|“What do you mean, Yoon Si Yoon is going to cut off all his hair and disappear from public view for two years?”|
If I had a dollar for every time someone called me “Debbie Downer” or a variant thereof, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. I’d be booking a private plane to Seoul, because I’d be the richest woman in the Western hemisphere.
As human beings go, I’m a pretty bizarre combination: I’m completely laid-back and easy going, but I’m also an intense, desperate worrier. I worry about absurd things—What would I do in the event of a zombie outbreak? The unchecked spread of ebola? An alien invasion? I’m the girl who always knows where the emergency exit is. And if that private plane to Seoul made an unscheduled landing, I would know just how to use its evacuation slide. (What’s the point of YouTube if not disaster preparedness, right?)
Of course, dramas are also a source of worries. Here’s a brief list to keep you up at night.
|I prefer boys who cuddle teddy bears to ones who emotionally abuse women.|
Gong Yoo stars in a Kim Eun Sook drama. Most big-name drama screenwriters seem to have signature elements. For Kim Eun Sook, it’s her male lead: he’s inevitably a creepy, sexually aggressive slimeball that the audience is supposed to swoon over even as he sexually harasses his love interest. It happened in Gentleman’s Dignity, it happened in Heirs, and it happened all over the place in Secret Garden. Lots of people loved those shows, but I was always uncomfortable with their presentation of romance as something forced on unwilling women by men who would not be denied. And then there’s boyishly handsome Gong Yoo, who stole hearts as respectful, kind Choi Han Gyul in Coffee Prince. Even in real life, he’s an upstanding guy who’s known for paying his taxes on time and supporting children’s causes. So what would happen if these two worlds collided? Would all my years of fangirl swooning over Gong Yoo disappear in a puff of misery as he pinned his female lead against a bathroom wall, or made her cry because her purse wasn’t worthy of him?
And to up the ante: Kdrama actors have been known to pair up in more than one show. Think of Park Shin Hye and Jung Yong Hwa in You’re Beautiful and Heartstrings, or Yeo Gin Goo and Kim Yoo Jung in Iljimae and Moon That Embraces the Sun. What if Yoon Eun Hye, Gong Yoo’s Coffee Prince costar, signed on as female lead in my hypothetical nightmare drama? I couldn’t stand watching him terrorize her, no matter how good it might be for their careers.
|Can a site with such badly targeted ads really be long for this world?|
Dramabeans shuts down. I bet Dramabeans is more successful than it’s ever been: English-speaking drama fans are becoming increasingly common thanks to recent publicity and the easy availability of Korean television on streaming sites. With the recruitment of new staffers, the site is branching out and becoming increasingly professional. But guess what? Pretty much everything comes to an end, and it could happen to Dramabeans, too. Remember My Soju? How about Television without Pity? Or maybe Geocities, the host for my first webpage? There are no guarantees on the Internet (or in life, really).
So what would the loss of Dramabeans mean to the fan community? A lot. Whenever I’m watching a show that Dramabeans doesn’t cover, the world feels a little topsy-turvy. I look to their recaps for definitive interpretation and insight into things I’d never be able to understand on my own, as someone who knows next to nothing about Korean culture. It’s the Kdrama equivalent of the old-fashioned morning paper—even if you don’t read every article, a scan of the headlines will keep you informed of all the essential news. And then there are the Friday open thread posts, which are great for keeping tabs on what other people are watching and thinking. There are other great drama sites out there (many of which regularly scoop DB), but Dramabeans feels like the heart of the fandom in a way they never do.
Other related fears include that all the new blood at Dramabeans will dilute its fundamental spirit, or that the site will be sold outright to some huge company and lose its scrappy, homegrown soul. So far, there’s no sign that either of these things will ever happen—but who knows what the future holds?
|Just say no...to plastic surgery.|
Yoo Ah In gets eyelid surgery. In a recent episode of Secret Love Affair, someone suggested that Yoo Ah In’s character should have double eyelid surgery. I may have hissed aloud in response, and perhaps even thrown something soft at my television set. (Think pillow, not cat.) Precious few things in this world are held sacred, but his lovely, almond-shaped eyes should absolutely be among them.
My relationship with Korean plastic surgery has gone through a few distinct stages. At first I was blind to it, then I was totally obsessed with it, and now I just don’t care—with a few exceptions. There is definitely such a thing as going to far, and I wish people would just stop with the surgery after their debuts. When I already know and love your face, I don’t want it changing. I don’t care what you’ve done in the past, but let’s agree that it’s time to stop after your premiere role.
