Dramas as Pop Explosion

Dramas as "Pop Explosion"

Have you ever wondered what to call your drama obsession? Is there even a name for it, or is it just some inexplicable part of a person that cannot be given a label? I have asked myself this question on a number of occasions, but it was not until this past semester of school that I stumbled upon a name that makes sense to me. 

 “A pop explosion is an irresistible cultural upheaval that cuts across lines of class and race (in terms of sources, if not allegiance), and, most crucially, divides society itself by age. The surface of daily life (walk, talk, dress, symbolism, heroes, family affairs) is affected with such force that deep and substantive changes in the way large numbers of people think and act take place. Pop explosions must link up with, and accelerate, broad shifts in sexual behavior, economic aspirations, and political beliefs…” – Greil Marcus, “The Beatles” in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, 1980.

So what, you may ask, does this quote have to do with drama? I argue that MDLers also reflect a larger pop explosion—the pop explosion of drama. Using Marcus’ definition as a guide, I will attempt to reveal the emergence of drama as a revolution which brings us together (even if we still argue about which drama is the best).

Dramas as an “Irresistible Cultural Upheaval”

Dramas contain the ability to put us in contact with culture.  Just when we think we are only going to watch one episode, saying things like, “I just want to gauge how this drama will go, and I will watch it all later,” we end up watching all the episodes. We are sucked into the world of the drama (if it’s good), or we put the drama on trial to reality (if it’s bad). Regardless, we become the drama in such a way that it shapes us.


In addition to the pull that we feel toward a drama’s “world,” we also feel that pull toward the culture surrounding that world. For instance, if we watch a historical drama, we may want to study more on the period that the drama covers. If we see a particular practice or custom, we desire to learn and participate ourselves. As we amass this new knowledge of the surrounding culture, we may ask ourselves questions not only about the culture from which the drama comes, but also about our own culture. Through this process, we become better informed about other cultures as well as our own.

Dramas that “Cut Across Lines of Class and Race”

MDL is an environment where people come from all over the world, regardless of their position in society or the amount of money that each individual has. As we continue to watch, discuss, and dissect dramas, we cut the tape that marks the boundaries between countries, cultures, race, and class.

Often in dramas, we come across characters that slice and dice the red tape of class and race through their ingenuity, spunk, and intelligence.  Not only that, but these characters transform attitudes about class or race which permeate the drama’s plot. Through our drama experience, we learn about a society’s view of its social system and how individuals can transform or reinforce a system through their actions.

For example, these ladies might not have had much but their hearts, but their leading men didn't care in the end:


In Hana Yori Dango, Makino is the poorest student at Eitoku High. However, the lessons that she gives Domyouji transcend their rich guy/poor girl status. 

http://i1068.photobucket.com/albums/u459/Fidelioa2291/Drama Screencaps/Coffee-Prince-bike_zps54a533af.jpg

Go Eun Chan both conquered the rich/poor line and the“boy”/girl line in her quest for love and acceptance in Coffee Prince.


Sungkyunkwan Scandal’s Kim Yoon Hee faced the challenge of Joseon’s restrictions on women and class by entering into Sungkyunkwan University while capturing the heart of a minister’s son!

We, at MDL, act in the way we see in the dramas we watch. These ladies' leading men didn't care in the end, and neither do we!

Dramas that Affect the “Surface of Daily Life”

Dramas may affect how we go about our daily lives. For example, the way we dress, talk, and associate with our world reflects the dramas that we watch.

1. Dress

How many times do we watch a drama and see a character with a style that we would love to own or want to throw away? We often try and find items to supplement our own wardrobe, fix our hair like drama characters, and comment on the latest fashion through our connection with drama. We become trendsetters throughout the drama fandom, and just like Nobuta and her classmates, we rise and fall with the fashions that we see:

2. Speech

Dramas allow us to learn phrases in whatever language we are watching, and often drama lovers find that our learned manner of speech translates to our daily lives. Even in our written word, every day we see examples of this. Our use of phrases such as “Omo” or “daebak” or the Japanese “sugoi,” “kawaii,” or “baka” make us feel closer to the characters of our favorite dramas. In dramas, the characters use English in a similar way. It’s a way to look cool, hip, and in-tune with the global culture.

Furthermore, we have also developed ways of identifying events from dramas and drama culture which earn their way into our drama cultural canon. The MDL Dictionary contains many of these phrases and words. Every time a new word goes in, our drama culture grows.


