Life After Lockdown
Resilience fostered by Asian Entertainment
Words by Angela Lee
Art by Paul Libatique
Asian entertainment has always been wide-spread, successfully appealing towards a variety of audiences whether they be family, teens, or adults. Because of its growing popularity over the years, the industry continues to take the world by storm even in a time of crisis. Not only has it been able to kill boredom, but it also provides comic relief and hope amid pandemic struggles.
Recently, Netflix decided to expand its reach to select entertainment companies in Asia, feeding into the growing global appetite for more creative and compelling films. In 2019, Netflix signed contracts with two of the biggest production companies in South Korea, allowing the platform to stream primetime TV-draws to more than 190 countries. For the shows included in the contract, this was a perfect opportunity for them to increase their viewership, especially since the number of Netflix subscribers during this quarantine has doubled from last year. But Netflix hasn’t been the first to recognize the global potential of Asian entertainment.
Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Parasite’ became the first foreign-language film to win Best Picture at the recent 92nd Academy Awards. K-pop band BTS also took the world by storm as the first Korean artists to bag a Billboard Music Award in 2018. It also had two albums that hit #1 on the Billboard chart during the same year. One possible reason why Asian entertainment has grown in popularity can be traced back to the themes presented in Asian shows and movies. Most of these shows exhibit self-love and building strong relationships with loved ones. In quarantine, it's likely that people who use their extra time to bond with family can relate to these themes.
Rising fascinations on ‘2gether: The Series’
Early this year, Thailand released another one of its Boys’ Love (BL) dramas 2gether: The Series which recently broke through Asian mainstream consciousness. Boy’s Love (BL), also known as Yaoi, is a genre of fictional media that features male-to-male relationships. This genre is very prominent in the Thai entertainment industry, with famous shows such as “Sotus” and “Theory of Love” to name a few.
2gether: The Series tells the story of the girl-crazy Tine who is a little too eager for his dating life as he enters university. When he unexpectedly attracts a random gay admirer instead, Tine persuades musician-heartthrob Sarawat to stage as his fake boyfriend. However, as the two string along this fake relationship, they begin to question their true feelings towards each other.
The hype for this show was not only because of its good-looking lead actors but also because of its refreshing take on a queer relationship that deviates from typical hetero couples. For some, the prominence of these BL series has helped closeted teens cope during the lockdown.
The chemistry of the two actors captivated audiences outside Thailand and even influenced a growing fanbase for BL in the Philippines. A number of Filipinos expressed their interest in the Thai series as a sign of their strong support for the LGBTQIA+ community. Although the series takes place in a different context, many viewers were still able to connect and relate to the romantic excitement.
Into the Hallyu wave
Even mainstream media services have jumped into the Hallyu or Korean wave. For the past two decades, there has been a surge of K-dramas not only because of its eye-candy celebrities, but also because of its intricate storylines that explore imaginative themes like time travel, parallel worlds, myths, and many more! Nonetheless, K-dramas never fail to be socially relevant in their medical, legal, and political history shows. All of these value family and cultural traditions, as well as the rawness of humanity. K-dramas also give more room for men to be vulnerable to emotions. Because of the shows’ appeal to a wide range of ages and demographics, watching K-dramas is also a popular way for families to bond with each other.
Check out these binge-worthy K-dramas to keep you entertained!
Crash Landing On You
As the second highest-rated K-drama in Korean TV history, Crash Landing on You brought everyone on a rollercoaster of emotions as high-profile businesswoman Seri accidentally paraglides to North Korea and meets Captain Ri. This unconventional plot adopts elements of action, tragedy, and romantic-comedy, which leaves its viewers wanting more. Its supporting characters—from Captain Ri’s team to the women in the neighborhood—also portray personal side-stories that many could relate to.
The dynamic within this close group of students-turned-doctors in Hospital Playlist will definitely get you feeling nostalgic! Together, they share tears and joy throughout the years of their medical journey. The story begins as the group decides to revive their band again even after becoming successful doctors in their fields. This drama, along with its heartwarming soundtrack, will surely uplift your spirits during the quarantine.
Itaewon Class inspires everyone to always see the silver lining amid misfortunes. Ex-convict Park Saeroyi manages to turn his small pub into a leading corporation, despite constant competition with a corporate giant. Though always put in a tight spot, Saeroyi manages through his unwavering grit and trust in his friends.
Radiating kindness of stars
Healthy relationships are not limited to dramas alone. In these times of distress, many celebrities have reached out to the underprivileged by providing financial and emotional support.
K-pop bands like EXO and GOT7 helped fund disaster-relief operations and medical equipment for low-income families. On the other hand, BTS fans decided to donate their concert ticket refunds from the canceled tours. BTS itself also spread positivity through its hopeful message. TWICE interacted with its fans through virtual fan meetings and birthday blasts.
Various artists also initiated charity concerts. In WebTVAsia’s One Love Asia, 50 leading public figures and YouTubers across the continent collaborated on a livestream concert to support UNICEF in aiding children during the pandemic. Some of the participating countries include Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, India, and Vietnam. An Asian-American community also launched the Live From Home concert to raise funds and awareness on xenophobia against Asians after the coronavirus breakout.
Video of BTS’ hopeful message: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPbtZCP-QWQ
Other forms of entertainment
It is undeniable that everyone maximizes technology to stay connected. In China, people even hosted “cloud raves” or “virtual nightclubbing” through Douyin, their own version of TikTok. Some also posted their own dance or singing live streams to occupy their time.
Even those outside of traditional media have found their own avenues in the entertainment industry. Content creators on YouTube, along with viewer engagement, have recently skyrocketed in numbers. Vloggers, whether veteran or startup, maximized their quarantine time by sharing their hobbies and insights to uplift their followers.
During quarantine, finding creative ways to cope through entertainment truly reflects the resilience of humanity. Heartwarming stories and acts of kindness bind everyone together to make positive change. Because of how Asian entertainment successfully projects the universal themes of love and strife through their cultures, people are able to still connect beyond the confines of their homes and conjure hope in their lives.
AUGUST 16, 2020