The other day in a post I said the following:
“…although I am beginning to think that I may have been Korean in a previous life due to how comfortable I feel with what I’ve gleaned of the culture from my recent obsession with Kdrama…”
I didn’t think much about my words when I wrote them down. However later on those words kept repeating in my mind until it bothered me enough to think about it.
If I’m nagging myself in that manner there’s usually a message I’m attempting to get across to myself – What was it this time? What was it about those words which was bothering me?
Those words reminded me of something I have said in posts about Narcissists. An observation I made about myself with regards to why and how I got myself involved with Narcissists other than my parents – I found the dynamic, scenario, setting ‘comfortable’.
Being in the company of Narcissists is, for the most part, uncomfortable – you can never relax for a variety of reasons. Hypervigilance becomes the norm.
For those, like me, who grew up with Narcissist parents, that discomfort can feel comfortable because it is familiar territory. In fact when the discomfort isn’t there it can be more uncomfortable than when you’re uncomfortable because it is there.
My whole system (body, senses, mind, emotion, etc) is used to operating under the pressure of constant nervous tension.
Originally I’d decided that the appeal of Korean Dramas for me was due to their similarity to the Japanese cartoons I used to love and watch as a child. That’s true (A few Kdramas are based on Japanese Manga, such as the one I’m watching at the moment – Naeil’s Cantabile/Cantabile Tomorrow).
But why was I attracted to Japanese cartoons (Anime fans would probably want to kill me for calling them cartoons) as a child?
Japanese cartoons are like Soap Operas.
Life with a Narcissist in it is a Soap Opera.
As a teenager I watched a couple of US Soap Operas and made the comparison between them and life with my parents. I once pointed that out to my mother, and after that she would gleefully announce to people that her life was a Soap Opera, as though this was a great thing – that’s a Narcissist for you!
That comparison did help me to understand how come total strangers would get so involved in my parents lives – for those people it was as though they could participate in their favourite form of entertainment. The more crazy and unreal, the better… and when they’d had enough of it, they could opt out, change the channel (unless they’d gotten themselves too enmeshed in it).
One of the reasons I like reading recaps of Korean dramas is because it allows me to see the perspective of the person who watched the drama and wrote the recap (it works even better if you watch the show as well as reading recaps because then you can contrast and compare perspectives – a couple of times I’ve been stumped by how differently we’ve perceived the drama, the story, a character). They’re sharing how they saw the drama, what excited them about, what they loved, what they disliked, found boring, etc.
Some of what seems to appeal to people about Kdramas is also what seems to hook people into the dramas of Narcissists.
For instance, during one recap, the recapper said that while they liked the episode, they’d wished that there had been more angst-inducing situations in it for the characters. This stood out for me because:
a) there was a lot of angst in the episode and whole drama – how much more angst did the recapper need? And why did they need more angst? How much more suffering did they want the characters to go through for them to feel satisfaction? What did they get out of watching characters in a drama experiencing angst and suffering through angst-inducing situation after angst-inducing situation?
b) I usually find myself wishing that there were fewer angst-inducing situations, wanting the characters to have more peaceful experiences and enjoy their happiness, and I liked this particular Kdrama because it was less angsty than a lot of other Kdramas. Some Kdramas are so angst-ridden and so relentless in bombarding the characters with angst-inducing situations that they’re unwatchable… for me anyway because it reminds me of life with my parents. You were never allowed to enjoy peaceful moments (this was akin to a crime), and your happiness was viewed as an affront, something to be stolen from you or ruined for you if it couldn’t be stolen (if they can’t have it then you can’t have it either).
Narcissists like to see people suffer (schadenfreude), it makes them feel better about their own lives. They use the suffering of others as a comparison point (comparison with others is a big part of their self-image, self-esteem, self-assessment).
While Narcissists are attracted to and admire happy, successful people, their attraction inspires a lot of fear for them, and their admiration is envious. They want to be those people, but they can’t figure out how to become those people (they like those articles, books, and videos which promise to reveal the 5 simple secrets to being rich and famous just like rich and famous people, but they’re often disappointed, and vengeful towards the person who sold them those secrets even if they were free, when the easy magic formula doesn’t work for them – they drank the ginseng extract so why haven’t they miraculously become 10 yrs younger, 100 times smarter, and incredibly beautiful/handsome!? Was it a con!? How dare anyone con them!!!!!), and if they can’t be those people then they don’t want those people to be those people either.
(an aside: I used to have a bowl cut when I was about 7/8 yrs old due to my hero-crush on Purdey – Joanna Lumley – from The New Avengers who had a bowl cut, and I was regularly mistaken as a boy. Pro tip: I also wore non-girly trousers and shirts too.)
Both of my parents wanted to have glamorous, successful, popular, and impressive friends (in other words – people worthy of their friendship), but whenever they were given the opportunity to meet and get to know those sort of people, they often played hard to get – distancing themselves from those people (pretending to be above them while terrified of being thought to be beneath them).
