[The following is the first post of new contributing writer Olivia Hoang. Please look forward to more of her writings in the future!–ed.]
Once in a while I like to watch some Korean drama because I like to watch Asian people (I just can’t get enough of them) and because I love Korean fashion. While the PG-rated nature of these dramas is a refreshing break from over-sexualized American media, I couldn’t help but notice that the heroines in most of these dramas are always helpless and in need of a man to rescue them. In the wildly popular melodrama series “Lovers in Paris,” billionaire playboy Han Ki-Ju (played by actor Park Shin Yang) never knew what love was until he met bumbling Kang Tae-Young (played by actress Kim Jung Eun). Ki-Ju had once been married to a beautiful, successful, and level-headed woman through an arranged marriage, but finally ended up in divorce because he just couldn’t come to love her. Yet somehow, childish and dirt-poor Kang Tae-Young captures his heart.
And the above example is only one out of many instances in which a highly desirable bachelor in a Korean drama chooses not a sophisticated, competent, beautiful woman, but a childish one that can be extremely annoying (a la Chae Rim’s role in “All About Eve”). Kim Jung-Eun’s graceful portrayal in “Lovers in Paris” saved her from incurring my annoyance, but most of these other actresses could not escape The Most Annoying Hall of Fame. This trend of infantile heroines is irritating not only because it is unbelievable how someone can fall for such a childish girl when they have so many other options, but also because this subtle devaluing of women can wreak damage in young, impressionable girls whose inability to see through the misogyny makes them vulnerable to imitating this kind of behavior in real life.
Television shows get high ratings by getting the viewers emotionally involved. And what better way to get viewers involved than to come up with melodramatic plots? The problem arises when life imitates art, and the helpless persona that girls imitate becomes a habit that affects the quality of their decisions, relationships, and ultimately, the quality of their lives. These shows carry the implicit message that naïve girls who stay childish are the most desirable as a mate, and not a smart woman who holds her own. Young girls surrounded with these portrayals may come to believe that being “cute” is what matters at the expense of maturity, and where no drama exists, they create it in their lives. So the next time you see one of these flashy productions with the beautiful people, beautiful clothes, decked out settings, and beautiful soundtrack music, remember to look for what lies beneath.