SeRose's life changed a year ago, when she first started watching Asian dramas. Since then she's watched as many dramas as time allowed.
We all have that first drama. You know the one I'm talking about: your first introduction to Asian drama, that first glimpse into a magical world. Your first reaction expressed by the words: "What is this madness? And why do I like it so?" Those early days when every drama was wild and unknowable; love squares were a wholly new concept. You weren’t sure what OTP stood for, but ‘shipping’ seemed like a good, albeit silly, way to express your love for a whole array of new characters. So what if you couldn’t pronounce or even remember their names two seconds later?
Somewhere along the way though, we all changed. How we anticipate and even how we watch dramas changed. We became wise old Kdramaland sages, bastions of knowledge and culture, keepers of a sacred tradition, adept at surfing the internet for the lost fourth part of a twenty-episode drama originally broadcast a decade ago in a faraway land. Now you’ve got an arsenal of foreign names at your command and you can probably replicate a smattering of conversational Korean. Total immersion, and we can’t remember a time when we weren’t eyebrow deep in the drama world.
My first drama was Lie to Me (2011). Far from being love at first sight, it was more of a creepy hostage situation: “Who are you again? Do we know each other? Why have you invaded my television screen, and am I allowed to leave the room? I’m not sure why, but I think I love you.” I don’t need to review it. Suffice it to say that despite its wackiness, I was hooked, but it was only afterwards that things became to change. I spent hours frantically scouring internet articles looking for the best, most popular and most influential dramas. I knocked out Boys Over Flowers, Coffee Prince, and City Hunter in a matter of weeks. But a couple of older classics can better relay my first impression of Kdramas, back when all things Korean seemed new.
My Girl (2005) and Autumn Tale (2000) were (in my early days) the pillars of Kdrama’s most common genres: contract relationship hijinks versus one of the biggest melodramatic tear-fests to date. Neither will ever register on my Top 10, yet as early watches they were simply irresistible. Who could resist romance through a web of lies, star-crossed lovers, or child actors that break your heart before they even grow up? The amount of insanity that was simultaneously compressed and strung out over sixteen or twenty episodes was fascinating!
I watched Heartstrings (2011) and Summer Scent (2003) much later into my obsession. When you’ve seen fifty or more dramas, most come across as either formulaic and/or soul-wrenching. It’s hard not to predict the ending, harder even to wait for the ending. Cute but cold-hearted boy, why don’t you just admit you like her, and can we get on already with the withering stares trying to pass for romance? Are there really ten more episodes of this madness?
Kdrama fans are a mostly forgiving audience. We have to put up with a lot for the sake of our dear beloved actors, and the stories we love reliving over and over again. Barring horrific production or appalling scripts, we return again and again to a by-now very familiar genre of entertainment, proving that the lure of Kdramaland is immeasurable. When it comes to our expectations for upcoming dramas, we still cross our fingers and pray that this season’s crop will be worthwhile, and it’s the same whether that drama is currently airing, or if it’s an oldie you’ve just gotten around to discovering. For better or worse, total drama immersion changes a person. Whether it has fine-tuned your sensibilities for accepting overdone plot synopses (Heartstrings), or numbed your mind to the pain (Summer Scent) is a matter of opinion. I look back at My Girl and Autumn Tale with an apathetic sense of nostalgia. Once they were irresistible, now they’re just run-of-the-mill dramas, comparable to a hundred other similar shows.
Of course, some of us claim we’re just waiting for that next drama masterpiece, but in the meantime our playlist goes through a lot of mediocrity. We wade through it, taking home the salvageable bits, the hottest kisses, the funniest moments, the dumbest fashion, and we tally up our dramas like a mammoth chart of achievements, because achievements they certainly are! It’s a whole new world, with your favorites behind you, more to anticipate, and the growing availability of Korean, Japanese, and Taiwanese dramas. We know now what we’re going to like or not like, and in some ways it’s more exciting than when it was all new. We’ve done the research and we are ready for more!