Ten cliches of a typical Asian drama

My history with Asian drama watching began with Meteor Garden, as most Asian drama watchers would also say. But it wasn’t a hook-line-and-sinker kind of obsession. When the hype for the Flower Four (Hua Ze Lei, most especially) died down–and when boys that time realized the long hair look does not fit everyone as well as it fits the boys–my excitement died down as well.

But the Filipino broadcast stations’ desire to win the ratings war did not end just like that, and somehow, for very few instances, I’d get hooked to a show or two. I remember religiously following these dramas, back then when I still did not mind them dubbed because there was no other way to access them than the local airwaves: Sweet 18, Full House, Lovers in Paris, Snow White Sweet  Love, etc, etc.

But the seed has somehow been sown and the love for Asian dramas outed itself during senior year of highschool, when my only serious problem was that I can’t religiously follow Devil Beside You as it aired in GMA7 because I always got home too late I’d catch the credits already rolling.

My savior then was my friend Jovita, who let me borrow a DVD copy of said drama. After that, she introduced me to another show that starred the same trio from Devil Beside You, Why Why Love. And the rest, as they say, is history.

If my MyDramalistInfo account is accurate and if my memory doesn’t fail me, then my Asian drama watching stats goes like this:

  • 87 completed dramas
  • 1 currently watching
  • 11 planned
  • on hold
  • 1 dropped

I cannot comprehend how I have watched EIGHTY SEVEN DRAMAS since I took watching seriously back in year 2007. Those are dramas I have watched from start to finish, mind you; some of the dramas I plan to watch are ones I have watched in one way or another, but never from start to finish.

I had to begin this entry with my ~experience~ on Asian drama watching so that I would at least sound credible enough as to make the main point (or points) of this article. Last week, as I wasted another unemployed day away, I came across an allkpop article on the most predictable scenes in Korean dramas. I can’t say I agree with every item, because if there’s anything my MyDramaList account implies, I’ve watched fairly an equal number of Taiwanese and Korean dramas. I’m coming from two different contexts and cultures, so I can’t really say if I’m just being biased or if the report featured in the article is really true or not. (But then again, who am I to judge? I’m not a Korean, neither am I an avid Korean drama watcher)

So to remedy my discomfort for what I thought was an inaccurate list of cliches, I came up with my own list while I was out enjoying the beautiful scenery of Southern Luzon. I’m no expert; just a girl who had too much time in her hands, enough to waste it on drama watching 😛

To avoid ranking the cliches from most cliche to least cliche, I’ll list this down in bullet points instead:

  • Evil mother-in-law offers daughter-in-law a huge amount of money in exchange for her willingness to leave the chaebol son alone. I have not seen a more evil mother-in-law than Dao Ming Si’s mother in Meteor Garden, but a close second would be Kim Joo Won’s mother in Secret Garden.

  • Girl gets sick, boy takes care of her overnight. This is a surefire way to make the guy FINALLY fall in love with the heroine–if he isn’t yet, that is. There’s nothing like worrying over a high fever and losing a wink all night long  to make him realize that he actually cares for her a lot. And all these he does without telling her! Because I’ve recently seen My Princess, I clearly remember that scene when Park Hae Young realized Lee Seol wasn’t faking the sick act and he took care of her overnight. My favorite Korean drama Sweet 18 also had a similar scene: Ahjussi Kwon Hyuk Joon worried over Yoon Jung Sook when she caught a fever after staying out all night (during winter!) waiting for her prosecutor husband to come home from a dangerous mission.

  • The typical I-will-leave/push you away/say I don’t love you-because I love you, or what javabeans and girlfriday would call ‘Noble Idiocy’. This characteristic of most Asian dramas is so common, either to “test” the blossoming love, or just to throw out conflicts that would stretch the series. Ridiculous it may seem, but it has never failed to move viewers’ hearts because true love stands the test of time/distance/in-laws. In Why Why Love (my favorite Taiwanese drama!), the Noble Idiocy was so painful that even Tong Jia Di couldn’t take it anymore, however strong she has proved herself to be. And how could Huo Da be so stupid as to push her away because he is sick? True enough, when Jia Di found out the truth, she showed him nothing but strength and courage, no matter how painful it really was for her. In My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, even if Cha Dae Woong sworn he won’t leave Mi Ho’s side, he still had to do so eventually because her liking him was causing her death.

