10 Things I Love About KDrama (Part Two)

And now for Part Two of 10 Things I Love About KDrama!

Wherein I consider the last 5 things that I love about KDrama….

Character Redemption (aka, Bad Guys are People Too)

There’s not much I hate worse than watching a movie or T.V. series with a villain who’s evil Just Because They’re Evil. Unfortunately, it’s something I come across horribly, horribly often. This is partly because I watch a lot of older T.V., and character writing has evolved a lot over the years, but it’s by no means a bygone phenomenon. It’s still something that continues to annoy me in modern T.V.

KDrama has some seriously evil characters, from the absolutely terrifying schoolgirl bullies who rule the school to the murderous gangster bosses who beat people to death with golf clubs in the comfort of their own homes. Some of them are laughably evil, but the vast majority I’ve seen now have been nuanced, complete characters in their own right.

Not only have they been nuanced, but in a few cases, they have almost overshadowed the main leads in complexity. This is because in KDrama, there is a very good chance that the villain can be redeemed. There are points in the narrative at which the villain is faced with two courses of action: the right, and the wrong. They way he/she reacts to that choice begins to determine the possibility of their redemption, and their path begins either to slowly slide toward the irredeemable or to climb painfully toward a new life.

In KDrama, you can never be certain that your main villain will not change completely–just like a regular person. Not only is this spectacularly good writing, it adds an extra dimension to the entire story. Not every villain is redeemed, but every villain has at least one chance to do so. The mindset this displays is delightful. Redemption as a theme is a very precious one to me, and to see it in T.V. series (and used in such a general way) is a huge breath of fresh air.

Here are a couple of the most poignant villains I’ve come across in KDrama so far:

Lee Joon-Hee (Falling for Innocence) Is he a murderer, or isn't he? Either way, he's a fully 3-dimensional character that you can't help caring for or relating to. A beautiful, driven individual with a hidden dark side that begins to emerge slowly but surely, Joon-Hee is a character I was thinking about for weeks after I watched Falling For Innocence.

Lee Joon-Hee (Falling for Innocence) Is he a murderer, or isn’t he? Either way, he’s a fully 3-dimensional character that you can’t help caring for or relating to. A beautiful, driven individual with a hidden dark side that begins to emerge slowly but surely, Joon-Hee is a character I was thinking about for weeks after I watched Falling For Innocence.

Kwan Soo-Ah (Sassy Go Go) Will she continue in her venomous ways, poisoned irretrievably by her mother and her own desires, or will she seize onto the tiny, budding sprays of right that have sprouted in her heart and cling to them? Her mother has taken care of her grades and hidden her wrongdoing, but what about Soo-Ah's soul?

Kwan Soo-Ah (Sassy Go Go) Will she continue in her venomous ways, poisoned irretrievably by her mother and her own desires, or will she seize onto the tiny, budding sprays of right that have sprouted in her heart and cling to them? Her mother has taken care of her grades and hidden her wrongdoing, but what about Soo-Ah’s soul?

2nd Boys

This is another item that is on both my Hate and Love list. It leads on a bit from Character Redemption, and has a lot to do with how well (or how badly) characters in a show are written. However, it also seems to be a thing done very well as a whole in KDrama. I get rather tired of badly drawn love triangles in fiction (I actually don’t care much for the love triangle as a form of story anyway, but when well done I can quite enjoy it) and it’s refreshing to see it done right.

In too many movies and series that I’ve seen, the main female lead falls for the main male lead, with a side love interest who is either never well developed, or there only so the main male lead can be jealous and/or warn her about the side love interest’s bad motives. More annoyingly, when it’s the latter, this side love interest almost always turns out to be a bad guy.

Seriously, though, what the heck is wrong with having a side love interest who is actually good and nice? He shouldn’t be there simply to excite the main male lead’s jealousy and then be dismissed with the easy excuse that he was a bad guy all along. Sometimes good guys lose out, too. (Ironically, this is also a thing I will discuss in my two part post on the 10 Things I Hate About KDrama). There is absolutely no excuse to skimp on character building simply because the 2nd boy doesn’t get the girl.

