Updates: The Role Reversals of Men and Women in Kdramas

***The following contains plot points to some Korean Dramas on Netflix. Spoiler Warning is in effect***

For months I have had in my drafts a post with updated reviews on the kdramas that Kate and I have been watching on Netflix, but for whatever reason I never completed it. I did plan on finishing it, but last night I had a realization about the story telling of some of the shows we liked the most, so I’m going to write about that instead. It’s a common trope in romances that one person is more experienced than the other when it comes to love and sex. Typically, it is the Man who is the one who has a long history of romances while the woman is new to the whole affair. Think the “bad boy” trope. Not only does this usually shift the power to the man in the relationship but also reinforces the idea of women being pure and chaste. This has shown up a couple of times in some of the Korean dramas we have watched, but we’ve noticed the roles are mostly reversed. The romantic male is inexperienced in love and sex and the romantic female lead is the one with the past. In almost all of these shows the man is a virgin while the sexual status of the woman is left ambiguous or her past plays a part in the story. I found it interesting because it is not something seen often in popular media, let alone in more than one show in 2020 to feature such a character. Let’s take a look at four different shows that Kate and I have watched in the last four months and explore it, shall we.

Itaewon Class: Our Hero Park Saeroyi (played by Park Seo Joon) is a high school dropout ex-convict who spends the next ten years of his life after getting out of prison to take revenge on the family that killed his father and ruined his life. He starts his own restaurant in the neighborhood of Itaewon in Seoul. Getting revenge obviously doesn’t really leave a lot of room for romance, and also he is still in enamored with his school girl crush, Oh Soo Ah (played Kwon Nara), who also just happens to work for his enemy. His plan for revenge doesn’t really get going until he meets Jo Yi Seo (Kim Dami) who is very business savvy, despite the fact she is very young and is 10 years the junior of Saeroyi. Saeroyi is a good guy with a moral compass that sometimes gets in the way. In a scene half way through the show, the cast is playing what is essentially spin the bottle but instead of kissing whoever the bottle lands on you get the ask a question. This is when he admits he has never even been kissed, let alone anything else. At this confession is both Soo Ah and Yi Seo who have different reactions. Soo Ah’s love life is left opened. We are not told much about her dating life, but it is hinted that even though she has feelings for Saeroyi she hasn’t exactly been waiting for him either. Yi Seo is the an anti-social free spirit who does what she wants and with whom she wants. It’s clear that she has experience when it comes to the opposite sex. In any case both of the female leads have more experience than Saeroyi and they know it and often use it against each other as they compete for his affections.

Crash Landing on You. Ri Jung Hyuk (Hyun Bin) is a captain in the North Korean Army and is very earnest about his duty. He has been engaged for the last 10 years to a woman who he barely knows. They engagement was arranged by their parents and marriage had been put on hold after the death of his older brother, allowing for time to mourn. Before he was a Captain, he was studying to be a classical pianist in Switzerland for many years. I guess you could make the argument that while he was in Switzerland and away from family and obligations he could have played the field a bit, but I don’t think so, as we are led to believe that Jung Hyuk is a moral upstanding gentlemen that wouldn’t do anything to dishonor his family or his fiance. Juxtapose him with Yoon Se Ri (Son Ye Jin) who is not only an heiress to a great fortune but a successful business woman in her own right. Her love life is all over of the tabloids, and she uses it to her advantage when it comes to business and her family. She never stays in any relationship for very long and quickly moves on to the next one. In the first episode her brothers (who are awful btw) joke about how they can’t keep up with her latest romances and ask if her current guy is the actor or the baseball player. At one point Se Ri asks Jung Hyuk who was his first love, and he reluctantly admits it was her, which explains to her all of the awkward moments that happened between them earlier, but is also sweet because even though she has dated other men she could also say he is her first love, too.