3. Our Association With the World

Dramas allow us to think outside the normal social realm. For example, in dramas, class distinctions are not the only social element under investigation. Even more so, sexual and social norms are put to trial. We see political intrigue, and we cheer for heroes who try to set the government (or the world) right. Our perspective of society, then, is transformed or reinforced by the dramas we watch. 

Exhibit A: The Bromance

Honestly, how many people want these two to be together?

Exhibit B: Revenge Drama


Fighting corruption is the City Hunter’s job, even if it means breaking the law.

Dramas permeate all facets of our lives. We not only participate in the lives of our characters as we watch, but we learn much about ourselves as well. While dramas create the “pop explosion,” we the viewers disseminate this explosion to others, get them addicted, and continue the revolution!

Do you know any other ways that drama could be a “pop explosion”? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Say so, below. 

Comments (61)

  • Login or Register to post comments
  • Reply
    celene Apr 27, 2013

    Great article... I agree with it..

  • Reply
    Elisabetta Jan 3, 2013

    oh damn, we're getting "intellectual" I like it ^_^ Keep them coming! Great article ;)

  • Reply
    KdramaQueen89 Jan 3, 2013

    Awesome article! YOu came up with perfect examples to state your case. Totally agree with everything=)

  • Reply
    SumiTheCat Jan 2, 2013

    Very interesting article, thanks a lot. I like your idea to observe our drama world and addiction from a cultural and social point of view. As many MDLers previously said, it shows that watching drama is not only a passive activity, but leads every one of us to reflect on the world (well, at least that part of the world). It's a good way to make anyone understand other people by understanding their culture and wanting to know more about it.
    Not sure to be clear, maybe a little too much on the optimisic mode in believing that everybody has this kind of concerns(but it's the beginning of a new year after all).
    I hope we can read more articles with that kind of topic.
    and by the way, Happy new year to all MDL fellows!

    • Reply
      yankumicho Jan 2, 2013

      Thanks, Sumi! I believe that everything can be argued in a social/cultural/personal context. It's the way I theorize literature as well. :D

  • Reply
    kailin Jan 1, 2013

    very interesting article!thanks for sharing your theory. i'm not quite sure if we can really continue the revolution though. i only know people watching drama because they had a great interest in asia anyways. my other friends won't watch them with me. but if there is someone who came to like asia because they watched drama, please tell me! i think it's very fascinating.

    • Reply
      SeRose Jan 1, 2013

      I'm one of those people who stumbled across the dramas first, and started from there. :) I do have a slightly hard problem convincing my friends to watch, or be the tiniest bit interested, but I've converted most of my immediate family :D

    • Reply
      PrettyCarEye Jan 1, 2013

      Me too. Even though I had watched quite a few Asian films prior to my drama discovery, it was dramas that piqued my interest in the region to fangirl proportions. Most of my friends and family are like me before I caught the Asian bug ... it's not even on their radar. When I try to talk to them about it, they respond and then promptly change the subject. So for now I'm alone on this journey. It's all good.

    • Reply
      Archania Jan 1, 2013

      I'm such a person :D ... I wasn't really interested in Asia at all, to me it was just another continent. Well, some day I was bored and stumbled across an episode of Gokusen on Youtube ... well I liked it so much that I watched the whole series in like two days. I also told my best friend about it and she went home and watched it herself and from that moment on she also became a drama addict^^ I started to watch more and more Asian dramas. First, I only watched Japanese ones, after some time I also found Korean dramas enjoyable and in the meantime it does not matter anymore :D ... By watching those dramas I've become very interested in Japanese/Korean/... culture. For my final exam in Geography last year I chose Asia as my topic and it was a great success! :) ... I'm really glad that I found Asian drama!

    • Reply
      yankumicho Jan 1, 2013

      I had only a passing interest in anime and some manga before I got into drama as well. Now I'm obsessed, and I changed my whole life because of drama (including the way I am going about my education).

    • Reply
      kailin Jan 2, 2013

      that is so cool! well my first interest in asia came about after watching some martial arts movies, i was a huge fan of jackie chan. so i guess i'm kind of the same, only that my drama addiction started later:D

  • Reply
    neaa Jan 1, 2013

    so true!! i have these pet phrases i throw around on my friends in korean.. they lose their head as they don't get it!! lol.. i agree with each point! as for bromance..i was rooting for Hoya and Seo in guk.. my fave bro-couple!

    • Reply
      yankumicho Jan 1, 2013

      Even though my OTP was Shiwon and Yoon Jae, I did love Hoya and Seo In Guk veryyyy much!

