My Secret Shame

I have an addiction. It crept up on me… I saw some friends doing it, and it seemed harmless enough. I thought I’d try it just once to see what the fuss was about, and then before I could realize what was happening, it had taken over me. I tried to stop, but I only went through withdrawal. Obsessed, I kept asking friends where I could get my next hit from.  I even tried to convince other people to try it, when hours of my own life were missing. What’s my drug of choice?

I am a Korean Drama addict.

So how does a white girl from South Carolina become a KDrama addict? It all started about a year ago, when one of K’s childhood friends told her to watch a KDrama called Pasta. Now, I’m not normally not one to succumb to peer pressure so easily, but whenever this friend comes to town, we seem to be mutually bad influences on one another. It tends to be Bad Idea Jeans all around:

Drive four hours to learn a questionable French style of dancing? Sure! Wear leggings as pants? Why not?! Go out in public with a giant lightning bolt painted across your face? Great plan! Fanny packs for everyone!!!!

My point is, if Notorious B.I.J. is involved, I will probably do something I will regret. And no surprise, as K went further and further down the KDrama rabbit hole, I followed suit. Fueled my fellow addict friends, I have wasted hours of my life watching such gems as Coffee Prince and Boys Over Flowers. I’ve started making playlists of my favorite KPop hits on youtube and listening to them in the background. Sometimes at work, I leave Lee Min Ho’s wikipedia page open, and when I’m feeling sad, I just click over in my browser and remember how attractive he is. Along with another friend from Wellesley, K and I have formed a Korean Cultural Club (which we attempted to call Korean Kultural Klub for about .2 milliseconds), wherein we talk about KDramas we’re watching and share other noteworthy Korean things via facebook and email.

At least I know I’m in good company. Korean Dramas are famously addictive. It’s not unusual to see that a popular one has something crazy like a 15% ratings share. If you have never seen one, this is all you need to know:

Our Plucky Young Heroine is a poor and ugly. Her parents are probably irresponsible and/or incredibly embarrassing and she has to work 7 jobs to support her younger sibling(s). She has no special skills, except for being hardworking. At some point during the series, she will give a sad-sack monologue about how she is poor, ugly, talentless and has an unfortunate family.
Our Hero is an asshole man-child who is spoiled, rich, and lazy. Every day, he spends at least 400% more time primping than our heroine. It’s ok that he’s kind of an abusive douchebag because he has a tragic event in his past, like being kidnapped or being secretly adopted.
Secondary Guy is slightly less attractive than Our Hero, but he’s a non-douchey, nice guy type. He’s probably in the music industry to underscore his sensitive nature.
Secondary Hot Girl is hot, successful, and talented. Basically everything Our Heroine is not.
Female Sidekick is Our Heroine’s best friend or sister. She’s not important and there is only one of her because Our Heroine is kind of a loser who doesn’t have more than one friend.
Male Sidekicks are there to provide more eye candy and some B-plot padding so the writers can stretch the main story line out for an eternity. One of them will end up with the Female Sidekick and the rest will be completely irrelevant.
Rich Matriarch is one scary bitch. She really, really hates Our Heroine.

Here’s how everything will play out: Circumstances will conspire to throw Our Heroine in the path of Our Hero. They will hate each other, then Our Hero will find her obvious disdain strangely irresistible while she will fall for Secondary Guy because of his comparative non-doucheyness. Unfortunately, he harbors long-term lusty feelings for Hot Girl. Hot Girl, who should by all counts be a total bitch, is actually really nice and becomes a mentor for Our Heroine. Except she’s also emotionally unavailable and leaves Secondary Guy for her career. Secondary Guy then shifts his affections to Our Heroine, but she’s already moved on to Our Hero after finding out some tragic traumatic event in his past that excuses his doucheyness. They fall in love and everyone’s happy except for Secondary Guy and Our Hero’s Scary Matriarch, who resorts to nefarious plots to try to break up the couple. Eventually she realizes that Our Heroine has helped her son/grandson grow up a teensy bit and everyone lives happily ever after, because Hot Girl has also come back to Secondary Guy after realizing careers are not all they’re cracked up to be.

