The reason why I started watching dramas is simple and somewhat shallow. I run out of the movies with Namgil-nim, so I decided on giving dramas a chance. It was My Lovely Kim Sam-soon and probably I’d missed his appearance there if I wasn’t on hot red alert all the time, so yes, I managed to spot the man there. After that it just followed.
I never really cared about the genre, the actors in it etc. All I care is the story. And here first problem appears. Some people say dramas are clichéd, repetitive, boring etc. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but the fact that another drama tells the story about love is not that much of a cliché. Reason? Is there a bigger cliché than life itself? Imagine, it always starts and ends the same way for billions of people. So we have billions of personal dramas having exactly the same elements, and no one complains. Starts with birth and ends with death, with some fillers in the middle. Oh gods, what a bore-fest, right?
Another thing, those are dramas, and if anyone reads what Western dramas have written at the end, one is not surprised by some happenings in Asian ones (they have it too, but in Hangeul). This is this magical “this is a work of fiction” statement that somehow evokes much more than we want to accept. A work of fiction, people, not a documentary! Some subplots, twists and clichés are indispensable to make the whole plot boiling. Even in the most innovative movies/series – clichés are just used from another side, and this doesn’t mean they are not there. They are, just used in a new, fresh way. Or cause PDs have business deals with companies.
Series have one advantage over movies – they are longer, much closer to books. The plot can be unfolded in two episodes, not in fifteen minutes, they have time to build up characters, to build up tension etc. A drama is like a story about the hero. Hero is born, but before one can be called that, has to undergo many trials, sometimes even weird ones (vide: strange twists in drama), but in the end he achieves his goal.
*Digression: in literature, and drama follows, achieving the goal is NOT synonymous with personal happiness. It may be some liberating a village from the dragon that devastated it, yet ending with hero’s death. Hero’s death doesn’t mean the failure. The goal was something else – which was reached. I hope everyone knows the Celtic story about Bran mac Febail and his journey to the magical isle. He went there, reached the shore, stayed there, but with time wanted to come back just to see his parents. He returned but when his friend put his foot on the ground – he turned into dust, because many centuries passed since he had left. If anyone, who doesn’t have background allowing explaining the story, was asked what the story was about, I know the answer. Why? Because I answered exactly the same before I learned how to read stories. So, Bran failed? His companion died, right? No, Bran succeeded in showing that immortality never was and never will be the privilege of humans. It’s not a story about some guy traveling to Isle of Immortality, it’s not about the land he left behind. It’s an archetype of broken taboo and human dream of never-ending life. It ended with his death, fine, but this is why his story is told again and again. Had he never returned – no story. * End of digression
I’ve said this many times but will repeat like a boring mantra again – clichés are important. Thanks to them audience feels something familiar. If we cannot connect to the story, we cannot enjoy it. Clichés are used every time and in every drama, deal with that. (oh yes, I can hear that shriek: Nooo, mah drama is fresh, pure and innovative! Bullshit, technology can be innovative, not a damn drama.) This is exactly the same as with literature. In theory, everything has already been written, we can only rewrite it. Yes, but we can rewrite it in a new way, showing something personal in it, showing some aspect not shown before (doing twist in a twist, to quote Hairspray’s very own Link). Only the sharpness of the audience is this crucial factor the fact they can or cannot perceive this (so looks like Korean audience is just dumb). Some just shrug and dismiss the story saying “oh, another Cinderella”, some spot something different in it, some elements seemingly unfitting, like chili in chocolate which end up complementing each other in a weird but interesting way.
One more thing, series are not meant to be realistic, don’t tell me anyone believes Gregory House exists and can guess the disease from the way patient scratches his balls. Dramas’ main purpose is to open the window to illusion. Why cheap, romantic literature is read by millions of women? Why idiotic 50 Shades of Earl Grey became so popular? Why Winter Sonata managed to create almost cult followers among Japanese shufu? Because all of them fill the emptiness left by legends and stories humans chased away from their lives. Because thanks to such stories, people can live lives they never couldn’t. It has healing powers for psyche. Long time ago, when people couldn’t read, they gathered around a storyteller who narrated legends and stories about things far beyond human’s reach. But it had a huge psychological effect.
Stories about Cinderella who finds her Prince will be popular as long as 99% of women live the life of everyday hardship. Do they escape from reality? Of course, everyone has such need, don’t lie you’re above that. Problems come in extreme situation, when this turns to obsession causing life to collapse (neglecting work, family, etc.) but as everything – it comes with natural inclination – if someone cannot distinguish reality from fiction, even Boys Over Flowers will seem like a great series and Geunsucks as an ideal Prince(ss) and will believe he/she is a vampire. Going to concerts, reading, watching or doing sports, watching series, listening to music – all this is some kind of running away from reality. And all of them are cliché based (gods, only 8 basic tones in music!! What a cliché – every song has the same sound!!).
I don’t bitch about the lack of realism in some dramas. Of course, elementary rules have to be preserved (like those poor mirrors in historical dramas/movies, but that’s just my thing), but usually I’m not distracted by fashion, haircuts, make-up etc. I just don’t fucking care about such things. Those are for sponsors thanks to whom we have a drama, it’s not that relevant. So, there is another, 26537th story about revenge this year? Well, excuse me, but even with my limited knowledge I can tell those stories are all different, only having revenge as the main pillar of the story. It’s similar to embroidery. If you give the same threads to 10 people and ask them to create flowers, every one of them will make something different. Flower, sure, but different.
This is exactly what dramas are to me. Even in the forest all trees are different, despite the fact there are hundreds of pines, hundreds of birches. Series are our escape from reality. If I want to watch the real life, I watch news on TV. Even if a drama depicts real life, there has to be some element that makes it a total fiction so I can immerse into. That doesn’t mean the reality is not important. If something is too unrealistic, it becomes fantasy. I like series about usual people, but there has to be something unusual happening to them, something – nomen omen – dramatic. Why? Because in real life such things happen as well (muahaha!! I’m the hidden fangirls of naturalism. Allow me to puke…) I like dark series, mystery series, actually every genre that can appeal to me, the label is not important, it's all about the story (vide The Chaser, grim, dark, realistic tale which I loved). Series are based on life, only they magnify and condense it to fit dozen of episodes. If for someone remembering a dead person for 15 years is unrealistic – then sorry, but you know no REAL life whatsoever. Real life is sometimes stranger than fiction, as sang Blackmore’s Night. Documentaries are nice but not exactly as dramatic.
And now I accept all “of course you’re lenient, ‘cause you just have no taste and brain and I’m better and more evolved than thou” comments. Will eat them with some Chianti.
See, I can enjoy even cliched, idiotic, improbable drama. This way, I'm a lot happier person^^~~