Ask An Ajumma
It’s that time of the month again! Please note: We’re answering your questions, but we're by no means experts. Like you, we're fans of dramas. We truly appreciate your queries & hope that we are able to answer your questions to your satisfaction.
We'd love to get a big variety of questions from you! Feel free to send questions about tropes and foibles, how dramas (and movies) relate to our lives, frustrating - and not so frustrating - aspects of being a drama fan, weird character quirks, and whatever else you can think of... Askanajumma is waiting for your questions!
I hope you are doing well. I’ve been feeling down lately and desperately need a pick-me-up. Can you please recommend some good dramas or movies that will make me happy? Preferably ones that have some romance in it. Thank you!
I hope you're feeling better now. Having down moods is pretty normal and I'm sure all MDLers here can relate. Finding a happy drama or movie can often be a great solution. Other solutions for a pick me up when you're feeling down are: happy music, a night out with a good friend, or a humorous book. Just remember that when you're feeling down listening to or watching something sad won't help your mood any (this reminds me of a couple of songs: one by popular Taiwanese band Mayday called "Sad People Should Not Listen to Slow Songs" and the classic 80s song by Bobby McFerrin - "Don't Worry Be Happy").
As for dramas/movies to lighten your mood. Here are a few suggestions (note that some of these may be a bit corny or silly - the point is sometimes corniness is needed to put a smile on our face):
Drama - Hana Kimi (either the Japanese *2007 or the Taiwanese version), All About My Romance, Yuusha Yoshihiko to Maou no Shiro, Let's Eat, Protect the Boss, Love Marriage, Manhattan Love Story, My Boss My Hero, Nodame Cantabile, Skip Beat!, Sweden Laundry, Switch Girl, Unubore Deka, Yankee-kun to Megane-chan, Yamada kun to 7 nin no Majo, and Yamato Nadeshiko Shichi Henge
Movies - Afro Tanaka, Pika*nchi Life Is Hard However Happy, Sisily 2km, Lovely Complex, Detroit Metal City, Waterboys, High School Debut, Hotel Deluxe, My Little Bride, and Killer Bride's Perfect Crime
There are several other movies and dramas that can give you a happy fix, but these are a few of my favorites. Perhaps some of our MDL friends can provide comments, and you could always check the forums for some recommendations :)
~ Introspective A
I’m looking for a drama that me and my big sister can watch together, but sadly, she hasn’t been sucked into the k-world just yet. She tends to enjoy dramas that have a lot of fun scenes - the more fun, the better! She enjoys romance. Other than that, she tends to lose interest if the drama is too long. Just a 16-episode one will make her sigh, with very few exceptions. Some keywords would be FLOWER BOYS, romance and comedy. If it helps, she was interested in the plot of Nail Shop Paris, but never got to watch it. She enjoyed You’re Beautiful, which she surpringsinly finished, though it is “longer”. My point is - I was wondering if you could recommend any good short dramas, or if you can think of any dramas that might actually suck her in? Thanks!!
Short, funny, and cute? I wouldn’t go with Nail Shop Paris. I enjoyed it, alright, but because it got cut earlier than intended, they rushed and messed up what could have been an interesting ending.
If you want shows that are full of romance, have a lot of hijinks, and are super short, you could try some web series. There are quite a few popping up now and the episodes are around 9-15 minutes apiece. A few that I’ve seen and enjoyed were: After School: Lucky or Not (2 "seasons”); Love Cells; Dream Knight; Twenty Years Old (not so much funny, but short and SUPER romancy); and I’m currently watching EXO Next Door and I’m LOVING it.
If you want some full drama recommendations along the lines of You’re Beautiful (which is one of my faves): Flower Boy Ramen Shop; K-Pop - The Ultimate Audition (rushed ending due to being cut, but still ended ok); Mary Stayed Out All Night; Perseverance, Goo Hae Ra; Playful Kiss; Protect the Boss; Surplus Princess; To The Beautiful You; The Greatest Love; You Who Came from the Stars (21 epis).
Some EXCELLENT dramas that I would try using to draw people into the realm of kdramas with would be: Healer; It’s Okay, That’s Love; The Moon That Embraces the Sun; Kill Me, Heal Me; I Hear Your Voice; and Coffee Prince.
If you are thinking about her attention span and don’t think that she’ll be all that interested in watching a lot of dramas, because, let’s face it… Even “short” 16 episode dramas are around 16 hours of your life, you can try movies. I haven’t gotten many of those under my belt as of yet, but one rom/com I LOVED was Miss Granny.
I can only help you based off of what I’ve seen, but I hope that these help you out! I wish you the best of luck on brining your sister into the light… Hahahahahaha!!
~ Obsessive A
It’s been a long time I read your column and i like it very much. i learned a few things thanks to you.