Tae-Gwang

There is absolutely no excuse to skimp on character building simply because the 2nd boy doesn’t get the girl. The best execution of this rule that I’ve yet seen is from Who Are You? where my favourite character, a crazy, delightful little boy called Tae-Gwang, doesn’t get the girl, but gets a lot more from his storyline. He’s a character who grows and matures and learns to connect with the world despite the fact that he hasn’t been lucky in love (and the more important fact that his father has shut him up in a mental ward). He actually stole the show from the main male lead, leading me to wonder exactly how he didn’t get the girl (apart from a complete lack of mental capacity on the part of the girl). But his journey is more important than his love life, and that really comes out.

I seriously love KDrama’s secondary love interests (aka, 2nd boys). In fact, I usually prefer the 2nd boys to the main love interests. This is because 2nd boys are, as a general rule, kind, thoughtful, and very beautiful–while main male lead are crazy, annoying, and almost always arrogant (which, while making a hilarious and fun character, would be no fun at all to live with in real life).

Anthony Trollope-esque Politics (whether School or Company Politics, oh my! So many political storylines)

Can you believe that I’d never heard of spec-stacking before? That could be because I’m not actually that academically gifted and also because we could never afford to go to college anyway, but seriously. The political underworld of KDrama’s schools is vast and intricately twined.

Of course, you’ve already heard me rave about Falling for Innocence, which has such a complicated, over-arching theme of business machinations and by-plays along with its murder, medical, and romance plot-lines.

If a T.V. series or movie is well-written, it will have those sorts of things in it, anyway. But there seems to be a definite focus on twisty plots in KDrama, and as a lover of Anthony Trollope, those twisty plot-lines make my little heart sing for joy.

Facilitators

This is another character thing (which will not surprise anyone who knows my obsession with Character in Story). Facilitators are rarely seen in the wild in Western films, which makes me sad because I flamin’ love Facilitators. One of the first MCs I ever wrote was a Facilitator.

The Facilitator sees things from the outside, whether from boredom, superior intellect, or just plain crazy. He (and in rare cases, she) will cultivate characters and plot-lines sometimes to a point that almost-but-not-quite breaks the fourth wall (see especially Jin-Rak in Flower Boys Next Door). Facilitators almost always end up getting sucked into the story they’re trying to direct, and/or falling in love with the girl they were helping out.

Five of my favourite Facilitators to date (in order of most to least favourite):

Shinwoo from He's Beautiful. My all-time fave Facilitator and 2nd boy

Shin-Woo from He’s Beautiful. Bored and mischievous and unaware of how badly he’s about to fall, Shin-Woo is my all-time fave Facilitator and 2nd boy. Shin-Woo is kind, thoughtful, and patient, with a deeply mischievous sense of humour and a love for playing games with the people around him. When he begins to know what he wants, it’s an amusing surprise to him. This 2nd boy dug a hole in my heart with the way he brought the heroine tea and selflessly cared for her behind the scenes. Tea. He brought her tea. How could I not love this one?

Kkae-Geum. Again, from Flower Boys Next Door (can you tell I loved it??) This guy is hilarious and sweet and just plain lovable. Actually, he should be my top favourite, but isn't for these two reasons: 1.) 2nd Boy Syndrome, and 2.) Wounded Seagull Syndrome. Clear as mud? Don't worry, I'll explain it later.

Kkae-Geum/Enrique from Flower Boys Next Door.
This guy is hilarious and sweet and just plain lovable. He is REMARKABLY unsquashable. Actually, he should be my top favourite, but Shin-Woo still wins for these two reasons: 1.) 2nd Boy Syndrome, and 2.) Wounded Seagull Syndrome. Clear as mud? Don’t worry, I’ll explain it in my next two-parter blog post.