It’s Okay Not to be Okay When Moon Gang Tae (Kim Soo Hyun) was a kid, his mother was murdered leaving him to take care of his older brother, Moon Sang Tae (Oh Jung Se), who is autistic. Sang Tae also witnessed the murder of their mother, and the trauma of it forces the brothers to move every spring to outrun the memories. With the constant moving and taking care of his brother, Gang Tae doesn’t have much time for himself, let alone a love life. This is something that is mentioned in the first two episodes. Ko Moon Young (Seo Yi Ji) is a famous children’s book author that has her own anti-social disorder. She is likable and so unlikable at the same time. While we are not given specifics about her love life, her uninhibited life style definitely implies she has had lovers in the past. Gang Tae, to say the least, is repressed when it comes to his emotions. He does this partly because he needs to control them around his brother but he also has experienced his own traumas and keeping his emotions in check is a coping mechanism. Moon Young asks Gang Tae flat out in one episode if he is a virgin and offers to take his v-card. He doesn’t answer, but it’s pretty clear from his reaction that he is. Something that she will tease him about for rest of the series.

Hospital Playlist I debated whether or not to include this one because it fits but doesn’t. Ahn Jeong Won (Yoo Yeon Seok) is a pediatric surgeon who is very religious. In fact he has dreamed of becoming a priest ever since he was a little boy and has finally taken steps to quit medicine and join the priesthood. That is until he meets Jang Gyeoul (Shin Hyun Bin). As you can imagine for someone who longs to devote is life to God, dating is not a high priority. It’s commented over and over again about him that he doesn’t date and that he has never been interested in any woman. Even his closest friends echo this sentiment. Before the show started the director released short character descriptions, and in it does say that Jeong Won was once in love some time in his 20s, but this is never mentioned or alluded to in the show, so this is a story line that got dropped, or it will play a part in the upcoming seasons. So we once again have a male character with little experience, but where this differs is with Gyeoul. She is also inexperienced, and maybe just as much if not more so then he is. Gyeoul is a General Surgery resident who is very hardworking and good at her job, but she does have trouble relating to people, including her patients.Throughout the season, she enlists the help of Jeong Won’s friend Lee Ik Jun (Jo Jung Suk) to help her in her quest to get Jeong Won fall in love with her. Something that Ik Jun is more than happy to help her in. In a scene midway through the season, she and a fellow resident and friend chat about relationships, and Gyeoul admits she’s never been kissed before. In the end of the season, they do end up expressing their feelings to each other, and it’s everything you want that scene to be. Here we have a couple that is are starting on an even playing field and lucky for us a new season starts sometime next year, so we will get to see how they move forward together.

It turns out that these four shows are among our favorite shows we have seen this year. Does this new twist on an old trope play into our enjoyment? Maybe. I mean it doesn’t’ hurt. As Kate pointed out, when a guy is less knowledgeable they are less likely to mansplain, and this definitely true for all these male characters. They all come off as caring and thoughtful, if not a little aloof. The other trait that all of these men have in common, besides their virginity, is that they are all are repressed in one way or another, and it’s not until they meet the female lead that they start to open up and to reexamine why they are the way they are. So while the roles may be reversed when it comes to love, there is still a little bit of expectation that the woman’s role is to help fix him. To me the imbalance between the characters never feels as though the relationship is unbalanced. What each character lacked they made up in other ways. I think the most interesting part of all of this is that at no point was the masculinity of the man questioned by any of the other characters. It was sort of a “this who they are” or “this is understandable when you considered what they have been through”. Can you imagine how characters would react if a straight male romantic lead admitted that they were a 30 year old virgin in American media? They would have been mocked mercilessly. As for me the viewer, I found all these characters sexy and again actively rooted for them to get with the girl in the end.

So what does this tell us about Korea and their culture? All four of these shows got high ratings on Korean television, and many of the actors are some of the most popular and highest paid actors working in Korea today. What is so attractive about the guy being “pure”? I’m all for this trend and wouldn’t mind seeing more of it. It also makes me like Korea more that they seem comfortable portraying men and women this way and doing so without falling into stereotypes and other harmful tropes. The more that I think of it, maybe this is why Kate and I have really enjoyed watching kdramas, beside the fact that we have become a little obsessed with the country and culture as a whole. It has given us a chance to look in and see a different perspective on storytelling. How we look at love and relationships here in the US or in the West is not always the healthiest. Not to say that Korea is perfect because we have seen some shows that have featured very unhealthy relationships and also some troubling social norms. For the most part, all the shows we have seen have been kind of a breath of fresh air and a much needed reprieve from our current reality. We both highly recommend all four of the shows I highlighted here. They are all available on Netflix and very bingeable.