I'm a drama addict especially Korean drama. in fact, I began with Japanese drama but I fell in love with Korean hallyu : I loooove kpop and I have a huge crush on several actors and singers ~~ I'm just a girl - you know what i mean but I like girls too (mostly the tough ones)~~~
OK , well I'm gonna stop here and ask you what really bothers me :
Why are there such few dramas with tough heroines ? I love romantic drama but it feels very annoying when the girl had to wait for the boy or when she’s poor and loves a chaebol or when she doesn’t have confidence or she can’t fight for her love… eerk
I want some girls who can “handle it” & who are smart or just not so dumb that they don’t realize people are making a fool of them or when people are mean and the heroin doesn’t fight back and even react - she just accepts the fact she’s miserable and it’s her fate… (so so sooooo annoying, I just want to slap them when it happens) I end up by dropping the drama at last. (like Lee Ha Na in Unkind Women - I put it on hold right now. By the way if she’s waking up feel free to spoil me people I looove spoilers)
And another annoying fact (but not as annoying as the weak heroin): fake kiss.. I don’t call it a kiss when they’re just sticking their lips to each other… it’s so boring. Actually I can just count dramas with real kiss until -what- .. 6? 7? We may not agree about what a real kiss is. I'm open. It only have to be passionate or just more than sticking lips..
Sooo to all drama addicts and to you ajumma, can you recommend some dramas (or movies, I'm open) with a tough heroin or/and a real kiss ?
Lots of Love,
Tough Girls. I feel your pain TeenMom. I just want to slap some of the female leads in some of these dramas and say "Toughen Up!" So many of them don't have a backbone. There were a few dramas where I thought, ah a girl with some attitude! But that was just a facade. As much as I enjoyed Secret Garden (for example), Gil Ra Im's character ended up being as soft and pliable as most other female leads. She started out so tough too! But I have seen a few - not many! - dramas where the female was not weak and did manage to hold her own against the male lead. So here are my suggestions which you may or may not like (and perhaps you have seen some of these!):
Dramas: Sweden Laundry - featuring a strong, independent, female lead - even though she does live with her family she still asserts herself strongly; Attic Cat - not my favorite, but the female lead doesn't put up with anyone's crap and is very outspoken; City Hall (actually, the majority of Kim Sun Ah's roles would fit this list nicely); Marriage Not Dating - this one is probably an 'iffy' one for this list, but when it came to her relationship with the male lead she definitely had attitude; Modern Farmer - featuring a strong independent single mother; Protect the Boss - she had the upper hand in this relationship.
Kisses. Ah, to be honest, Korean dramas do have better kiss scenes than most Japanese dramas. But we love them anyway. I would suggest looking for dramas that don't have teenagers as the target audience (i.e. some idol dramas). I can understand the "wall kiss" when a guy kisses a girl and she's a bit shocked. That's totally understandable. If it's your first kiss ever, you're not going to get into it right away. On the other hand, a gentle lip peck (or smooch) is better than a lip press.
So, here are some dramas with some actual kiss scenes as opposed to lip presses - or "wall kisses":
First, any drama with Kim Sun Ah (yes, I'm being a bit biased here lol). And here's the rest of the list: Marriage Not Dating, Me Too Flower, City Hunter, Healer, Mary Stayed Out All Night, Personal Taste, Protect the Boss, Que Sera Sera, Queen In Hyun's Man, All About My Romance, Baby-Faced Beauty, Bad Guy, I Need Romance (seasons 1, 2, and 3), Flower Boy Ramen Shop, Lie To Me.
That should get you started anyway. I could also list several Taiwanese and even a few Japanese dramas as well. But for now I'm just focusing on the Korean dramas. Happy Watching!
~ Introspective A
Could you please recommend me dramas in which the main characters have a big age gap (10 years or more)? It does not matter who is the old one. Thank you.
Thanks for your question. I also find that dramas are interesting when there are big age gaps between the main characters. I had a look through the list of Korean dramas that I watched and indeed there are not many that have such a big age gap. I did find a few and here they are with the real age difference between the main actors specified in brackets: Prime Minister and I (21 years), Secret Love Affair (20 years), Witch’s Romance (19 years), Painter of the Wind (18 years), When a Man’s in Love (14 years), Sword and Flower (13 years), I Do I Do (11 years), I Hear Your Voice (11 years), Shine or Go Crazy (11 years).
I hope my lists helped you. There might probably be more dramas out there with such big age gaps which I still haven’t watched, and in any case I hope the drama production industry will decide to make more of them in the future.
~ Chatty A
<<< SERIOUS TOPIC>>>
I always enjoy reading your articles, and now I thought that I, too, should take the opportunity to make you work hard in trying to answer some of my questions. :)
I watch mostly j-dramas, but ever since I started watching a k-drama every now and then, there’s one thing that I’ve been thinking about. Do Koreans and Japanese generally have a different attitude toward domestic violence or what counts as domestic violence, and if so, what could be the reason? (Culture, tradition, religion… I know so little about Asian culture and society aside from the random bits and pieces of information I pick up from dramas!)