Instead they used to collect people as ‘friends’ whom they considered to be failures, losers, and inferior to them (preferably those who believed that about themselves too, whether it was true or not), this worked in several ways to fuel them. One of those ways was that compared to those people my parents always looked like they were glamorous, successful, popular and impressive = winners, superior. If one of their ‘collection’ tried to break free by not sticking to their given role, an angst-inducing situation would occur to bring them back into line, and remind them that they were failures, losers, inferior.
In some ways something similar may occur between a viewer of a Kdrama and the characters in that drama.
This does not = the viewer is a Narcissist.
Narcissism is a stage of human development, and therefore all humans have narcissistic tendencies – healthy and unhealthy, and many shades in between. Be careful when assessing yourself or others before applying the dreaded ‘Narcissist’ label, as having traits, behaviours and issues which are considered signs of a Narcissist may also be signs of being a human.
The viewer feels better about their own life by watching the characters in the drama suffer. They feel smarter because the characters are being stupid and the viewer can clearly see everything that the character is doing which is stupid, wrong, and can groan about it (such as when a character is being a noble idiot and sacrificing their happiness so that their loved one will be happy, or is believing the lies a villain is feeding them, or is walking straight into a trap, or standing in the road to have a conversation and the viewer knows the truck of doom is hurtling towards them and if they survive it the coma then amnesia trope may ensue).
But if the characters in the drama start emerging out of their suffering, begin being successful, happy, secure, if things go too well for them… it may induce in the viewer a sense of loss, and they don’t want to lose what that character and that drama was giving to them. The viewer may want a happy ending for their characters, but not yet, it’s too soon, they aren’t ready to let go… and won’t the happy ending be sweeter if the characters suffer for longer and more deeply, up until the very last moment? The greater the pain = the greater the pleasure when the pain comes to an end.
One of the things you see stated quite regularly on Kdrama blogs is disappointment with the final episode – the series was great, wtf happened with the ending!?
Some of the reasons for the final disappointment are – loose ends not tied up, skipping ahead several years after events in the penultimate episode, a sudden drop in momentum, the story slows to a crawl, drama fatigue has set in (which makes me think of the fatigue experienced by people who’ve been caught up in the drama of a Narcissist and just want it to end, they don’t care how it ends, they want to get off the ride, make it stop!!!).
It should be noted that Kdramas do something known as a live-shoot where each episode is filmed shortly before it gets aired, in some cases the filming wraps on the episode only hours before it airs on the channel, with only a short amount of time for editing, so by the end of a Kdrama the cast and crew are often exhausted (I’m exhausted just thinking about it).
For me the main disappointment I have experienced with Kdrama endings is when the villain gets redeemed.
I’m not completely averse to villain redemption (although I am averse to it when the villain is a Narcissist. The concept of forgive and forget is nice, but nice is your worst enemy when dealing with a Narcissist. I forgave and forgot a lot with the Narcissists I’ve known (and kicked myself repeatedly for doing that repeatedly), partly because they’re the sort of people who promote the concept of forgiving and forgetting to others… they never ever do it themselves with anyone, they think it’s stupid and weak – it is neither stupid nor weak unless… you do it with a Narcissist), but when the villain is still being the way they’ve always been and hasn’t really learned anything, particularly like – don’t be a villain, then it just doesn’t make sense.
I get it, the heroes are so heroic that they can forgive the homicides, the attempted murders, the heart-shattering betrayals, the horrible meddling, the disgusting lies, the destruction and devastation… poor villain, you did all of that because you felt misunderstood, you were frightened, you were abused, you were suffering too, you lost your loved one, you were protecting your interests, your were trying to cover up your family’s crimes, were only doing your job, following orders, trying to make this world a better place by eradicating those you saw as being obstacles… your genocide was accidental, you didn’t mean for things to go that far…
Kdramas don’t seem as trigger-happy (guns are rarely used, knives have blurred blades if they’re a weapon – which is kind of creepier than if they just showed the blade, most weapons seem to be whatever is lying around, metal pipes, sticks, bats… or cars, words, threats, blackmail, family, and especially money) as US dramas which tend to know that their viewers will only be satisfied if the villain ends up badly, bloodied, possibly dead – really really dead this time rather than dead but not really dead just in case they need to be resurrected for next season or the season after that if the ratings begin to drop and the show looks like it might get cancelled.
You have now reached the end of page one, page two will be available when it’s available (it’s already partly written in draft)…
Please feel free to comment, ask questions, share your perspective, personal experience on the subjects connected with this post… or add something totally random, tangential, whatever… like this:
I’ve also been watching this recently… I have no idea what’s going on – sometimes that’s a relaxing experience. Hwaiting! Puing Puing!