K-drama problems: Tumbling down the rabbit hole
It’s always been interesting to me that K-drama lovers are always very cognizant of their point of entry — i.e., everyone has asked herself at some point, “How did I fall down this rabbit hole, exactly?”
It turns out that the Alice in Wonderland metaphor is perfect in many ways, and not just because it tells the tale of a girl falling (literally) into a new dimension. It’s also about a girl who encounters a world that’s unlike her own, that has different rules, operates under different constraints, and is a little bit “mad”!
Does this sound at all like when you fell headlong into dramas? Some of us were lucky enough to have dramas a part of our lives and culture, but for many of us, we discovered or got into dramas independently. Whether it was like drinking a love potion or falling down a tunnel of twisted logic, dramaland is where we wound up.
My own fall down the rabbit hole is completely mundane. So mundane, in fact, that I often think how strange it is that minor turns of events wound up opening so many doors for me, and affording me so much enjoyment.
Pre-K-drama me was working a small job in a big company in an even bigger city. One summer our office employed a high school intern who, in addition to helping me catalog a huge collection, kept obliquely referring to this show she was watching. It was this popular Korean TV show called Boys Before Flowers, ever heard of it? Well, everyone in her class was watching it. And week after week she kept mentioning the show to me, telling me bits of the plot — and yes, even showing me her cellphone wallpaper featuring Lee Min-ho. Perm, fur coat, and smirk included.
Why did I resist watching this show so much at first? I really don’t know. When I finally succumbed, it was months later when I had just moved to an apartment on my own. If you’ve never lived alone before, it can be odd at first, and awfully quiet. That strange Korean drama title stayed lodged in my head, though, and long story short, I located it online (I don’t even remember how) and began to watch it in the solitude of my tiny living room. All it took was one episode for me to be confused, intrigued — and completely addicted.
Boys Before Flowers wound up keeping me company as I settled into my new home. This is partly why, now and forever, a) a tiny fragment of Lee Min-ho will always be mine; and b) why K-dramas became like a friend to me. Also medicine, but most usually a friend. It wasn’t till ages later that I learned Boys Before Flowers was actually an infamous “gateway drama” for many viewers, and was responsible for creating many avid K-drama fans besides me.
What do you do when you’re a drama novice, and you’ve just made it through a drama like Boys Before Flowers? After a brief recovery period, your thoughts might do something like this, as mine did: Okay, that was actually fun. And I kind of want more. But surely that was a one-off event. All K-dramas can’t be that wacky and addictive and fun. That drama was an outlier, right? I’ll go back to watching my serious and depressing indie films now.
Nope. I might have tried, but there was something that I was missing. With my first K-drama, I had experienced some of the most joyful and fun entertainment I had since watching TV shows as a kid. Sure enough, dramaland called me back.
When you’re new to dramaland, and know very little about how it works, it’s a good enough method to follow the drama breadcrumbs left by an unsuspecting participant — like Lee-Min-ho for instance. What else has he been in? City Hunter? Hmm, what’s that, I wondered. I probably won’t like it.
Wrong again. City Hunter was it. It solidified the very serious notion that I had found my PLACE, and it was full of stories and storytelling that I could love forever. I realized, with only two dramas under my belt, that I had accidentally stumbled upon a lost city of Atlantis. Except it wasn’t lost. It was alive and thriving and bursting with new stories on an alarmingly rapid basis.
City Hunter, I quickly learned, was actually a way better measuring stick for what I could expect from K-dramas as a genre. Maybe not as hare-brained as Boys Before Flowers was, but infinitely enjoyable, and full of all those things I have come to love the most about dramaland, from the tropes to the humor to the worldview.
As you might have imagined (or experienced for yourself), after City Hunter, it was downhill (as in down the rabbit hole) from there. Actors led me to new dramas, which led me to the wider drama industry, and hungrily looking for a place to talk about them and learn more, I stumbled upon Dramabeans. ♥
From there it blossomed into the geekfest that most Beanies can easily relate to. Whether it’s priding yourself on knowing which dramas are airing on which networks at any given moment, knowing what’s coming up and who’s starring in it, or curating a fine To Be Watched list and building a reservoir of drama knowledge — it’s all a part of tumbling into dramaland.
I’ve come a long way from my clueless newbie Boys Before Flowers days, and the way I interact with dramas has changed a bit, too. My expectations (read: demands on a drama’s quality) are not only well-established, but I’m more judicious about the time I’ll spend watching a drama, too. I’ve seen some of the best, along with some of the worst. I’ve logged a lot of drama hours at both ends of the spectrum, and learned a lot in the process. I might even have some secret frequent flier miles by now.
But while a lot has changed, a lot has stayed the same. I still love this crazy place called dramaland. Even after all these years, it’s still my secret oasis of storytelling fun. Because an oasis is exactly where it feels like I ended up, after that long tumble down the rabbit hole and into dramaland.
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