To explain a little bit more what I’m asking about, it’s about parents hitting their children. In almost all of the (admittedly not very many) k-dramas that I have watched so far, I’ve seen parents smacking, slapping and hitting their (mostly grown-up) children. Sometimes they do it in anger (like, “why did you do this, shame on you!”) and it looks like it really hurts, sometimes it looks like they barely even think about it (daughter makes a silly remark, mother slaps the back of her head to show she’s not amused). The offspring may say “ouch!”, cry or try to shield their bodies, but they never have a reaction like “oh my god, my own mother hit me!!!” In short, it looks like they all think it’s pretty normal to do this.
In j-dramas, on the other hand, I have never seen this kind of behaviour (except sometimes between siblings, but that’s something else). If it happens that a mother loses her temper and strikes her child in anger, she always shows bitter remorse, apologizes and sometimes cries. The child reacts with anger and/or hurt, like he or she can’t believe it.
I’ve seen it happen only three or four times, and I’ve watched more than 60 j-dramas, and a lot of them with parent-child interaction. To be fair, I’ve watched less than ten k-dramas and not all of them have had a lot of parent-child interaction – but if they do, I’ve found that it can happen several times in the same drama. It makes me think that the Japanese have a general understanding that it is wrong to hit somebody, while the Koreans think that it is okay, and they are not shocked when they see this in dramas? Still, I’m not sure though, since I’ve watched so few k-dramas, and I’m never really sure anyway if what I’m watching is realistic or not. Assuming that you have more experience in drama watching, do you think my observation about this difference is correct? And if so, what may be the reason for it?
I think that if a person can hit their grown-up child, and the child may try to avoid it but overall doesn’t act like they have been wronged, they must have learned from early childhood that it is okay for the parents to show their anger, frustration and disappointment in this way. To be honest, I can’t understand it at all.
Heart of the Question: Do Koreans and Japanese generally have a different attitude toward domestic violence or what counts as domestic violence, and if so, what could be the reason?
<<< SERIOUS TOPIC>>>
Dearest LilyB -
You have presented a compelling and complex question that has fueled psychiatrist, anthropologist, law-enforcement, and DRAMA writers for centuries. Let’s see if we can offer a few considerations on this hot iceberg issue.
I. Overall violence especially upon females has significantly increased in ALL dramas regardless of countries. In your question you mentioned Korean, and Japanese however have you watched Indian, Thai, and Spanish? Filial and or domestic violence is standard fare to the point of normalization sadly. YET it generates viewers and $$.
II. Why so much filial piety? This is 2015. Respect for one’s parents, filial piety, is considered the most fundamental of the Confucian values. Filial piety derives from that most fundamental human bond: parent and child. The parent-child relationship is appropriately the first of the five Confucian relationships. Although the child is the junior member in the relationship, the notion of reciprocity is still key to understanding filial piety.^ Today, their might be several contributing factors to the displayed uptick of filial violence (onscreen & real world)
a. The recession, which forces kids to stay home because they have no money; the fact that today’s parents are probably more easygoing than any generation of parents in history; and the family’s shrinking size
b. Clash of OLD school (Filial piety) generation culture & Modern school (Westernized) generation culture. We usually see this demonstrated in drama when the female decides to not adhere to old values of marriage, work, and family of her mom, grand mom-dad hold true & firm. Or when the boy decides to marry outside the circle he was born into. This generational clash is ongoing in ALL cultures and gets acted out in various ways, many that are harsh , very few with kindness. Sadly, writers are looking at all the current and past events to draw from while producers have the role of generation $$ from viewership thus exaggerating these clashes. The whipping of the child is globally accepted as a way to “set the child on the right path” love - TOUGH LOVE all the while the silent seething anger grows in all affected parties.
III. Another consideration is cultural contexts “High or Low^^.” A few High context cultures characteristics : 1. Primary use of NON-VERBAL methods to relay meaningful information in conversations - eye movement, facial expressions & tone. 2. People, situation and nonverbal elements are more important than actual words communicated. 3. Emphasis on interpersonal relationships 4. Trust must be developed before business transactions. Sound familiar?
KEY POINT>>>> “Gossip Girl - Pretty Little Liars - Sex in the City” are NOT examples of this cultural context.
Think of the cultural context like a pair of sunglasses - purple(High) tint or red (Low) tint? Life is about the glasses you are looking through when watching drama or just reading the news. Which ever glasses we the viewer are wearing, we cannot allow ourselves to accept or become numb to the violence NOR should we see it as part of tough love or the path to love or being loved.
What do you say fellow MDL'ers …
Want to read more on this topic? Check-out this article: Dangerous Men: The Normalization of Domestic Abuse in Korean Dramas
"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”~Mahatma Gandhi
sources: ^-Columbia University, Asian History-Culture ^^ - E.T.Hall, Beyond Culture