|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