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Korean Narrative; Rising Popularity and Decoding Cultural Representation

Generation X popularized an entire revolution that made people tune into family-friendly sitcoms which in many ways, redefined life. Many of them, from ‘Friends’ to ‘Frasier’, are still considered to be art that was ahead of its time. They are always on top of the must-watch or must-read scripts for those who wish to embark on the journey to discover these popular networks. They displayed unconventionality and hardships from a pregnant teenager and her boyfriend being helped by her mother in Reba to three men raising three girls in ‘Full House’ while transitioning into normalcy. From the aesthetics to the heartfelt dialogues, people still return to them for a sense of comfort, a good laugh, and to learn about life. Then, what makes the reign of sitcoms fade away in Generation Z along with the age of Romantic comedies?

The answer to that is multifold; From cringe culture making it harder to resonate with the storylines and characters to the idea that every generation relives a sense of old while adapting to the status quo and something that uniquely captures the paradigm. While the explanation of classics being in their own place and how those programs uniquely timed with the scenario back then makes complete sense, it is the lack of relatability with the standard American life within and outside the US that makes it harder to project these programs. Specially now when the audience of pop culture is more universal.

However, more and more people are also calling out the microaggressions filled in the shows that lead to a wide spectrum of oppression with hardly any diversity. Homophobic jokes and internalized misogyny scream of unquestioned oppression. These shows, in the true spirit of the 90s, were both a safe space and a place for introspection.

While the classics will always be turned to on a bad day and be reflective of an era, there is an extended version of this feel-good genre with similar popularity, primarily, Korean Drama.

Pop culture predominantly reflects the western perspective of the world. It uses that lens to view marginalized communities without fully understanding their world. From Lane’s mother’s conservative character in ‘Gilmore Girls’ to the description of the jealous Asian woman in Joy’s office in ‘What happens in Vegas’, one such target has always been the Asian community.

The rise of Korean Drama is shifting paradigms by the Asian community honing their storytelling and describing their diverse lifestyles with the finest accuracy. While we have a wide range of genres and shows people resort to, the audience of Korean Pop is growing tremendously. From their dramas influencing fashion to more people resorting to it, they infuse a home-like feeling and provide entertainment while subtly delegitimizing the majority of the stereotypes people have grown up believing about the community. From the genius of 'Itaewon Class' portraying the problems of life through thoughtful metaphors with realism to ‘Guardian’, the lonely and great god in which the story of Goblin’s wife transcends time to various levels of depiction on mental health in their programs without delegitimizing its value. The variety it offers within cannot fit into a single paradigm and this speaks volumes of the narrative they are sending out.

These productions and networks have a voice of their own that is actively used to exemplify multiple avenues of stories with a wide range of perspectives. The main idea behind them is to deconstruct the standard cultural representation of communities to categorize their art or culture. Due to the normalization of these metrics and the quality of art, many find themselves resonating with the broad avenues of meaning behind this and popularizing it more rapidly. However, as much as there is western recognition and support towards their art, the same stereotypes are projected to standardize their beauty, culture, individuality, and art. Their networks emphasize a strong message that stands for not categorizing communities into set roles and having diversity within. This is a way that encourages others to recognize the brilliance they display.

It still has a very long way to go in terms of gaining that level of credibility. Nevertheless, more and more people are tuning into Korean, Thai, and other Asian forms of art that provide the kind of exposure everybody needs to critique the western perspective on other cultures along with heavily valuing individuality in a community that has always been stereotyped in a condescending manner. They continue to propagate the idea that every art within their metrics has a voice of its own.

Priyasha Mohanty

Delhi South '21

Figuring it out as I go!
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