  • Girl gets drunk? It’s piggyback time! This one’s more of a Korean drama thing than any other Asian dramas, and it’s another way to get the leads to like each other faster. Super close proximity? I don’t think sparks won’t fly. (Kaya nga ba magpapapayat ako para ma-piggyback ako in the future, not that I’m saying I’m ever gonna get drunk!) Personal Taste’s Jeon Jin Ho carried Park Kae In after drinking too much, and he felt a connection when she finally felt what having a father feels like, after being piggybacked by Jin Ho. In Coffee Prince, however, it was the opposite: Go Eun Chan carried drunk Choi Han Kyul on her back, because the latter thought she was a bro.

  • A misunderstanding always arises from an identity kept hidden. Here’s another conflict generator. Take for example that scene in Scent of a Woman when Lee Yeon Jae had to leave Kang Ji Wook and he thought she was just really seducing him for his money, when in fact she just wanted to keep her cancer from him. Or when Miss No Good’s Tang Men thought that Jiang Xiao Hua was transforming herself so as to marry his good (and rich) friend Jia Si Le.

  • Rivals would meet at a cafe; one ends up leaving and almost always, they don’t get to drink what they ordered. I like that kind of world, where conflicts are solved face to face (not thru text) and everyone prepares themselves to have enough courage to pick up that drink faster than the other and throw them to his/her face.  In Devil Beside You, Qi Yue’s first crush and current professor took the time to meet Jiang Meng to correct his misunderstanding about the former and Qi Yue’s relationship. In Summer’s Desire, Shen Qiang was eating when she met up with Xia Mo to clarify the hold-up incident.
  • While thinking about each other (and walking), the couple would always miss seeing each other because of a wall, or a corner, or a bus/train. As if being in a community so small they’d almost always bump into each other isn’t enough, it is even possible that when the couple is having a fight/misunderstanding, they both decide to take a stroll outside at the same time of the night/morning, along the same area, BUT NEVER SEEING EACH OTHER. ToGetHer’s Mars was just one turn of the head away from seeing the homeless Mo Mo who told him she had somewhere to go after being kicked out of her house but was actually roaming the streets, hungry and moneyless.
  • After rejection, the man/woman transforms himself/herself to seek revenge. There’s no better example for this than the Da Lang-Xue Hai transformation in Hi! My Sweetheart, wherein he wanted to better himself thinking Chen Bao Zhu left him because he was poor and ugly. Also in Fated to Love You, Chen Xin Yi left Taiwan and her past so she could forget her failed marriage, her abortion, and her past personality as a sticky note girl. She came back years after as a sassy artist who knows what she wants and how she could get it.

  • One always overhears a conversation and misunderstands or discovers a big secret. Because again, the characters all live in a small town and they all have the tendency to overhear each other’s conversations #sarcasm. In 49 Days, Shin Ji Hyun in Song Yi Kyung’s body overheard Kang Min Ho and Shin In Jung reveal their secret relationship behind her back. Meanwhile, Lin Xiao Ru in Love You decides to leave Song Jie Xiu when she overheard him saying he can’t stop blaming her for his mom’s accident.

  • When one does not want to receive a call, he/she removes the battery of the phone instead of just simply turning it off. THIS, EVERY SINGLE TIME, IN EVERY SINGLE DRAMA I’VE SEEN.

There you go! I don’t know if you agree, or if you think this list is lacking. Of course as it is limited to ten items I’m sure I have missed out/forgotten a lot more cliches. Do comment and tell me more of the cliches that might have irritated us while watching, but in the long run, we have also come to love. 🙂

PS: I did not intend to, but I think I’ve mentioned almost all of Rainie Yang’s dramas here, except for Sunshine Angel which would totally qualify for the tenth cliche 😛

Me, when watching a drama. Do not let the frown deceive you. Kinikilig na ako nyan chos

9 thoughts on “Ten cliches of a typical Asian drama

  1. This is so much more accurate to me than the allkpop article! 🙂 And you’ve watched 87 dramas already?! I’m amazed.
    Love you, Joyjee! Your posts are always oh so cool. ❤

  2. Oiii, ung DevilBesideYoumarathonnatin (I can’t believe I’m ASKING you to watch a MIKE-RAINIE drama with me. What is happening.) I miss you phowz, pati na rin si Boss! >:D<

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