Drama Queens Top 10 Staples in a Kdrama

So what makes a Kdrama a Kdrama?

Having been an avid fan of this genre for quite a few years now, i have noticed a trend that is often repeated when it comes to certain scenes that are played often, series after series…

These are the formulaic staple that’s sure to be present in any Kdrama no matter what the year, story, the circumstances it was written in or whoever the characters might be …

They can be used to elicit pity, evoke laughter, bring us to tears or simply to make our hearts melt… which most often than not is almost always the case…

In honor of these said staples which never gets old and which continues to reel us in as avid Kdrama fanatics,  i now present my TOP 10 list of Kdrama must haves that continue to elicit the same response from me no matter how many times i’ve seen it or even if i have long ago memorized the drill…

1.  Piggyback rides


Uses and Manifestations:

What Kdrama is complete without the leading man carrying around the leading actress like a sack of potatoes on his back?

Whether she is in a drunken state,  just tired or is in need of some form of treatment (In which case, i think first aid, a call to 911 or an ambulance would have been the best way to go…) expect a kdrama to always deliver when it comes to a piggyback riding scene…

Most often, these scenes are accompanied by drunken confessions or a turn of events that would make the one being carried to divulge deeper, innermost feelings that they would never have the courage to say otherwise and in turn it can stir the emotions of the one carrying as they realize how much they have learnt to care or start to care for the person on their back…

The piggyback scene is almost always a turning point in any series that bodes of either great things to come between two people who are in love or about to fall in love but it can also evoke feelings of concern for a friend that could never be yours, sadness over a love that’s ending or that has ended and it could also be a good reference later on for a “who has the last laugh moment” as we look back on how the disgusted male lead swears to himself in the beginning that he would never fall for a woman who gets drunk enough to be carried… (and we all know where that would end later…)

In a Kdrama, a piggyback ride is the sweetest form of skinship and if you are a kdrama writer and you find yourself suddenly out of ideas as to how to have that awww inducing moment? Then the piggyback ride is the way to go because it is always fail safe and always manages to draw the viewers in, hook, line and sinker…

Ride like the wind:

My name is Kim Sam Soon, Prosecutor Princess, Playful Kiss, Personal Taste, Coffee Prince

2.  Love Square


Uses and Manifestations

It doesn’t matter if it’s your best friend or step brother or a brother that is not really your brother…

It could even be an ex that is still carrying a torch for you despite the passing of years or one that’s simply greedy that she or he does not want you to be with someone else… In a kdrama the more people it is who are in love with you, the merrier!

And why not, since most of the drama in a drama comes from these circumstances…

The convoluted twists and turns of jealousy, unrequited love, obsession and the endless heartache of two other people that makes the love story between the OTP oh so much more complicated…

In a kdrama only those who get the guy or girl emerge victorious and woe to those who pin their hopes on the other party…

Just like how the second leads are always portrayed in the story, for sure you would only end up feeling empty as you pin your hopes in a pairing that is a doomed from the very beginning because as the law of kdrama  states, it ain’t a kdrama unless someone ends up with their heart broken…

I love you, you love her, she loves someone else:

Spring Waltz, Autumn Shower, Autumn in My Heart, Que Sera Sera, Winter Sonata

3.  Drinking


Uses and Manifestations:

Whether its at home with friends, in a pojangmacha (tent) with the other half of the OTP or in an upscale bar with your love rival,  a kdrama won’t end it’s story without any of the characters being seen without a bottle of soju or getting drunk enough to pass out on the streets which almost always ends up in a piggyback ride if it is between a leading man and a leading lady… (see entry number 1)

Drinking normally expresses how a kdrama character is so down in the dumps that they could only drown their sorrow through alcohol but it can also be a scene to illustrate how strong a female character is that she can stand up to a male character in an equal playing field…

(This also applies to a possible love rival… Ergo: last person left who doesn’t vomit or faint especially after a one shot gets bragging rights and wins!)

Most of the time a drinking scene is interjected into the storyline as a plot set up since majority of confessions are done only when the one confessing is completely inebriated…

However, the drunken scene can also be fully utilized as a funny and cute meet up between the OTP or the second lead because only in k dramas can a lush be completely intoxicated and yet still be totally attractive…

Let’s toast to that:

Wish Upon A Star, Fantasy Couple, Dr. Champ, City Hall, Queen of Reversals

4.  Fainting, Nosebleeds and illness


Uses and Manifestations:

Oh, the complexities of a nosebleed or a fainting spell in a kdrama…

It can signify anything as mild as fatigue if you’re watching a rom com or a trendy drama but it can be as extreme as cancer if you’re watching a hardcore melodrama…

Sometimes i wonder if Korea is really a land of sickly, undernourished, anemic people..

