I had an especially hard time picking out the video for this one. Do I select a “top ten” video that is going to reflect a single fans view or do I focus on the trailer for a single show? In the end I went to a site called The Top Ten, which allows fans of basically anything to vote on a list, thereby choosing popularity based number of votes rather than personal opinion. With that in mind it’s no big surprise that I ended up with Boys Over Flowers, which contains pretty much all of the elements I will be talking about here.
I should start by saying that I am really sorry about the lack of subtitles, I choose to go with the video I felt had the best collection of clips in the shortest run time. This was mainly to show general character of these shows for people who might not be familiar with them. Korean Dramas are really big in the US right now, so pretty any show you want to watch can be found somewhere on-line. Statistically speaking the average US fan shares a lot in common with the female protagonists of these stories: 89% female, 59% within 16-25 age range and 29% Asian. Although it seems we are the country with the highest growth rate of non-traditional fans (males, people over 40 and non-Asians) within the last three years. I think the main reason for this is the similarities between these dramas and certain animes that are popular with a more varied American audience. Although part of the popularity with these fans is because some dramas are based on mangas/animes.
However when one compares the average reverse harem anime to the average romantic Korean show we see there are key plot devises that are often very similar-
- The main protagonist is often a tomboyish girl
- There is usually a group of flower boys around her
- Most of the time they are rich and she is poor
- She does not originally like one or more of them
- Her spending time with ‘these boys’ is unavoidable
- Two or more of them will fall in love with her
- One (or more) male characters will fall into a compromising position with main character.
There are clear variations within these themes, that generally lend themselves to making original plots. The Korean dramas seem to have their own set of rules outside what you might see in an anime based on differences in cultural values. In much the same way that Bollywood movies are based not upon the realities of India rather what Indians idealize, the same can be said for both Japanese anime and Korean dramas. In the future I will be using these dramas to compare western and eastern ideals but, for today I just want to write out some key factor that nearly all Korean dramas seem to share.
- Multi-points of view, we follow not just the protagonists but everyone whose life she/he touches.
- There are duel protagonists, the main girl and the main guy in the story.
- The female protagonist is a static whereas she’s the catalyst of change for the other characters
- The male protagonist is often the most changeable character in the story/ the most misunderstood.
- One or more major characters are going have a parent who is; dead, absent, shamed or disabled.
- At some point a girl will refer to an older guy who she is fond of as “Oppa“.
- The protagonists will have a love/hate relationship
- There will be more than one character dealing with one sided love
- At least once, the male protagonist will get sick and female protagonist will have to nurse him back to health.
- The love interests (all the guys who are in love with her) will save the female protagonist many times.
- The male protagonist will get in a physical fight at least once over the female protagonist.
- At least once the female protagonist will pass out or get injured so that the male protagonist can save her.
- There are going to be at least one mean girl who is will exact jealous revenge on the female protagonist.
- The male protagonist’s family is pretty much always very controlling
- One of the main characters with have a sibling that is overly involved in their lives.
- If the female protagonist has living parents (often a single parent) they are always very loving but also clueless
- The female protagonist is hard working, having at least two jobs or more
- The male protagonist seems outwardly spoiled but, actually is very lonely
I will most likely be doing four parts on this topic as I did not even cover more specialized dramas, standard characters used in Asian stories, nor how all this compares to the stories in our western cultures.