Getting Sucked into Chinese Dramas: Because I Have SO MUCH TIME On My Hands

Being a drama watcher can be hazardous to your health at times. It’s more than eating every time your favorite characters eat in a drama (I’m avoiding Let’s Eat for a reason!!) and losing sleep to watch just ONE more episode. Come join me as I tell you the cautionary tale of falling down the Cdrama rabbit hole.

True Story: When The Fangirls started watching Fu Yao, they would talk about it enthusiastically in our main messenger thread. My phone was blowing up with GIFs and stills of fierce Yang Mi and smirky Ethan Ruan. So I would send the GIF below in reply to show that I was NOT INTERESTED. NOT. AT. ALL.

(Also, drama peer pressure will be the subject of another post in the NEAR FUTURE.)

Anyway, I caved and watched it. And I LOVED it. I’ve vowed since then not to try to keep up with a drama that airs EIGHT EPISODES A WEEK. That’s a lot of episodes, y’all! But the length of the drama left so much room for story and character development! Not that writers always take advantage of that, but when they do, I’m delighted.

So when I was itching for something a little different a few months ago, the Fangirls recommended Love Me If You Dare, which started off strong and then fizzled in the last few episodes. But by then I was hooked on the longer form of storytelling without even realizing it.

THIS IS WHERE THE DANGER COMES IN, DRAMA FANS. BEWARE.

Chinese dramas have long intros and outros, about 1:30 and 2-3 minutes respectively. They give some spoilers, but they’re also easily skipped, launching you right into the story. The 45-minute story that really doesn’t feel like THAT long, so watching another episode isn’t a problem, right?

Right.

When you look up and see that three hours have passed, you might realize you have a problem called cannot-stop-pushing-play-itis. It’s a common plague among drama fans. Add into it a story that has a mystery or has you waiting for that first kiss that you KNOW is coming because you saw it in the intro, and suddenly 36 episodes doesn’t seem like that much of a commitment. Even when you’re used to the 16-episode format where the really good reveals show up around episode 8 and that pace is burned in your brain from two years of steady drama consumption. These Chinese drama episodes are shorter, right? Waiting another 7 episodes for the main leads to figure out that they knew each other previously isn’t THAT much longer. And the secondary characters are so entertaining! And there are three love lines to follow!

FRIENDS.

REALLY.

Pretend I’m throwing my arm around your shoulders right now. I have a bit of friendly advice to give you.

Give up. You’re already sucked in. Just enjoy the ride.

But seriously, I’m glad I’ve gotten into Chinese dramas too. The few I’ve watched have had very strong secondary casts and a more developed story across a longer timeline. They are also prone to draggy spots or one of the main leads losing their spark, but overall, they are enjoyable stories too.

I will always stand by my opinion that DANG, the Koreans know how to tell a story. But their counterparts to the north aren’t half bad either. I’m eternally grateful that I’ve found stories I love from countries and cultures that I never would have understood otherwise. My eyes and my heart are a little more open because of it.

So the next time you find yourself sneaking a little drama time as you wait to pick up your kids from school, or as you’re about to fall asleep, or as you steal five minutes of “me time” in your day, think of my cautionary tale. Remember, you can’t fall down the rabbit hole if you never approach the edge in the first place! But if you do, you’ll be in good company.

Until the next binge, I remain–

Karie the Maknae

Dramas with a Side of Kimchi

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Getting Sucked into Chinese Dramas: Because I Have SO MUCH TIME On My Hands

  1. I would say that c-dramas are rarely consistent, well acted and flashbackless. I’ve tried many, and finished just few and oddly enough, those were recent historical dramas. (Yanxi, Ming Lan and Rise of the Phoenixes)

    I dropped Fu Yao when she turned into Mary Sue and forgot that she is smart and well trained fighter. On top of that story started draaaaaaagging painfully.
    C-dramas need to cut the bloating, dubbing and overacting.

    Another flow with modern c-drama – stupid, air-headed, unprofessional, and overly cutesy female leads.

    • Masha, you’ve hit on the problem I have. I’ve tried many times to settle in and watch a C-Drama but I wind up quitting for all the same reasons. People have told me, watch this, that, etc. and i just can’t get into it. I’ve had more fun watching Cantonese/Hong Kong dramas.

