Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Amanda's Choice

Mi Rae’s choice is child’s play compared to yours

Dear Amanda in 2011,

In a few months, you will face a great temptation. I’m sending you this letter from the future to encourage you to give in.

You might think that I would suggest otherwise—that if only you applied yourself in work and life you could become a real-world success. But who wants that, when instead you could spend years on a couch potato bender? So when Boys over Flowers starts insistently appearing on Netflix’s list of recommendations, just hit play. You can thank me later.

As someone older and wiser, I would like to make a few suggestions for the journey ahead.

Don’t fear the subtitles. Like many Americans, you associate subtitles with dreary art-house movies. That’s not anything like the full story, though: there’s a whole world of entertainment—high and low, classy and trashy—that can be unlocked with that closed-captioning button. Watching subtitled programming takes a bit of getting used to at first, but with some practice it will become second nature. Take my word for it: in a few years, you’ll be stunned and uncertain when you actually hear someone on your television speaking English. Movies and television your own language will start to feel like the bunny slope.

But don’t trust the subtitles. Not long after you discover Korean dramas, you’ll find your way to Drama Fever, best friend and worst enemy of every K-junkie. (For the love of god, buy their lifetime membership immediately. It will disappear sooner than you think, and membership prices will rise.) Their library of dramas is huge, but they have a motive other than accurately rendering the words spoken by characters on screen: They want to make their programming friendly to English speakers. Things will be left out. Things will be simplified. And in the guise of helping you enjoy Kdrama, they will actively prevent you from understanding it. This is a bummer, but you’d better get used to it. It looks as if they’ll always be the easiest option for watching dramas on your television rather than a computer.

Be a quitter. Early on, you will finish every drama you start; this is a mistake you will live to regret. We both know you’re too compulsive to drop shows willy-nilly, but if you hate something, don’t make yourself stick with it just to say you did. Your life will be a better, happier place if you never make it past episode 2 of Can You Hear My Heart and Secret Garden. This will give you more time to watch the shows you actually enjoy, and possibly prevent you from turning into a bitter, jaded drama fan before your time.

It’s okay to throw your hands up at Korean names. Don’t worry if you can’t always remember which actor is playing Go Eun Sung and which one is playing Yoo Seung Mi. The more shows you watch, the easier it will be to keep track of character names. (Although it will never really be easy, and you’ll always have a tab open to the Dramawiki entry for whatever you’re watching.) Even when the names are an utter mystery, you can always use the visuals to follow along with the story.

Don’t bother fighting Kpop. It’s a losing battle. Shortly after your obsession with Korean dramas begins, someone will sneeringly ask you, “What’s next? Kpop?” You will shrug and roll your eyes, thinking, Surely it won’t come to that. You should immediately smack that person down, explaining that Kpop is nothing to be ashamed of. It turns being slick into an actual art form, and people all around the world are really into it. But you’re right in thinking that mainstream Kpop will never be to your taste. It’s too focused on dance and hip-hop, and it hardly ever includes the kind of music you love, which is usually made by bearded men with ukeleles. Within a year, though, all the top songs on your iPod will be in Korean. This is because Korean music is more than Kpop, a fact that drama watching will teach you quickly enough.

Treasure the shower scenes. Sure, you love artistry in television: great plotting, insightful dialogue, stunning camera work. Kdrama has all those things—plus gratuitous shower scenes that show handsome young men all luscious and glowing. Never forget that you’re allowed to enjoy both edges of this particular sword, the craft and the fanservice.

When you start blogging (and you will start blogging), do it for yourself. Before long, you’ll take to the Internet with your Kdrama thoughts. (Otherwise, you’d probably explode.) You’ve done the online fandom thing before, both as a big-name writer and a faceless wonk in a sea of other faceless wonks. So you know how it works: write about what you’re interested in and what you care about. Don’t stress, because all this is supposed to be fun, not some kind of geek-queen popularity competition.

Think WordPress. When you’re finally setting up that blog, don’t go with Blogger because it’s cozy and familiar. It’s also clunky, poorly designed, and lacking in the fun tricks that are available for WordPress.

Maybe you could think about some life/drama balance. Getting wrapped up in something is, after all, your speciality. Just don’t let things get out of hand—the line between delightful pastime and actual life ruiner is perilously thin.

So there you have it. Tips from the future that will ease your transition into the world of the Drama Fiends. (Or you could just apply yourself in work and life you could become a real-world success. Whatever.)

Amanda in 2014


  1. Although a lot of this advice has already gone to the wind for Past Amanda and Present Couch (or Bed) Potatoes. :)

  2. I recently had to use Dramafever subs and I vow never ever to use DF subs ever again, if I can help it. Like, if even I Live in Cheongdam Dong ever got subbed only by DF I'd really hv to think twice because I wanted to pull my hair out, it was so bad. Especially if you're not coming in cold to dramas! Yep, nobody ever tells you that kpop is just a hop, skip and a jump away frm the drama rabbit hole... but the bearded fellows still hv a special place on my playlist though ;)

  3. "—Maybe you could think about some life/drama balance. Getting wrapped up in something is, after all, your speciality. Just don’t let things get out of hand—the line between delightful pastime and actual life ruiner is perilously thin."

