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You Deserve More!

Posted by Miguk , 09 February 15 · 2,960 views

There are certain rules that have to be followed in a normal K-drama. It must be a romance and last for around 15-25 episodes. The lead characters dislike or even hate each other for about 5-10 episodes until they are shocked to discover they are falling for each other. The man has vast wealth and power. So how do you keep these people apart in the beginning but make them perfect for each other in end?

Most K-dramas have the same solution to this problem: The guy is a completely worthless person at first except for his pretty face. He has billions of dollars, superhuman abs, and the personality of a bitchy middle school girl. The woman is poor, meek, and has her hair all messed up. He is exceptionally rude to her, going out of his way to demean and humiliate her. Usually he gets her fired from her job and ruins her life. She mutters under her breath and cries into a pillow. Then after enough time has passed, he falls in love with her and she begins changing him into her ideal man. Or in a really terrible drama (Heirs) she has equally disgusting boys grabbing at her wrists and she wants both of them. Apparently some women love this kind of drama, but I can’t stand it. It’s impossible to like or respect the guy and it’s just as impossible to respect the girl who likes him. It’s also completely implausible. Scheherazade had to tell the evil sultan stories for 1001 nights to change him, but you expect me to believe that some girl in a K-drama can do it by batting her eyelashes for a couple hours?

K-drama writers who want to be a bit more subtle give the guy some subtle weakness that is supposed to evoke our sympathy for him. He had some traumatic event in his past, and now he hides his true feelings behind a mask. We see this pattern so often in K-dramas because it fits with the standard chaebol and poor girl characters. For me it sometimes works well enough to be bearable (My Name is Kim Sam Soon, Master’s Sun), but usually I don’t sympathize with a cruel and whiny billionaire any more than I do with one who is just cruel.

The most obvious solution is to just make the girl treat the guy just as badly as he treats her. Make her as rude and annoying as he is (Wild Romance). Or give him some good reasons to be mad at her (Couple or Trouble). This is the normal way romantic comedies have been written since Shakespeare’s time. So why don’t we see it more in K-dramas? It doesn’t work when he has a billion dollars and she is completely helpless.

It’s possible to put some distance between the pair by making them different from each other in more than just personality and money. He can be from another time (Queen Inhyun’s Man, Rooftop Prince) or even another planet (You From Another Star). A man from Joseon or an alien has some excuse to be cold and aloof by our standards. One K-drama even dared to make the guy be a foreigner (Sweet Spy). Or he can be the normal one while she is a gumiho (My Girlfriend is a Gumiho), a mermaid (Surplus Princess), or a ghost (Arang and the Magistrate). Or make him be a male gumiho (Gu Family Book). Of course a male gumiho doesn’t make any sense at all, but as long as he doesn’t start glittering in the sun, I’m not complaining.

Sometimes it’s best to just revel in how terrible the guy is. Make his bad behavior so outrageous and out of this world that you can only laugh at it (Boys Over Flowers). Make the guy push everyone around, not just defenseless women (City Hall). A gangster who only knows how to communicate with people by threatening to bury them alive (Bad Family) can be a lot more likeable than a petulant rich kid who harasses women.

The best way to keep the lead characters apart is to keep them busy. Of course the girl is going to be desperately struggling just to survive, but the guy needs to have more to do with his time than just make fun of her and spend his inherited money. He may need to save the entire nation (IRIS, Faith, Damo, most historical dramas) or save himself from being killed by gangsters (I Am Sam, Bad Family). Revenge can work too (Time Between Dog and Wolf) as long as the villain isn’t another forgettable wicked chaebol ajussi. Or our hero needs to defend himself against the villain’s revenge (I Hear Your Voice). The stakes don’t have to be as high as life or death as long as the character feels what they are doing is that important (King of Dramas).

My purpose here is to show that you don’t have to settle for the same bad dramas and lazy writing over and over again. If you’ve been watching for 4 episodes and nothing has happened yet except some jerk telling a woman that she’s ugly, ask yourself if this is really the best you can do. Don’t you, the viewer, deserve a better man on your screen? Of course you want to see a flower boy with a beautiful voice and enough money to swim in, but you have so many to choose from. Pick one who is worthy of your time.

  • krstjb, Liriel, beezee and 4 others like this

OK!!! now where do we get it? or maybe the answer is " i really don't care as long as the abs show up often enough?"

no, none of the above.. actually its like this: it is all impossible. the situation, the personality, even the actual meeting. BUT what is absolutely perfect is our man. we KNOW he is acting. we know he really is not like that. we overlook the various vehicles ( ie the badly written) in order to see our man ( or woman as your tastes go) BUT we have to see him. we DO really appreciate a greatly written drama like its ok thats love. or maybe we don't.(Heirs).  we have horrific separation anxiety, great and horrible ire at endings that leave a lot to be desired, second lead syndrome and horrible pairings that  make us crazy ( faith) but we slog on thru anyhow because that's all we get.

*sigh* OK i suppose all this just validates everything you have just said. how depressing is it that this is all we DO get?

    • Miguk and evie7 like this

I know what you mean.  When I'm really being honest with myself, I know I've sat through some bad dramas just because I liked the actress and her character so much.  Maybe what really annoys me is that most of the bad dramas do a lot better showing off the men than the women in them.

    • evie7 and sukegmul like this

I feel the same way. The shows are too formulaic. The challenge is whenever one tries breaking away from the fold the vast majority of fandom doesn't give the show the time of day. Formulas however have been used to great effect in selling romance novels and I am not seeing a revolution anytime soon. My only hope we don't get drowned in a quagmire of mediocrity (as it's happening in anime) and subjected to the same show over and over. 

    • beezee, Miguk and evie7 like this

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