K entertainment is a slippery slope. One minute you’re bopping along content with your kpop…and then you find out that your #1 kpop boyfriend (he just doesn’t know it yet) is in a korean drama so you watch it…and then you watch something else that another actor in that drama was in…and then a friend tells you about another drama….and then you start picking them on your own and next thing you know its 2 in the morning and you’re sitting on your couch streaming kdramas to your tv (thanks netflix!) sobbing while having a serious craving for ramen.
You’re now a kdrama addict. Welcome to the club. We don’t sleep, we wait.
For the uninitiated, Korean Dramas are akin to the American soap opera, but in a format (and drama level) closer to the telenovelas of Spanish speaking countries. Korean dramas typically have a pre-determined run of episodes (occasionally extra episodes are tacked on due to popularity. This is almost never a good thing) somewhere between 15-20. Each episode runs an hour, without commercials (I think. This may just be my experience from watching it online).
Ever since my initial foray into kdramas via the action/adventure Iris (sort of starring TOP from Big Bang) I’ve become addicted. I’ve watched my fair share of dramas since then and…well. A pattern has emerged. There are certain things that are native to most genres of television, but in the kdrama world it almost seems like its a written via a plot-by-numbers book.
And thus, the KDrama Thirteen Commandments was born.
As a caveat, I must make it clear that I have not seen every kdrama. I also tend to not go for the historical dramas (yet). All of the kdramas I’ve watched, save IRIS, have fallen into the fluffy romantic comedy category, so keep that in mind.
On with the show.
Commandment 1: If thou art a rich and handsome man, you are a dick and will fall in love with a poor girl. Most romantic dramas seem to over rely on the girl being poor. Apparently, Korea has a Captain-Save-A-Ho complex.
Commandment 2: SHOWER SCENES. You will never see more than the female lead’s legs peeking out from under her impossibly short skirts. But the male lead will ALWAYS have a shower scene that serves no purpose except to titillate female viewers. Meanwhile, if the female lead happens to see him shirtless, she will most likely scream and cover her eyes, even if she is clearly too damn old to be scandalized by a naked torso.
Commandment 3: It is no big deal for two people to agree to keep their love going for a randomly determined number of years while one of them goes to America/Europe/etc. For whatever reason. Kdramas love a good airport cry fest.
Commandment 4: In Korea, you are either insanely rich or live in a one room shack. There is no middle ground.
Commandment 5: Poor girls are always completely altruistic. They help everyone with their pluck and determination. The fight off criminals, take care of old people, work twenty jobs while going to school and STILL go hungry so their younger siblings can eat. If only some rich man would come along and help her…
Commandment 6: MAKEOVER SCENE! If you are a poor girl, don’t fret. Inevitably a rich man will come along and buy you lots of expensive things. You don’t want them of course, because he is spoiled and mean and you are light and pure. But, on the other hand, eventually our destitute little heroine will find occasion where her poor people togs will not do. In this case it is perfectly acceptable for the male lead, the second male lead, someone’s sister, or a stranger to whisk ‘ol Cinderella here off to a location fully staffed with stylists and makeup artists who will work their magic. Bonus points if she makes her entrance via a set of stairs…so she can fall down them and right into the arms of the guy she is in love with…or the poor sap she isn’t.
Commandment 7: In real life the female lead (if she isn’t a villain) would be classified as a danger to herself and others due to her intense stupidity. She would also have broken several bones from being klutzy. And probably managed to drown herself while showering. You know the “manic pixie dream girl” trope? Thats the kdrama equivalent of restraint.
Commandment 8: If the girl is confident, well dressed, and not borderline mentally challenged, SHE IS A BITCH. It doesn’t matter if bad things happened in her past to make her guarded and mean. She is the obstacle to one twu wuv and must be disposed of. Occasionally, she undergoes a full lobotomy and then someone decides to love her.
Commandment 9: If anyone is out in the rain or cold for longer than five minutes, they will become so sick that it will require that (female lead) the hot guy carries them (preferably on his back) to his home where he nurses her back to health, or (male lead) requires hospitalization/bed rest. Also, this holds true if the girl gets drunk. No one simply stumbles home to vomit up the booze and live another day. She always requires a piggy back ride and a pair of eyes to stare deeply into hers when she comes to in the morning.
Commandment 10: If a female walks away from a guy while they are arguing (or if he’s simply not done talking to her), he will grab her roughly by the wrist or forearm and jerk her back. Amazingly, they never manage to injure or bruise the tiny 90 pound object of their affection. However, a slap from a male villain? Bruising that lasts for days and requires makeup.
Commandment 11: There will be approx 3 scenes showing delicious Korean food (they manage to make plain ramen look mouth wateringly delicious) in every episode. It will make you hungry every time.
Commandment 12: If you are poor, eventually your rich boyfriend’s mother will offer you money to leave, slap you, or throw water in your face. In most cases, all of these things occur during the same meeting. In extreme cases, she will extend her reign of terror to include ruining the life of everyone who has ever looked upon you kindly.
Commandment 13: The second male lead will repeatedly come to the aid of the female lead. Money, protection, a shoulder to cry on, willing accomplice in whatever manic pixie dream girl scheme she has cooked up, whatever she needs, he’ll do it. He is also in love with her. He is always smart, cute, well off but not as rich/powerful as the male lead, and sweet as pie. He has no chance in hell. And he’ll probably end the drama alone…or hooking up with the formally evil female character (No, I have not forgiven Coffee Prince OR Greatest Love for these tragedies).