Jin-Rak from Flower Boys Next Door. This Facilitator takes the back of a hammer to the fourth wall in the most delightful way possible. Again, a 2nd boy, but he didn't break my heart 'cos I was too busy laughing at him and his saggy pants.

Jin-Rak. Again, from Flower Boys Next Door (can you tell I loved it??)  Okay, he’s technically not really a Facilitator, since he doesn’t ever exactly facilitate: but his outlook and his presence in this series is that of the outsider. He never even quite feels as if he’s a part of the story proper. I love that! So. Jin-Rak. This Facilitator takes the back of a hammer to the fourth wall in the most delightful way possible. Again, a 2nd boy, but he didn’t break my heart ‘cos I was too busy laughing at him and his saggy pants. Also, he’s a writer, so what’s not to like about this guy? Constantly delightful.

Shin-Hyuk from She Was Pretty. This guy is just flamin' HILARIOUS.

Shin-Hyuk from She Was Pretty. I didn’t love She Was Pretty (spent too long wanting to grab the male lead by his hair and bash his face into the desk) but this guy is just flamin’ HILARIOUS. Pretty much every scene with him is a riot, especially the one where he realises that he’s crushing on a certain someone, because Shin-Hyuk does seem to know his place as a Facilitator and to be quite comfortable in the role. It’s really, REALLY hard not to laugh until you cry when you see him chasing his uptight boss and yelling about underwear every time he sees him…

Nebi (or Navi) from Love Cells. The only female Facilitator I've seen (thus far). Her character--and in fact, the whole execution--of the Love Cells series, was not what I expect. It was so much better. She's fun, and funky, and mischievous.

Nebi (or Navi) from Love Cells. The only female Facilitator I’ve seen (thus far) in KDrama. Her character–and in fact, the whole execution–of the Love Cells series, was not what I expected. It was so much better. Both Love Cells and Nebi are fun, funky, and mischievous, with an unexpected dose of heart.

Friendships

In far too many Western films and T.V. series, when there’s an MC, that’s it. You’ll get bits and pieces of friendship, but there’s not usually a light shone on that unless the whole film is about friendship (which is also reasonably rare). I love the fact that in KDrama, there are WHOLE PLOTLINES about the friendship between two guys (again, Flower Boys Next Door, Sassy Go Go), or two girls (Who Are You?), or a whole group (Sassy Go Go, I’m lookin’ at you). It’s not just about the romance. And yeah, it’s got to do with what’s good writing and what’s not–for instance, there are some VERY badly written KDramas out there, too–but as a whole, friendship seems to be much better explored. I love that. I especially love it when it’s a male/female friendship that doesn’t turn into a love triangle.

Favourite Friendship Pairings:

Kim Yeol and Ha Joon

Kim Yeol and Ha-Joon from Sassy Go Go. You’ll notice a lot of friendship pairings from Sassy Go Go, and this is because Sassy Go Go is brilliant. Ah! These two guys! Their friendship is a breath of fresh air, and a proper thread that runs through this series rather than being simply a thing that’s there in the background. It’s important, and it underpins many parts of the plot.

Yeon Doo and Dong Jae

Yeon-Doo and Dong-Jae from Sassy Go Go. I LOVE THESE GUYS! Dong-Jae has a physical disability where he can’t be touched without going into an almost catatonic state. It’s so delightful to see the way they interact. He always brings her strawberry milk. When she wants to show affection she plays with the zippers on his sleeves and the loose folds of his clothes. It has all the emotional impact of a hug. And guys, they don’t try to turn it into a love triangle! *Happy sigh*

Sassy Go Go Friends

ALL OF THEM. THE WHOLE GROUP FROM SASSY GO GO. These guys make me dance in delight. You watch them fight and grow through the whole series until they’re one cohesive whole, held together at first by Kang Yeon-Doo (and then by their genuine affection for each other). This group makes me very happy.

