As I sat in front of my laptop trying to come up with an idea for today’s article, my Babysis suggested, “Write about the difference between romance in western television and Korean dramas.” “Natch!” I said, put on my headphones, and pulled up the document.
After a hard-fought seven-year battle, I have pulled my mother into the world of KDramas. (As a result, she hates me, but we won’t go into that.) It’s fun to watch someone notice all your favorite things about them – in particular, the exploration of romantic relationships beyond sex.
While most western shows (particularly on the CW) use a formula that usually runs something like ‘boy meets girl, boy and girl end up sleeping together by episode 3, and the rest of the show is about their fights, breakups, hookups, and makeout/ups,’ Korean dramas are different. Sex scenes are almost nonexistent, and ‘bed scenes’ (scenes that indicate the couple slept together without specifically pointing it out) are so vague that usually they leave you wondering ‘Did they…? Maybe they didn’t. No, they did. Right?’
In the first episode of Scholar Who Walks the Night, a fantasy fusion sageuk about vampires, royalty, and politics (and currently one of my favorites), a prince shocks his scholar by suggesting that his next anonymous erotic novel might include a bed scene the night before the honeymoon. The fact that loose sexual behavior is still fairly shocking in Korea did something amazing – it returned my innocence where entertainment is concerned. Where before I was used to the idea of on-screen couples hitting the sack before the third episode was over, now I gasp with delight when the main characters hold hands – by episode twelve.
Korean dramas focus on what makes up a relationship beyond the physical. Characters comfort and hold one another, take the other out for drives or dates when they’re sad, gift them with small presents, argue, stress out over small things, occasionally act petty, make up for their mistakes, try to better themselves, and what they do, they attempt to do for the better of the other person. This kind of detail-attentiveness is rare in western television.
Characters might be attracted to each other, but the show doesn’t center around their need to sleep together – it centers around the ups and downs of their relationship. Even dramas that are straight-up romances (even dramas about married couples) – frequently skip out on the idea of sex entirely. If a couple has slept together, they won’t show it (and like I said, if they do, it’s vague). Korean television has very tight standards and restrictions, meaning bad language, sexual situations, and gratuitous violence are kept to minimums. It’s so refreshing that whenever I watch a western show, I almost feel like I’m getting slapped in the face with excessive amounts of cheap junk I don’t need.
When I watched ‘Faith’ with mom, there was a scene were Eun-Soo runs up to Choi Young and hugs him tightly. Mom jokingly said, “Wow, look at the passion.” Then a second later she said thoughtfully, “Except…this is passionate. It’s more passionate than most things I’m used to watching because the relationship is the focus.”
What about you? Are you tired of western television’s portrayal of romance? Have you thought about it, or is this a new idea? I’d love to hear your thoughts!