Help Move the Quileute to Higher Ground

For those who follow along with us know that Kate and I challenged each other to reread the Twilight Series before the release of Midnight Sun. Yeah we both failed as we both of yet to get through Twilight. Oops. Some of the characters I always enjoyed reading was Jacob and this friends and pack members of the Quileute Tribe. They are based on the real Quileute Tribe that lives on the reservation in La Push, Washington. There has been a push on social media asking fans of the series to make donations to the Quileute Tribe’s campaign to move to higher ground. At the moment, their schools and many other important buildings are located near the Pacific Ocean and are risk of a earthquake and tsunami. If you bought the books and/or planning on reading Midnight Sun, please consider donating to the Tribe and help in their efforts to preserve their culture and to keep their tribe safe. For more information, visit their website, mthg.org.

Ally Box!

Greetings! About a month ago, I saw that Fulton Street Books and Coffee was putting together an ally box, containing books to help folks wanting to learn more about race, racism, and white supremacy in America. So, to further my education (and to be a better and more informed teacher) I signed up. The subscription is running for three months (and there are still some subscriptions available through Fulton Street Books website! Click through on that link above!)

In this first box, there are flash cards with key terms that you’ve seen popping up in the media and two books. They’re both books that are on my to-read pile and I am super excited about them. The first book is So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo. I think this will be an overview to some of the issues in the current moment.

The second book is The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein. As someone who grew up in largely white communities, I think this one will probably contain a lot of information to help me better understand how I have benefited from our current systems that harm Black citizens and other citizens of color. Despite what I said about the first book probably being a good overview text, I think I’m going to start with the second one.

These look like they’re both going to be good reads, and I can’t wait to see what’s in the next box!

Quick Update: Why Bella is so Unlikable

These days it isn’t much of an hot take to call Bella Swan of Twilight unlikable. At this point it is pretty much excepted across the board but as I go back and reread the Twilight series for our Pop Cultural Homework I am reminded how unlikable her character is from the very first chapter. We meet Bella as she moves from Phoenix to Forks. Every thing she says about Forks drips with condensation and disdain. She talks as she is being punished and going into exile even though she is the one who chose to do this so her Mom can travel more easily with her new husband. She laments the fact that she’ll miss the sun and wonders how anyone can possibly live here. She goes on and on about how awful school is going to be because these small kids are just going to gawk at her big cityness. Girl get over yourself. You’re from Phoenix not Los Angeles. She dismisses everyone who says anything kind or encouraging to her living here. Every single person she encounters on her first day is nothing but kind to her and yet she can’t be bothered to acknowledge them. She doesn’t bother to learn any of their names or follow along with the conversation. She only decides to take part on the discussion to ask about the Cullens and once she gets her answers she tunes everyone out again. No wonder she and Edward are meant for each other because they are both so wrapped up in their own self absorption that they don’t have room for anyone else to exist. I know Kate and I will go more into this and more with our reviews but yeah I just really can’t get over Bella here. How did I read this series over and over again and not want to throw the book across the room?

As you an see my reread is going great? How are you all doing? Years removed from your first reading, what strikes you the most about Twilight now?

So How’s it going?

So how’s it going out there ? You all staying safe and staying inside? What are you reading while self isolating? Me? Well not a whole lot. I thought when this started about a month ago (I can’t believe I’m going on my 4th week here!) that I was going to read all these books and that hasn’t really happened. I did finish two books and they were good and I enjoy them but since then I’ve really hard time focusing. I’m sure we are all feeling the same anxiety and stress of the times and it makes it really hard to concentrate. I’ve tried to start a few books but either I’m just not in the mood for them right (it turns out I have a lot of books that center around rebuilding after a global pandemic or disaster of some sort. A little bit to close to home at the moment.) or I just can’t focus long enough to comprehend what I’m reading and I end up reading the same paragraph over and over. Instead I’ve been watching a lot more on Netflix and TV. I find putting on a TV show or a movie is easier because I can be a little bit more passive. If I tune out for a bit it’s okay and still be okay. I don’t have to focus quite as much. I also wonder if the reason I’m having a hard time reading is that I used to do most of my reading on my commute to and from work. I’m obviously not commuting now. So maybe since my routine has been interrupted and I haven’t found a way to include reading in my new routine. Maybe I need to try audio books. Anyways, I hope that you all doing well and taking care of yourself. Let me know if you have any suggestions. Be safe everyone!

