39

K-drama problems: Great expectations

For all the ways that K-dramas inject fun, entertainment, and happiness into our lives, they can also wreak a little bit of havoc. I use the term havoc lightly, of course, but it feels something like that when I step back and look at how dramas have impacted some of my expectations from life. From romantic encounters, to dealing with false accusations, to crossing the street with extra wariness, surely I can’t be the only long-term viewer who’s been impacted?

It’s a marvelous thing to live life with great expectations. To not only see the best in people and circumstances, but to look for it, find it, and feel sure it was there all along. I’m all about this mindset of positive expectation, and this article is not saying we should lower our expectations, but rather exploring how dramas can affect what we expect to happen (whether we realize it or not). Because really, real-life expectations and K-drama-level expectations are two very different things.

K-dramas exist in a delicious world of tropes. Love them or hate them, dramas perpetuate the same moments, scenes, and dynamics again and again. It’s amazing that I can never tire of watching someone get tenderly Band-aided, but it’s even more amazing that this all-too-common K-drama scene is one of the many that have set up “great expectations” in my own life.

Maybe I’ve seen too many wound/scratch/papercut scenes than is healthy for a person? Perhaps anticipating someone to tend my extremely minor wounds is a bit far-fetched (sarcasm)? Well, the closest I’ve gotten to this in real life is being in an elevator and noticing my finger was bleeding from a small cut. A man also in the elevator handed me a tissue, and that was that.

Of course, romanticized first aid via Band-aids and ointment is only the tip of the iceberg. K-dramas have also changed my expectations around neighbors, of all things. I love stories of neighbors, neighborhoods, and neighborhood friendships and romances. When I moved to a new apartment, I was expecting epic things, and excited to meet my neighbors.

Except it took weeks before I even laid eyes on them. To my disappointment, we wound up more like ships passing in the night than people living in close proximity that could be pals — or, at the very least, be that person next door my mom could always ask for flour or eggs when she ran out. It’s my personal opinion that our busy, digital lives are making us lose some of that sense of community. And I’m not the only one — I’ve surveyed so many friends and colleagues that live in apartments or with nearby neighbors, and everyone shares my experience.

This is where K-dramas can help. In K-dramas, we have neighbors that get to know each other, that are thrown in each other’s paths, that rescue each other from near-death circumstances, and that even eat dinner together. The good news? Dramas let me enjoy the neighborhood relationships that aren’t happening in real life. The bad news? Dramas let me enjoy the neighborhood relationships that aren’t happening in real life.

Sometimes the disparity between dramaland and real life is more sobering than amusing, and it’s never been so garish as it is in the realm of romance. I touched on it in my real-life Band-aid fail, but there are so many more instances where dramas set the bar so high that our everyday lives can’t help but fall a bit flat in comparison.

I’ve sat bleary-eyed in waiting rooms with no hero doctor to come and comfort me, or at the very least hand me a hot drink. I’ve been stuck in torrential downpours where there was no neighborhood oppa waiting to pull me under a giant umbrella. I’ve had my shoe fly off in the middle of the subway platform and had to run (err, hop) after it myself — no dashing stranger (who will turn out to be my new boss, landlord, or neighbor) appeared on the scene to fetch it for me. I’ve been going to the library frequently for most of my life, but I’ve yet to run into a handsome hero with great taste in literature. And the lovely man that came to my workplace for a day-long meeting? He stayed a stranger.

These are just some of the ways drama expectations have fallen flat when they hit my everyday 21st century American life. Despite being smart enough to know better, I’ve caught myself time and time again layering these drama-level expectations onto real life. I know they’re flat-out implausible, impractical, and at their worst, ridiculous. But still, a part of me can’t help but reach for them. Or at least imagine them.

My pre-K-drama self never cared much about these serendipitous moments occurring in my life — or so I tell myself. Did K-dramas plant the seeds for these things in my mind (and they grew into a jungle)? Or did K-dramas just water the soil so the things that already existed could bloom? And above all, what do I do to keep the contrast from seeming bittersweet, sad, or just plain pathetic?

Some would argue that every person longs to fulfill their role as a hero/heroine — and that’s why stories of people caught in the background, pushing their way to the front of the story are so powerful. We often see this with heroines that satisfyingly take the reins of their lives, not caring what sort of stampede they might cause. But can I still be the heroine of my own life if I unclog my bathroom sink myself? If I don’t run into my crush everytime I’m in the elevator? If the cute pharmacist through the drive-thru window is only just the cute pharmacist through the drive-thru window?

