Zombie stories are, for many reasons, a mess. Despite the fact that zombie lore originated with enslaved Haitians who feared that they would be forced to labor even after they died, many contemporary zombie stories focus on white people and their desire to run amok in a world disturbingly devoid of people of color. Not so, however, with the subject of this month’s Korean drama review: Kingdom. The Netflix original series, which released its entire first season in January of this year, transports zombies to medieval Joseon Korea and adds its own twists to the lore, utilizing it to deliver a commentary on the horrific consequences of poverty and inequality. (Warning for minor spoilers ahead.)
Sometimes there are shows that fill you with excitement because they seem like they’ll give their female characters compelling motivations and genuine agency in the plot, only to completely disappoint you by reverting to the same old misogyny and conservatism found in any other show. Arang and the Magistrate was one such show for me. Although I enjoyed watching it in the beginning, I was left with bitterness at the end because the women in the series received such disappointing resolutions to their character arcs. (Warning ahead for spoilers!)
When I was trying to think of a topic to write about for Month of Joy, I considered several options: Pokémon, cooking, the Robins. All of these things do make me happy, but for various reasons (mostly of the “life got bonkers” variety), I never got around to writing about them. Then I sat down to watch the second season of Marvel’s Runaways, saw Nico Minoru in all her gay goth girl glory, and felt my heart swell with joy and recognition. So I busted out my laptop, and here I am, writing about why Nico is one of the most important characters of 2018 for me.
Stories can be about many things. There are stories about love, revolution, trauma, or all of these things at once. And then there are stories that are about, well, stories. Storyception, if you will. Often, these stories are about creators and their work, and they force us to think about the very process it takes to make the books, movies, and comics that we consume. Where do the ideas come from? What does it cost to bring them to life? What are the consequences? I really enjoy these kinds of meta stories, so of course I was immediately drawn to W: Two Worlds.
W: Two Worlds originally aired from July 2016 to September 2016. As the title suggests, it’s about two different worlds: the real world, where the main character Oh Yeon Joo lives, and the fictional world of a famous webtoon named W, where our other main character Kang Chul is the protagonist. W (the webtoon, not the drama), is written and drawn by Yeon Joo’s father and follows rich boy vigilante Chul as he attempts to find the culprit who murdered his family one fateful night.
When you think about science fiction and fantasy TV shows, you might think about series like Star Trek and Doctor Who, or Adventure Time and Game of Thrones. You might not, however, think about Korean dramas. Yet there are many Korean dramas with science fiction and fantasy elements. Most of these shows might be more accurately classified as paranormal romances due to their focus on a relationship between the main characters, but that focus certainly doesn’t take away from the fact that there are cursed goblins, comic book heroes coming to life, and aliens from another star galore in these Korean dramas.