Life Is Beautiful
I, again, was not going to write this month, but sometimes you don’t get to choose what you do. For me, writing is therapeutic, and I need a boatload of therapy right now. K-dramas are restorative too and sometimes hit more close to home than we realize, and in that proximity, we gain some lucidity in the choices we make. So, what do we see in K-dramas that draw us to them?
The theme of the month asked when we see ourselves in dramas. I’ve never seen me in a character. I’ve seen what I’d like to be, but not what I am. However, I have seen people I know and people in my family. I tell people all the time that I could write a drama with inspiration from my own dysfunctional family. I didn’t know how right I was until I recently went to a cousin’s wedding.
Get about a hundred of people in the same family together in one room and you have the makings of a makjang drama, I’m telling you. I have LOTS of cousins, and they are all younger than I am. seeing them and their families grow up, navigating life makes for some great fly-on-the-wall-watching and listening. I heard and saw parents who think their adult or near-adult children are about to make the most horrible mistakes of their lives (usually involving a love interest). Guardians thinking they are being taken advantage of or even abused, when they are really just being good guardians. And children stuck in the middle, possibly psychologically damaged for life, or stronger for having such crazy things said and done to them.
What K-drama doesn’t have the overbearing mother contrasted with a loving one? We see the dichotomy in Pretty Noona Who Buys Me Food between the mother and the father. They could be plucked out of my family (an alpha female with a beta male is my mom and dad). In Boyfriend, the female lead’s mother is so concerned about appearances, and tries to get her daughter back together with her ex in a loveless marriage. Yep, I’ve seen that too.
Or the mother who plays the victim card to get her way, guilting everyone into thinking she’s sacrificed the most, that everyone has taken advantage of her kindness which is really only lip service for getting her own agenda accomplished. Putting on a pretty face, but scheming in every way behind the scenes. (The queen dowager in nearly every sageuk ever, am I right?)
The Moon That Embraces the Sun
This is why I need some therapy today! The funny thing is the that these moms were in love once; they may have been discarded, and they may have been looked down upon as well. And it’s this cycle that we see play out in K-dramas, except that we hope the cycle breaks in our own lives.
My mother has been that over-the-top-you’re-not-good-enough-for-my-daughter witch to my sister’s husband, only to turn around and be entirely supportive of my brother when he was being cut-down by another mother who had been ostracized by her own father for dating someone unworthy of his daughter.
Sometimes we can’t see the rings that a drop of water makes on a pond because we’re in the water. But when we pull ourselves out and watch it from the shore we see how each ring is an extension of the other. I guess it’s getting to dry land that is the trick. K-dramas sometimes are that buoy that allows us to stop drowning for a second to see some clarity in our own lives when we see those near us behaving badly, or, at that very least, make us realize what we should not do to become those characters that we abhor so intently.
I really thought I had a normal family until just recently. I guess it really started with my sister’s would-be engagement when I realized I had a makjang mother who made her would-be son-in-law cry crocodile tears. He’s still scared of her to this day. I always say that all tropes happened to someone in real life. Trust K-dramas to make them feel real and fresh.
I still love my mom. She’s the mama bear anyone would want defending her cubs. And all the moms in my family are like her, so maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on them. (Nah, I’m still pissed!) But as dysfunctional as my family is, K-dramas always show me one that is even more so—at least we haven’t murdered each other…yet.
An Empress’s Dignity