It’s fun to go through life with K-drama lenses on, and I’ve enjoyed so much because of it. But it’s also important to know when to take them off. Sometimes (okay, maybe more than sometimes), you’ll get a flat tire or your shoe will break, and there will be no mysterious hero to help you. You’ll buy expensive hair products (*ahem*) and yet never get your hair to look like Jun Ji-hyun’s in Legend of the Blue Sea. You’ll go to the store and not see anyone that you know. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay.

Where I think K-dramas can take away from our real-life experiences is not by showing us implausible scenarios and getting us to expect them to actually happen. Where I think it can be detrimental is when we believe that we’re not a hero/heroine unless these things happen to us. This is most untrue.

If there’s one thing we have learned from consuming story after story, it’s that each one has its own unique hero/heroine. And in your life, you are that person. By rights, you already have a story wrapped around you.

The serendipity, romance, fate, and other things that fill a drama’s action might look very different from the circumstances of our own lives — but it doesn’t mean they’re not there entirely. There’s still magic in ordinary everyday life, and unforeseen pleasures too. And while they might not be K-drama-level all of the time, if there’s one thing that’s for certain it’s this: there is always a new experience or moment waiting for us around the corner. And it belongs to you.

RELATED POSTS

Tags: , , , , , ,

39

Required fields are marked *

Your article made me smile :) Yes, I think, drama in general are expected to be close to reality but NOT reality ever; then they'd be documentary!! That is what keeps us hooked on them. It is amazing writing which brings us a very high possibility of similar romance or heartwarming incidence happening to us since it is an expected and accepted human behavior to our minds. As you pointed out, world has shifted from simple human emotions and actions to complex and weird reality; so those very expected and accepted incidents never happen to common people!! :D :) But we switch on our TVs/screens every night to just view it happen to others ( characters in drama) with a sigh !! :D

11
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Example is 'crash landing on you'; Of course North Korean soldiers are humans and as humans, one expects some humanity; thus Hyun Bin's character saving Son Ye Jin's character and ultimately falling in love is very much possible or even should 100% happen per human psychology!!!! BUT surely disclaimer should go to everyone that do NOT go to North Korea because the chance of you getting shot on sight is 99.9999999% !!!!!!! :D of course, every episode of crash landing on you, this statistic fact is far far away from my mind, and I am wowed by Hyun bin every time!! :)

15
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Don't underestimate how differences manifest. Things that look similar can actually be fundamentally different.

This is where we all get caught out. It is the "invisible gorilla" problem - and in different countries/cultures these can be life threatening.

Sadly too often we appear to live in a weird psudo-colonialising approach to difference. We seam to suffer from a view similar to a TV show (think "The Time Tunnel" or "Star Gate")...everywhere is just like us - only in different clothes. This is usually code for they are not as good at being normal as we are. It is very subtle that we barely notice how it diminishes their cultural autonomy - but be sure it does.

3
reply

Required fields are marked *

Reading newspaper can be very depressing, reality is pretty hard these days.

Kdrama's reality is fun and let me be in a bubble for a moment :)

8
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

It’s fun to go through life with K-drama lenses on, and I’ve enjoyed so much because of it.

This! So much! I often smile at random things that happen around me because I think they would make the perfect kdrama meet-cute. That those happenings are only amusing in my own mind (or in the mind of any other kdrama fan if only there was one around to share it with) actually make it better.

17
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Same!

2
reply

Required fields are marked *

There is a Chinese quote I always keep in mind.
"Without coincidences, there is no story"

So a story is actually made up from a series of coincidences like chance meetings, crash landings etc. Without these, it is called Real Life, and we will not be interested to watch them :)

13
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

This.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

"Meanwhile, back at the ranch..." (Hitchcock)

Real life is lineal - it doesn't care if it stagnates. Story is about managing and curating contrast, pace, and emotion. Sure it often uses coincidences - but it doesn't have to.

"Meanwhile, back at the ranch..." is that tool for when one arc is about to run its course, it shifts ground to change our viewpoint and deliberately manipulate that emotional rollercoaster.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=107&v=1GXv2C7vwX0&feature=emb_logo

3
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is a sweet write up. I think kdramas are great because they are incredibly entertaining and fun. Much like any TV show I watch. I don't walk around with kdrama lenses because it is easier for me to detach myself when I have to read subtitles to understand the show and none of them look like me. It of course doesn't take away fully from the fantasy aspect of finding a nice man who helps me and we just hit it off, but it tempers it a great deal for me. I am also a bit of a realist and pessimist so that helps as well, lol.😊😉

8
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm becoming more intune to the intricacy of life that many time I think "Oooh, this still make a great drama plot.". Real life offers as much twist and turn and its own fair share of Makjang for me, although admittedly I've never met anyone with amnesia...

