2021 Year End Review
January 1, 2022
These are the opening lyrics to my anthem this year, and I’ve linked it here. A song by vaultboy and featuring Eric Nam: just substitute the ex-girlfriend with COVID, and you’ve got it about right. I’m a medical professional, and January saw COVID surge, but also hope for the new year with newly minted vaccines for healthcare workers and high-risk patients. Hope and respite for a few months. Then we saw how the anti-vaccine movement was entrenched in keeping people unvaccinated, allowing Delta to smash those death records in the early and mid-summer. It was exhausting and belittled us. It finally let up, but now a new surge with a new variant is on the horizon. This is why everything sucks in my world. K-dramas kept me somewhat sane between counseling, treating, and writing about COVID. Life has felt like a never-ending merry-go-round—seeing only COVID over and over and not able to get off during this pandemic. I don’t think I’m the only one who feels this way.
I drowned myself in dramas, watching more than I really should have, and more than I ever have in one year. Healthy? Probably not. Required? Absolutely, yes.
Run On coincided with the worst COVID surge my area had seen, and it was wonderful to see lovely cinematography grace my screen. Two people communicating well, finding solace in each other, and taking on every naysayer together. It was probably one of the most underrated gems of the year, and largely forgotten by the end of the year. Im Shi-wan delivered one of the most awkwardly adorable confessions in K-drama history, and I just wanted to hug him (fully vaccinated, of course). Thank you for getting me through January.
As the surge lessened, time was on my side—and still hopeful that the vaccines would take hold—more dramas were destined for me to forget the pandemic. Hello? It’s Me! showed me that time may not always be kind, but small, sincere gestures of kindness really do make a difference. I’ve always had a soft spot for Kim Young-kwang and he shined here as the anti-chaebol, chaebol (the poor candy heroine thought she had more money!) with a great relationship with his father. You never see that in dramaland. It took a tired time-traveling trope and injected new life into it with the effervescent Lee Re playing Ban Ha-ni, the younger, helping her older self (played by Choi Kan-hee) find success again. If Ha-ni could do it, I could too, dammit!
Then came the scandal(s).
The mire that surrounded River Where the Moon Rises’ male lead who was replaced as the show was finishing filming, and already airing. (I’m as much for the #metoo movement as the next person, but really, stop ruining my fantasy worlds when I’m trying to forget about real life! And now is seems it was much ado about nothing.) But it did introduce me to the lovely (and tall) Na In-Woo and also gave a creative outlet in improvising music for the OST—the original soundtrack had much to be desired in my mind.
–of five themes allowed me to enjoy the first sageuk I’d watched in a couple years more than I would have otherwise. And I thank @carlybisek, @sicarius, @ayaan, @eazal, and others on DB and Facebook for motivating me by group watches, singing, and exercise (cue vaultboy song).
Then there’s my vote for best drama of the year, Navillera. Never in my fantastical imagination would I have thought that a show about a (spoiler alert) geriatric ballet dancer with early dementia would give me hope for the future. Kang Song is a revelation in this show. It’s only 8 episodes—go watch it and renew your faith in humanity!
And one Beanie drama (found on the Dramabeans [DB] fan walls) starring @leetennant and Lee Min Who? found me writing more music, Indifference.) I wrote this as I was becoming more and more indifferent to the vaccine hesitancy around me and as the Delta variant buffeted my hospital like a typhoon. June/July was a very dark time. I turn to music when I get down, and it all played out on the DB fan wall with my self-proclaimed Beanie Virtual Island Pandemic Party. People I cared about were dealing with death and illness, one even taking his own life, and they all saw me cope.
And then, the heavens opened, and Bossam: Steal the Fate floated down to me. I fell in love again. This sageuk year allowed me to appreciate that at least I wasn’t born pre-modern medicine and pre-women’s liberation. I am fortunate (repeat 10 times). Kwan Yuri played the most regal, most beautiful, and most memorable kidnapped princess I’ll probably ever see. (Just ignore the Stockholm Syndrome: Ba-woo [Jung Il-woo] didn’t mean to kidnap her, right?) The acting and music were just superb, and even though I still have questions about the ending, I have questions about COVID ending too, so I’m forgiving.
Lastly, four shows I thoroughly enjoyed because they pulled me out of my reality and into an alternate one, reminding me that life will be normal again, and I won’t have to live in frustration and loss for eternity. These were: My Roommate is a Gumiho, Hometown Cha Cha Cha, Dali and the Cocky Prince, and Yumi’s Cells. The first because sometimes you just need some good eye candy (and it was hilarious—honestly), the second for the dimples and ensemble cast, the third for beauty in art, and the fourth for Kim Go Eun and her animated cells. Animations that got it right! Seeing the inner workings of our minds in such an adorable and relatable way was very disarming and much more profound than a normal show without them.
So …everything is better than it used to be…I didn’t write a [piece] about…[CO-VID]…to-day…oh, wait… because I found my solace in K-dramas, music, and like-minded K-drama fans. Who needs therapy when I have these? Oh, I forgot to mention, after successfully indoctrinating my secretary into K-dramas over the past couple years, I had a kindred spirit with which to share these dramas (and admire Jang Ki-Yong’s, ahem, oral acting skills) this year. That definitely didn’t suck!
…I want to forget all my bad days…all my bad days…And be okay…and be okay…And then I’ll say…and then I’ll say…