[Changing Tastes] From someone who doesn’t like change
Forest of Secrets
I’m approaching this theme with a lot more trepidation than I originally thought I’d have, if only because the big question on my mind was, “Have my tastes changed?” And, “What does that say about me if they haven’t?”
To be fair, I think I was a bit more rigid in what I’d watch when I was mostly recapping, but editing a good deal of the different shows we’ve been covering has given me a wider range of shows to watch. More than anything, the past year and a half has helped solidify what I like versus what I don’t, since necessity has forced me to watch dramas I would’ve never originally touched before, like Romantic Doctor Teacher Kim, or Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho, or even Chief Kim, as a few examples.
And while I can’t say the experience of watching those shows has changed my views on dramas fundamentally (Chief Kim notwithstanding), it’s given me a bit more perspective. After all, it’s tough to stand by what you like if you only watch what you like without sampling the rest of what dramaland has to offer. At the same time, while sampling a bit of everything has opened my horizons in some aspects, it’s closed them in others—namely, rom-coms.
Or maybe it’s just that the natural progression of life into that slow, inevitable crawl toward finality has made a cynic out of me (but I’ve always been a sassy cynic, so even that hasn’t changed). This is a weird monthly theme, in that I feel like I’m having to analyze my own psychology in order to make sense of my changing tastes, and it’s like Yeo-jin’s drawing of Shi-mok’s brain in Forest of Secrets, except that smaller section is my ability to purely enjoy something, while that big chunk is my insatiable need to deconstruct and/or make fun of something when it’s terrible.
Maybe studying dramas for seven years now has changed the way I enjoy them, to where I can see the seams too easily to just fall into a show the way I used to. At the same time, I can make it a point to enjoy a so-bad-it’s-good drama, and I’ve missed the makjang-fests of yore now that networks have tried their best to stay away from the genre. Family dramas are probably the next closest thing, but something about the sheer insanity and instant hook of makjangs was like comfort food to me, like a neon sign saying: “Turn your brain off and be entertained.” Because those shows are never trying to be more than they are, and the old adage to judge a show for what it is rather than what it isn’t applies best here.
And I feel like readers have already been on this journey of exploration with me already, especially in dramas like Basketball or Shark, which were so terrible that I dedicated entire comments sections to studying and/or attempting to change my own approach to the show in order to just get through it. So I don’t ever regret watching the bad shows (but only the phenomenally bad ones), because they always give me a bit more insight into myself, and usually, they lend themselves to some funny moments we can all enjoy.
But it’s only with rom-coms that I worry I’m truly disconnected with the usually very large audience who enjoys them, and it’s not fun (even if it’s sometimes unavoidable) to lampoon something that a vast majority of people find hugely enjoyable. This is where the big-picture-perspective of studying dramas for years comes into play, because I’m better able to recognize when a show works as a whole, but maybe doesn’t necessarily work for me. For instance, I recognize that medical dramas are a thing some people love, even if I may never be able to understand why, and that’s okay.
When it comes to rom-coms though, I really do understand why people love them, because I was there once. I used to love them, too. I remember going gaga over Full House, or You’re Beautiful, back in the days where we had to walk fifteen miles through the snow to get episodes that were split into six parts on shady online sites that we used because we just HAD to get our fix.
So, admittedly, I’ve wondered if the advent of Hallyu and the sheer overexposure we’ve had to what were supposed to be the next “crack dramas” have kind of dulled the magic. If something like You’re Beautiful aired today, would we all go as crazy over it as we did then? Could something like You’re Beautiful ever come again? Lord knows that the Hong sisters have been trying for years to recapture the same magic that drew us all in initially, but is it just that times have changed, or is it that we’ve changed?
See, I just knew I wouldn’t be able to get through a post about changing tastes without going on an existential odyssey. Granted, we know that trying to bring back dated ideas in rom-coms doesn’t always work unless it’s in experienced hands, since we’re all quick to grab our torches and pitchforks and cry “Dated!” at the first opportunity. I do worry that it’s the dated stuff I do like though, and only because that coincides with my younger self, who used to watch dramas for pure enjoyment. How times have changed.
My Sassy Girl
While I think this isn’t the best example to use, My Sassy Girl kind of exemplified everything I don’t like about the modern rom-com, because the modern rom-com always seems to try and recreate what we liked about rom-coms of yore. Or maybe this all ties into the bigger issue of overused tropes, and that rom-coms are inescapably stuck in this infinite loop of repeating the mistakes of their predecessors, except for the rare example that breaks the mold and does something new and fresh.
Maybe I’m just at a point in life where I want something with substance (the whole “Amazon Prime and Commitment” versus “Netflix and Chill” debate personified), and if I so much as hear a whisper of a “Wamp wamp waaaaaamp” sound in a show, I leave at a run, not a walk. At the same time, Chief Kim came along and gave us the silliest of sounds, the silliest of gags, and featured just a hint of romance that had me dying for more. I have to give that show credit for reinvigorating my hope that I haven’t completely died inside, and that I can appreciate a good, subversive comedy when it comes along.
Another enlightening aspect of watching Chief Kim this year was that I wanted the romance to happen even more because the show didn’t promise it or hit us over the head with it. It teased us with it, and I think I’m realizing that I like shows that play hard to get over shows that clearly present the romantic couple to you at the beginning and spend the rest of the show working to sell that romance, but since it can’t be sold early (or else we’d stop watching it), it has to be interfered with to the nth degree until the final episode.
And look, that’s a construct I totally get, because otherwise, every romantic drama would solve its problems in one episode, and there’d be no show. I have a much better reaction to flat-out romances (though I can’t think of any more recent examples than The Princess’s Man and Queen In-hyun’s Man), so I wonder if it’s just the bickering I can’t take anymore, or the forced separations in a modern world where phones exist. I’m pretty sure I liked Secret Garden when it aired, so what has changed, at the end of the day? Is it the drama landscape, or is it just me?
…Yeah, it’s probably just me. But you know what I’ll never get tired of? A good bromance.