What is my place in the universe? Is there a God? What is the purpose of life? Should I binge watch previously-aired Korean dramas, or watch new episodes airing now?
These are the universal questions that humanity has struggled with since the beginning of time (or the beginning of DramaFever, depending).
I will attempt to answer one of them today.
First, for the uninitiated (or for people who don’t schedule their entire lives around Kdramas — yet), to binge watch a Kdrama means to eat, sleep and breathe the show, devouring episodes like a great beast who’s hunger can never be satiated. To simulcast a show means you watch episodes that are currently airing in Korea. Meaning you have to wait a week. Seven days. 168 hours. 604,800 seconds. It’s an ETERNITY. But there is a thrill in feeling some sort of connection with Korea itself by getting excited about shows at the same time as everyone else around the world.
TO BINGE WATCH OR NOT TO BINGE WATCH?
My first Korean drama was a binge watch experience. I wonder if I would’ve gotten as sucked in if I hadn’t been able to do this because — and this is true for all shows, Korean or otherwise — sometimes when you have time to think about what you’re watching … it gets dumber. But when you’re sucking up shows like a junkie who just got paid, there’s not a lot of time for reflection. The strength of Korean dramas is in their emotions. They really get you to care about the characters, even the bad ones.
The problem arises if you have time to sit back and wonder to yourself (or maybe even Google) how amnesia works. This takes you out of the story and into the land of logic. And no one wants to take that trip, amiright? But by the time you finish a binge watch, you don’t even CARE how amnesia works because that KISS in episode 13 was epic and that’s all that really matters. Kisses. Not medical research.
However. And this is a big however. HOWEVER. Who among us has self-control? An iron will to walk away when chocolate abs are wet with shower water? The ability to say, “I’m sorry, Ji Chang Wook, I cannot watch you fight for your life in a perfectly-ripped black tee shirt because my children haven’t been fed yet today”? I do not. It was Empress Ki, a sprawling 50 episode epic that really drove the point home. I’d quit showering. Eating. Looking at my children. I was watching that show like it was my full time job and my poor kids were like, “Do you love Korean dramas more than us?” And I was like, “Maybe…”
When I came out of the Empress Ki coma, I wasn’t proud of myself. I didn’t recognize my baggy-eyed, zombified reflection in the mirror. I thought to myself, “There must be a better way.” That’s when I decided to try simulcasting. At least then, I would be forced to come out of my Korean coma while I waited for new episodes.
SIMULCAST? OR SIMUL-PASS?
I was watching six shows live last month. With two episodes a week per show, that was 12 shows a week. 12 hours. This was me cutting way back. The pros: getting to geek out over it on Facebook with my Kdrama sisters, rehashing the episodes we’d just watched; getting excited for the next one. Every day, there was at least one show I could watch. And it really limited me to two hours of Kdrama watching a day, which my hungry, attention-starved children appreciated.
But there was a big con I began to notice. After the emotional rush of the first few episodes, when I’d get to that halfway point (you know, the saggy middle?), I’d start to analyze things. I’d start to wonder if rich, gorgeous chaebols were really that plentiful in Korea. I’d start to question how Koreans could catch amnesia like I catch a cold. I’d start to feel like every lead female in the six shows I was watching had become interchangeable. And then the real shock came: I wasn’t sure I cared. The emotional high I got from binge watching was there, but in much smaller spurts. It didn’t give me the fix I needed. I was spread too thin, caring about too many people. And because I cared about too many people, I didn’t care about anyone.
For example: Lucky Romance got stupid. By the end, I was forcing myself to watch the finale. Yet I really believe if I’d binge-watched, I would’ve loved it. When Shim Bo Nui mercilessly broke Je Soo Ho’s heart “for his own good”, I had to wait a &*%!ing week for her to fix it. Except she didn’t. So I had to wait another %*&!ing week and she STILL DIDN’T. Three weeks I waited and by then, I was so frustrated, I hated her, I hated him, I hated my husband, I kicked a cat. (Okay, I’m exaggerating, but still). The big part of my frustration was the wait. Absent that, I think I might’ve
been mildly annoyed as I clicked to the next episode but I wouldn’t have had time to stew.
In the end, I’m still not sure which is better. I know I get more emotionally invested and less annoyed by weak plots when I can binge-watch. But I love the excitement and community you get with simulcasting. In the end, I decided to try and find a happy balance. I’m simulcasting two shows right now, and binge-watching one. I’m also trying to remember that there is a life outside my TV screen. Mostly because I heard if you stare at a TV screen for 12 or more hours a day, you’ll go blind and I can imagine no horror greater than never being able to watch another Kdrama.
What was your first Kdrama? Do you prefer to binge watch or simulcast? Let me know in the comments!