    This is excellent and important advice for people new to K-dramas. It's really easy to underestimate how addictive they are. When I first discovered K-dramas, I would stay up so late all the time watching because I just could NOT put it down, and because I still had to get up early for work, I spent those couple of weeks walking around looking like a drug addict lol.

    I think in a way, K-dramas are so addictive because they're like the equivalent of porn for women. Just like men fantasize about having sex with beautiful women and get sexual gratification from porn, women fantasize about meeting a handsome, rich bad boy that changes into a caring person for them, and get emotional gratification from K-dramas. It really takes a conscious effort to set limits on K-drama watching...now I still watch them, but I don't let myself stay up late anymore.

  4. Amanda, you always come up with the best ideas for a new post. Those are exactly the things all of us drama fans should have been "warned" about when we first discovered dramas XD

    "When you’re finally setting up that blog, don’t go with Blogger because it’s cozy and familiar. It’s also clunky, poorly designed, and lacking in the fun tricks that are available for WordPress." - Oh, I am so terribly tempted to change over to Wordpress. There's not a lot of blog designing I can do with Blogger and I'm craving for a change...but then what about all that work I've poured into my Blogger account? Oh I dunno...

    1. Same here. I was JUST thinking about how I wish I could escape Blogger, and then I remembered how it took me four hours to figure out how to move some text in my header one time, and I died a little inside.

  5. Kudos Amanda! But even with all the warning all it takes is Coffee Prince.....

  6. Haha! Love this!!! Ah K-drama and K-pop. I can't even imagine the time before I fell in love with this crazy and wonderful world.

    I am like Indigo...I am sorely tempted to cross over to Wordpress...but I have also done so much building in Blogger that it's really hard to leave.

    Thanks always for the fun posts!

  7. I love this and relate to so many of the points.

    And the section mentioning Kpop now has me curious what songs/groups are your favorite. Share please! ^^

  8. Whoa, this is hilarious, i loved the way you made the title of that drama into this post!

  9. Ha, this article is so spot on. I too love kdrama to bits. Watch at least one episode of a kdrama every day (most days the only thing I watch is kdrama, I have hundreds or western dvds and tv shows recorded that are just piling up, unwatched), but kpop I think is just awful. Of course, I wouldn't listen to western pop music if you paid me, so it's probably not a surprise. But, as someone who listens to heavy rock, prog rock and electric blues, someone who thinks why have a 15 second guitar solo when a 3 minute axe grind is sooooooo much better, bland kpop is just not going to cut it.

  10. Hah! I especially appreciate, "Treasure the shower scenes." Because, of course! Celebrating the female-gaze is important, too! :D

    This list should definitely be included in all "welcome to K-drama!" gift-baskets. ;)

    --Betsy Hp

  11. This is the perfect list. A few of these I wish I had seen back when I first got into Kdramas. I still, after about 5 years of being an Asian drama fan, cannot bring myself to quit shows when I know I should. Maybe if I had read this list back when I first became addicted, I wouldn't be having this problem now, lol. But I've decided to actively practice quitting bad dramas until I can do it without feeling any regret. I need that time to watch more dramas, lol!

  12. Since I'm relatively new (less than a year) to kdramas and Korea luv, I'm definitely going to make use of this list. struggling through A Gentleman's Dignity, I finally just gave up and started The Princess's Man. Watching South Korea's presentation in the closing ceremony for the Olympics tonight, I thought we should all just load up and head over there in 2018 for the winter games!

  13. Hi Amanda! First time commenter here, but I've been a long time lurker. This post is especially awesome, and I find myself relating to most (if not all) of your pointers. I mean, you've essentially streamlined everything we k-drama fans need to know to become successful in our addiction. Would that I had this guide when I still a hopeless noob! :)

    If you've really got your heart set on switching over to WordPress and keep your Blogger content intact, you may be interested to know that you can import your whole blog to WP. I did it before, when Vox, my blogging platform of choice, decided to shut down and I was afraid of losing about 3-4 years of content. It was a pretty painless transition for the most part, and I've been with WP for about 3 years now. I can't say I'm an expert when it comes to the techie parts of my blog, but I've been pretty satisfied with how everything turned out.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate all of your witty and insightful commentary on dramas and Asian culture in general. Keep 'em coming! (whether in here, or in WP ;) )

  14. Ah, every bit is so true! However, I started with KPOP then moved on to Kdramas. I so agree with the blogging platform choice, though. I started on blogger two years ago and just recently moved to Wordpress. It's difficult to move blogs but it's something I have to do!

    Anyway, great post as usual! You never run out of interesting things to write about. :)