    • Reply
      neaa Jan 2, 2013

      haha.. me too!

  • Reply
    Seung225 Jan 1, 2013

    I really liked the article and agree with everything you wrote.
    It makes me remember the Korean's tradition that everyone has the birthday at the first day of the year... So, I'm two years older, since I need to count +1 for another tradition that all Koreans counts age since their birth.
    Obviously I won't go out saying my age as two year older, when they ask for my ID I would be in trouble for sure ~ (and again, who wants to be older, most of us wants to be younger, right?) ~, but once again... What if I go to Korea?

    • Reply
      yankumicho Jan 1, 2013

      I agree here! I'm still having trouble figuring this out, lol. All I know (and am happy about) is that Lee Min Ho, Choi Si Won, Jang Geun Suk, and Seo In Guk are all born in my year!!!!

    • Reply
      Seung225 Jan 2, 2013

      It looks like your year has a collection of Asian stars. haha

  • Reply
    mintgum Jan 1, 2013

    Loved your article. One of the bests I've read about drama so far. Hope you write more!

    • Reply
      yankumicho Jan 1, 2013

      Thank you very much! I really appreciate it!

  • Reply
    TegoshiRina Jan 1, 2013

    This article is so true :D there have been some really good reads on MDL recently that I think we can all link to :D Keep up the hard work!

  • Reply
    number1suzuki Jan 1, 2013

    gr8 article very interesting ^_^

  • Reply
    PrettyCarEye Jan 1, 2013

    Excellent article! Dramas have opened up a whole new world to me. I've discovered a new language & culture that fascinate and excite me. Dramas have inspired my career as a filmmaker and my desire to explore a region of the world that has never really registered on my radar prior to my discovery. I have also found out that I AM attracted to Asian guys! Gosh, you're never too old to discover something new about yourself! Just a few months ago I never woulda seen that comin'! :-)

    • Reply
      SeRose Jan 1, 2013

      All through school and college, Asian culture never really appealed to me. I studied history from all other parts of the world, but never wanted to do Asian. Now I regret it, because I have a long way to go to catch up! (The dramas are only part of my fascination)

    • Reply
      PrettyCarEye Jan 1, 2013

      I know, right? Dramas have just whet my appetite! Now I can't seem to get enough, learn enough or make my first trip soon enough. LOL It's madness.

    • Reply
      winnie Jan 1, 2013

      Lol...I guess Asian guys can be attractive! I'm Chinese but hey give me a hot Korean or Japanese guy over Chinese guys they can't compare with the Korean or Japanese!!!!

    • Reply
      PrettyCarEye Jan 1, 2013

      I've always known there are attractive men all over the world, but it has just never occurred to me to look at an Asian guy in that way. Maybe because of the circles I move in. Both professionally and socially I interact very little with Asians, not because I don't want to, but I've never had the opportunity. Only when its festival season I get to meet and chat with filmmakers from every corner of the world. Also sometimes communication for both sides is difficult due to the language barrier, but now with my new-found confidence and interest in the region I'll be taking the initiative to talk to them from now on! :-)

    • Reply
      yankumicho Jan 1, 2013

      I never thought that I would be attracted to Asian guys either. Then I saw Oguri Shun--and everything changed from that moment. I have always liked the skinny but built type, and I really loved British boys (because of Harry Potter), but it wasn't until Asian dramas that I discovered this beautiful part of the world and its beautiful people and culture.

  • Reply
    Sora Jan 1, 2013

    I wish those two got together in Sungkyunkwan Scandal xD then it really would've been a scandal

  • Reply
    LibradaJ Dec 31, 2012

    Let's not get it twisted. City Hunter is a romance disguised as a revenge drama. Gaksital is a revenge drama.

    • Reply
      yankumicho Dec 31, 2012

      I've yet to see Gaksital, so I chose what I was familiar with. I disagree with you though. I was much more intrigued by the politics and the revenge than by the romance in City Hunter.

    • Reply
      SeRose Jan 1, 2013

      I actually thought the romance in CH was poorly done, and almost last-minute. Wish more had been done with the overall plot. But then, CH had many faults in my opinion. I still enjoyed it though. :)

  • Reply
    Aya97 Dec 31, 2012

    Great article?

  • Reply
    goldenseal50 Dec 31, 2012

    LOL agree! Loved the article :)

  • 0Articles
  • 0Likes
  • 0Follows

yankumicho's most recent articles...

Newest Articles

Most Popular Articles