K-drama problems: To share or not to share
To share or not to share, that is the question. Indoctrinating a friend or loved one into the world of Korean dramas is not something to take lightly. It’s not exactly hazing and it’s not exactly a ceremonial rite, but there’s certainly a lot to take into consideration.
As with Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility, so before you start strategically recommending shows and sharing your feels, let’s think about the power we are wielding. K-dramas, after all, are like nothing else — and that’s why we love them.
I was lucky enough to discover K-dramas at the same time as a dear friend, so rather than one person pulling the other, we kind of pulled each other in (under?). And it was fun. We’d share knowledge, share shows, and share giggles. In fact, K-dramas are one of those things that it’s hard not to share. Even before I started writing about them, it was mission impossible for me not to wax poetic to everyone around me about “my shows.” (And yeah, I still do it.)
But, perhaps because my journey into K-dramas was less of a journey and more of a mad leap off a glorious cliff, I quickly developed reservations about bringing other friends and family into the fold. Those that were already there? Chingus for life. But bringing in a newbie? That’s where I have some qualms.
As much as I feel the drive to share dramas with others, I feel the same amount of force stopping me. I once told a friend, after giddily explaining a then-favorite show’s plot, “I’d make you watch it, but I don’t want to ruin your life.” My exact words.
Why ruin? K-dramas are one of my favorite pleasures, and those are normally things we like to share, and that are easy to share, whether it’s a great new recipe, a song, a lunch spot, or anything else. There are a few reasons behind my hesitation, and the first has to do with the absolute vortex that is dramaland. Jump in, and you might never come out. In this respect, it’s just out of courtesy for my friend’s relationships, social life, and ability to live a normal life that I think twice before roping her in.
Another big reason is that there’s a bit of a learning curve, especially if you’re new to Korean culture and media. I didn’t realize it at the time, and it wasn’t until I was a good dozen dramas into my drama career that I realized how different it was from anything I was used to. I’m not just talking about kimchi fridges and banchan for breakfast — it’s the storytelling, too. From the way the story is told and the format it takes, to the things, words, and moments dramas cares about — there’s no denying dramaland is a unique place.
If dramaland ruins you, then it’s surely a beautiful ruin. But yeah, you’ll be ruined. For one, you’ll lose all your spare time. SO MANY SHOWS TO WATCH. You’ll also start to change, because it’s hard not to be affected by the aesthetics, the syntax, and the shape of the K-drama world. Most of it will be good: winning spunk and perseverance, thinking twice before jumping to defend yourself when wronged, great fashion, and an appreciation of whimsy. But, some of it won’t be so good: you might develop unrealistic expectations towards potential love interests, oncoming traffic, and become fascinated with building rooftops (just to name a few of the real-life impacts).
While I can find a lot of reasons to talk myself out of getting a friend into dramas, on the other hand, many of my fondest drama watching moments have come from watching and sharing them.
A long wait in an airport spent watching T.O.P.’s mini drama Secret Message. A lunch hour fruitfully spent watching Gu Family Book and falling in love with Choi Jin-hyuk. Spending a precious hour of vacation watching the latest Memories of the Alhambra episode — because when it was good it was good.
Does the joy of watching and sharing shows with friends and loved ones counter the knowledge of the havoc you’re about to wreak on their lives? I’m not sure. But if I’m honest, I think a part of my hesitation to share K-dramas with some people in my life is something we devotees don’t often like to think about: what if they don’t like it?
While my first reaction is to brush that ridiculous thought away like an obnoxious but harmless gnat, it really is a consideration. And I’m sorry to admit I’ve experienced this a bit. My mom and I tend to have similar taste in stories, so when I wanted to introduce her to dramaland, I thought that Splish Splash Love would be a great starting point. Short, cute, not overwhelming, but still full of K-drama sparkle. There’s beautiful faces, jumping into puddles, hijinks, comedy, and some lovely history too. How can it not be a win? Well, she watched it, but she was none too impressed.
Then it kinda happened with my brother, too (are you seeing a pattern?). I thought I won the battle once I got him to promise to watch City Hunter with me. Come on, how can you not like City Hunter, right? It has everything you can ask for. Action, intrigue, drama, romance, some great fight scenes, and some hilarious Lee Min-ho moments. Heck, I still call beans “the meat from the ground” to this day, and I got that from City Hunter! But I digress. Now, don’t get me wrong, he watched it, and he might have even liked it… but he didn’t think it was as great as I did. And he didn’t take a nose dive into K-dramas after that, either.
I guess if I really think about it, it makes sense. TV shows (especially recent American ones) are slick and edgy, and they often seek to push boundaries as a way to make something successful, evocative, and unforgettable. Sure, if you’re used to this kind of TV, K-dramas may be weird, and maybe even a bit silly. They’ll look wholesome, dotty, and take a long time to tell their stories in comparison. But you know what? Those are all the reasons why I love them.
A final possibility is that I’m holding back the world of dramaland from others because I want to keep it all for myself, kind of like I would do with a box of dark chocolate truffles right about now. They are mine, and I want to enjoy them without having to explain, justify, or translate. Indeed, there’s something to be said for keeping something you love close to your heart, especially when you suspect that others around you won’t share your high level of appreciation. Maybe that’s just being selfish, but there it is.
Whether it’s courtesy for another person’s time/sanity, reservations about taste or what another person enjoys, or protecting something you hold dear, sharing K-dramas isn’t as easy as pressing the play button. Do you share K-dramas with abandon, or are you more choicy about who you pull in, or which drama you might use to lure someone? Maybe you keep your dramas to yourself, and go around happily clueless about the non-K-drama shows everyone else is watching (ahem). While K-dramas might not be for everyone, and sharing them can be a tricky business, there are a lot of people out there that adore them shamelessly and wholeheartedly. Like us.