10 Things I Hate About KDrama (Part One)

Okay, you know the drill. Been watching KDrama, loving some things, hating others, too long and gasbaggy to keep this down to one post, so ya got another two-parter.

YOU’RE WELCOME.

I guess I’ve just got a giving heart.

Anyhoo.

Some of the 10 Things are minor niggles. Some of them are pet hates. Some of them are things that make me fume and scream and rage-quit. Some of them are things that just make me give a small, sarcastic hiss of laughter and say: “Oh really?” 

So here goes, again in no particular order. 10 Things I Hate About KDrama, Part The First.

The ‘Accidental Kiss’

So there’s this thing in KDrama.

It’s this thing where the characters are secretly attracted to each other (or perhaps simply don’t yet realise that they’re attracted to each other), and through a terribly coincidental accident or ‘adorably’ clumsy moment, end up kissing. Like, the girl falls off a chair or a bench or something (this method seems remarkably popular–hint: ladies, if you tend to fall off things, flamin’ well don’t climb on ’em, yeah?) and the hero, in catching her, ends up accidentally locking lips with her. ACCIDENTALLY.

accidental kiss flower boys next door

YEAH. FLAMING. RIGHT.

You know how I said that this was in no particular order? I lied. This one cheeses me off the most. And when I say ‘cheeses me off’, I mean I sit there saying: “Oh really? Where is the blood? Why aren’t your lips mashed to a bloody pulp fit to rival The Walking Dead?”

Mates, it’s simple. Lips may be soft, but they’re backed by teeth, which really aren’t. I so much want to see a scene where the heroine loses her front teeth and the hero’s annoyingly bee-stung lips are a bloody, gory mess. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN TWO MOUTHS COLLIDE AT HIGH SPEED AND SIGNIFICANT IMPACT.

(Sourced from Stuck-In-A-Loop) This. This is what happens.

(Sourced from Stuck-In-A-Loop)
This. This is what happens. It’s not cute, and it’s not pretty. You WILL look like a zombie.

(There’s only one instance that I’ll forgive and it’s sheerly because of Park Shin-Hye and Yoon Shi-Yoon, who are both so adorable as Dok-Mi and Kkae-Geum that I’ll forgive them almost anything. Also, there was no falling from a great height, just a minor impact. Also, also, it was unusual in that he was the one who fell on her, which made me laugh.)

Arrogant Male Leads who win ALL THE TRICKS

AUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!

Okay, it’s out of my system. For now.

But maaaan, is it annoying!

Here’s the setup: your Main Female Lead (henceforth MFL) is a bright, determined, stubborn woman. She doesn’t give up. She makes things work. She is kind and principled and clever.

Enter MML (Main Male Lead). Maybe she saves his life. Maybe she accidentally sends him hurtling into a vat of concrete (I’m firmly of the opinion that she should leave him there but no one listens to me). Maybe she piques his interest ‘cos every other woman ever falls at his feet in an infatuated heap, and he *blurk*’likes a woman with spirit’*blurk*. Naturally he is unbelievably handsome and all the women love him.

Because apparently it's ok to be a prat if you're beautiful and/or sexy. I wanted to punch this guy in the face SO OFTEN.

Because apparently it’s ok to be an abusive prat if you’re beautiful and/or sexy. I wanted to punch this guy in the face SO OFTEN.

Whichever way it happens, the hero decides pretty quickly that he needs this woman in his life. He may not realise exactly why at the time, but he’s pretty clear that she’s not allowed to go anywhere, or with any one. To achieve this, he will (if he’s rich) buy up whole buildings to force her into the one he wants her in, get her fired from her job, make her homeless, make her indebted, and basically mess with her in a fashion that’s about as close to torture as you can get without blood.

She will initially struggle and try to fight back, but will eventually come to him with her tail between her legs (or, if the writer prefers to save face) with a reason as to why she changed her mind. After a protracted battle where he wins all the tricks and she manages not to do a single thing that could have ended the cycle for good (like engage in assault and battery, for example), bam, they’re together, exactly where and how he wanted them to be.

Can you say: “Abusive Relationship?”

And after being worn down like that and having all agency taken away from her, the MFL will still fall in love with this grade-A prat. Worse, during the struggle, all of her vaunted determination and cleverness and self-reliance will have proved to be just window-dressing on the part of a writer who had to have a reason for the MML to fall for the MFL in the first place. Of course, once he has, who needs that window-dressing?

Pft, Consistent Characterisation? What’s that? Can I eat it?

I would like to stress here that the best KDramas I’ve seen do not do this. It has, however, been prevalent enough in the rest of ’em to make me want to reach through the T.V. and physically hurt those arrogant MMLs who are verbally or emotionally abusing their MFLs (Noble, my Love, I’m glaring at you).