Jin Rak and Co

Jin-Rak and Dong-Hoon. These guys were SO MUCH FUN. Their friendship is a huge part of Flower Boys Next Door, a delightful and tender growth that ebbs and flows, but most importantly, grows, throughout the entire series. Their misunderstandings and temper tantrums had me continually laughing.

I have so much more I could say, and so many more favourites, but this blog post has already assumed a ridiculous length, so I’m off again to WATCH ALL THE THINGS. And maybe write a little bit…

 

 

10 Things I Love About KDrama (Part One)

To be honest, there are more than 10 things I love about KDrama, but I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t break the internet due to post length when I finally uploaded it.

Sassy-Go-GoWhich is also why this post is being broken up into two parts. Well, to be strictly truthful, I have another reason. As one of my writerly friends said, breaking this blog post up means that I’ve got blog posts written for two weeks instead of one. Bargain! And since I’m trying to be balanced about this, my next two posts after this two-parter will be 10 Things I Hate About KDrama (which might be a bit of a stretch, since I’m not sure I have that many things that I hate about it).

You may or may not have noticed, but I’ve been watching a fair bit of Korean Drama lately. And since I was fascinated with the language and the written form, I’ve been learning Korean as well, which gives me the perfect excuse to just keep watching as much Korean TV as possible. It’s research, OK?!

Anyhoo.

flower_boy_next_door4-4840I wouldn’t be a writer if I didn’t analyze (and over-analyze) the whys and wherefores of my new-found love for KDrama. So I’ve been thinking over the things I love and hate about it (and as much as I love KDrama, there are things I hate about it, too).

So, in no particular order, these are the first 5 things I love about KDrama:

The Humour

Oh my. I’ve really been enjoying the humour. When I first started watching KDrama, I was hugely surprised to hear it called KDrama– because to me, it was all hilarity. My first thought was Wait, if this is Drama, what the heck is their comedy like?! I was to learn very quickly that the drama does, in fact, come into things, but in all my favourite KDramas so far, that humour has continued all throughout as well.

There’s the slapstick, of course, which–when done right–I’ve never really grown out of loving. Then there’s the mouthing off that happens in, well, every KDrama I’ve seen so far. If you read my books you know how much I love characters who are constantly mouthing off at each other. There’s the cringeworthy embarrassing stuff that happens to every female lead who is meant to be adorably clumsy (during which I stare at my screen in horrified wonder from between my fingers and wonder exactly what is wrong with their brains) and that sometimes happens to a male lead if he’s the right kind. Oh, and don’t forget the delightful back and forth that happens between H & H.

As a matter of fact, a lot of the humour in KDrama comes from the relationship between the H & H. This humour can be any of the above, but to my joy, it quite often takes the form of physical comedy.

For example.

There’s always a point at which, if the relationship in question is a typical love/hate one where the main male lead is a right prat who insults and annoys the main female lead, that I will be longing for her to bash him one. This happens when I watch either KDrama or any other kind of T.V.

I will literally be sitting there howling: “Are you kidding me?! Punch him in the face!”

To my eternal sadness, this happens so little in Western T.V. And yet, twice now while watching KDrama–as I was in the very process of making said outcry–the female lead has, in fact, punched him in the face. Cue me whooping in disbelief and delicious glee. I really can’t express how much I enjoy watching pratty male leads being punched in the face.

Please excuse the blurriness of the screen-cap--unbelievably enough, no one had screen-capped this and I had to do it myself.

Please excuse the blurriness of the screen-cap–unbelievably enough, no one had screen-capped this and I had to do it myself. ‘Noble, My Love’ annoyed me SO MUCH and this is my favourite bit in the whole mini-series.

Other things I find myself delighted over: tiny little Korean girls who have been teased and annoyed to the point of exploding. Because the next thing you see is a tiny little Korean girl pulling the hair of a guy twice her size while he howls and tries to run. This honestly never gets old.

Gong-Shim from The Beautiful Gong Shim: hilarious, and has one of the loveliest male characters I've seen yet.

