Why did I become a K-Drama convert?

I have a friend, Neeraj. Neeraj loves sports, especially soccer. He loves this team, let’s call them Quiverful FC Neeraj loves them so much that he sits till 4am watching their games. He listens to all the press conferences, he discusses their defense positions on Twitter, he has their logo plastered on his car, on the back of his phone, and has a keychain of the same. One day, while wearing an official shirt that cost him two weeks’ salary, he turned to me, cut off Sadio Mane (speaking in French, a language Neeraj doesn’t speak) and asked: “Why are you so obsessed with K-dramas? K-dramas aren’t the new cult in town. It’s media to be consumed like anything else. And that’s how cookie s crumbles.

I was born in the golden age of television, I danced to “Video Killed the Radio Star”, and now I live in the world of the Internet. Internet, which gave me access to more of the world than before.
Prior to 2010, our media consumption was narrow. You looked at what was given to you. Channels were limited, if you missed your episode you were hoping to see a rerun, and we all sat down and watched and read and talked about the same things. In our hangover society from colonialism, this meant that what we were looking at was Pure WhiteTM. And was it good. Other media wasn’t as accessible, dial-up internet only got you to Hi5.com, and downloading movies from Limewire meant explaining the bill to your parents. Back then, she says with her aching joints, it was a big flex to claim to own all 10 seasons of FRIENDS in your hard drive. Oof, you and that hard drive were a big commodity. So we looked at what we had. We all looked at what we had, which led to a nice, seamless expression of interest.

And then the internet snek-snek into our lives in a much bigger way than before. We started watching Japanese horror films, Brazilian crime dramas and British sitcoms.

Homogeneous interests have shifted. We went from painstakingly downloading individual episodes of How I Met Your Mother to watching Euphoria at 2x speed. PirateBay got lost in the middle of streaming sites, giants or not.

It has become difficult to see the homogeneity of interests now. It’s getting easier and easier in my life today to choose from a huge rotation to watch what interests me. And much to the chagrin of those who valued nothing but consistency, my interests include K-dramas. shocked gasp K-dramas, simply put, don’t do anything different than what others do. Each show comes with a main cast member, who usually has a supporting cast member. There’s a plot, background music, and now the credits roll.

So why are many of us obsessed with K-dramas?

Well, for starters, we’re not. It’s, like anything else, just another thing we like to watch. Just like the rest of the world. For each episode of Itaewon-class I’m watching, I’m also watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Every time I like a post on Lee Minho’s Instagram, I retweet Ryan Reynolds. Every time I say ‘saranghe’, I also say ‘Cool, cool, cool’ by Jake Peralta.

You can say, ‘Oh, I’m so Ravenclaw’, but I’m the fangirl. You can say, ‘You’re my Chandler’s Monica,’ but I’m the one who’s obsessed. You can say “Winter is coming” every time the seasons change, but I’m the one who’s crazy. 10 points to anyone who notices the trend in these examples.

We were taught from an early age, “If it’s not white, it’s not good.” We slather ourselves in whitening products, we say “skin color” for an undertone that has never been the color of my skin, and we’ve watched shows with predominantly white/Western casts. The cast didn’t get the message of diversity when we were kids, you know. So we idolized everything that came from that side of the hemisphere. Their fashion, their language and, very importantly, their media. Anything from our hemisphere was, by all accounts, lame. (To really earn those elitism points, you also had to poop in Bollywood. Let’s not even talk about the treatment of our own regional cinema).

K-dramas have unfortunately fallen into this trap for years. They just weren’t cool. When they began to gain popularity, they were immediately decried because “it was just a passion for the softer sex”, and not for the men of the world who wield axes and hunt bears.

Because in this man’s world, of course, the things that women care about are stupid, duh. (Unless we need to make money out of it; hand cream, anyone?)

Arguments I’ve heard against me watching something that brings me joy usually include the following:

• “You don’t speak the language.” True, but I can read the subtitles. Also, if FRIENDS can teach me English, why can’t Sky Castle teach me Korean?

• “The names are all so hard to pronounce.”
To paraphrase Hassan Minhaj, we live in a world of Ansel Elgort, Timotheé Chalamet, Kalki Koechlin and Saoirse Ronan. You will survive.

• “They’re just romantic comedies.” You massively misunderstood the plot of squid game, Do not you have?

• “You only like it because the cast is pretty.” Yes, and Hollywood is notorious for only hiring unattractive people.

• “I don’t understand the call.” I don’t need you to understand it, I don’t even need you to like it. I need you not to be bothered by what someone else is doing in their life.

TL; DR? K-dramas aren’t the new cult in town. They are media to be consumed like anything else. Don’t be surprised by the “drama” of K-drama. There are comedies, thrillers, action-packed adventures. They do their shows, the popular ones do merchandising, because who doesn’t like the extra money and the actors gain a following of fans. Life is incredibly tough and we all decompress in different ways. Our vice of the moment? K Dramas. So next time instead of trying another rerun of The Big Bang Theory, try an episode of Descendants of the Sun. Who knows, maybe we will have another “converted”?

About Wendy Hall

Check Also

Japanese scholars provide e-learning materials to Ukrainian children

Japanese scholars have set up e-learning materials to help Ukrainian children continue their education. Many …