Why?

Because Fainting spells are a dime a dozen and nosebleeds occur just at the snap of a finger…

These scenes are normally brought into the story to emphasize just how pitiful and heroic the female lead is for being so overworked because she loves her family and wants to feed them or because she needs to pay off a debt that is otherwise incurred by another more irresponsible friend or family member…

Fainting spells also come in handy after someone gets soaked in the rain because of a broken heart or as a plot shifter if it happens not to the leads but to someone who’s very important to them… (ex: father, mother, brother, sister, etc…)

However, extreme caution should be taken if fainting and nosebleed happens in a hardcore melodrama…

Should this happen, it is expected that someone will die at the end (normally while being piggybacked beside the seaside) and if So Ji Sub or Song Hye Gyo is anywhere near the drama, i suggest you brace yourself and prepare boxes of Kleenex because trust me, you would be needing it to wipe the copious amount of tears and snot that you will secrete while watching it’s ending…

911 should be on speed dial:

Boys Over Flowers, Bad Couple, I’m Sorry I love you, Save the Last Dance For Me,  Stairway to Heaven

5.  Meddling Parents/Evil Parents

Uses and Manifestations

Ever heard of the saying Mothers know best?

Well, Korea takes that seriously…

Whether it be in the marital life of their children, the job they’re getting or simply in the choices of girlfriends (or boyfriends) that they make, expect a meddling in law or an evil mother to always have their say and you’d better steel yourself because most of the time it gets ugly…

Even moreso, if the male lead is a chaebol who is heir apparent to the family business and the female lead happens to be a poor but kindhearted lass who does not have a penny to their name…

They will leave no stone unturned, no rivers uncrossed, no option left open just to make the life of anyone who gets in their way miserable even to the point where they will kill, kidnap or maim just so her child will give up on that love and marry the girl whom she chooses for him to marry…

Oh yes, democracy is a foreign word in Mommie dearest vocabulary…

She will throw you out on the streets, feed you to the lions, crush you like a bug if she had her way…They are the scariest villains ever in the history of TV and if Lucifer has a counterpart in a kdrama,  then i have no doubt that he might have taken this form because they are as evil as evil can be…

In the company of Cinderellas Stepmother:

Yoon Na Young from Flames of Desire, Park Seong Hee from Brilliant Legacy, Mama Kang from Boys Over Flowers, Mrs. Hong from I am Legend

6.  Singing/Noraebang scenes


Uses and Manifestations:

If there’s one other thing that Koreans love as much as drinking it would be nothing else but singing…

Singing scenes are mostly put into the script to bring in the laughs as we see our leads let their hair loose, grow wild or sashay like rockstars but it can also be a scene where one can cry his or her heart out and express their pain through the use of a song…

Depending on the context, a singing scene may be used to express aegyo (or cuteness) which draws the OTP closer and it could also be utilized to make the audience fall in love with the leads a little bit deeper …

However, it can also elicit angst as we watch two people make sad puppy eyes at each other from across a room, as if they’re the only ones left among a sea of loud drunken people while the lyrics of what they’re singing pierce through our hearts as it speaks of a love that can never be or the depth of their feelings for each other…

Sing, Sing a song:

Get Karl Oh Soo Jung, Alone in Love, My Girl, Coffee House

7.  Tepid lip presses


Uses and Manifestations:

This item is not so much of a staple as a norm when it comes to these type of scenes in a kdrama but thank goodness that kissing scenes in present day Kdramas have vastly improved in this area from the kdramas of old!

In the 90’s and early 00’s (and i meant 2000), passion can only be expressed in a kdrama most of the time through the pressing together of the leads lips with their eyes tightly shut,  then the camera does all the work by spinning around them probably to make us believe that the act is earthshaking…

Frankly it only made us dizzy…

As if we really would be fooled when watching them go at it when it only makes them look as if they are strangers wary of getting a virus from each other or cold fishes with their lips stuck against their will to one another…

Love in the lovestory – Check…

Love in the lovemaking – Zero…

Sadly, passion is everywhere in the story except where it matters…

And that is in the kissing…

Kiss Me like you mean it… NOT!

