02 October, 2016

On the People Who Watch Asian Dramas

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I've been doing a little pondering on why I watch dramas (and still stick with drama watching in general even when so many of them aren't necessarily amazing, though some are) and I've come to some conclusions. Now of course this is more personal introspection and my own perspective, and I most quickly and readily acknowledge that. I know that drama watching is a very personal thing for people and people watch for many different reasons. Of course, feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments. Also, please forgive the very rambly nature of this post. It is late at night and I should be asleep but for some reason my brain was like: write this post!

I've been watching Asian dramas, predominately Korean dramas, though I've seen some Taiwanese dramas, and in the past year some Chinese dramas, since 2012. Before that I was on a major Bollywood kick (with some other film industries from India thrown in). I've watched Asian cinema though since long before that. Perhaps starting as early as 20 years or more ago, so it's been a varied ride. One such film was Akira Kirusawa's Seven Samurai, which is such a masterpiece. I watched it back in high school and my brothers and I stayed up over a couple of nights to watch it. Anyway, I digress.

Asian dramas. Sometimes the editing and writing quality isn't all that amazing, particularly when Korean dramas end up on a liveshoot schedule, but in general, Asian dramas have a deep interest for people, and for many women. Why is this?

I know that people can be very disparaging of people who watch Asian dramas, particularly western media, but I've also noticed it in the way Koreans sometimes (guiltily) admit to watching Korean dramas, or with the disdain others talk about those who watch drama. There's this patronising tone that we must all be a bunch of ditzy airheads because we watch Asian dramas (full disclosure, I live in South Korea and talk with a wide variety of Koreans, both male and female of varying ages - so I'm generalising from conversations, and it's by no means meant to be how all Koreans think about dramas). Now there is nothing wrong with being super fangirly or fanboy-y, actually I think it is fun and relatively normal in humans, but for some reason, the world has created this environment where we can't be seen as adult and intelligent unless we are acting erudite every second of the day. I find that rather absurd. Anyway, back to the disparaging thing. Why are humans so judgmental? Like for reals. Who cares if I love an Asian actor or if I watch an Asian drama? I really don't want to watch all 5 million iterations of CSI: Whatever The New City Spin Off Is Called. Sometimes I think all US TV is procedurals. I jest. I jest.

And don't get me wrong, I love many western shows. I just binge watched two seasons of Outlander (great show) in a week! And in general, the people I follow on Twitter, and who I interact with online, watch a vast variety of shows from many different countries and in many different languages. If anything, I see more openness and diversity of opinion and tolerance and international collaboration and conversation on Twitter than a UN convention. It's so interesting being part of such an international crowd of people. Man, the tangents, sorry folks, it's a bit stream of consciousness in here tonight.

So why then are people so intent on painting us as a bunch of airheads because we would rather chat about Wang Kai, or Lee Joongi, or Shin Min Ah, or Liu Tao than the latest episode of what happens in Westeros (no offense to GoT fans, I'm totally cool with you being a fan, not that you need my validation anyway). For some reason, it's seen as cool to love GoT, but heaven forbid you watch an Asian drama! And don't even get me started on the people who comment with "Oh my goodness, is that a man?". Lee Joongi is beautiful people. Men can be beautiful too. A man doesn't have to look like the offspring of a bear and a lumberjack to be called a man. Yes, this hits a nerve. Argh. Toxic masculinity and the white male hyper-lumberjack being the "default" version of masculinity is something that really irritates me. Argh. Racism much. (Nothing wrong with being into heteronormative white male types, just saying that isn't the only version of masculinity out there)

From what I've seen of a good chunk of Asian drama watchers is that they tend to be highly educated, work in a variety of settings, come from all social classes, have an interest in culture and language, and a willingness to embrace, examine, and discuss aspects of culture they are unfamiliar with. Yes, of course there are the crazy people out there who give fans a bad name, but for the most part, I've been severely impressed with the people I've met online. You are all so cool. Like seriously. Really. Truly. I love meeting online friends in RL and figuring out that there are so many kindred spirits out there in this world - people who share a common love for Asian drama and then it turns out on many other topics as well. There is a part of me that thinks that if we got enough people interested and watching TV and movies from all countries from all around the world, we would all be a lot less likely to be making war. Maybe that's a silly thing to think, but who knows. I think that when we get to know another culture a little better, we are less likely to think ill of them. But that's another tangential wormhole to leave for another night.

At the end of the day, part of the reason that I love watching Asian dramas so much is because of you. You are smart, witty, funny, insightful, thoughtful, interesting, kind, caring, intense, conversational, amazing people. You give up your time to blog, to translate, to sub videos, to help time and edit content, you recap (oh my goodness, you recappers are amazing - it is such hard work), so many of you spend so much time pursuing a hobby in ways that are impressive to me. You show me that the world has people in it who are willing to bring good things, to spend time talking about analysing and critiquing, and squeeing (because well that is so much fun! bring on the fluffy cuteness - and the angst), all without huge accolades or monetary fortune. You fellow fans are a really cool crowd. But most of all, I am so glad to be able to call so many of you friends. Thank you. You really do make the world a better place.

◀ In Defense of Gender Cross-Dressing in Dramas 

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