Since becoming immersed in the world of Korean and Taiwanese (I have yet to watch a Japanese drama though I have a few on my list that I do want to watch) dramas my friends and family have often asked me a simple question, why? No matter how many times I try and explain I just can’t seem to get them to understand. I also can’t seem to get them to try and watch them with me. Oh but if they would only give them a chance! Because I get asked why so often I thought I’d try my hand at putting down my thoughts and defining the reasons for my addiction. Not an easy task and it has become harder than I anticipated. A great deal of my reasons have to do with feels and that doesn’t translate so well to the non-fan. Anyway, I’m going to do my best to put some of my feels down on paper (or down in cyber-space).
I still watch American TV(only about 4 shows) and I watch a lot of British TV (dying for the new Sherlock episodes!), but they’ve lost my interest in a big way. I don’t have that overwhelming need to see the next episode. The cliffhangers seem less emotionally traumatizing. I can guess the plot of the episode within a few minutes (Doctor Who and Sherlock don’t qualify for this one). I don’t get invested in the characters, even for shows that run for a long time and build up the stories and histories. I just can’t seem to invest in these characters like I used to. In essence I just don’t have much interest in Western TV.
So what is it about Korean Dramas or Taiwanese Dramas? Prior to six months ago I would have looked at anyone talking about Eastern Dramas with a blank expression, not getting it at all. Now, I look at people who have never watched a Korean or Taiwanese Drama with that same look. I’m not really certain I can adequately explain my obsession and why it exists, but I’m going to give it a try.
These are in no particular order.
I love the actors, from the main casts to the supporting casts and even the extras. Compared to Western TV, at least in my eyes, the actors look more like real people to me. Less make up, less perfectly crafted hair styles, less plastic like bodies/faces. They just look and feel real. I’m not sure how their acting training is approached, but the people feel more natural to me. Granted I don’t speak the language and there are only so many subtleties that can be picked up through subtitles and body language. But regardless I feel like the acting just flows better, as if I really have become a fly on the wall for people a few thousand miles away.
Perhaps a large part of my addiction stems from my fascination for Asian Cultures. These dramas give some valid insights into the cultures of Korea and Taiwan. Logically I know some of the social rules have been exaggerated, we do that in American and British TV too, but I love seeing how society functions there. It fascinates me that asking a persons age is polite and expected so that you can address them in the correct manner. I love that there are formal ways to interact to show respect and honor and also a familial language. There are so many ways to bow, so many reasons to bow, and certain lengths of time for certain situations. I could really go on and on within this section, but I think you get the idea.
I have a five year old son and there are just too many things that are ok to show on regular TV in American and British shows that I do not want my son to see. Which means that most shows that I might have an interest in must be watched once my son is in bed. I work full time (sometimes more as I’m salaried) and I work a later shift in the day. This doesn’t leave a lot of time before bed to watch these shows. But with Korean and Taiwanese dramas I can watch most of them with my son and never have to worry that he’ll be exposed to something inappropriate. And, as an added bonus, he’s started to pick up on words and asks what they mean. Which, come on, that is super cool.
There is so much focus on the flash factor, effects, gross out factor, and various other visual things that a lot of story is ignore or lost in Western TV. There are of course gems out there that defy this; however, I think that Korean and Taiwanese TV dominates the story and character development market. There is a definite path, a predetermined number of episodes, a known ending… All of this helps to sharpen the focus on the story and the people of the story which lets them forget the over the top visual effects that don’t really add anything at all. Each episode (usually an hour) delves deeper and deeper into the relationships of the characters. Be it a sixteen episode run or fifty, you can actually see the characters grow and evolve and mature in front of your eyes. This might be the most important thing for me. I really love the focus on people and relationships.
So far I’ve only watched a tiny number of dramas, but I am addicted to the plot twists. Some of them are so outrageous and ridiculous you know it would never happen in real life. Others are so down to earth and grounded that it sends chills down your spine, because it could happen to anyone. I never know what is going to happen. I’m not certain how the characters are going to deal with the issues thrust upon them. I’ve no idea how they are going to handle the obstacles they encounter. And each issue or situation or obstacle pushes the characters to grow and evolve and change. It is a journey that I love to be involved with.
Lastly, I wanted to mention the Variety Shows. I do not watch American or British variety TV. It has just never captured my attention. However, Korean Variety TV tosses their hottest stars into crazy games/places and films it. Oh boy what a concept! I love seeing them as people, just regular folks having to deal with silly and physically challenging situations. I think I’ve watched more Running Man than actual dramas combined. I laugh like an idiot with each episode and leave it feeling good.
I know there are so many reasons that I’ve missed. Arguments to make in favor of Korean and Taiwanese dramas that I should make. The feels and reasons I love these dramas are endless. But I think for a first attempt at putting my feels into words I’ve done a decent job.