It takes an inner willingness to break out of our comfort zone. This can range from riding on the highest roller coaster at an amusement park when you’re afraid of heights to mustering up the courage to attend a worship service when you’re a non-believer of Jesus Christ. It’s very easy for us to immediately shut down the idea of trying something new because it’s daunting and requires emotional effort. Pop Culture Happy Hour calls this complacency a cultural rut and it’s imperative that we break out of these because what we gain from immersing ourselves in a new experience is a different kind of satisfaction. One of the speakers touched on the importance of engaging in the best in something even if you don’t necessarily and automatically grasp what is happening in the piece of media and I absolutely agree with that statement. Sometimes a little bit of perspective is all we might need to gain a great appreciation and sense of value for the things around us.
I do believe I am in a cultural rut. Growing up overseas in Japan, I am more inclined to watch and enjoy a variety of Japanese animation than American television and film. Now that I have lived in the states for a couple years now, I watch nothing but Parks and Recreation, Black-ish and Steven Universe. Rarely do I venture outside the realm of animation and sitcoms and to me this was fine. However, I have since been enlightened by the podcast.
The piece of popular culture that I chose to watch hails from South Korea and something I never thought I would ever indulge in. My choice was the first episode of a South Korean television series starring Park Bo-gum and Kim Yoo-jung called Love in the Moonlight or also known as Moonlight Drawn By Clouds. The reason I choose this Korean Drama is because I’ve never in my life had a desire to watch them. Another huge factor that helped make my decision was a friend of mine who watches them frequently and even admitted to having a Korean obsession. One of the speakers in the podcast talked about how our impressions tend to harden over time because daily conversations or viewings of a piece of media make us not want to engage in them. This resonated with me so well that I found myself asking why don’t I give it a try. My friend introduced me to this website and I decided to click on whichever Korean Drama title I found the cheesiest. What I expected to be a sappy, melodramatic narrative turned out to be an adorable premiere, chock-full of endearing characters. Below is a picture of a poster featuring the two main characters and if you’re interested, the trailer is available too.
Love in the Moonlight is a story about the unlikely relationship between 19-year old Crown Prince Lee Yeong and his 18-year old eunuch Hong Ra-on, as well as Yeong’s transformation and growth from a boy to revered monarch. In the show, Hong Ra-on was raised as a boy by her mother and makes a living by disguising herself as a male relationship counselor. Upon introduction, I was drawn to her charm. Born with a heart of gold, Hong Ra-on wins over audiences with her genuine kindness and street-smarts. She goes to great lengths to aid lovestruck villagers, even going as far as to cut down a tree branch in order to stage a rescue for a client. Her comical assistance had me laughing aloud throughout the episode. As for the Crown Prince, I was immediately captured by his love for mischief yet sensible attitude. Something that I thoroughly enjoyed was watching Lee Yeong break out of his royal flare. His attempts to maintain a well-mannered persona among his family and the villagers are thwarted by Hong Ra-on’s wittiness. His emotional outburst after falling into a pit with her was hilarious. I am a sucker for misadventures and coming-of-age stories so this was a sweet surprise. I believe that Korean Dramas target middle-aged women living in Seoul but its popularity has spread into North American and targeted Asian-Americans. However, I think the televised dramas appeal to all ages and both genders.
After finishing the episode, I was relieved to have Love in the Moonlight turn out to be a bubbly, romantic-comedy with a spin on the sageuk genre. Sageuk (사극 sageuk) literally means “historical drama” in Korean. This reminds me of the classroom’s discussion on the structure of feeling from Raymond William’s Analysis of Culture. Within his book, he talks about “the culture of a period: it is the particular living result of all elements in the general organization. And is it in the respect that the arts of a period…are important,”(Williams 1994). While this is set during the 19th century Joseon Dynasty, Love in the Moonlight displays a more youthful vision of jovial romance but since none of us are exactly sure what the family dynamics were like the structure of feeling is lost in its cultural depiction. I found the cheeky humor refreshing and appreciated that the show didn’t remain lighthearted the entire time. This allows for the character to be serious when the matter calls for it and eliminates flatness; Hong Ra-on’s resignation when binding herself (certainly symbolism) and giving up her identity to survive. It has been awhile since I’ve seen a cross-dressing heroine in action, especially from the perspective of a real South Korean woman instead of Japanese animated character. Now if you’ll excuse me, episode 2 is waiting for me. The addiction is real, folks.
Williams, Raymond. The Analysis of Culture. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, 3.