Love and the Single Muse


May 19, 2015 by museofmanymasks

I confess to having had this weird sort of snobbery concerning romantic movies/tv shows before I began watching Korean dramas. By this I mean I didn’t watch them unless humoring my mother for our mommy-daughter bonding and decried them all as dumb. The one exception was my love of classic Hollywood screwballs, especially those starring Cary Grant. Even then, I hardly acknowledged the reality that those movies did, in fact, fall into the dreaded genre of romantic comedies. I have since developed very specific criteria for any romantic K-dramas, or cinema at large, which allows me to maintain that I have not betrayed my nature.

By Genre:
  • If it is a rom-com, it must be funny
    • If I am not inundated with a steady stream of riotous/sly/satirical/punny or otherwise digestible humor, it won’t stick with me enough to stick with it. Furthermore, if such humor is outweighed by other nuisances, the result will be the same.
    • I am picky with my mush. The quirkier and more off the wall the GRAND ROMANTIC GESTURE, the better. Or if these moments must be paint-by-numbers, undercutting is my best friend
  • If it is a melodrama, tearjerking must be balanced by a tone of suspense, action, mystery etc.
    •  Preferences include plots with gangsters, assassins, conmen, spies, warriors etc. What can I say? Tears are best mixed with blood for highest entertainment value
By Narrative:
  • Subplots should validate the characters as people and not just kissy play things
    • They should have thoughts, purposes, actions, etc. beyond their romantic entanglements. This extends their  humanity, therefore extending my ability to empathize
  • A sufficient motive for love or acknowledgment of the incompleteness
    • If characters are going to risk life, limb, professional competence, etc., for their significant other, I need a fleshed out reason beyond he/she is pretty and/or nice. Fine to begin a meet-cute this way, but 16+ episodes of Sturm und Drang need more than this (again, for the sake of humanity and empathy).
    • If there isn’t really a reason beyond general beauty/pleasantness, then it should be a recognized part of the plot. Which to the causes of variance and realism (“ugly”/mean people have relationships too, what’s their excuse?)
  • Healthy interpersonal relationships that the OTP maintain on a regular basis outside of each other (dramas featuring love geometry seem to miss this more often)
  • Chemistry
    • Now this is the one that I see get the most mention as a baseline requirement for others, but also one that seems to be pretty subjective. I remain fairly ambivalent with it. Some can claim a couple is the hottest thing since wasabi, but I won’t see it, and vice versa. Notably, I tend to look through the lens of the above criteria. Gauging chemistry also seems to be based on the viewer’s personal assessments of and attraction to the actor and actress as well, so again, *shrug*. I’d love to hear how others puzzle this out.
TL;DR: Romances outside of the bubble gum variety that have nuanced characters that don’t exist in a vacuum, and/or are extremely hilarious. Do you have any requirements of the genres you watch?

P.S. Eventually, I will update this with specific shows.


6 thoughts on “Love and the Single Muse

  1. hariaharia says:

    My very first kdrama was The Greatest love. I turned off my phone by the episode No 4 and got ruined for ever. My rom-coms have always measured up to Hong Sisters’ work ever since. Though, I think not even HS can write as good as HS, sometimes…well, does this make any sense at all? See what a deranged have I become? Totally ruined for life, my fellow muse!


    • It sounds like sense to me but as I have fool in my moniker you might want a second opinion lol. I’ve never finished a HS but their gimmicks are always creative. How’s W&C in your opinion? I wasn’t interested but then I remembered Kim Sung-Oh is the second lead which I need to see happen.


      • hariaharia says:

        The real fun begins after ep.4 in HS babies, imho. So I’ll wait for this week’s ep.3-4 and off to a marathon. The truth is whoever survives the creation of their “universe” during the first episodes will be rewarded by a hilarious comedy and a decent romance. Poor KSO…his role in Night Watchman was such a shame. I hope MBC makes it up to him this time because he really deserves it! BTW, your posts are so wonderfully written *chapeau*


        • I have since checked the first 2 out (or I semi cheated, I had already read the recap for the first on db and when I got bored I decided to start watching at the 2nd). So far it seems suitable for KSO’s redemption lol. Aw thank you! Hopefully there’s more of that coming. *tips hat*

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Elle says:

    I love Hollywood classics too! Cary Grant is a fav of course.

    But I’ve always been an admirer of rom-coms–K-drama and otherwise. I watch tv and read books to escape from reality so I prefer my entertainment with at least some level of implausibility. I get enough of the realities of life in my daily life that it’s nice to sit back & not think too hard when I’m watching a show or movie. When I get tired of fluff, then I pick up something more suBstantial to even things out. I like when rom-coms are hilariously funny, but I can still enjoy them when the comedy is slightly toned down too.

    When I first started watching K-dramas, I didn’t mind the makjang melos. But now I tend to stay away from them if I can. I think every drama has a bit of melo in it. That’s why the Korean psyche (at least as represented on the big & small screen) is fascinating to me. Everything seems to involve some level of suffering. The real melos just take it to a whole other level.

    Anyway, nice post!


    • It’s not so much that I eschew fluff as I much as I need a a certain level of world building. Implausibility is cool if its consistent. I definitely have the same thing where I have to rotate my fluff and weighty. Right now I’m in the mood for the former but several of the shows I’m watching, while excellent aren’t light enough and I’m dragging my feet and I feel all bad ha. I think the only melos I can really do are the ones focused on antiheroes because their suffering is gratifying rather than frustrating. It is fascinating how every show no matter the premise or tone gets a dose of it though. I wonder where along the line and why it became a narrative requirement. Thank you! I’m just getting back into the groove.


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