I’ve discovered Turkish Dramas

Like America, of course, the Turkish Drama has been in existence without any need for somebody to discover it all along. In the English language discovered has more than one mesaning. It can mean a unique event, the finding of something previously unknown to most of the world- such as the discovering of helium and how it works, or the discovery of germs.

Or it could mean coming to a better understanding, through more careful observation and study, of something that has always been around, just as Maria Montesorri wrote in her book The Discovery of Children.

And it can mean something more personal- the discovery is new to me, but saying I’ve discovered Turkish drama conveys to pretty much everybody that *I* am the one who didn’t know anything about them before, and I’m excited about that.

Mini lecture over:

I’ve disocvered precisely one Turkish drama, but now I want to watch more, a lot more.

My first Turkish Drama is Room 309 (also called Apartment 309). I’ve been watching it on youtube. This is part of a family of Asian dramas that are all remakes of the same story.

The general outlines of the drama are:
A mismatched couple accidentally pair up one strange night on a cruise ship and then part ways, end up having to get married later when she learns she’s three months pregnant.

The accidental one night stand always happens through a series of ridiculous and not very believable but still funny events that absolve each of them of ill intentions, but it looks worse for her and they are entirely mistrustful of the other. They are alternately drunk, medicated, involved in a case of mistaken identity, and usually in the wrong room by mistake. They are usually caught on camera in a nefarious and melodramatic plot to entrap the rich man as they wake up and scream in the most glriously ridiculous hackneyed fashion, but agree to part ways. Three months later she learns she’s pregnant. She finds him and delivers the news, usually by accident with amusing misteps along the way, and he first insists it’s impoosible, sometimes suggests abortion and then backs out, but in the end, He isn’t a total jerk and after some understandable freaking out over the news, he generally agrees to marry the girl, usually witha contract between them that the marriage will only last until the baby is born, or til the baby is a few months old. In most of them, she’s supposed to leave the baby with him, which is not my favourite part of this family of dramas. He usually has somebody else he’s pining after and maybe engaged to. There’s usually a delightful grandmother who for various culturally legit reasons is desperate to have her grandson make a baby to carry on the family name and she’s a smart cookie, cute as a button, and always takes the girl’s side. There’s pretty much always a male second lead who would have been the first lead if he’d just met the girl in time, but he shows up in her life about the time she discovers she’s pregnant. Some of them are noble and supportive and fall in love with the girl but just want what’s best for her. Some of them are a little sneakier than that.

Usually she is a bit of a downtrodden, poor, overwooked doormat who discovers her talents and rebuilds her self-esteem (sometimes during an extended breakup period covered by a time jump). There’s also usually a storyline about a long lost sister belonging to the second male lead, and he’s been trying to find her all of his adult life after having been adopted by kind foreigners. There are other common side plots, but they rarely matter that much, although I liked the half brother relationship best in the Korean version.

Naturally, pair who accidentally paired up fall in love through the course of the show, go through various break ups and misunderstandings, and at last end up together, the journey sometimes includes some desperately sad events.

Each country’s remake focuses on some slightly different points, makes some adjustments based on that country’s cultures, values, practices, leaving out parts that would make no sense or be downright offensive in that culture, highlighting or adding issues an storylines, plotpoints, settings and character style that reflects the culture. It’s the kind of stuff I just eat with a spoon and a stupid grin on my face. It’s delgihtful little lessons in various cultures without setting out to teach anything. The people making those adjustments aren’t doing it in a pedantic, step by step way. IT’s organic. When the drama travels to another country and gets remade, people naturally drop what doesn’t make sense and add what does, and roll their eyes and say, “That’ll never fly here,” or “in this country people care more about…” and so it happens. It’s there even without conscious decisions being made, often in the smaller detailslike what a family snacks on while sitting around the table, how the characters greet each other and take their leave, whether they eat with chopsticks or a spoon and fork, what their favourite foods are, and the decorations in the house.

The drama has gone under the names:

Fated to Love You, Taiwan, 2008- This is the first one, and it’s the first that I watched. It was wildly popular at the time, breaking several viewing records and even getting noticed by the American press. It was only 24 episodes, but it felt much longer than that. I did enjoy the general story and most of the characters. Stars Joe Chen as the dowdy secretary and Ethan Ruan as the lonely, misunderstood, grumpy with a gold heart rich bachelor who needs to give his grandmama a grandson. I liked the actors and their characters, although the misunderstood grouchy bear with a sore head male lead who acts like a six year old does get tiresome. This was probably the most risque, although the most blush inducing scene was done entirely by the clever use of music and rockets.