Gong-Shim and Ahn Dan-Tae from ‘The Beautiful Gong Shim’, which is hilarious and has one of the loveliest male characters I’ve seen yet.

The Drama

Well. This is slightly difficult. Reason being, The Drama in KDrama is also on my list of 10 Things I Hate About KDrama. I don’t, as a rule, like drama. Drama for the sake of drama, that is. The angst, the tears, the head-beatings. Mostly I want to slap characters who become too morose and weepy. But as with Shakespeare, the delightful blend of comedy and drama makes each element much more poignant: the humour pulling me in and the drama alternately breaking my heart and uplifting me. There aren’t too many KDramas that get the mix exactly right (I can think of 3 at the moment, out of the many that I’ve watched so far) but there aren’t really that many that get it horribly wrong, either. Most are a mix of good and bad, but mostly good if you discount the sticky middle.

Such sads! Such Drama!

Such sads! Such Drama!

The Actually, Really, Believably Lovely Characters

Okay, despite me trying to keep this down to only 10 things I love about KDrama, and breaking it into two parts this blog post is probably going to be ridiculously long anyway. This because of Characters.

I’ve raved on and on about Soon-Jung in Falling for Innocence as a completely lovely female character–an actually, morally good woman who is honoured (and targeted) for that goodness–and I have since found at least four other completely lovely characters.

Kkae-Geum from Flower Boys Next Door. Kang Yun-Doo from Sassy Go Go. Ahn Dan-Tae from The Beautiful Gong Shim. Dong-Wook from Falling for Innocence.

Sigh. These are characters who are not only morally lovely, but are allowed by the writers to change their paradigm by the rippling effect of that lovliness on all of those people around them. I could go on and on about how much I love finding beautiful characters–not to mention ones who aren’t belittled or seen as foolish for being morally lovely–but my word count is looking rather frightening so perhaps I’ll defer that until another episode of These are a Few of my Favourite Things…

The Lack of Sex Scenes

Yeah, yeah, I know there are always exceptions, but I’ve been fortunate enough not to run into any so far. For me it’s really nice to be able to watch something and not be moodily certain that the characters’ ‘love’ is going to wind up being ‘developed’ by having them sleep together. Sex is not the end goal of the romance here. There is actual character development and the closer understanding of two people. I love that. I find gems like that in Western films, too, but to be honest, they’re gems because they’re rare.

What’s that? Can I eat it? (And other hilarious catch-phrases)

-Pervert

Seriously. Seriously, guys. It shouldn’t be hilarious, but it really is. Everyone is a pervert in KDrama. Accidentally walk in while a girl is wearing her (perfectly concealing, flannel) pjs? PERVERT. Stare too long at someone? PERVERT. Smile at them? PERVERT.

-Wanna die?!

Such a deliciously belligerent phrase! Especially fun when spoken by tiny, fierce, female leads.

-Ha! What’s that? Can I eat it?

This one is probably my favourite. Someone thinks you’re afraid? “Hah!” You say. “Fear? What’s that? Is it a food?” Someone tells you to quit. “Hah!” You say. “Quit? What’s that? Can I eat it?” I honestly don’t think I’ve come across a foreign phrase that I love better (even though ‘wanna die?” comes pretty close). At first I thought it was a peculiarity of one distinct character in one KDrama, but then I saw another character or two use it in other KDramas. This is one that’s coming over to the English–at least in my house…

When you've been totally burned and you're still raging about it later...

When you’ve been totally burned and you’re still raging about it later…

Okay, I’m sure you guys have your favourite things about KDrama, too. Feel free to share in the comments. Otherwise, I’ll see you in a couple days for the other 5 things I love about KDrama!

(Also, if you want reccs, check out: Sassy Go Go, Falling for Innocence, Flower Boys Next Door, and The Beautiful Gong Shim. They are all hilarious and more than moderately heart-warming. I’ve already reviewed Falling for Innocence, and the others will follow in due course.)