It’s been a long time.
And I haven’t felt like saying much. But not because I didn’t have something to say. Oh no! I have filled simply volumes of books in the last several months, trying to come to terms with a new…medium. Or genre? Not sure what to call it. But I’ve finally hit a point where I feel like I can tell you all about it.
Friends and family will tell you that I have become obsessed (“simply obsessed!” as one friend put it) with Korean film and television. I will admit that for the last year, I’ve watched little else.
But I am uncomfortable with the label “obsessed” because it implies a deeply, passively uncritical rabid fangirl who is in it for the hot men and patriarchal values (although this too is exactly the opposite of what a fan does – a fan is nothing if not an active participant interacting with and judging media). Especially as an American well outside of the intended audience for K-drama, there are unsettling and uncomfortable stereotypes involved when admitting to watching these shows.
And yet –
Yet, I find the stories captivating. Challenging. Satisfying and infuriating. And for all their stereotypical plot points and archetypal characters, they showcase a humanity of surprising depth within even the lightest of the teen romances. They are, for me, compelling in a way that American television, as good as it is (and it is!), hasn’t felt in a long time.
All of which means that I am watching shows in a language that is becoming familiar, and searching out films to complete oeuvres by people no one mentioned in film school. More and more of the music playing in my car is from a continent I’ve never been to. The last year has been a liminal year, transformative in a way that I never imagined it would be when I started that first show, looking for something short and funny before bed, and finding something long and beautiful and outrageous and heartbreaking, instead.
It has been a year of finding the sacred in narrative, in the most fantastical and melodramatic of stories. Stories that have been created as a product – one designed to sell stardom – but nonetheless transcend mere commercialism. And in that sacred, the everyday exists and thrives, making cross cultural connections. A way of living that is as familiar as my own, even as setting and details differ, leaps off the screen at me.
Maybe I am obsessed.
And so I haven’t wanted to share my musings just in case I was completely wrong about everything I was seeing. Or making huge leaps without any relation to the ground. And I didn't want to muddle into the ugly and frustrating stereotypes that often follow those who admit to being fond of the various Asian popular culture art forms. But if I don't talk (write?) to you about this, then I'm not sure what else to write about.
True, I have a half dozen drafts of other pieces started, but I can't be bothered. Rather than fall silent, especially when I am bursting with ideas, I'm going to start talking here. I will likely get stuff wrong. And my ideas and understandings will change, I know. But I have come to the realization that no matter how much I wish it differently, I can't know everything right away...or even a year into watching something. And to not talk about what I'm thinking and feeling and experiencing is disingenuous and deeply cowardly.
So here we go. I hope you'll join me down the rabbit hole.