A couple of other things are thrown haphazardly in the mix, including sports montages, a trip to the beach, makeover sequences, and stomach cancer. Somebody always has stomach cancer. Inexplicably this all takes 15-20 infuriating hours to play out. Most of these hours are filled with slow-motion flashbacks to things that happened five minutes ago.

Every single KDrama follows this rigid plot structure. But, despite knowing exactly what is going to happen, I cannot stop watching. I am currently halfway through Boys Over Flowers, and I keep thinking, I am in the wrong damn career.

The first time I thought this, it was because there were some random white supporting characters whose sole purpose was to stand on beach being vapid arm candy to the Male Sidekicks, and they were doing a terrible job. If that is what passes for white people acting in Korean Dramas, sign me up. I could act better and look more moderately attractive from a vegetative state than any of these so-called “actresses.”

But that thought was quickly replaced with an even grander one. I shouldn’t be acting in Korean Dramas, I should be writing them!! That would be the cushiest job ever! There is the slight problem that I don’t actually speak Korean, but I’ll just come up with ideas and pass the trivial details like filling 20 hours of dialogue onto someone else. Just to prove to you how easy it can be, I’ll provide you with my sure-fire formula for coming up with a KDrama Hit:

First, you’ll need a title. Any old string of words will do. Don’t believe me? Consult this list of actual Korean Drama titles. I think my favorites are Attic Cat and Indomitable Daughters in Law. I’d recommend pushing buttons on this random word generator a few times, which is how I got my title:

Away, Wearable Courtier!

Great! Now we’ll need a plot description with which to pitch our new KDrama to network execs. Just fill out this handy mad-lib:

  1. Korean girl’s name x2
  2. Mediocre life goal
  3. Really terrible-sounding, pedestrian job
  4. Type of vehicle
  5. Rich-sounding industry
  6. Korean boy’s name x2
  7. Place of employment
  8. Traumatic childhood event
  9. Musical Instrument
  10. Glamourous sounding career

Yoon-hee doesn’t want anything more in life than to become a world-class juggler. But her family is poor! She has to work as an employee at a mid to large sized government contracting firm (jk haa! how about vacuum salesperson) just to make ends meet! All that is about to change though, when she is out making her delivery rounds and, losing control of her bicycle, she crashes into the heir to the fur industry, Dongjoon, and boy is he upset! Which will cause Yoon-hee to crack first, working hard at the pet store to pay off her debt to him, or putting up with his inescapable barrage of insults? Little does she know that his vitriol is a mask to hide his true feelings. Will understanding his tragic past of being sold into the circus be enough to kindle her affections? Or will she fall for Rain, a sensitive accordion player who, until now, has always been in love with Esther, the famous hand model? Find out on Away, Wearable Courtier!

Special thanks to K for filling in the blanks! Now for a quick poster mock-up….

Doesn’t that look promising? Just make sure to include all the stock characters listed in the chart above, and you’ll have a hit in no time! Now hand me that check.

7 thoughts on “My Secret Shame

  1. “Now, I’m not normally not one to succumb to peer pressure so easily, but whenever this friend comes to town, we seem to be mutually bad influences on one another.”

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Great post! I’m so glad I’m the reason for your KDrama addiction.

  2. Oh, just randomly assign it one of the supporting characters whenever you’re running low on plot. I guess it doesn’t have to be stomach cancer per se. The younger brother in Boys Over Flowers just contracted a generic stomach illness, not necessarily cancer.

  3. Stomach cancer is much more common in Asia because of the foods eaten. It’s the most common cancer cause of death in several countries in Pacific rim Asia including Japan and Korea. Like a quarter of people who have cancer have stomach cancer. It’s like lung or breast cancer here, thus the plot device.

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