9
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

When the NK soldier made the comment in Crash Landing on You about the "statistic" of SK's that get amnesia based on Kdramas, I laughed like hell. It reminded me of Galaxy Quest where the aliens think they know Earth so well because of the "historical records" transmissions they picked up. ("Those poor people", they say, when talking about Gilligan's Island.)

4
reply

Required fields are marked *

I really like this piece. I am less likely to superimpose kdrama life with real life, because I’m actually a realist in real life, but then something happens randomly and I think, that would make a great story! I like stories. There’s a great one unfolding on the Beanie wall right now which shows me that meet cutes do happen in real life and enjoy them when they do because, inevitably, all the trappings of real life are also not far behind.

13
5
reply

Required fields are marked *

@azzo1's story was the sweetest thing ever. It made my heart flutter. But it's Monday past, so I guess it's a case of "Not to be"...

4
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

Aren't they meeting tomorrow?

5
3
reply

Required fields are marked *

Are you kidding me? She's gone MIA.

4
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

ermmmm . . . we may have gotten a little carried away on her 😏 and scared her off.
But they are meeting tomorrow!

5

Did you read her last episode? Look on her wall!

2

I think the dramas feel relatable but also feels like those things can never happen in real life is all about perspective. All we see is the snips of the characters' lives the writer wants us to see. We might have gone through a pretty similar experience, but never realized it because 'hey, it's just me, what drama worthy thing would ever happen to plain old me?".
I once had a romance pretty similar to the one in reply 1988, but only realized it after my lil' cousin pointed it out. It didn't feel as special as Deok seon and Teak because it was just us.
That one small incident totally changed my perspective on dramas and real life.A

5
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yap. I completely agree. I can promise anyone here if they would've look back on their life and cut 16 episodes worth of highlight reels that they would find a drama worth story. Sometime we just loose perspective on how uniquely special each and every one of us when we're so caught up in the mundane day to day living.

9
reply

Required fields are marked *

I love this so much @missvictrix and agree with every bit of it. I've had to yank myself back into the real world after going for days on end bummed that something trope-y didn't happen to me when the opportunity was right there. I do however, know that my life wouldn't be any less richer if I went about it changing flat tires or broken light bulbs and putting on bandaids myself.

For the most part I am able to take off the k-drama colored glasses and actually look at the world around me and while I do find magic and joy in it, I love what K-dramas give me in all their glorious trope-y goodness. When it's bad, it offers a "better them than me" sort of removal from the hurts of life(and it does help that they are characters so I know no humans were harmed in the making of the drama). When it's good, sweet, and swoon-worthy it gives me something to look forward to even though I know chances are it won't happen to me in real life. I hope, not because I am 100% certain it will happen but because those moments provide a little bit of sunshine in the drudgery that can be life sometimes.

I get to laugh, cry, fall in love(about 10 times or more a year), fight and grow and I wouldn't trade those experiences for the world.

P.S. You can totally be the heroine of your story even when(or especially when?) you unclog your own sink

7
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Well, instead of waiting for the K drama to come to you, you could be the kdrama.

Co worker gets paper cut? Run over with cute bandaid.

Raining and see a cab pull up to the curb? Run over and open your umbrella as the car door opens.

Neighbor burns in elevator? Pull out your trusty needle and string.

Go out drinking with friends and the one that you secretly hope could be more says he has had too much? Kneel down and offer him a piggy back ride. Make sure to make quips about how heavy he is.

11
7
reply

Required fields are marked *

Burns = burp, lol. If burning get out.

5
4
reply

Required fields are marked *

Laughed my head off at burns.

3
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you for the clarification on burning/burping - I was a bit confused by that.

Then again, maybe a needle and string would help a neighbor burning in the elevator in some way.....???
but I can't think of it right now, I'll get back to this later

4
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

It's all Macgyver ever needed and we are the heroine of this drama....we will make it work.

6
reply

Required fields are marked *

Wow I did NOT see that “burps” is where you were going 🤣

3
reply

Required fields are marked *

Love this❤❤❤❤❤💋💋

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Beautifully put. Choose to be the heroine/hero of your own drama (life), and see where the tides of destiny take you.

1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Dear jaded souls,

Take heart that somewhere out there, this Christmas Day, your Destiny awaits. It may start off with a scarf caught in a revolving door, a meeting of eyes in a crowded elevator, a warm hand steadying your elbow, a slow smile from the new guy in the apartment next door...

