A discourse community is a group of people who share the common goal, provide information and feedback, and communicate in their unique language through a platform that belongs to them. Irene, a sophomore in college, has been a member of the Korean drama discourse community ever since the Hallyu became popular. Hallyu means the Korean cultural wave started around the early 2000s with the fast-growing popularity of Korean entertainment and culture. This community consists of people who watch Korean drama on a daily basis and have great interests in their culture.
With the advancement in technology, watching videos do not limit to televisions and dvd players anymore. People can easily stream video online with YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and also download movies and TV shows through many different websites. The two very popular types of program that adolescents watch are American TV series and Korean drama. Although they both are TV shows but they are distinct in themes, acting, and cultural influences. I asked Irene, what are the biggest differences between American and Korean drama. In her opinion, Korean drama is more dramatic while American show is more realistic. However, she preferred Korean drama because the culture presented was closer to her own culture. It often depicted strong family bond and a more innocent relationship between people. She could relate to the characters more because of that. In contrast, American TV shows revealed the real side of humanity, which included divorced parents and more sexual and violent scenes. She rather watches an idealized story with happy endings than feel sorry for the sad reality.
But why do people enjoy drama so much? “My everyday life is so bland and boring. Interesting events probably only happen once in a while, and it’s not even that exciting or worth mentioning,” said Irene. Drama has entertaining storylines, climax, and tensions between characters. The plot often addresses wide range of emotions from happiness to the pain of life. For example, a character loses their lover and family due to sickness or horrible accidents. It is human nature to feel empathy for the rough life that protagonists have been through so we easily get drawn into the dramatic scenes. Drama can serve as a form of escapism. “I watch drama whenever I am stressed or procrastinating … romance comedy is my favorite type of drama because it helps me clear my mind.” Irene explained how watching drama is her way of relieving stress. It allowed her to leave all the troubles behind, even if it was just for a few hours.
Another great thing about watching drama, especially with a group of people, is that they will always have something to talk about. “Whenever I finish the newest episodes of the drama I am currently watching, I will eagerly text my friends to discuss the plot.” Irene said sometimes she would have more fun sharing her thoughts on the drama and characters than actually watching it. She also added “Even when there is no one to talk to, I will go online to look at other people’s comments.” The reason why she did this was because she wanted to see if anyone agreed with her. It is completely normal for us to constantly seek validation and approvals. This is an advantage of being a part of a discourse community. Because every member in this community have the same interest and taste in drama, which makes it easier to find someone who also share the similar feeling. In addition, when Irene is waiting on a new episode she would anticipate what is going to happen to the story. All the plot analysis and predictions on Internet help to reassure her guesses, and also stimulate her curiosity in a way to keep her watching the drama.
In a discourse community, there will be a group of novice and a group of experts. I proposed the question if Irene considered herself as an expert of Korean drama since she had been in this community for a long time. She did not think she was at that level yet. Her explanation was that Korean drama had changed a lot throughout the years. In the past, most Korean drama would follow similar plot and cliché storyline; everything was predictable. However, it had greatly improved in many different aspects. Korean drama expanded the variety of genre and concepts. For example, a recent popular drama, Goblin, talked about an immortal man who had lived for over nine hundred years and how one’s past life could affect this life. Moreover, the entertainment company also used Korean drama as propaganda to discuss serious social issues such as child rape cases or the intense Korean office culture. The positive development of Korean drama made Irene reflected on her preference in old cliché drama. Therefore she thought she still had a long way to go to become an expert.
After being devoted to this discourse community for many years, I wanted to find out what was her secret for keeping her passion and appreciation for Korean drama. “I think the reason why I am still attracted to Korean drama is because of all the extension in reality from a drama on the internet. A website that I use every day is called ‘Weibo’, where I could search up ratings, other people’s comments and analysis, fan arts, and so many other things.” said Irene. Weibo is a Chinese microblogging website. It is like a combination of Facebook and Tumblr. You do not need any permission to follow someone and reblog their posts. But Weibo gives you a set layout of your profile so you do not get to design your own blog. You can also create a “fans discussion page” that allows people to share their thoughts and works with others who has the same interest – like a genre of a discourse community.
On Weibo you can find pages that are specifically for the drama that you are watching. Hashtags are also being used on Weibo. One thing useful about Weibo is when you search up a hashtag it automatically arranges the posts by real-time popularity. In this way you can easily find the newest and the most discussed posts. Like Facebook, under every post you can leave comments and even start a thread to express your view on the drama. If other people agree or disagree with you then they can mention you in the comment with the symbol “@”, and you will get a notification. But you don’t have to feel obligated to reply if you don’t want to talk. It is just a convenient way to communicate with other people in this community.
From the interviewed, Irene mentioned the extension in reality from a drama. She was referring to the fan creations such as stickers of a character, fan arts, and “fan fictions”; these creations enriched a drama. Fan fiction is a special fandom jargon. Because we all have our own imaginations and sometimes the story does not fulfill our expectation. As a result, fans are inspired and encouraged to develop their own stories based on original characters, sometimes with different settings. Weibo is an excellent platform for fans to publish their works and share with others to get approval.
It is always nice to have a group people who appreciate the same things you love. Being part of the Korean drama community let Irene to have a voice to convey her ideas through internet and gets feedback from the others. This is a valuable life experience that everyone should have.