13 January 2011

What I learned from Korean drama (or rather, "Coffee Prince")

I recently watched my first Korean drama, "Coffee Prince", after discovering a slew of Korean dramas on Hulu. I've never watched any Asian TV shows before, so this was a new experience for me. I noticed some interesting trends:
  • Love triangles. "Coffee Prince" actually has a love quadrangle.
  • Korean men seem to be saints. In "Coffee Prince," all the male characters (except for the one "player") are madly in love with a single woman and absolutely loyal to her. Examples: the butcher chasing after a widowed mom, a man who goes into debt for his girlfriend, a rather stupid young man who chases after a girl and calls her "angel", a young man who has had a crush on his cousin's ex-girlfriend for nine years.
  • Stalking is romantic. One of the men followed a woman from Japan to Korea and tries to get her address from a friend of hers. In America, we would call this stalking, but apparently, it's considered romantic in Korean television.
  • Japanese guys are hot? I'm not sure about this one. School-age girls are depicted going wild over a Japanese-looking guy who works at the cafe.
  • There is a character who scolds their children and disapproves of them. In the case of "Coffee Prince," it was the grandma who yells at your grandson. I don't know why but I can't help cracking up when I watch these yelling sequences. I find it endearing for some reason.
  • Insistence on happy endings. At the start of the TV show, we find out the grandma has late stage stomach cancer. Yet, in the epilogue, we see a flash forward to two years from now and grandma is still alive and looks fine. "Grandma, don't you have cancer?"
  • Sexual innocence. It appears that none of the young characters have any sexual experience except for a sophisticated 30-something couple. And most of these characters are in their early 20s. I had a hard time believing that one of the main characters, a smart, confident, sophisticated 29-year old guy, would act like a virgin in the bedroom. There was a scene where he tries to chase his girlfriend out of his apartment because he desperately wants to sleep with her. ???
  • Close families. This seems like a given to me. Most Asian families are close and it's completely normal for a father to take baths with very young daughters.
  • Fantasy sequences. The first episode used a lot of cuts to fantasy sequences. This reminds me a lot of "Scrubs" (though I hear "Ally McBeal" pioneered this style of storytelling in American television).
  • Calling someone by their full Asian name (last name followed by first name) conveys seniority or intimacy. People of the same age and rank don't typically call each other by their full names, so if they do, they're probably dating. Of course, parents, teachers, etc. can call their children, students, etc. by their full name and there is nothing unusual about that.
  • Differences in social manners from Western culture. Koreans appear to bow a lot. They bow when the boss arrives at work; they bow to their elders. They sit on the floor during family dinners. In a very formal situation, they sit on their knees, which I'm told is extremely uncomfortable. Chinese people don't really do any of these things regularly.
Despite many obvious cliches, "Coffee Prince" won me over with its charm and enthusiasm, an interesting twist (the main male character worries that he's gay even though the "man" he likes is a cross-dressing girl), and excellent production, writing, and direction.

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