Romance DOES happen in real life, my dears. And when it does, it is every bit as earth-shattering, as magical and as life-altering as what you see in a drama. It will turn your world upside down, and you will never be the same again.

Merry Xmas, beanies. Ho ho ho.

From

YY The Eternal Romantic,
Who believes in Love and Destiny.

12
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Ughh this is so true. I am actually unfortunately one of those people who daydream a lot hence, I'm not a realist and I like being in my fantasy world more than my real life. However, this jas extreme phases. I was never the I will marry oppa kinda obsessive but I did have similar phases where I totally expected my soulmate to be like a character at times even visually as them. I never expected these coincidents to occur but I definitely had high expectations of the person, I'd say i still do. I'm still trapped. This sounds sad but I think it's high time to create that divide betwee real and fiction which I haven't been able to. Specially when it comes to making scenarios of my perfect life or expectations of a perfect partner that's hard to find in reality.

5
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

what a wonderful article! thank you so much for it. i realllllllllllllllllllyyyyyyyyyyy relate to what you said. i lived in that fantasy bubble for a long time before i could climb out and accept reality while loving dreaming about being in that drama or this situation!

4
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Luckily for me, I don't get romantic expectations. But I just remembered something that was kinda funny... a guy put a sweater around me. I was acutely uncomfortable but I also thought, "hang on a mo, I thought this only happens in dramas. It actually happens in real life??"

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I find this 90 percent true. That last 10 percent though? I think kdramas can be more realistic than, e.g., US TV.

This sounds crazy, I know. But the thing that keeps me coming back to kdrama is, for example, the fact that middle aged women exist in kdramas. Elderly people have lives in kdrama beyond "granny." Poor people may have the latest phones (hey there Samsung!) but they also have 4 jobs and no health insurance. When working people go to the hospital, they worry about their bills.

And while these are rarer, there are some shows out there that really do kind of show our realities in ways I wouldn't have expected, coming from US TV. Like, the plight of temporary workers. The drudgery of caring for young children or ill family. The virtues of unionizing, making everyone pay their taxes, and sound engineering of buildings!

Who knew there was os much drama to be mined from cheapign out on building materials?

7
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Comment was deleted

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

You're right, I turn to dramas to see something that doesn't happen for me in real life, but similar things happen to others in small doses. Kdramas have to tread a fine line between fulfilling our fantasies yet not seem too out of touch with reality.
What a conundrum.

Loved the last paragraph.
Let's turn this around to ask ourselves about those surreal drama like moments. They exist, we just take them for niceties or for granted, because without the background music they don't really make our heart jump.

I'll start with mine. You know those scenes where heroine gets stranded in the rain ☔ without an umbrella? Something similar happened. I love rains so I never shied away from getting soaked, as long as I had a waterproof bag it was alright.But it was a project submission day &I was lugging around these rolled up chart sheets. The forecast was rainy so I took an umbrella with me.
Class ended, submission was extended with teacher absent. So we all went home with our projects.... Now guess what happened? It rained, as we all knew it would.

So there was me happy with my planning & going about merrily, but then I reached the gate & the umbrella wouldn't open. So while I was there struggling with the stupid umbrella & contemplating just making a run to safeguard my work.... My classmate just gave me his umbrella (no it wasnt red or yellow, just plain black) while he also struggled to open mine.
We looked at each other & came to an understanding that I'd just run back after putting my things in the car so that he wouldn't get rained on.
But then at that moment he managed to open my umbrella, so we exchanged ours back & said goodbye.
Next day it was smile nod & studies as usual.

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Comment was deleted

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Comment was deleted

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Here is a counter narrative.

....PLEASE SKIP IF YOU ARE A HAPPY BEANIE...

SKDrama has much to recommend it - but not unquestioningly. Yes, SKDrama is full of fate and epic gestures - not because these are an unknown truth to other cultures but because they are deeply cultural. This element is baked in to the culture and interpersonal relationships...and I suspect it is part of a job lot (hence why even culture tells stories differently). The grass may look greener but be careful what you wish for. Remember for every good you get, there are probably multiples of things you would despise.

Trying to see the world through a fate based lens is fun, but if your culture is part of the Enlightenment - it is actually at odds with the fundamental tenants.

Just like we used to think the sun revolved around the earth - maintaining similar things occurring is a coincidence or fate and separate to life doesn't hold water once we developed systems analysis. In a system - similar occurrences are normal...hence coincidences are real-life.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *