Mind of a K-Drama Queen

Because this is a ‘summer’ month, I thought I’d drop you some light reading.

I’ve recently become ‘addicted’ to Korean Drama series (let me rephrase that – I’ve chosen to watch them whenever I have a chance because I really enjoy them, and have started a habit of watching them quite a bit!) Besides learning that, at least in Korean Drama World that I should learn how to smack someone like with my purse, be prepared to be carried on someone’s back if I’ve had too much to drink, or that holding hands or hugging someone is a bigger thing than it was in my upbringing, there’s also a lot to be learned about the psychology of serials, the players, the watchers, and the mind in all of this. In a lightly lesson-based commentary about TV productions, let’s look at popular media and the mind.

Blue Print for Optional Dealings

The mind can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality when it is emotionally engaged (jumping at the movies situation), so ‘real life’ dramas can be real for the viewers when it involves us. There are a number of different series styles that seem to be popular – those that imitate life very closely (sometimes these deal with subject matter that we just “don’t talk about” at the dinner table), those that stylise life, and those that are ‘fantastical flights of fantasy’. I’ll talk about the last one later, but the first two, when we connect with them, can serve a purpose in ‘testing out’ our lives.

Before I got into these serials, a friend mentioned that many of the K-dramas storylines circle around the concepts of love and marriage, not only the challenges that occur with relationships of all types but with the addition of the challenges of modern cultural mores and familial traditions (the odds with ‘love’ matches or non-traditional lifestyles or choices).

Just as we tell stories to children to help them learn ‘right’ from ‘wrong (do’s and don’ts), learn lessons, and give an example of optional choices, these serials can provide a safe forum for us to experience ‘life’. I’ve learned a lot of little pointers and behaviour options I can use when I go to Korea that I wouldn’t have been able to discover through the context of my life in Singapore. When we look at TV as an opportunity for us to ‘rehearse’ options in our lives from the safety of our living rooms, then these weeklies can serve a positive purpose to inform, entertain or warn.

Is it Live or is it Memorex?

While there may be opportunities for us to practice real life based on those in dramas on the big or small screens, ‘real’ needs to be defined. Often times the mind has blind spots or scotomas which skew our view on our or other people’s situations. The mind has a tendency to gloss over details at times, especially when there may be some similarities between one and the other. While a character or their situation may not be identical to our personal state, sometimes the mind draws connections to make a square peg fit into a round hole. Viewers watching the show might say “that’s just like me!”, even though the similarities may be tenuous. In one drama Kim Sam Soon is a ‘fat’ and ‘old’ single woman who holds no hope of marriage. I’d say she would be average size in Singapore, and considered ‘petite’ in most of North America – oh, and she’s a whopping 30 years old! From my mental structure, she seems to be a ‘hot commodity’ in the dating market, but I can imagine how her saga would play on the ‘imperfections’ of normal Korean women – allowing them to connect with the hopes and worries of those who may see themselves in a less than perfect light.

Just as professional models skew many young people’s personal body image, the above average number of happy endings that sort themselves out in less than 2 dozen hours can make us question the job we’re doing in our own dramas. While there may be lots of good in serials, we need to do a reality check – no matter how many similar traits you may share with those on the show, you are still your own wonderful, lovable self! And coming from that place of strength and knowing, it’s much easier to follow the traumas and dramas of characters.

Comfortable in the (Fantasy) World

Another plus point of Korean dramas is their greater comfort level for combining fantasy with reality. I’ve found myself with my jaw dropping because of an off-the-wall scene, and then being brought back to ‘life’ with the scene being played as it actually happened (yet sometimes these odd scenes actually were ‘true’ – life may be stranger than fiction). I love the honesty in it – while the ‘real’ part of the show may be suspect, the fantasizing is often the truth. Have you ever found yourself running through a worst- or best-case scenario version of life-to-be? Sometimes, like the K-drama Heroines often do, we snap out of it, noting the fantasy for what it is, but often we can create a practiced version of unreality which can stop us or block us from being, doing, or expressing ourselves. Let’s talk about relationships (the KD hot topic) – how many phone calls or invitations never happened because of the mind projector’s projection of failure played over and over again? How many expressions of caring or pride extending to friends, colleagues or family have been silenced because of the brief mental clip of a rejection of connection? I know that what could have been resolved in 8 episodes took 16 because of following the fear side of these fantasies (useful for TV but not for life).

As Norman Vincent Peale is quoted “The mind, ever the willing servant, will respond to boldness, for boldness, in effect, is a command to deliver mental resources.” Possibly due to the vast differences in culture and subject matter, I can observe the shows at a distance and really get a good chuckle now and again. One thing that I’ve learned to look at my ‘worst case’ internal fantasies KD-style, realising that they are just a making of my own mind – and I don’t have to take it as fact.

Stuff of Myths and Legends

While some shows are more formulaic than others, stories told often include great examples of general archetypes. Classic characters like the young prince, bad boy turned good, diligent but poor kind-hearted soul, clownlike friend… they are all there in K-dramas. With fairytale characters, there are often some rules each must follow because of the allocated role they play. There are also ‘rules’ that exist within shows. In the Heroines of K-dramas there are a certain number of plusses – familiar responsibility taken willingly, constancy, chastity, charity, kindness – that overcome the required minuses – not so slim or pretty (once again, culturally defined by those watching), less educated, poor, outspoken… the first set of qualities are required for her to be worthy of being in the Heroine role, the second to connect with the mass viewership who might connect themselves to the imperfections and subsequently see the possibility of becoming heroines.

I like this approach to positive connections – at the same time, it’s important to look at the character you’ve scripted for yourself and others. Firstly, are you the victim or the hero(ine) in your own story? Maybe there’s one area that you’ve scripted yourself as having less control over than you really do. Who are the characters surrounding you – really? Go from the classic labels you’ve put on others and try out another possible character for that person (funny friend may become a dynamic business partner, an obnoxious, smooth-talking colleague may be seen instead as an injured and unsure child…) You may find different scenes for them when you look at them differently. Who do you need to write out of your drama? There may be people who really are ‘villainous’ to your virtue – and those energy sucking relationships sometimes are better left to die off after an episode or too.

Creating your own life-long story can be an exciting, and at times daunting, task. The subconscious mind is a great way to support you in getting onto the station you want and need. I’d write more, but my show’s back on…

Wishing you a wonderful August, mind, body and Seoul.


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