The Netflix Effect: K-drama Tropes

Upon finishing Extracurricular - a realistic portrayal of high school students involved in prostitution - I weighed up the pros-and-cons.  Although there were many of each, one con, in particular, seemed to linger in my mind.  I couldn't quite decide if I had watched a K-drama or a Netflix drama.  It might seem trivial to some, but I believe it's an important distinction to make.  K-dramas are as popular around the world as they are today, primarily, due to factors that are unique to Korean shows, and if removed, can greatly affect a drama's fabric.  I'm referring to tropes, of course, which are part of the fabric that is a K-drama, and in Extracurricular, they were noticeably absent.

Now I do wonder, how much of that is the result of Netflix's involvement?  It's hard to say, but I can't quite dismiss the fact that Extracurricular resembled - in style and substance - the standard Netflix series.  It was plain to see: gone, for the most part, were the tropes that are intrinsically Korean.  It seemed to lack the charm that generally keeps us glued to our screens. Extracurricular is, on the surface, a K-drama, but it's a show that could've taken place anywhere in the world, and I believe this is problematic.

I do admit, K-drama tropes are often absurd and, at times, repetitive, but it is also true that I've reached a point now, as a K-drama fan, that I deliberately look for them.  They've become part of my nightly ritual, and to leave them behind is to impair an operation that functions well.  Ridding dramas of their tropes would be an unforced error, to use a sports term, and it could possibly stymie much of the progress Korean television has made internationally.   

Instead, I suggest streamlining tropes by maintaining the ones most cherished and doing away with the tedious and mindless.  One trope I'd put an end to, immediately, comes to mind: when a couple unavoidably takes a spill and lands on each other's lips.  I know I will anger some, but I'd say it is time to retire this especially cringe-making folly.  At the same time, it is imperative to preserve the existence of another: rooftops, for it is often on rooftops where the most intimate moments occur.  It is where the characters share secrets and confide in one another.  The staging of rooftop conversations is, essentially, a Korean drama staple.  It's as entrenched in K-drama lore as the heavy rain fall that, oftentimes, coaxes the male lead to hold up an umbrella for his lover.  Or, the heroine of the story, who inevitably falls and hurts her foot, knowing the man she loves will carry her home on his back.  

This is a major reason why we watch and enjoy K-dramas, for tropes are like a warm, cozy blanket on a cold winter's night.  We might scoff at them and curse them as one might a newly-adopted puppy that has just pooped on your floor, but deep down inside, we know that a K-drama without tropes is, effectively, a magician without his tricks...

It simply doesn't work.


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