Travel Tuesdays or
In Which I Discover the Fascinating World of Asian Dramas

My fascination with Eastern culture has been a long-standing one, even to the point where I tried to teach myself Chinese in 5th or 6th grade (a massive failure, but I still remember a few phrases!). There's just something so mysterious about it. History spanning hundreds of years, the long standing traditions, the unfamiliar culture... It's all so foreign to me that I want to know everything about it. Plus, they have an entire language system that completely differs from my own. How cool is that???  

I guess if I was to pinpoint when my love for the East began, it was most likely back when I was in elementary school, and my sister happened to stumble upon anime and manga. Juju was older and cooler than me (I don't care what anyone says, all little sisters look up to their older sisters despite what they may say), so I strove to emulate her, reading the same books, writing in journals, drawing (albeit much more dismally than her), and just being all around artsy fartsy. She would sit in her room for hours watching videos and reading comics, and I thought, Surely there must be something to these Japanese comic book thingies if she gets such a kick out of them.

So I started reading them too. I got swept away by the brilliant stories, by the well thought-out characters, the beautiful artwork... Even to this day I still read them. Perhaps not as voraciously, but frequently enough.

That interest sort of waned through high school and college due to workload and other interests presenting themselves (writing, singing, acting, etc.), but it has officially come back full force as of 1 year ago.

Enter the Asian Drama.

Guys. You have no idea. These things are like friggin' crack. So perhaps it's best if you don't get involved.

But you totally should.

Because they're amazing.

Let me explain...

The closest comparison I have to make to American media would be the soap opera, but I'm hesitant to make that link because (no offense to the hard working soap opera actors, writers, and directors) soap operas are just... awful. With all of the "You had sex with your sister because you thought she was your brother's wife!", the over-the-top acting, and the overwhelming amounts of plot lines and sheer number of characters, there's waaaayyyyyyyy too much going on with American soap operas (I've never seen telenovelas, so I can't really attest to their style).

Asian dramas are simple. There are maybe 5 characters to keep track of, there's only 1 plot (with a few different subplots thrown in), and there are normally between 16-20 episodes for the entire show. Not only that, but because of the length everything moves along at a pretty brisk pace. Something important happens in every episode.

What I have found is that, in Asian dramas, the emphasis is on the character relationships: how they interact with one another, how they solve problems they encounter, how they grow as people.

Here's the clincher, and one of the main reasons that I really enjoy dramas: there is little to no sex in them. Now, coming from a sex-obsessed Western culture, I'm sure you're thinking, "Wait. What?" Trust me. It's so unbelievably refreshing to turn on a tv show and not have boobs thrust in your face every 30 seconds. Yes, there is sexuality. Yes, there are sexytimes. They're just not overt.

And don't even get me started on the fact that all of the men in these shows look like this:















No, they don't look like women. Shut up. They're beautiful.

Now that I've gotten my fangirl out, I will say that there are a few things that are frustrating about Asian dramas.

1. The Asian Drama Kiss - Anyone who watches Asian dramas will admit that the kisses are, more often than not, terrible. I'm used to seeing people throw their entire bodies into first kisses in movies and tv shows and kissing the person they love with reckless abandon. Asian drama actors don't do that. They've gotten better over the last couple of years, but the first kisses usually leave much to be desired.

For example, let's say that girl and boy finally kiss. Normally, the two of them will be in some sort of argument of some sort, the girl will turn away and start to leave, he'll grab her wrist and then whip her around and then plant a big ol' kiss on her face. The girl will go stiff and wide-eyed, supposedly in complete shock that the boy has kissed her. The whole kiss is like this. Every once in a while, she'll loosen up and accept the kiss, but still... their lips don't move, and they don't really relax into it.

Like I said, things have gotten much better over the last couple of years, so this complaint seems to be disappearing. Every once in a while, though, the dreaded Drama Kiss rears its ugly head, and we can't help but to give it a big ol' eye roll.

2. Second Lead Syndrome - I cannot even tell you how many times I have been watching a drama and screamed at the main female character through my television screen because she's being stupid. There's a perfectly good, super good-looking, wonderfully sweet guy who's totally into you right now, but you're going after the guy who tells you, point blank to your face, that he hates you??? WHAT?!?! I don't understand this phenomenon.

Most relationship conflict in Asian dramas is caused by the 3-person, unrequited love setup. Girl loves Guy 1, but he doesn't love her (he will by the end, though). Guy 2 loves Girl, but she will never love him because she's hung up on Guy 1. It's silly and vapid (and Girl is clearly mad), but what can I say? I love the tension, and it means that Guy 2 is totally single by the end and can clearly be mine, because of course he will be.

3. No Sex / PDA - What I listed above as a pro is also a con. It can be frustrating for these characters to tell each other that they care about one another, but, because of Asian culture, they are not outwardly expressive with their feelings. You might even be left wondering, "You love her? Then act like it, you dolt!" It's a culture thing, and while I respect it I'm not fully on board with it.

If you've never seen an Asian drama, I highly recommend them. Feel free to contact me for recommendations. Lord knows I have a ton of them (as well as ones NOT to watch).

Even if you're not really interested, at least give one a watch so you can get a somewhat over-exaggerated view of a different culture. If anything, you'll be amused for an hour.

Peace.
Stef.

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