Are you listening, Yoo Ah In, Yoon Si Yoon, Yoo Seung Ho, Yoon Eun Hye, Gong Yoo, Park Shin Hye, Kim Woo Bin, IU...? If you want, I can even come to Korea and be your Ugly Companion. (That’s like a sober companion, only instead of helping you stay away from controlled substances, I’d make sure you never got within 100 yards of a plastic surgeon. And just seeing my ruddy-complected, zaftig-to-a-fault American self would probably help desensitize you to any perceived personal flaws.)
|The tragedy of pay per play might one day be ours.|
Dramafever starts charging by the episode. I think the horse is already out of the barn for older shows, but who says that a well-established, much-loved Dramafever wouldn’t someday decide to charge by the episode for newer dramas? In some ways, it’s a miracle that none of the big players have tried this yet. It’s like the streaming ecosystem in America—movies and TV shows start off as pricey, one-off rentals or purchases on iTunes or Amazon, and only then become available on all-you-can-stream services like Netflix.
Right now, the single best bang for your entertainment buck is Korean drama. For less than a hundred dollars a year, you can watch thousands and thousands of hours of commercial-free television on a number of platforms. (Believe me. I’ve done it.) But if a tier system was instated, watching a weekend drama would become a major financial commitment—at the $1.99 per episode Amazon is currently charging, you’d end up paying more than a hundred dollars to watch something like Empress Ki or Wonderful Season.
We’re already seeing a slowdown of Dramafever servers on days of new releases. They could very easily decide to manage this—and make more money—by charging separate fees for those shows.
|Winter Sonata: YES! |
CSI: Seoul: NO!
Americans become obsessed with Korean drama. It would be kind of fun if America fell in love with Kdrama: Korean-themed products would inundate stores, my local community college would offer classes in Korean, and our entertainment media would actually feature news and review coverage of the shows I watch. With recent coverage in big press outlets like USA Today and Entertainment Weekly, why couldn’t a Korean show be a big hit in America?
Then again, maybe I wouldn’t want this to actually happen. I haven’t conducted any research on this, but I suspect that Korean drama changed in response to Japan’s post-Winter Sonata drama craze. It seems likely that today’s pretty scenery and tragic, ill-fated loves can be traced back that show’s international success, and that these drama elements are still common because they’re used as bait for Japanese companies.
What would Kdrama look like if it was pandering to American viewers, not Japanese ones? I can’t even begin to imagine, but the very idea of it is horrifying. If I wanted to watch ensemble shows with hardly any female characters or procedurals about about cops and lawyers, I wouldn’t have sought out Korean drama in the first place.
|On the bright side, it’s totally possible to rock an ROK uniform.|
The great flower boy drought of 2015–2017. Here’s a brief list of Korean actors rumored to be starting their military service during the next year or so.
Yoon Si Yoon
Park Yoo Chun
Kim Jae Joong
Jang Geun Suk
Kim Hyun Joong
Kim Soo Hyun
Lee Min Ho
Lee Seung Gi
Essentially every big hit in the international community since 2009 starred at least one of these guys, from Boys over Flowers to Sungkyunkwan Scandal to My Love from Another Star. If they leave us en masse, new actors will certainly rise up to take their places.
But what if this marks the end of the pretty boy trend? Culturally accepted standards of physical attractiveness change over the years. A case in point: When the Lord of the Rings movies first came out, I bought a used copy of Two Towers that dated from the early 80s. On the cover was Legolas: bulky, buff, and bronzed, he had the physique of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger and the hair of that guy from the band Warrant. Fast-forward twenty years, and take a look at the version of this character in the films. Willowy waif Orlando Bloom looked more likely to cry over a particularly lovely sunset than kick sand in somebody’s face on the beach volleyball court.
So if all these pretty young men disappear at once, might the delicate Kdrama ecosystem be damaged so severely that a whole new look will become trendy? I love my flower boys, and I’m not ready to lose them.
The end of net neutrality ends streaming as Americans know it. Here’s how wikipedia defines net neutrality:
Net neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.
The U.S. government used to enforce this: All Internet traffic had to be treated the same way by service providers. Thanks to January a ruling from a federal appeals court, though, this practice is coming to an end. Internet service providers can now slow user access to specific sites or services at whim, essentially holding hostage content they disapprove of. The benevolent ISPs say they would never do anything horrible like this—even if it isn’t illegal—but a recent story about Netflix speeds rising after it paid ransom to Comcast might just prove otherwise.
Netflix and Hulu are big companies that can take care of themselves. They’ll pay what it takes to provide decent service, and our rates will rise accordingly. But what does this mean for a comparably small-potatoes service like Dramafever? Or Singapore-based Viki? Will they pay money to an assortment of American ISPs to ensure we can stream from their sites? Maybe they’ll just give up on us altogether, and the era of all-you-can-stream Korean drama will be gone forever.
(As my fellow obsessees probably know, Secret Love Affair was pre-empted this week for coverage of the Sewal ferry tragedy. If you need a fix, you might try the short fanfic I wrote this week. It’s PG-13-ish and is set between episodes 10 and 11.)