      Actually the one Chinese drama I thought was fantastic (but again I think the ending was so overblown once the main villain was exposed) was “Medical Examiner Dr. Qin.” And I loved “Palace: The Lock Heart Jade” and the sequel was good too. I rarely watch Korean Sageuks anymore. They don’t really appeal to me. The Joseon Era had an over 400 year history but it always seems the same in dramas. Looking at real life photos of the later Joseon era they seem trapped in a time warp though, as far as clothing and styles. Usually I love historical anything. I guess my tastes changed in shows over the years.

      But this was a good post, it’s easy to get so hooked on the 45 min. ep. I’m sure I’ll eventually find other C-drama shows I like. I tend to like Chinese movies more, though I don’t watch movies too much. One of my favorite movies of all time is Raise the Red Lantern.

  2. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole and don’t want to leave. Currently binge watching Legend of Yun Xi, not sure how I missed it when it first aired but now fully subbed 50 episodes awaiting my couch potato state. Thoroughly enjoying a heroine with spunk and bravery. Lately I am watching more Chinese than Korean.

  3. The only caveat I have is that you can waste a lot of time just to end up with a horrible and depressing ending so I tend not to watch a C-drama until I know it has a happy ending since I am still traumatized by King’s Woman 🙁 Chinese have not figured out that all dramas must have a happy ending 🙂 That being said I have found many Chinese dramas that do have great endings and have loved watching them.

  4. I think the best Chinese dramas are ones where the producers/directors have worked around the government restrictions on productions.

    One of the best C-dramas, Scarlet Heart, came out before the current restrictions on fantasy/historical plot lines. Nowadays, production companies have to figure out “work arounds” for plots. Most famously, in Love 020, handsome hacker KO is shown to have a “twisted fate/friendship” with Hao Mei, when the novel explicitly shows them to be in a relationship. Go Princess Go turned sexual politics on end and got away with it by having the hero/heroine have to learn what it is like to be a woman. In Nothing Gold can Stay, the story focused on the life of legendary Chinese businesswoman Widow An Wu. She was a monarchist (frowned upon) but because they made one of her (imaginary) suitors a modernist, the director could show she was really working for her country and not just the crown.

    It’s when the story doesn’t have a clear reason for its plot points that the drama suffers. Poor writing is just poor writing at the end of the day, whether it’s western or Chinese tv.

  5. Just finished The Story of Minglan, which I highly recommend! Before that, The Story of Yanxi Palace, also very good. I’m pretty choosy on any drama, Chinese or Korean, and try to check story out online before starting to watch. Understand China (Communist Party) is putting the skids on “palace dramas” so we might not see as many of them, which is a shame as I really enjoy the historical dramas when done well.

  6. I am currently watching more C-dramas than Kdramas. In the past year or so, I think they have done a better job of creating female leads with depth and intelligence. I loved Ming Lan and Phoenixes and Story of Yan Xi Palace because of this aspect. I also enjoy the fluffier Cdramas too, though. Ever Night has been fun to podcap and, of course, The Eternal Love 2 was a blast. The Chinese dramas are crazy addictive. I am glad the Maknae has dipped her toe into the world of Cdrama. You know once you dip in your toe, though, you will be sucked into the vortex—never to return. It’s so much fun, though!

  7. For some reason, Chinese dramas leave me cold. It might be the way the Chinese language sounds. To me, Korean is very smooth and easy on the ears, where Chinese seems just the opposite. The storytelling factor of Cdramas is light years behind Kdramas, which are far more developed and layered. Then again, I am far more familiar with the Korean culture, so I’m sure that factors in as well.

  8. Chinese dramas have been a bit difficult for me to get into, but there have been a few I’ve liked. Not that they haven’t had their problems. Although they share the struggle with story arc wrap-up, their problems tend to be a bit different than kdrama issues. Once I figured that out and figured out what issues I was ok with, I’ve found some of them interesting to watch. Legend of Fu Yao was the first Wuxia drama I did and I totally admit the only reason I finished was smirky Ethan Ruan. Medical Examiner Dr Qin had one of my favorite female leads of all time; she knew she went against the cultural expectations. She was not obnoxious about it, just well adjusted and lived it. When A Snail Falls In Love had a cute concept and adorable characters even if the ending was rushed, and I loved the art throughout. Seriously, I would buy that comic if they ever released it. I am currently watching I Will Never Let You Go, which sounds stalkery but isn’t and is the business/economics edition of Fu Yao.

Leave a Reply