16 November 2012


Random Thoughts on ... Wrist-grabbing

Posted by Kakashi Sensei on November 16, 2012
This is not a new or particularly original topic. I'm sure there's 100 posts on this already. But ... allow me to add the 101st. Because: Is there one single drama without wrist-grabbing? If there is, I have yet to see it. 
(can you guess the drama? the first one to get it right will received some Swiss cholocate!)
There are at least two types of wrist-grabs in KDrama :

a) The Wrist-Drag-Grab
Setting: The heroine is having a conversation with the third leg of the love triangle, aka the second lead. They are chatting amiably. She is, of course, not really interested in the second lead, while the second lead is very much interested in her. First lead sees the two getting along well, and major jealously results. First lead waltzes over, grabs the wrist of heroine lady and drags her away from lusty second lead.
Purpose: Claim woman, show competitor she is yours, show woman who her man is.
Variations: There are several variations of the Wrist-Drag-Grab, as the reason for the drag might vary. In terms of looks, they are the same. Note that she hardly ever drags him. 

b) The Wrist-Swirl-Grab
Setting: The heroine tells the hero off or is ready to walk away from him for good, is angry, is resentful, is whatever ... anyway, she wants to go. But he will not have it. He can no longer keep it in; he loves her so, his feelings overcome him, he grabs her wrist as she walks away (sometimes even running after her) and swirls her around, into an embrace or even into one of the scarce KDrama kisses.
Purpose: Claim woman, show feelings, get her close to kiss.
Variations: There are not many variations of the Wrist-Swirl-Grab. Only sometimes, they're kinda 'accidental' and bring the two not-yet-lovers closer then they expected. Note that she never swirl-kisses him.

I don't care whether they are a) or b) or any combination of the two, I hate them, hate them, hate them!! (and don't get me started on the forced kisses...) Not that I try to be a feminist when watching KDrama, since I've noticed early that the two things don't go together well, but the forceful, even abusive wrist-grabbing and wrist-dragging are really too much for my Western European taste buds. In fact, I was almost angry with my beloved Magistrate for doing so much of it in Arang and the Magistrate, a drama that I liked so much otherwise.

But here's the rub.

KDramas are products of a different culture, produced not only but probably mainly for that specific culture. According to this great source, the wrist-grabbing actually happens in real life too. Therefore, KDrama that shows wrist-grabbing is simply showing us a part of real gender-interaction in Korea.
via http://www.mykoreanhusband.com/korean-drama-arm-grab/ 
Am I an authority to publicly comment on Korean customs? Most certainly not. I have never been to Korea and don't even have any Korean friends (*sob*). So who am I to dislike the wrist-grabbing and write about it? In fact, it's relatively easy: If I don't like it, I could simply stop watching. Which I obviously don't want to. KDrama forever!

Others have written in much more detail about gender in KDrama and how it touches all the wrong buttons of a Western raised woman (see this wonderful post by Amanda for example) so I'm trying to keep it short. Watching shows from and for a different culture can be something purely enjoyable but it can also create friction in our taken-for-granted universe, make us pause, and reconsider. What are the things I take for granted? Why are they good and important to me? How far would I be willing to go if I had to give up certain freedoms and values? Etc.

Posing such questions from time to time is a very important thing; because nothing that we have in our lives should be taken for granted. Therefore, the conclusion is simple: I am truly grateful for how women's portrayal in KDrama challenges me and my taken for granted position in society again and again. I will most certainly always hate wrist-grabbing - but this 'hate' is to be embraced.

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