Pretty Little Liars and Korean Dramas – NOT UNLIKE

The ABC Family “young adult” television drama series Pretty Little Liars ate our brains, but we’re caught up now, so we’re re-claiming them… and our lives.


Pretty Little Liars

Pretty Little Liars


I don’t have much to say in our defense, but I can make the following observations: Pretty Little Liars is girly, sure, but its morbidity helps to mitigate that somewhat. It’s almost oppressively cloaked in suspicion, and we find it just dark enough to escape a total “frou-frou” designation.

Regardless of the fairly respectable tensile strength of my suspension of disbelief, I still feel some breakage in that area sometimes when we watch it. Callaghan does, too… we look at each other and go, “No way! There’s NO WAY that could happen!” Yet the absurdities keep things interesting, so they work.

At first, we weren’t into it. It was the lack of perspicuity in the plot that gnawed at our brains enough to drag us back for “just one more episode” time and again.  First, we thought it was a ghost story, then we decided it must be a murder mystery, and now we think we’re dealing with a conspiracy, or maybe even a cult. We just can’t figure it out, and that’s the thing… or one of the things.

The television series is based on a series of books by Sara Shepard. We haven’t read the books, so we just have no idea. If you’ve read the books and you know, please don’t tell me!

It started innocuously enough. I mean, there seemed to be no threat of impending addiction. Our reaction to the first episode was “Eh.” Then we watched a second episode and kind of laughed it off. Several weeks went by with no further viewing, until finally we came to the fateful evening we said, “Why not… let’s watch the third episode.” And that was it! We’d become PLL slaves. The show had become our guilty pleasure. You know how it is… you get intrigued with the characters as they develop, you start to feel affection for them, maybe, and you might find that you have a favorite or two. Next thing you know, you’re emotionally involved in their hardships and conundrums. The usual stuff that gets you hooked on a series.

I remember when televised “Korean Dramas” sucked in the entire state of Hawaii and part of California, including my family. (“Family” includes close family friends. It’s the Hawaiian Way.) At the time – this was in the 2000’s, I think – there was no T.V. in my life, with the exception of some occasional sports such as boxing and basketball; my disengagement with television added a layer of intrigue to the Korean Drama phenomenon. What was it about these shows that had so effectively captured their audience? I couldn’t relate, but I didn’t question it. We all have our things.

Now, because of Pretty Little Liars, I understand. It’s the exact same phenomenon as the Korean Dramas.

Here’s the back-story on the Korean Dramas: The whole thing got started in Hawaii with one of my many aunts and uncles, but it migrated to the mainland when Mom and Dad brought some of the tapes back with them to California (they divide their time between the two places), so it wasn’t long before others in the Bay Area got into them, too. Tapes were sometimes mailed between family members in Hawaii and California. They circulated from household to household. After a while, “Korean Dramas” became a common term in our family vernacular. It got to be where enough people were watching them that I could feel justified in exaggerating that “everyone” was hooked (I think my brother managed to escape it, though).

Inevitably, the Korean Dramas would appear on the T.V. at some point when I would go home to visit, so eventually I got to see what all the fuss was about. What I saw was simply a Korean soap opera, complete with sub-titles (a fortunate thing, since my family isn’t Korean, and they don’t know any Korean). But I also noted the following:

–The women are exquisite, beautifully attired and impeccably made-up. The men are excessively good-looking and groomed and polished into unnatural perfection, as well. (I’m sure that there are also character actors who don’t fit the supermodel mold, though.)

–There’s a lot of angst. By western male standards, anyway, the men seem unusually emotional. I remember a lot of crying, brow-furrowing and hand-wringing going on, in general.

–Disasters of various types erupt on the regular, usually domestic or romantic in nature. “Drama” is putting it mildly. The script-writers seem to write illness, death, misunderstandings, betrayal and heartbreak into the episodes with unfettered glee.

When I told Callaghan about all of this, he was like, “OH YEAH!” And he proceeded to tell me about the time he and his friend went to check in at a hotel in California, and they heard screaming, fits of crying and general mayhem emitting from behind the reception office. The next morning, they went back down to the desk and heard the same thing, all over again. They became concerned, thinking that it was domestic abuse. It wasn’t. It turned out to be the Korean Dramas that the people were watching back there.

Standard soap-opera fare, brilliantly done, apparently, if their popularity is any indication!

Now, when can we access the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars….

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