that no sci-fi fans should miss!

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I actually prefer fantasy most of the time but I humbly believe that execution is very important. Goblin was totes amazing but I got frustrated with Manhole despite my Jaejoong fangirling.

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LOL yes. There are the good ones and the bad ones of course. Ultimately had to drop Manhole because so frustrating

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Put up a picture of Doojion and I'll click every time. 😜

Also, nice write-up!

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Oh my! You said it all! . It's how I choose my books and dramas. A story builds a world that's totally transport us out to the unknown. I love it when writer use the most basic life situation and throw in some supernatural elements and start living it out of the world. Makes me feel like there's a way out of the mundane.
Sometimes, we do need the slice of life but hey if there's something dramatic or fancy idealism to spice it up a little!? Why Not??!

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Whenever I read something javabeans or girlfriday wrote for the theme of the month, I always feel like they've taken the thoughts in my head and eloquently wrote about it. And this is yet another instance of that.

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Nice write up, girlfriday. For myself, I am a sci-fi and fantasy fan from way back, and I've become a little jaded over the years. That's why some of the fantasy plots in kdrama don't really do it for me. W? Meh. Seen that plot done a lot better. Lonely Shining Goblin? No magic for me though I wanted to like it because I liked the actors. So it comes down to character for me, and I honestly like the fantasy kdrama you mention that are twists on reality, like I Hear Your Heart, Strong Woman, Splish Splash. They didn't lose character creation at the expense of plot. Helped too that the romances were hot. What was that one about the woman who saw Ghosts, too, and you wanted to throttle her at the beginning but liked her more and more, with Ji Sub? Characters in these were all quirky, relatable and they grew. I tend to like these ones, whether fantasy or realistic, though will be drawn to the fantasy first. I'm kind of sick of time travelling, though. Anyone else? I always suspect they're cheaper to produce cause the producers already have access to Joseon, Goryeo sets, so why not add a spin.

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Master's Sun!

I love time travel and for all the flop, there are gems and that's why I can never quit them. Hahaha

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Master's Sun! With So Ji Sub and Gong Hyo Jin. They had amazing chemistry.

Seeing the name Goryeo also makes me think of Moon Lovers Scarlet Heart, it also had the fantasy time travelling and many flaws but it was weirdly addicting. Even now when I see gifs from it I feel hooked to the thing even with the bad kpop songs and the editing. I think that was the good part about it, I really felt interested in the characters.

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" Does that mean I actually like escapism that’s really realism in disguise? Beats me."
OMG beats me too....its like both are connected and I'm running on a figure 8 path. GF that was an awesome article! :-) I totally agree with you on everything.
But your concluding sentence just blew up my mind....I was super sure I preferred escapism over anything but now I don't know myself XD

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Surprisingly,I've watched almost all of the dramas mentioned in this piece.
Another great write up girlfriday!

And Yoon DooJoon,please be back in kdramaland after Highlight's Oct comeback!

While further pondering on the theme of the month,it made me realize that watching kdramas in itself is already a form of escapism for me,regardless if it's fantasy themed or another slice of life plot.That is the "magic" and lure that kdramas have to me.They open up a whole new world to me,in spite of SoKor being just a 4-hour plane ride or 2,602 kms away from Manila.

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Two years since Splish Splash Love. .... Yoon Doojoon needs to come back to acting before he goes to enlist. And Kim Seul Gi needs to get a lead role. How many more great performances she needs to give before someone gives her one?

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everytime I see a splish splash love pic, I have to click in regardless what's the post about. they should do another rom-com drama😍

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In escapism I found realism?

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I am a big fan of fantasy and thus far Arang and the Magistrate is my favorite for all around world building with an enjoyable story.

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agree on all counts!
*little thumb hearts*

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This is my first time commenting on dramabeans, but have been a fan for a long time. I have been watching kdrama since 2007 and have never looked back. I never could explain the appeal of it any of my friends but I think you do a wonderful job of putting most of my feelings to words.

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I willfully want to keep my head in the clouds when it comes to dramaland, because escape is what I came for, and dense, intricate fantasy worlds help keep me there.
This is me. I purposely pick fantasy dramas and books waiting to be swept off my feet in this other dimension. Lovely writing, GF! 😊

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Read this late and wanted to pass along my appreciation. I've held fantasy genres in high esteem all my life—there's no better genre to get at the truth of things.

Lastly, all the buzz for Splish Splash Love compelled me to watch it. Oh. My. God. Who knew that I, decades past high school, could relate to an 18-year-woman on the edge of adulthood. I absolutely loved it.

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