I would also like to stress that in the best KDramas, even if a MML starts out as an arrogant idiot, he is always changed into something infinitely more lovable during the course of his adventures and trials. This change can be effected because of the MFL, or because of a capability to learn and change on the part of the MML (which is even more satisfying).

Perfect hair...as in, perfect for grabbing so I can rub his face in the dirt.

Perfect hair…as in, perfect for grabbing so I can rub his face in the dirt. Ji Sung-Joon from She Was Pretty only just made it through my 3 episode rule.

So I’ve made a rule for myself. If I spend more than three episodes wanting to grab a MML by his perfectly coiffed hair and forcibly acquaint his face with the nearest table-top, without once thinking ‘Oh, poor baby!’ Or ‘Ah! So that’s why!’ I stop watching.

Why?

Because life is too short to keep watching bad T.V. Also, there are far too many great KDramas out there to be wasting my time on the bad ones.

TSTL MFLs (AKA, Main Female Leads who are Too Stupid To Live)

This indirectly leads off the previous point, in that one of the biggest things an arrogant MML will taunt a MFL with, is the charge of being stupid. This seems to be a much bigger thing in Korean T.V. than it is in Australia: probably because we don’t actually care about being called stupid (Study-Til-Your-Nose-Bleeds isn’t a thing here).

My problem with this is more than the constant barrage of insults the MML shoots at the MFL. The big, BIG problem I have with this is that the MFL doesn’t actually usually start out as stupid. She may not be book smart, but she usually has a different kind of smarts. She is also usually kind, lovely, and proactive in helping others.

So of course, I sit there calling out and verbally abusing the MML because of his insults, and basically getting all rage-quitty.

Then we get to somewhere in the middle of the drama and the MFL starts to do really, really stupid things. Things like following the MML around like a dog. Or stalking him across campus and hiding behind bushes to watch him while he’s on a date. Getting hit by a car while she’s following someone. Or doing THE THING, THE ONLY THING that he told her not to do. Or–oh my ragey heart!–making the exact same mistake over and over and over and OVER AGAIN.

Basically proving true every single insult he ever made about her.

Playful Kiss. I would like you both to die now, please. And bring on the dude who checks if the petrol tank on his motorbike is empty by using his lighter, cos even he isn't as stupid as these two are. Plus, he's funnier.

From Playful Kiss. I would like you both to die now, please.
And bring on the dude who checks if the petrol tank on his motorbike is empty by using his lighter, cos even he isn’t as stupid as these two are. Plus, he’s funnier.

I can’t even.

I can’t odd.

RAGE. QUIT.

I will forgive a lot in a kind heroine, but not that.

OTT MFLs (AKA, Main Female Leads who are Ridiculously, Embarrassingly Clumsy and/or Cling to the MML like Lawyer Vine)

Let me state a basic rule of thumb, MFLs. If you have to install an app on his phone to track his whereabouts, it’s not a crush. You’re a stalker.

Writers, I want to love your MFL. I want to love her and sigh for her and cheer her on. And that’s really hard to do when she’s an idiot who clings to the MML with all the tenacity of Lawyer Vine, without a smidgen of self-control, self-respect, or pride. I mean, how much humiliation and rejection do you have to imbibe before you finally realise that he’s not into you?

Only in KDrama, he will eventually be into her. Because if you stalk a guy long enough, of course he’s eventually going to think you’re cute and fall in love with you. Of course he’s not going to have you put under a restraining order or actively run away from you. Because you’re the cute MFL, and the paradigm is created solely for you.

I hate your guts.

Also. MFLs who are so cringeworthily clumsy that I’m watching entire episodes through my fingers because I can’t bear to look.

I hate you too.

It’s not just clumsiness. It’s unbelievable, ridiculous clumsiness. How have these girls not died? HOW? At some point they would get run over, or accidentally impaled, or slip in the shower, or any number of things.

You. Clumsy/awkward MFL. Why are you holding your head like that? You look like a chook. A scrawny chook. Why are you rushing around like that when you know you fall over? I spend most of my time with these MFL wailing: “Why would you do that? Why? Why would you do that?

Unfortunately, MFLs who are either of the above tend to be BOTH of the above.

This, too, makes me rage-quitty.

2nd Boys who break my heart (AKA, Give 2nd Boys a Happy Ending too!)

(Told you this was gonna be on both lists.)

Oh my broken heart! It is an almost infallible fact of life that I will always fall in love with the 2nd boy. If that 2nd boy is a facilitator, there’s no hope for me: I’m lost.

So it naturally bothers me that my lovely little 2nd boys so rarely get their own happy ending. Where in the rule book does it say that only the main leads should have a romance?

KDrama writers, what are you doing to me?? I have enough books of my own to write: I can’t obsess over every 2nd boy and write him a story just so that he gets a happy ending! Help me!

A Tale of Shin-Woo: or, How I Wrote a Whole Novel to Give my Fave 2nd Boy a Happy Ending...

