I worry sometimes that Koreans have an unrealistic understanding of life in America. This morning, I flipped on the TV while I did some housework. I passed several Korean soap operas (a startling number of which appeared to be historical dramas involving swords, damsels in distress, and longing looks from under spectacularly large hats) and found a channel showing programming in English with Korean subtitles. It was an episode of NCIS. I switched channels, surfed a bit more, and found CSI, then CSI:Miami. One more attempt at channel surfing yielded Law and Order.
Each of the episodes involved main characters, members of the regular, recurring cast, personally embroiled in the crimes under investigation. The head of the department investigated his son’s abduction. A main character’s niece worked in a nightclub where a murder occurred. A terrorist attempted a chemical attack on the office where the main characters worked. A serial killer targeted the cast of the show and ended up fleeing from the police in a spectacular, high-speed chase.
Koreans must think that Americans go through their days navigating explosive gunfights on the highways, bio-terrorism in the office, a break for a nice lunch in a park (whenever TV Americans eat lunch in a park, for some reason, it‘s always an oasis of peace), followed by an afternoon of beating on lowlifes and then dinner in a nice restaurant that may or may not get shot up in a drive-by.
I searched and searched but could not find a better depiction of life in the US anywhere. Eventually, the various crime scene investigative shows gave way to movies like Transformers, Mean Girls, and Die Hard. This was not an improvement.
Disgusted, I began flipping at random. After a while, I found a channel showing a live broadcast of a Starcraft 2 head-to-head video game matchup. The screen showed a mass of computer generated characters violently flailing away at each other. The announcers were screaming excitedly in Korean as events unfolded. The camera briefly flashed away from the action on screen to show the players, both young men, intent on their computers, and wearing dozens of logos for various popular products. They looked more like NASCAR drivers than computer geeks. Eventually, one player won two matches in row, the announcers reached a shrieking crescendo of excitement, and both players got up and bowed to each other. Roll credits.
After a commercial break the next show started. I found myself watching two exceptionally enthusiastic Korean men playing some type of video game dating simulator. One of them was attempting to convince a digital lady to go to dinner with him (somehow, this involved pandas, but this mystifying connection was lost on me), while the other was trying to smack a small chipmunk in a sewer grate. I think that the chipmunk was trying to distract the girl from the dinner invitation. Either way, both Korean men became very agitated whenever he appeared.
Quietly, I turned off the TV and decided that there were better, less unsettling ways to spend my day. Koreans may not have a realistic understanding of life in America, but based on Korean TV, I have no idea what to make of life in Korea. And I really think I’m safer trying to avoid coming to any conclusions.