If you ask me for my honest opinion, there was one female lead who really shone this year. One who really owned the drama she was in. One who outshone even the supposed female lead of that drama.
That female lead of course was… me.
Not that I care. I do not care. If you were going to cast me in a drama, at least make it an OCN thriller where I could be a knife-wielding night courier who targets evil Chaebols or a slick subversive romcom where I get to be called Noona by… I don’t know… Yoon Kyung-sang or Ryu Jun-yeol. Or even both. At the same time.
(Now that would be subversive).
Both could be wearing glasses and spend their spare time in a spacious wood-panneled library with very comfortable couches. Wait, this is getting off track…
But oh no, what Dramaland had in store for me this year was something completely different. Because this year, my biggest, my most important dramatic relationship is with a show that I didn’t even watch. If you’d told me it was possible for me to form a feeling of kinship with a drama I not only didn’t watch but never had any intention of watching, I would have thought you were crazier than… well… this post.
But communities are funny, wonderful things. And sometimes you can be sucked grudgingly into something larger than yourself. And that’s what happened on Dramabeans this year with the big-budget, PPL-fest that was the King Eternal Monarch (TKEM). And how I ended up the female lead of my own drama. One that is part tragi-comic stalker revenge and part melodrama involving notebooks and soy flat whites while swapping glances with the barista but never speaking. It drizzles rain slightly outside. There’s possibly a cat. The cat looks weirdly like L.
As I look back on 2020, I look back on the year I became the best female lead in Dramaland. But also the year I developed a strange sense of affinity with TKEM. Sometimes it almost seems like my drama. And yet not only have I never watched it, I never will. I have no interest in watching it at all.
And this is possibly the funniest thing about my relationship with this particular show. When it was announced I jumped straight online to express my intention to never watch it.
“I think this drama is pretty well my own personal circle of hell,” I wrote, “Somebody has been reading my nightmares and making them flesh.”
No, really. I went back and checked. I actually wrote that.
A writer I hated, an actor I was indifferent to, a female lead that is good but that I have an aversion to from her previous roles. This was a drama I knew, knew, knew I was going to dislike. And while I have been known to masochistically watch something I know I’ll hate just to amuse people with my inevitable breakdown, I had already done that with my Heirs watch earlier in the year.
(A Kim Eun-sook drama with that guy in it? I’ll never watch it! Presses play on Heirs…)
The stans of everyone involved were out in force and I had no desire to participate in some kind of recap warfare. I really hate Kim Eun-sook (KES) as a writer. And I don’t love or hate that guy, I’m just kind of indifferent to him. I just find him a bit meh. You know him: Lee Min Who (this is known as my second joke although for the sake of historical accuracy it was originally aimed at Park Who Jin).
The strangest thing happened after The King Eternal Monarch (TKEM) started airing. People started tagging me into conversations and recaps about the show despite the fact I wasn’t watching.
Personal circle of hell, people. I’m not watching it. I don’t even like what’s-his-name.
Some even took a certain glee in making sure I couldn’t avoid the show at all.
And I think this is why. Why it happened. Why the whole thing was just so surreal and just so funny. Why it seemed like such a great joke. A joke that took on a life of its own.
Did you see LT’s cameo in TKEM? She was amazing!
Did Korea just create LT’s personal circle of hell and put her in it?
Is LMWho trying to tell us something?
I can’t believe LT is the female lead in a drama she refuses to watch
Yes, you see it. What’s-his-name appeared in several scenes of TKEM with my initials writ large on his back. A cameo by me? A declaration of love by him? A jacket PPL by Valentino (unlikely!).
The joke spread out from there until an entire narrative was constructed around the actor wearing my initials emblazoned on his back and my famous indifference to him. Lee Min Who was in love with me but it was shockingly unrequited. I’d sprawled shamelessly across his back, stealing the lead from Kim Go-eun, my indifference to him driving him to win me over!
I was the rare tsundere female lead just waiting for the overbearing male lead to soften my edges and thaw me out (this is an unfortunate misreading of my character. I am not tsundere, I have no warmth to reveal over time. I am ice and stone all the way through. Who has no chance here. The futility of his quest is what makes the story a tragedy. My inability to notice him makes it a comedy. The time my goat army pushed him off a cliff makes it a revenge drama).
Hearts were broken across the fandom at Oppa*’s brazen and clear declaration of love. The Minoz Sisters rallied from their disappointment to declare war on the one who would dare to turn down Oppa after he so openly and enthusiastically declared his love for her.
*I call no man Oppa, this is strictly in reference to the Minoz Sisters. I concede that he is probably their Oppa. Whomever he is.
A Beanie even mocked up a cover of a fictional novel called Irresistibly Indifferent. The story of a Hallyhu star who falls madly in love with a coffee-loving, champagne-swilling woman name LT; a woman who’d much rather be writing in a café run by Hot Korean Indie Barista. (This person really exists by the way, he looks like the lead singer of Nell and his coffee is amazing).
The no talking rule is strict here. Hot Korean Indie Barista is as irresistibly indifferent as LT herself. Hot Korean Indie Barista does not talk to LT. LT does not talk to Hot Korean Indie Barista. This might explain why LT remains single.
As Who is driven to crazier and crazier lengths to win his love, LT responds with growing indifference. She can never be won over because to win her over Who has to get her to notice him but she never will (What IS his name, guys? Lee Min Whom?). Right now she’s just trying to find out who the guy following her around is so she can put a name on the restraining order.
LT truly is the female lead for 2020. You want social distancing? You want the stalker male lead to never get the girl? LT is the female lead for you!
And the strangest thing about all this gleeful fun is that now I feel like TKEM is my show. Even more than shows I actually watched and liked. I’m inextricably linked to it in a way I struggle to express. People still tag me into conversations about the show as though that guy really did declare his love for me by wearing that Valentino jacket. When people talk about the show without mentioning me, it feels a bit weird. Don’t they know it’s my show?
This is the power of community, of this weird little community of fellow weirdos. So here I am writing about my Year in Dramas. And it’s defined by a drama I have never seen. My personal circle in hell with me permanently inside.
Back off Minoz Sisters. It’s mine.
But not what’s-his-name.
You can have him (Get him off Famy, I gave him to her for her birthday)
I almost don’t know where to start in listing off all the people who have made this incredibly difficult, stressful, anxious year more livable, more tolerable and a whole lot more fun than it would or should have been. To an outsider this may sound like nonsense but to me it was my lifeline. No matter how bad things got, you made me laugh. And not titter or giggle. But laugh uproariously until I very nearly fell of my chair. Huge, life giving laughs that helped oxygen surge through my body and hormones fire off in my brain. You got me through.
To the whole Discord crew – if I tried to list you off I’d miss somebody and then I’d feel awful but you know who you are. But I do need to call out YYishere, who mocked up the cover of Irresistibly Indifferent and who gave the characters LT and Who minor parts in her hilarious story about Candy and Hot/Cold CEO. And of course everyone on Dramabeans who threw themselves into this remarkably silly venture with enthusiasm and who made LT and Who the Best NOTP of 2020.
Thank you, everyone. Thank you all.
With an emotion in the vicinity of love,
PS – Just kidding ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
PPS – It was the CLAMS, YY. The Silence of the CLAMS