Before we clear the decks for next week I want to talk about three things that relate to questions brought up by my fellow Drama Clubbers, Cindy
: why I love k-dramas, how Dating Agency: Cyrano
differs from dramas on Korean network tv, and the performance of one of the guest stars, SHINee's Taemin.
Cindy asked why we’re all drama fans in her recap yesterday
. For me, the structure of Korean dramas—usually sixteen epsiodes—allows the shows to provide great character development while ultimately delivering payoff on the main storylines. Having a (usually) fixed end date offers tremendous opportunities for telling romantic stories. Couples on the English-language shows I used to watch engaged in ceaseless “will they/won’t they” push and pull due to the necessity of keeping plot tensions high, since the shows have a virtually open-ended run. With the possibility that the show could continue for three, five, or nine more years, the producers don’t want to resolve one of the main sources for interesting and ratings-garnering conflict. When I realized that I didn’t much care about the “case of the week” on the shows I used to watch, and I was wasting a lot of time watching for the one significant look or meaningful sentence between characters every few episodes, I decided that I needed to get what I really wanted: romantic comedy. I, too, am a rom-com fan, and k-drama really hits the screwball, romantic, slapstick, colorful, wordplay sweetspot for me. The Cyrano
car alone suggests that we’re in for just that sort of fun ride on this show.
I love k-dramas for their fluffy and romantic escapism, but I also find them fulfilling to watch because they require my full attention; I have to remain focused to read the subtitles, listen for words I might recognize, watch the action, guess the plot and so on. I’m a fan of psychology theorist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who argues that people are happy when they’re completely concentrating on whatever it is they’re doing—sometimes to the point of being so engaged with the task that they lose track of time and don’t need sleep or food. This theory sort of explains why so many of us
are hooked on k-dramas
One of the things that keeps me fully engaged while watching k-dramas is learning about Korean culture, or at least how it’s portrayed on television—and this is where I’m having trouble connecting with Dating Agency: Cyrano.
While watching the drama, my husband pointed out that it does not seem to have a storyline that includes elders. In fact, the characters seem to inhabit a world populated almost exclusively by people from 15 to 45 years old. Even on broadcast network shows set in present-day Seoul, domineering mothers, prickly grandmothers, and tough love daddies are fairly common characters. Bowing and other traditional gestures of respect are also virtually absent from Cyrano
, and there is significant inclusion of English and of Western references such as Sherlock Holmes and Cyrano de Bergerac.
characters aren’t even really indulging in what would be considered traditional Korean food. When we see the characters eating, they seem to be chowing down on pasta, possibly in connection with product placement for one of the show's sponsors. Given that I have learned how to cook just about everything I’ve seen characters make in dramas—I have the fermented soybean paste stew photos to prove it—my hunger for new k-food information isn’t being satisfied by the show. Add in the 45-minute running time versus one hour plus on network tv and a pretty significant difference in the filming and lighting style, and we're watching something that I feel bears more resemblance to the programs I was watching on US cable than network k-dramas.
Here’s the problem: after discovering k-dramas I canceled the cable package. It was a decision motivated in part by the pretty steep bill, but also because I didn't want to watch the scripted shows I was used to seeing. Once I had a taste of k-drama, I wanted to watch romantic comedies that also informed me about a different culture that I found really interesting. So that’s the source of my less-than-normal excitement for Dating Agency: Cyrano
: I feel like I’m only getting the romantic comedy half of what I want from the show. I’m hoping that as I connect with the characters and the plot takes off, my initial struggle to really fall for Cyrano
will be a thing of the past.
How is everyone else feeling about the less prominent role of Korean food, elders, and gestures of respect in Cyrano
? Is this just my hang-up, or are you finding that you have to adjust your expectations as well? On the other hand, the resemblance to some popular shows outside of Korea might make really watchable for other viewers. Are some of you finding that Cyrano
delivers what you’ve been wanting from k-dramas or maybe serves as a good introduction to Korean tv?
Ok, let’s talk about Taemin. As Shai and Cindy mentioned, Taemin from SHINee guest starred in episodes three and four as a superstar idol and Cyrano
client. I feel like I can say this because I run a blog devoted to shrieking over how perfect he is on We Got Married
: I didn't like some of the ways Taemin’s character was written and I found his acting to be uneven. I doubt that even perpetually wiggly, dancing machine Taemin twirled around his high school so conspicuously.
More curious is Taemin's acting. His first scenes had just enough unnatural spotlight on the BIG GUEST STAR, shyness, and “idol acting” that I wanted to hide inside myself due to embarrassment. The problem isn't necessarily Taemin's acting, but Taemin's natural awkwardness when forced to stand still and talk toward a camera without blinking furiously. He has been so surprisingly direct and forward on We Got Married
thus far that I have [jokingly] wondered if he is using beta blockers like a sniper to banish his shyness.
All of this is more than balanced out by the fact that somehow when Taemin has a scene right next to a human girl, I think he does a pretty smashing job of conveying an understated longing. I still haven’t quite figured out why Taemin’s character likes the class president so much, but when he is in the same scene with her, I just believe it—and that’s pretty remarkable for someone with limited acting experience. Taemin’s guest starring role continues next week, when he will no doubt discover that Cyrano Agency employee Ah Rang is locking lips with the class president.
Do you think there’s any chance of a happy ending for Taemin or will his character need to comfort himself with album sales and greater superstardom? And what do you think about Taemin acting? Was I too harsh or not critical enough?
More Dating Agency: Cyrano Drama Club Posts:
Episodes 1-4 [ Part 1
] [ Part 2
] [Part 3
Check out the Dating Agency: Cyrano Drama Club Member's individual blogs: