[Changing Tastes] When your feelings have feelings
by Guest Beanie
I’m not one of those drama watchers who has a big, dramatic “When First I Discovered Dramas” moment. I’d watched City Hunter on the recommendation of a friend; and while I enjoyed the heart-pounding action and fell hard for Lee Jun-hyuk’s righteous prosecutor, I didn’t get sucked in. I merely chalked it up to a good viewing experience and returned to my regularly scheduled life.
Over the course of the next few years, I tried a few more K-dramas, but only when I was in a certain mood, and only in my preferred genres of action or romance. Eventually, City Hunter led to Master’s Sun, which led to I Hear Your Voice, which led to Healer, which led to Gaksital, which led to a complete emotional breakdown.
That show wrecked me. I was a shattered husk, void of tears and incapable of forming coherent sentences—or so I thought until an unsuspecting friend called to wish me a Merry Christmas, and I talked for a solid thirty minutes about betrayal and basement torture scenes and best friends crying on bicycles, leaving her deeply concerned about my mental and emotional well-being.
Which made two of us.
The sheer emotional intensity of the show, particularly the shipwrecked friendship at its core, moved me in a way nothing in the K-drama world had before, and I planned to chase that feeling. Thus I fell down the rabbit hole of saguek revenge dramas, reveling in the twisty political machinations and reading portents in the tap of each evil plotty finger. I never found anything to rival Gaksital for sheer emotional absorption, but The Princess’s Man ran a close second.
Then my father was diagnosed with cancer, and everything in my world shifted—including my drama watching habits.
The first thing that changed was the rate at which I watched dramas. Immediately after dad started treatments, I started plowing through shows at an alarming rate. No longer was drama-watching an occasional anomaly. It was now the norm. While my schedule didn’t allow for back-to-back episode marathons, all day I looked forward to that one hour at night when I knew I’d be able to shut off my brain and rest my fevered brow on the soft pillow of K-dramas.
And boy, did I have feelings. My feelings had feelings. Somehow, though, the dramas helped.
Beautiful Gong Shim
It’s easy to see in retrospect that I was using dramas to regulate my emotions; and while I’m not convinced this was fully healthy, in my situation, it worked. Although I would never recommend dramas as replacements for real live support systems (family, friends, spiritual resources, and so forth), I would humbly endorse dramas as daily disposition supplements.
Which leads naturally to the second aspect of drama-watching that changed after my dad’s diagnosis. While originally I’d been drawn to bold, sweeping sagas of love, tragedy, revenge, and betrayal, now I found that I could no longer handle such life-and-death struggles, especially ones replete with tragic backstories involving trails of dead family members.
It was all too heavy.
So I soothed my weary soul with dramas lighter than air (Queen In-hyun’s Man), quirky and sound-effect-tastic (Marriage Not Dating), mindlessly plot-circly (Faith), enjoyably brainless (Beautiful Gong Shim), and easy like a Sunday morning (Second to Last Love).
I’m happy to report that with my dad currently doing well (and on a blessed reprieve from all treatments!), my drama-watching has now evened out. While I haven’t tapered back quantity (I’ve pretty much resigned myself to watching at least one K-drama episode a night until I die), my feelings have recovered sufficiently that I’m now able to enjoy shows with a little more backbone. And just in time, too! We have a great crop of dramas right now, replete with conflicted characters, sharp stories, and rollicking action guaranteed to give your feelings a workout.
One such drama is Lookout, which you should check out for no other reason than the fact that it has one of the strongest openings I’ve ever seen. (No, seriously. Watch the first three minutes of Episode 1 and tell me that isn’t compelling.) It also has an amazingly well-matched ensemble cast including Lee Shi-young, who’s totally slaying.
While I’m not thrilled with the circumstances that caused me to diversify my drama-watching, I’m thankful for where I ended up. After all, if I hadn’t branched out, I wouldn’t currently be enjoying family weekender Father Is Strange—and quietly, earnestly hoping for Lee Joon’s character to stop suffering and start being ridiculous again.
Father Is Strange