Still Reading: Pop Culture Homework Assignment

So, Wednesday nights in my house at the moment are for doing a little cleaning after dinner. While I clean, I’m still listening to Seafire. It is so good, but it is taking me forever to get through it.

This is the first time since we’ve started the Pop Culture homework assignment that I haven’t made it to the end before Labor Day. I’d like to say its because I’ve been very busy. But, it’s also because I’ve been spending my evenings watching Netflix.

Crowd Sourcing: Need Suggestions to finish my Diverse Narrators Challenge

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As of yesterday, I had finished my Goodreads.com reading challenge by finishing my 50th book this year.   I decided to look at my own challenge to read more Diverse Narrators and see where I am in it and sadly, I’m not any further along then my last update.  I have books picked out for some categories but I still haven’t read them and I still don’t know about the others.  So dear friends of the internet, help me out with some book recommendations.  What should I read to for the following.

A Book with a Trans Narrator I thought about using Alex Fierro from Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Ship of the Dead but the story is only from Magnus point of view so that’s out.  I’ve read good reviews for If I was your Girl by Meredith Russo. So I’ll think I’ll try that one but do you know of any other good book with a Trans Narrator?

A Book with an African Narrator I’ve settled on Born a Crime by Trevor Noah because everyone I know who has read it has loved it and I do love him on the Daily Show.  Of course, Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor I’m also interested in too.

A Book with an Asian Narrator I thought about using Warcross by Marie Lu but Emika Chen is Asian American and I already have two books for that one and Hideo Tanaka who is British Japanese is not the narrator of the story, only Emika.  A friend recommended Pachinko by Mi Jin Lee but I’m not sure.

A  Book with a Native American Narrator Sadly, I’m not sure.  Sherman Alexie’s books? Has anyone read Alyson Noel’s Soul Seekers series?

A Book with an Indigenous Mexican Narrator I’m even more loss on this one.  I thought for a second about All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater but by the beginning of the story, the Soria’s have lived in Colorado for over a century and the story is more about the family now then their pasts.  So any suggestions?

I’m open to anything.  Fiction, Non-fiction, fantasy, contemporary, romance. Whatever you got I’m up for it.  Leave your suggestions in the comments below or hit me up on our Twitter @StacksXLiveX and Facebook

Another Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Challenge Update

Beth already did a challenge update this month and with a little over a month left in 2016, I thought I should see where I stand.

 

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In June, with about half the year under our belts, I had read six books off of the challenge list. Six books. Off my own challenge list. Ugh. I am the worst.

 

So, let’s see how well I’ve done since then. To The Raven King, The life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, The Year of Yes, Sad Girl Poems, the Feminist Mystique, and A bunch of Captain America, I have added: Americanah, Kindred, Bitch Planet, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Whipping Girl (in progress), Call Me by My Other Name (to be reviewed), and Emperor of Sound.

So far I’ve read 13 out of 30. As I don’t like failing at things I set out for myself, I have thought about rearranging the things that I’ve read this year on the list so that I can use things that aren’t currently on the list so that I can satisfy categories I haven’t gotten yet. Like, if I moved Shonda Rhimes to “read a book by a woman of color” then I could put Caitlin Moran in at “read a book by a woman”. But, I read Shonda Rhimes book first, so it is staying where it is. The good news for me is that I have another six categories already picked out. The even better news is that I’m part way through two of those books. However, there’s still a lot of work that has to be done in 2016 and, I have to tell you, folks. I’m not feeling sanguine about meeting the challenge this year.

 

Diverse Stacks, Diverse Lives Challenge Update

Sooooo…. I thought, since it is now June, that it might be a good idea to check and see how I’m doing on our book challenge for the year.

 

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So far this year I have read a book with characters from various socioeconomic classes (The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater), A book by an Asian author (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo), A book by a woman author (Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes), A book by a small press (Sad Girl Poems by Christopher Soto) , an audiobook (The feminist Mystique by Betty Friedan), and a graphic novel (with a superhero character.) (Y’all, I’ve read so much Captain America it ain’t even funny anymore.)  That’s six out of thirty.

 

I’m not even a quarter of the way done with the challenge. But, I have some things I’ve picked up that are in the pipeline that should fill out some of these categories. I hope. I just started Kindred by Octavia Butler, so that counts as a book with an African American character.

 

Are you doing a book challenge this year? How are you doing on it? What have you read on the challenge that you loved but wouldn’t have read otherwise?