Full House, Lovers in Paris, Sassy Girl Chun Hyang, Wonderful Life, My Love Patzzi

8.  Wrist/Hand grabbing

Uses and Manifestations:

In the real world, a wrist or hand grab might be rewarded with a serious case of assault or a trip to the police station but in a Kdrama, it sends our heart fluttering and our eyeballs rolling…

A wrist grab or a hand grab comes in handy when the male lead is at the peak of his anger normally because of jealousy, protective instincts, frustration or just because he’s reach the end of his tether because the female lead refuses to see just how much he’s sorry or how much he feels for her…

Normally,  a passionate kiss, a heartfelt confession or a tearful plea for the heroine to stay follows a hand grab and what happens after that as we all know is that we all go swooning…

Handsy Pansy:

Cinderellas Sister, Oh My Lady, Bad Guy, A love to Kill

9. Flashbacks done in MTV like moments

Uses and Manifestations

If only life were as simple as a kdrama then every event in our lives will be set to beautiful music…

We can spend our days staring listlessly into space while flashbacks of scenes past play through our minds like a montage replete with a moody theme song…

We can cry our eyes out while vividly recalling a love that felt so right which suddenly went wrong as a soulful ballad hums in the background…

We can secretly smile as we go about our daily chores as we remember love filled moments shared with a person that we are starting to have feelings for while an upbeat and feel good ditty plays along…

In a Kdrama every scenario is depicted like a Rodgers and Hammerstein production set against the backdrop of a symphony of melody and music...It doesn’t matter if you have short term amnesia and fear not if you missed out certain parts of a series…

Believe me, chances are they would get replayed even if it just happened a few minutes ago because otherwise, how in the world would they fill in the time until episode 16 or showcase the dramas OST made specifically for the series?

Video Killed the Radiostar:

You’re Beautiful, The Wedding, Princess Hours

10. Stuffed Toys and inanimate objects

Uses and Manifestations:

In a nod to childhood fantasies or in deference to that age old marketing ploy called commercialism, kdramas, especially romcoms are replete with material things that play a big part in the story…

It could be used to hide secret messages, stand in as a clone for a lead or be a point of remembrance that could later on send our waterworks flowing, but these objects somehow manages to immortalize a drama and make us remember it for a long time and best of all, it makes Korea richer while us addicts get a few more dollars poorer…

Hug Me, Squeeze Me…

What’s up Fox?, My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, My Name is Kim Sam Soon

So what about you? Any other Kdrama scenes that gives you a feeling of deja vu as you find yourself watching it in a multitude of dramas again and again?

Feel free to comment and discuss… I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About donnapie

Kdrama fanatic, Kim Hyun Joong obsessed, MinSun shipper, closet writer
This entry was posted in Kdrama Top Selection and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Drama Queens Top 10 Staples in a Kdrama

  1. Fenris says:

    Nice list. The list actually applies to the whole of MGIAG too. 🙂

    1) Piggyback Rides (well, it was actually MiHo who gave Woong a piggyback ride. lol)
    2) Love Square (Dong Joo -> MiHo Dae Woong <- Hye In)
    3) Drinking
    4) Fainting & Illness (Episode 10/11 … sniffles)
    5) Meddling Parent (or stand-in parent, like Grandpa)
    6) Singing (Nae chingu Miho neun…)
    7) Tepid Lip Presses (Saranghae … )
    8) Wrist Grabbing
    9) MTV-like Flashbacks
    10) Stuffed Toys (Chicken Drumstick!)

  2. missjb says:

    How I love the alarm clock in Prosecutor princess who become a secret agenda and the main plot to resolve the problem…. that’s so beautiful

  3. katwoman says:

    Sudden u-turns. Why do the guys always have epiphanies in the car and make the sudden u-turn and NOT get hit by another car in a city as crowded as Seoul?

  4. zsa86 says:

    Haha… this is so true…

  5. a_fan says:

    He he he. THis is funny and all so true. I find the piggy back ride the most intimate thing to do. In Playful Kiss, HaNi is always wearing short skirts so Seung Jo grabbed her bare legs. She in turn has legs astride his back and at one point they were cheek to cheek. The piggyback rides were more intimate than their first 2 kisses.

  6. jeankaycee says:

    nice list donnapie!!!!
    i suddenly thought of gambling fathers of the hero/heroine.
    loan sharks as well!!!! LOL!

  7. Cheryl says:

    I call the kissing – pancake kisses. Like two flapjacks.

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