[HanCinema's Column] Kdrama Fandom - Accepting Creative Decisions

The persistence and aversion to change of the majority of kdrama fans is nothing new. Neither is our overall preference for romance, handsome young men and the less challenging sides of entertainment. However, where one would think there are limits to how strong and forceful that behavior can get, we are often surprised to find out it gets worse.

The trigger for this post is the reaction by the international fan community to the romantic pairing of Lee Beom-soo and SNSD's Yoona for 'The Prime Minister and I'. Now, big age gaps are not romantic to everyone, for various reasons. That is to be expected. It is also to be expected that an older man (at the ripe old age of 44) without model looks will not attract many of the younger fans or those who prefer a cast more on the younger and aesthetically pleasing side. That is all fine. It is also fine to express that. Say we disapprove of it, will not watch the show and move on.

But the barrage of comments that can be found on articles and material posted about the series paints a much more worrying image. For one, the comments have been lacking that distinction between reality and fiction that characterizes many a fanatic. Lee Beom-soo has been called everything from her father to a pedophile online and Yoona has been treated like a child unable to make her own decisions about her career and who she acts in a romance with. A romance which many seem to forget is not real.

But the underlying message of such posts is the bigger problem. We do not like this, it is not to our taste, change it. And that, in a nutshell is the way in which fans contribute to dramas not moving forward. What the people who make such comments do not realize is that it is a) irrational to make such demands and b) disrespectful to all involved. It is even disrespectful to the actors and actresses we say we admire and like, when their choices are rejected without having even been given the time of day before passing judgment at them.

Yes, young fans like youthful fairytale romances. They also like pairs they can swoon over and find pleasing to look at. This is not a one-time incident. When Choi Kang-hee was paired with Joo Won for '7th Grade Civil Servant', many international netizens could not fathom the idea that "his mom" would be romancing their young, handsome, ever so innocent oppa. The same thing happened back then. And this is but one topic on which demands are made. From character style to screen time to plot, we are simply used to demanding.

Taste and opinion are everyone's right. But when they start turning into demands, they become dangerous. The Korean drama filming system is problematic, we all know that. Series are filmed as they are aired, the schedules are tight, people even get sick or injured often due to the bad conditions. We have heard and spoken about these things before. Wishing for some small changes or then expressing hope for a bigger shift in certain issues is a reasonable thing to do. We hope dramas become more creative. We hope we get more of a certain genre. We hope they can fix that godawful perm a character has. But by demanding that the writers change the entire concept, main couple or plot of a specific series just to fit our demands, we are asking them to ruin the entire production, threaten the coherence and integrity of the story and cause pain to all involved. We are also asking them to change their own creative work. All because of one reason. We are spoiled.

We are so used to being given all we want, that we take it for granted our personal wishes matter the most and must always be fulfilled. We do not take no for an answer. If we do not like something, it is not our own obligation to just walk away. Instead, we must try and force our will about things we barely understand, on the people working hard to provide us with entertainment.

But the important question is one. What do we want? What does the industry want? What do we, all of "us" want? We sometimes wonder why dramas are so repetitive and full of cliches. If repetitive and limited is all we ask for, that is all we are going to get. While it is everyone's right to enjoy that entertainment, our inability to understand that not everything created will or should suit our individual needs leads to us attacking anything and everything which defies the norm, offers something new or tries a different approach.

And that is unfair. It is unfair to the companies and artists who have stories to tell and content to offer and it is unfair to the different types of people who make up this fandom and want different things from their entertainment. Fluffy dramas with young pretty people will not go away anytime soon and they shouldn't. We all enjoy them. But we must also learn to accept and encourage variety and originality, even if we will have to skip a work in order for others to enjoy it and for the industry to grow and grow up. Even if we, as international fans, often cannot change much about dramas with our comments, it still does not make such demands fair.

So by all means, as fans in general, we should speak our mind, but respect other fans and the creators at the same time. Disapprove, criticize and move on. Express wishes that more of what we like will be made in the future. But we should also understand the power we hold as an audience and how it carries with it its own rights and obligations towards the entertainment we all love and all the people involved in it.

Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'