|Kim Soo Hyun from |
"My Love From Another Star"
You might be wondering what the heck they are, or you may be lucky and have already seen a few! My first reaction when I learned a friend of mine watched them while exercising was, "Weird!" In my mind, I pictured her on the treadmill watching something akin to kung-fu fighter movies or something. When I finally got around to watching one, I was not prepared for how awesome it was. No kung-fu either! (though quite a few have some great fight scenes in them!)
That first one I saw, "Master's Sun", launched me into an ongoing love affair with TV that was other than American. It was so refreshing! Less sex, less drugs, not necessarily less violence, but less WOW factor that Hollywood is known for, and more emphasis on developing a story. The unique thing about these dramas is that they run like a mini-series. They have a set number of episodes and they're done. No dragging on into endless seasons without any promise of a resolution. *ahem* Once Upon a Time!
I've watched, um... 45 dramas in 2 1/2 years. Yeah, I know it's a lot, but I've learned quite a lot of things from watching these shows--like how amazing Korean food looks, common Korean expressions & words, and elements of the honorific system in the culture and language.
The one thing that I've found really fascinating is the portrayal of different nationalities in one country's media. Take America for example and our portrayal of Asian men. Most of the time they are either side-kicks, the smart-guys, or the bad-guys. Women are a little bit different, but they usually don't stick out. Well, it's only fair to go to the flip side. How do Koreans portray Americans? As the side-side-kicks, the nefarious bad guys, or the unstable ally. They're also obnoxious, sly, and sometimes the smart-guys. It's pretty amusing, actually. But what really gets me is who plays the Americans: Australians or Russians with really bad accents. Rarely does an American actually play an American and even then, they're awkward and stiff. That's okay, I guess. It's when the drama is set in California and the "side-kick" American is the most amazingly terrible actor you've ever seen and the most annoying druggie beach bum is where I have to draw the line! (Heirs. Don't watch it!)
A recent drama, "Oh My Venus," got me really, really excited. One of the characters was a Korean-American which I don't think I've ever seen. And the amazing thing was that his accent actually sounded like he was a Korean American! (The actor, Henry Lau, is actually Canadian whose native language is English, but close enough, right?) His character was one of my favorites of all time. Sure he was a bit over the top, called women "Ma'am!", and was really huggy and loud - are Americans really like that?? But he used this awesome fusion of English and Korean, was funny, and could actually act. Kudos to the people who did the casting on that one. Henry, you're totally cool!
This last drama has left me with some hope. Maybe the Korean TV industry is picking up on how many Americans watch and love their shows. And that there are Americans (or native English speakers) who can actually act. Hopefully we'll be seeing more of that in the future, because it made watching the show that much more fun. I definitely felt more of an affinity with the show, because I felt that they'd made the effort to draw Americans in with a character they could better relate with.
We'll see what the future holds for Americans in Korean TV. In the meantime, check out my Korean Drama tab to see what I've watched and which dramas I've totally loved. It might sound weird, but you'll have to give them a try to see what I mean!