Soap Rules

(Disclaimer: This post is not in any way about The Fight Club)

Koreans are quick to realize their faults. Filipinos are quick to turn a blind eye. What to say? Carry on, I guess, no matter which star they're effing from.


Fanzine Reveals Inner Workings of Korean Soaps

(taken from The Chosun Ilbo)

The Korean Wave is ebbing, and the backlash is under way. Viewers in the Asian countries that could not get enough of Korean soaps at one stage are now complaining about their monotonous plots and off-the-rack characterization. Critics say the formula is becoming an obstacle to the further development of the Korean pop culture wave. Now, even a Japanese magazine for fans of the Korean Wave has laid out elements of the formula for its readers. "We can predict what will happen in any scene of Korean drama, like fortunetellers,” it said. “Perhaps Korean drama has a mysterious power that enables us to make predictions.” Here are its seven iron rules of Korean soaps.


1. Ordinary girl falls in love with business big shot

This is the standard storyline in Korean dramas. Hero owns conglomerate, heroine is a common office worker or an ordinary woman. How about this: Heroine is trying on clothes in a luxury boutique. Hero watches her, sitting on a chair with his hand on his chin. He smiles at her and slightly shakes his index finger, to indicate “no” for an item she’s trying on

2. Angry guy

When a male character is angry, his face is always seen in a mirror or window. Without exception, he then proceeds to break the mirror or window.

3. Very young executive

In both Korea and Japan, most executives are over 50. But in Korean soaps, many business executives are young and hunky. Even staffers' girlfriends fall in love with them.

4. All doctors are surgeons

In Korean medical dramas, there are no doctors except surgeons. Internists and ear, nose and throat specialists may not like it, but it is so. If the lead is a doctor, he or she always becomes terminally ill but keeps quiet about it. And you thought early diagnosis and treatment were basic principles of medical service.

5. Fortuitous cabs

The heroes in Korean soaps have an uncanny ability to catch a cab in a timely manner. In any emergency, a cab just happens to pass. Or maybe it’s the cab drivers who have the power of foresight?

6. Weather forecasts are always wrong

Heroine is soaked in unexpected shower due to wrong weather forecasts. Hero appears in front of her carrying -- an umbrella!

7. Mobile phones

No matter how poor they are, the protagonists have an expensive mobile phone. Most cost some W700,000 (US$1=W923).

The list could go on, but the point is made. One pleasure Korean soaps provide is predictability, invariably.


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Well, here are seven iron rules of Filipino soaps:


1. Happy ending

There must be one. There is no other option.

2. The two protagonists must come from different worlds.

One must be rich, the other, poor. One must be a human, the other, a superhero. One must be a frigging bird, the other, a normal human being (who, of course later discovers that she is also a.... TADA!!!!!!! Bird, etc. etc. Now, they can be wolves/foxes as well).

3. Climatic, earth-shattering, cathartic event

Bus explosion, someone dying, someone resurrecting, someone surviving a gazillion gunshots, a battle royale between good birds and bad birds, a singing showdown with some other character tied to a chain of explosives, someone telling someone that she is a bastard and the oppressed party is the legitimate heir/ess, after all. Anything.

4. A "theme" song

A tad forgivable when the soap is named after a song. But then when Sheryn Regis sings the theme song to normally-unattainable octaves, what could go wrong?

5. Mean antagonists

When Pinoys want mean, they really get mean. Super mean. Uber mean. Evil. Evil evil in levels that put Cruella deVille or 'em bitches in Dynasty to shame. With matching laughter and designer fashions.

6. Themed names

Good thing this has gone out of fashion. Early this century, I remembered a soap whose leads were Yuri, Katrina, Helaena, Nikos, Henri, Ingrid, Ivan, Dmitri, and Anilov. For a while I thought Leo Tolstoy wrote the teleplay. Then came Diana, Beatrice, and Sophia from the rural barrios where they were supposed to be farmers who later went to Hong Kong to become domestic helpers. Credible, but I was just expecting more combo type names (first syllable of mom's name + first syllable of dad's name) or something with Ann or Mary or Lyn - Lovelyn, Ginalyn, Remalyn. But alas, none of that. Oh, before I forget, I remembered Carmi Martin playing a soap opera character named Dolce Vita. And she was one nasty biatch.

7. Everybody's related to everybody, if not now, sooner or later

Filipino soap opera writers, writing about "realities" in the Philippines, with its 87 million people (and counting), feel that it is their responsibility to let everybody know everybody and for everybody to be related to all the characters in the soap before it ends. Eat your heart out, Alejandro González Iñárritu. Why settle for characters with interconnecting lives when you have characters related by some amazing stroke of fate, by some cosmic alignment. Take your pick: soli or sanguinis. If someone is not related to any of the characters, chances are, the guy's gonna die before the season ends. But then again, the death might be cathartic (see rule #3.)

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