Fated to Love You, Korean, 2014. starring Jang Na Ra and Jang Hyeok, with Choi Jin Hyeok playing the second male lead and thus breaking uselessly wishful hearts everywhere. – I enjoyed this one, partly because it was only 16 episodes so it cut out a lot of the unnecessary stuff from the original, and also because Jang Hyeok is a more sympathetic character, and less of a jerk. He’s funny, too. This one had a good mix of comedy and heart-ache and too much of the noble idiot martyr syndrome where the martyr character breaks hearts and breaks up to save their loved one some imagined future pain because of some doom over their own heads they won’t share with the loved one and allow them to make their own choices- the doom is usually something like some terrible disease, in other dramas using this trope it could be bankruptcy or discovering that your father killed her father, which is at least more understandable a reason for noble idiocy because you mix in your own shame with the Doom. Anyway, I liked this one enough to watch it twice, and I seldom do that.

Too Drunken to Love You– Taiwan, 2011. Joseph Chang and Rainie Yang. IT’s not exactly a straight up remake, but it’s definitely got a family resemblance. The respective pair have each been rejected by their beloveds, in situations they had every right not to expect rejection. On a binge-drinking rejection bender, they meet up, discover their common heart-ache and get married at an apparently open all night marriage agency. They wake up married to each other. They don’t remember how it happened, and spend a few episodes trying to hide the marriage from their exes while also trying to undo it. Annulling it is, of course, more complicated than it should have been for various reasons, and naturally they end up falling in love. On my blog Happy Endings are not a spoiler because I generally don’t watch things that don’t have a tidy H.E. with a few exceptions. Lots of funny moments in this one.

You’re My Destiny– Thailand, 2017, 17 episodes. I’m nearly done with this one- if you’re familiar with this family of dramas that means I’ve just started the other side of the time jump. This one faithfully follows the story-line of the Korean version, with a few small variations. All of these dramas show societies far more patriarchal than American culture, the Thai version perhaps the most so. In one throw away line meant, I think, to show the heroine’s virtue, she tells a sobbing friend whose boyfriend just broke up with her, “Well, you chouldn’t have flirted with his friend. Men and women are different.” In one of those litle cultural details that is partially so strking because it’s unlikely anybody thought about it consciously, it’s just the way things are, when a servant brings the grandmother her cell phone, she gets on her knees to hand it to her (in another Lakorn, or Thai drama, the servants kneeling and never sitting on the household furniture was also just part of the taken for granted background).

You Are My Destiny- China, 2020, I am not sure it’s finished yet. I haven’t seen it. IT sounds a lot sadder and more melo.

Room 309: If you are a fan of Asian dramas of any flavour, you have probably seen at least one of these. Here are some details specific to this one:

65 episodes, most between 35 and 45 minutes long. 2016-2017
Where watched: Youtube. There are probably other sources, this is the one I know of. There is a subscribe service for Turkish Dramas, but I don’t know anything about how it works- it’s called Watch IT! https://watch-it.net/
OTP: Demet Özdemir and Furkan (Can) PalalıI
I still have ten episodes to go, so I don’t know if they are going to throw in the heart-break that is in the others. I really hope not, but that hope is likely fruitless. So far, this is my favourite of all of them. In fact, all the episodes aren’t even up yet with English subs, and I was so eager to know what happened next that I watched one with Spanish subs. I can understand about half of the subs unaided, the other half, I pause, use google translate to fill in the gaps and get the gist of it. I liked this, but it did make each episode ake twice as long.

The original pair here are supposed to be on a blind date and they don’t realize it, but they are wtih the wrong people. She’s ordered non-alcoholic drinks, and just to be really annoying, his cousin and rival in the family business bribes the waiter to give her spiked drinks. She doesn’t realize she’s drinking fully loaded cocktails, and he thinks she knows she is. They wake up together in the hotel room, neither remembers anything, each blames the other, and they agree to go their separate ways. They leave still mistaken about the other’s identity. He realizes in just a few days that the girl he met was not the girl he was supposed to have met, she doesn’t find out until she discovers she’s pregnant and her mother drags her to confront her blind date of the night, and she realizes she’s never seen him before. He tells her he was unable to meet with her that night because of a car accident, and when he arrived late, she was already gone, but she still doesn’t know who she met. Once this gets sorted out, his family insists that he must marry her because they need an heir, and off they go on the roller-coaster of the jealousies, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, confusions, sabotage by outside parties, and one hilarious contratemps after another as, of course, they fall in love.

