Sunday, September 29, 2013

Second Lead Syndrome

This is a term I hadn't heard of before I began watching kdramas, but it happens quite often: the second lead is more appealing than the lead actor. This usually means that you ship the female lead and the second male lead. (Shipping means you root for a relationship.) For example, in Boys over Flowers why didn't the girl like Blondie, who was much nicer to her than Curly Hair? He was more her friend, and you'd think she wouldn't have hung out with him so much if she didn't like him. Although he couldn't act. But Curly Hair Guy had intensity going for him.

In Sungkyunkwan Scandal (a story about a girl dressing up as a boy to get into a boys' school) although the two main characters did get along together well, I still liked Robin Hood better than Rooftop. He was mysterious, a tough fighter, and above all, possessor of The Mane of Glory, which is supposed to be a sign of the hero. He was smart; he had read all the books in the library. Besides that, he was often to be found hiding up on top of a roof or posing tastefully in a tree.

A gumiho is a nine-tailed fox from Korean mythology that can turn into a person. The one in My Girlfriend is a Gumiho falls in love with a human and wants to become human and stay with him. A  half-goblin man (who is much more beautiful than anyone else) is sent to catch her and decides to help instead. You wonder if she will  stay with him or the human.

Greatest Love is another one. An arrogant, very famous actor thinks he loves a has-been singer because when he hears her sing his heart beats faster. The real reason is that he heard her songs while having heart surgery (however logical that is). The singer meets a cute acupuncture doctor and has to choose between them. The doctor is nicer than the actor and moreover doesn't have an evil weird cackle.

Prosecutor Princess is about a fashion-crazy prosecutor gradually getting to be effective at her job, being coached along by a (seemingly) friendly lawyer.  Nampyeon and I liked a male prosecutor (the Reaper from Arang and the Magistrate) as much as the lawyer, and the Princess has competition from another female prosecutor who also likes him.

In Secret Garden the male lead was pretty mean for much of the show, although he became nice later on. It was our first kdrama and we didn't know that this is a common plot ploy, so we resented it more than we would now. When the director of the stunt school seemed better than Rich Boy, Second Lead Syndrome hit. He was reticent but kindhearted. Then Rich Boy's cousin began to grow on you and SLS hit again. Oof. Twice in one show.

In general I like lots of good secondary characters, and I like more good guys than bad guys. But do they all have to like the same girl? Sometimes everyone pairs up and they are all happy, but a lot of times they don't. There's just a little tendency towards melancholy in Korean dramas. But who knows what will happen? The second lead in You're Beautiful didn't get the girl, but they paired up later in Heartstrings and got a second chance. Although it turned out a little dull.  Now I need another show with Cousin Oska from Secret Garden in it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dealing with Korean Names in Dramas

Some time has gone by and I have gotten into Korean dramas a lot more. I have lurked around blogs and sites, googled "best kdrama" for ideas, and read lots of recaps. I have had unexpected fun discussions with random family members and people in cafes, and compared suggestions of what to watch.

I even revisited that show about the rich high school bullies. Largely because I read that it was a very popular show, and you can understand half the kdrama jokes on the internet if you've seen it. So yeah, it was Boys Over Flowers, and only the first couple of episodes were that bad. The story was about four cute rich boys and one poor spunky not-as-cute girl. Turns out to be a Cinderella plot.

One thing that is hard to get used to is the Korean names, which are just a lot of nonsense syllables to us. And they expect you to remember both the actor's name and the characters name?!? Here and there you get a Philip Lee, which is recognizable, but mostly you get things like Jung Il Woo or Lee Min Ho. (Which actually you start to remember because you see it so much.) However, Nampyeon and I have fallen back on other ways to refer to the characters. Usually we call them by their profession, like The Architect in 49 Days. The other guy is The Bad Guy, and the two girls are The Coma Girl and The Depressed Girl.

In the case of Boys Over Flowers, you have four boys, two of which are easy to distinguish, and two of which are too similar to tell apart at first. This reminded me of the four hobbits in Lord of the Rings. I remembered a review that described them as Frodo and Sam and "two indistinguishable background hobbits." Therefore the main characters of BOF became Curly Hair, Blondie, and two indistinguishable background hobbits dubbed Hobbit #1 (the one with the bigger part, the pottery guy) and Hobbit #2 (the other one, who seems to have had his storyline cut). We didn't learn Lee Min Ho's name until we had watched him in a couple of more dramas.

We got into this type of nomenclature when we watched Sungkyunkwan Scandal. The leading lady was The Girl. The leading man was Rooftop because we had already seen him as the prince in Rooftop Prince. If I tell you we dubbed one of his friends Robin Hood, you will know immediately who it was, if you've seen the show. The scruffy guy who does martial arts. We were in a quandry as to what to call the fourth main character, who is quite the pretty boy. We tried a few things before hitting on Peter Pan, which stuck.

Names carry over to other dramas. When we watched Arang and the Magistrate our favorite secondary character was a Grim Reaper and we simply called him The Reaper. He showed up later in Prosecutor Princess, and we continued calling him The Reaper. This got more complicated when we watched 49 Days (which was our favorite drama ever) and came across another reaper. If we remember, we call him the name from that drama, the Scheduler; but usually he is The Reaper too, even when he shows up in Flower Boy Ramen Shop. Blondie from BOF appears in Playful Kiss (which you have to be about 13 years old to enjoy) and he is still called Blondie, although he is not blonde any more. Hobbit #1 is also in The Woman Who Still Wants to Marry.

The fact that Korean names have the family name first and then the given name doesn't bother us. It's trying to remember it at all. Even if we learn a name while watching the show we quickly forget it again after we finish. Except for Lee Min Ho. Finding English nicknames helps a lot.