Instead, I will write a little about Korean television. For some reason I have been super tired today and haven't gotten much done. In a futile attempt to make up for it I'm currently working on watching some Korean TV for a research project. This project is probably one of the things I have been spending the most time on this semester, so if anyone wants to know what I do with a good chunk of my days (I often wonder where most of my days go myself) then this is probably a big factor.
Broadly, I am looking at television as a microcosm of culture at large. That is obviously too large to make into a semester long research project, so I've scaled it down to a comparative study (for my comparative methods class) comparing US and Korean shows. I'm working on creating a database and coding for certain characteristics. Luckily I do have two undergrads helping me, but it still take a long time, because it does "require" watching every episode of each show. I am hoping to be able to do a kind of survival analysis, looking at shows that are currently running and shows that are now extinct and see if that shows anything interesting.
Even if it doesn't, I still feel like (or am just really hopeful, considering how much work I have already done on this) I could get a little baby publishable paper out of it. This department really focuses on getting some publishable material out ASAP, which is great, but also really makes you want to not be wasting your time on something that might not be publishable. It might just be a general proposal paper noting the methodology and why I think television could be useful in comparative anthropological or cultural studies.
Of course, people have studied TV before. Everything has been studied to some degree. But I'm hoping this is new in that it is a collection of a variety of different TV programs from two different cultures. The more programs and cultures you add, the more interesting things that might come out of it. What themes are present in which cultures? How do the themes differ across cultures? What about types of main characters, story lines, gender and minority representation? Really, anything you might be interested in about a culture you can get a first glance at through television.
The world is highly globalized and that is particularly evident when watching television. I notice they often use random English words ("Fighting!"), play English music (The Killers, the Beatles, you name it) and wear a lot of clothes in English (like "My Girlfriend is Sick in Bed 24-7" or a just a sweatshirt with a US cartoon character). But you can still pick up on interesting and unique cultural traits just by watching enough TV. Aside from picking up choice Korean words (like jaebol- honey- a very important term for husbands and wives) I've also noticed other interesting aspects that I am sure are indicative of something. They drink a lot in their shows- particularly, or, rather, almost always when they are upset (every episode). There seems to be a predominance of female characters, in spite of the typical ideas we have of Korean women being "subservient" to Korean men. Though often women have to make sacrifices for or because of their relationships with men or other family members. Men are remarkably persistent, even when a woman tells him she wants absolutely nothing to do with him. Status certainly plays a big role, and for some reason hotel presidents are particularly popular.
Right now I am watching a show called Little Mom Scandal. It has four women as its main characters. Two of them are high school students. One of these students gets pregnant and against all advice decides to keep the baby. The scene where her father is actually hitting her in the head when he finds out was...interesting. In fact, family members in this show are often beating each other up- to the point of actually drawing blood or bruising their younger sibling or children. The other high school student is dealing with the death of her father and the remarriage of her mother, and ends up dating a much older man because he reminds her of her dad. This show sucks me in something terrible.
I am also watching/coding US shows for this project. Of course it is more difficult to notice odd bits and pieces about your own culture (which is why we have to code for all of the same characteristics in each show). But I do notice that in American shows, characters tend to show their emotion a great deal less than in Korean shows. US culture definitely seems to be more of a bottle-it-up-men-don't-cry kind of culture. Men cry plenty in Korean television. Also- too many cop dramas, not enough awesome personal life dramas like in Korean TV. Cop dramas all are pretty much the same after a while (except for the few really unique takes on it- like Life on Mars!).
Oh and a great thing about Korean TV- the series always finishes! Even if there is only one "season" (seasons are structured a little differently) that season typically completes a story. No cliffhangers (after watching The Nine Lives of Chloe King for this project, I wanted to punch someone, anyone, related to that show in the face) and a complete wrap up. I LOVE that.
One of the major issues in looking at television though, is if it is actually an accurate portrayal of a nation's culture. Certainly I Love Lucy might not have been directly translatable into most people's real lives during its run (much less the real life of the people in it). However, I think it is inarguable that TV is a representation of a culture- even if it hides or alters some things. The fact that something might be hidden in itself represents something, doesn't it? A culture whose television show strictly avoids sexual topics for example would likely find sex to be a taboo topic...
It is not exactly taboo in Korean culture...but this is interesting. In Little Mom Scandal two of the women work at a type of...brothel? It is not really a brothel, because the women do not have sex with their clients...yet it has been raided by the police and is considered a taboo job. They dress up in particular costumes and the men certainly do seem to get off in one way or another. But I can't quite figure out what's going on there. When one of the women transfers to a different "brothel" (definitely not the right word) to make more money (she is paying for her mother's hospital bills) and the man starts groping her, she completely freaks. The new places seems to require more from their girls than the other place, but I still haven't figured out exactly what. These places seem fairly common though, as similar locations have appeared in other shows, but I have yet to figure out exactly what they are.
If this has in any way made you itch to watch some Korean TV there are quite a few shows on Netflix, but you can also watch for free on this great site- DramaFever. After a few episodes I have been able to get into pretty much any Korean show I've watched so far, but I'm one of those people who can watch anything, so the same might not be true for you. I am not ashamed though- I freakin' love Little Mom Scandal. This show keeps me up at night- because once I start I can't stop watching it!
Well I still need to leave you with some photos, so here are a few. I hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!
The duck...is dead.
Vietnamese food in my favorite restaurant in Columbia so far.
Here's the outside.
Since my hair is long enough now, I've been straightening it...
The Missouri sky and moon do strange things...