What I really love about this one- they are mismatched as far as social and economic position go, but she is nobody’s doormat, ever. She’s a sweet girl, a good girl, a kind girl and still a feisty girl who knows how to stand up for herself and she stands on her own two feet. She stands up and pushes back.
Her family: She lives at home with her mother and two sisters (one just returned to the house with her six year old daughter after catching her husband cheating), and her family is deeply warm, affectionate, and staunchly in support of each other. They are a joy to watch.

Feliz- a side character. She’s hilarious. She’s informal and usesa lot of slang. I’ve resorted to Google translate a few times. She’s married to the cousin/rival (who takes the place of the half-brother/stepbrother in this version). She’s overweight and has a mole on her face and there are a lot of jokes about her weight and appearance, but she’s tough, mouthy, and has a lot of basic down to earth smarts. She loves her sneaky mama’s boy husband and one has to wonder why. He is utterly unworthy of her. But other than her strange affection for the twit, she’s flawless, IMO.

The comedy- this one has the most and the best comedic moments. Of course, it has the most of almost everything because it’s the longest one.

Useful points:

Subs: These subs are incomplete and not done by somebody fluent in English. This means some comments and conversations don’t get translated at all, or whole chunks of words are incomprehensible alphabet soup (I presume here they just tried direct transliteration of the Turkish) and several things I presume were hilarious in the original don’t make any sense when translated literally. Enough does come through that this is the funniest version of all I’ve seen, and you can still get the gist of it..

Names: The three sisters are named for flowers. Nilufer means lotus or water-lily. Lahle means tulip, and Nergis means daffodil or narcissus. Sometimes the translators translate the character names literally, sometimes they don’t, and Lahe’s name is particularly confusing as most of the time it’s just transliterated, but sometimes it’s translated as Tulip, and later episodes it’s often translated as Doll or Dolls (unless this is a term of endearment?)

Pronouns- Like many languages other than English, there are apprently no gendered pronouns in Turkish. He, she, and it are the same word. People who grew up with non-gendered pronouns translated these subs and I am deeply grateful. They struggle with their pronouns. I suggest you will be happiest if you just consider pretty much every single pronoun as a blank for you to fill in. Ignore whatever pronoun is used for anybody or anything, and just fill in the blank yourself from context. This also holds true to most use of possessives for some reason, I’m not sure what language quirk causes that, but it does exist.

Go and Come are confusing to non-native English speakers. If you ever try to explain to a non-native English speaker friend when to say I’m going to your house vs I’m coming to your house, or why and when you say I’m going to the store, I’m coming to the store, I’m going to church, I’m coming to church, are you coming, are you going, are you going to the party, are you coming to the party, you know what I mean. I just held my understanding of the verb loosely and relied on context more for understanding. That means that when I see any form of the verb go or come I understand it’s about a person or persons moving from point a to point b, but which one and whether I would say going or coming I discover by context.

Answer- in these subtitles don’t answer me, you always answer me, why are you answering me,etc sems to be more like talking back than answer in common English usage.

Culture: Titles and using them correctly are very important in Turkish culture (I looked this up to doublecheck). The drama uses this to convey some of the tension between a couple of characters.

This is a fun drama.

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One Comment

  1. Sarah
    Posted August 30, 2020 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    YouTube often recommends for me music videos put together from Turkish dramas! I have watched translated clips from some shows, too, although I haven’t watched an entire series yet.

    I love seeing the various kinds of architecture (although if leading men are going to be mobsters or criminals, they really shouldn’t live in modern-style houses with mostly glass walls that can be shot through! — and I really do wonder about some of the homes’ safety during an earthquake).

    I think the leading lady from Room 309 is in a TV show that comes up as Can and Sanem on YouTube but I think the real name is Erkenci Kus. I’m not sure what the plot exactly is, but from a description online, it involves a choice between an arranged marriage and a career as a writer.

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