A Tale of Shin-Woo: or, How I Wrote a Whole Novel to Give my Fave 2nd Boy a Happy Ending…

It’s the same thing I hate about most older films: the secondary characters are never allowed to do more than stand as supports for the main characters. They exist solely as they impact the main leads.

Bad storytelling, KDrama. Bad, bad storytelling.

OTOH, it means that when I find someone who is technically a 2nd boy but manages to take over the main role because the writer is that good, I appreciate it so much more (Flower Boys Next Door and High School King of Savvy, thank you very much!)

You already know how I feel about Kkae-Geum from Flower Boys Next Door. Meet Seo In-Guk, who is a 2nd Boy type character. He is ADORABLE. So sweet, and stupid, and delightful. Sort of like a big puppy, but better. He completely won my heart, and without him I would have stopped watching High School King of Savvy, which would have been a pity.

You already know how I feel about Kkae-Geum from Flower Boys Next Door. Meet Lee Min-Seok, who is a 2nd Boy type character. He is ADORABLE. So sweet, and stupid, and delightful. Sort of like a big puppy, but better. He completely won my heart, and without him I would have stopped watching High School King of Savvy after the first episode, which would have been a pity. This little baby gets the girl, and not only that, does a huge amount of growing at the same time. It’s constantly delightful to see his change in perspective as the episodes pass.

Okay. That’s it from me until next time! I hope you enjoyed this episode of my (rapidly increasingly) series of posts about KDrama!

Isabella Farrah (and other parts of me)

There is a question every author will be asked–oh so many times!–during their career.

That question is: “How do you come up with your characters?”

Its cousin is: “Are you going to put me in one of your books?”

The answer to the second question is: “That depends. Are you an awful person/have you been unspeakably nasty to me/the people I love? Then yes. And the character that is you will probably die alone and miserable, or at once and ‘orribly. Are you a nice/ordinary/pleasant person? Then maybe, but only the parts of you that interest me. Maybe your hair. Perhaps that habit of yours where you silently flick your index and fore fingers when you feel nervous. You will be dismembered in the most painless way, and your foibles and character traits dissected with great interest.”

“Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia”

-E.L. Doctorow

The answer to the first is slightly more complicated. I don’t really draw characters from real life, wholesale. I take bits and pieces. Sometimes those bits and pieces come from the people around me, but mostly they come from myself.

What is it that E.L. Doctorow says? “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia”. It’s true. I honestly don’t know how many authors work this way, but for me, there is some sense in which every character I write is me. Well, a part of me. Remember what I said about dismemberment earlier? Well, that applies to myself as well. I’m a great proponent of the practise of self-dismemberment. My characters are a kind of Igor: this piece patched onto that piece, a bit of embellishment here, and a bit of fancy stitching there. I don’t just keep the pieces as they are–I idealise them and alter them–but they remain essentially what they are: pieces of me.

My characters are a kind of Igor: this piece patched onto that piece, a bit of embellishment here, and a bit of fancy stitching there.

To put it in practical terms, we’ll take Isabella Farrah, the MC from my Beauty & the Beast rewrite, MASQUE. Lady Isabella Farrah is intelligent, driven, stubborn, resourceful, and incredibly confident. She has a great love for tea, adores her meals, and has a genius for making clothes. She pulls strings, lays plans, and makes the people around her dance to her tune–all for their own good, of course! She is quite certain that she knows best, and–fortunately for her–she is almost always right. (See Jane Austen’s EMMA for what can happen when such a character is not almost always right!)

Now this isn’t a true representation of my own character traits, but it does have its genesis there. I gave Isabella all of my stubbornness (and then some, since in her paradigm she is almost always right, whereas I, alas, am not), my love for tea and good food, and a heightened sense of my own love for making clothes. I also gave her what my mother calls my Pied Piper attribute. For some reason, kids over the age of three seem to love me. They follow me around, grin at me, tell me their made up jokes, and do what I tell them to (and sometimes what I do, which brings its own problems). With very few exceptions, I find it easy to manage a crowd of kids. So I made this attribute bigger and better and less inclined to small failures, and gave it to Isabella, who makes everyone dance to her tune.

She was such a fun and easy character to write because I took of my most confident and comfortable things to make her. Now, when I write characters with less pleasant parts of me–my fear of people yelling at me, for example, or my anxiety with what people think of me–it makes writing that character much harder. I don’t love the parts of me that are afraid of everything. I’d much rather write confident, self-reliant people. But the fact is that there are parts of me that are always afraid, always sick, or always not particularly nice. And if I don’t write character with those traits as well–MCs as well as side characters–let’s face it, I’m not a very good author. I don’t want to write the same character all the time.

So when you see a character of mine that you don’t like as much, whether that’s because s/he’s always afraid, or too anxious to please, or actually quite nasty, just remember–it’s all a part of me. In a way, everything you see in one of my books tells you something about me. You’ll see the nasty pieces of me as well as the pretty pieces.