When Male Leads Go From Swoon-Worthy To Cringe-Worthy

When Male Leads go from Swoon-Worthy to Cringe-Worthy

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Hey Drama fans, have you reached a point in your drama/film watching of K/J/C/T dramas where those handsome male leads suddenly start depicting less desirable traits and unsavoury personalities? In a moment the sweetheart fluttering feelings can diminish and we are left scratching our heads with the thought of 'Why did he do that?'

I really like it when a drama guy gets his feelings shaken up enough to grab a wrist and twirl back the girl he likes for a confession or a kiss! Or the momentarily pinning her against a wall with an outstretched hand to capture her before she dashes away.

Here are some issues you might have or just keep trudging through pending your viewer preference:

#1 Violence or Causing Physical Pain to the Female Lead

Recently I’ve viewed some films/dramas but I found myself cringing from mean hair pulling where you can see he is actually hurting female lead, to threats as seen in Black Devil and White Prince (Part 1 and 2). Who doesn’t like the bad boy character type who deep down is redeemable?

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It’s a character type with depth and possibility, often with some hidden vulnerability that makes him attractive and swoon-worthy to viewers.

(image below from Best Wedding)

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But sometimes the bad boy character is just tacky in his behaviour that visually, and within the story-telling, all appeal is lost and it’s time to move on to the next one.


#2 Adultery and Cheating in Dramas

This prickly hot topic definitely intensifies drama plots and is a very common theme especially in daily dramas. One character or another has gone through it, sometimes it will be the leads, other times someone in the supporting character circle. This dirty business between the cheaters is high on the ick factor. For example, the writer will take a once loving ‘opening’ male lead as seen in earlier episodes and then turn him into a despicable creep while also demoting him into a 2nd lead tier when the new guy shows up to woo and win the love of the female lead. Dramas with these character types really make it look so easy for people who are involved in relationships to easily be swayed. 

As seen here in 2017 You Are Too Much

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Poor female lead does not have a clue!

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It doesn't help when the female rival is just as cringe-y as the cheating (beginning) male lead.

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Abandonment usually follows next in this usual recipe of drama plots, often swiftly after the heartbreak.

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The only good thing that will result out of a bad male lead gone toxic, is a new love interest for the female lead, to give viewers hope in romance, kindness and that there are honorable and good-hearted guys out there still.

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The sad fact is also that sometimes the wealthy family members will help along a Bad Oppa (as seen in dailies). Encouraging the divorce and new marriage between the cheaters. Then send our poor lovely female leads away who then must rise up, overcome their amnesia and reclaim what they have lost.

As seen in the currently airing 2017 I’m Sorry Kang Nam Goo

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Here the female lead records a video message to herself so that she won't forget the kindness of the new male lead who has helped her through her trying times. Just in case her memories of him are lost when she regains her previous life's memories.

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#3 When Revenge is Taken Too Far

Full blown revenge (out of selfish love) can be disturbing and a hard story to digest. I’ll admit seeing the male lead get a little jealous of the female lead and 2nd lead is familiar and amusing situations to follow. It will make the male lead come to terms with his feelings and the realization that he, in fact, likes the female lead. But when a male lead is pushed past the point of fleeting envy into cruel revenge or acting out of spite when things don’t go his way, it can cause a good story to derive and make it hard for viewers to see him as someone worthy of the female lead.

Take a look at the drama (Spoilers Ahead) Best Wedding when the male lead fails to get marriage approval from his strict and traditional family after they discover she is pregnant, his father demands she conforms to their lifestyle and quit her job. Things get emotionally messy and the leads part ways.

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She lies about her pregnancy to protect her unborn child, add a time jump and male lead slithers back in, to make her life impossible and to vindictively steal away her child. Seeing the purposely hurtful methods, the writers would have their characters sink to, can be disheartening as well the thought that there really could be people out there who act so vengefully if they do not get their way. #SilverSpoonSyndrome #BadChaebol


#4 Abandonment

While this is not the same as physical pain, emotional pain can be a hard toll on someone. When the male lead reaches a conclusion that the only way to protect the female lead whom he loves ‘so much’ is to walk away and abandon her. It just seems like he’s not thinking outside of the box, but of course, many factors can contribute to him reaching this decision; pressure by his family members, threats from the evil 2nd female lead who has her sights locked in on him, or at a high cost (his inheritance, job position or objections of female lead’s family). There is always something that works against the OTP maintaining what they have part way through.  There is also the abandonment for personal gain, greed, that will take an opening male lead down a dark path that usually he does not sway from and is not redeemable.

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As seen in Secret after the opening male lead abandons the female lead due to greed and his own personal gain.

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Leave it to Ji Sung to step in to protect and lend a coat to our fallen female lead.

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A well-balanced story will, of course, have the ‘drama’ elements to engage you to feel the love, hate, humour, sorrow and triumph for the characters whom stories you follow. What are your thoughts on Male characters who may go too far? Any favourites like Tsukasa Domyoji (Boys over Flowers) or any you loathe? Let me know!

Comments (34)

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  • Reply
    Kat Apr 4, 2017

    "Any favourites like Tsukasa Domyoji (Boys over Flowers) or any you loathe? "

    I just finished that one and seriously, I wonder how I made it through. They took really good human treats and mixed them with the most ugly ones. It was a back and forth that is unlikely to appear in real life to such extremes (not with this much flipping-the-switch from mode A to mode B at each corner). Around the middle of each part I kept thinking: 'Goodness girl, run as long as you can! This is not strength. This is highly self-abusing masochism.'. Because as much as they excuse this screwed guy's character with a screwed childhood and family, it's not the job of a partner to mend that screwed part from scratch and for everything to fall apart the moment that partner is not available. That drama threw the whole responsibility for self overboard and unfortunately labled things as love that are not. Even the parent-child relationships were screwed and full of abuse. That was really sad and hard to see labled as "OK", "admirable" or "loving parental behaviour". I don't even want to start on the subjects of friendship, though that part is the only part that kind of kept saving the whole drama. But then I think back to what I've seen in Japan during my one year stay, and I understand where this is coming from. Things are slowly changing, but they do not come from nowhere.

    *takes a deep breath* Thanks for this entry. It came at the right time to give space to all of these emotions. :')

  • Reply
    Rangadeviii Apr 2, 2017 - edited

    Korean dramas/Asian dramas male leads are always the ones in power. The sexism is less present now that it used to be, but it's not that much better.
    For example, in the latest drama "Strong Woman Do Bong Soon", Bong Soon is unnaturally strong and all but she is not educate, she wasn't confident, whereas the male lead is rich, successful, confident, knows how to fight : he has it all.
    Even if the male lead is a sweetheart (like Ahn Min Hyuk) and treats the female lead well, he will always be the one in power.
    Try to remember a drama where the female lead is the rich one, the powerful one, the over-educated one.
    No one's coming to my mind.

    • Reply
      Parknara Apr 3, 2017

      High Society

    • Reply
      Lovely Apr 3, 2017 - edited

      I think males are mostly more powerful because they are physically, that's just a fact but there are a few dramas where she is the rich, educated and and successful one;

      Ho Goo's Love
      I Hear Your Voice
      My Unfortunate Boyfriend (not rich but very smart compared to the lead)
      Page Turner
      That Winter, The Wind Blows
      Witch's Romance
      High Society

      I do see the problem though. I wish there were a lot more of them. Only Ho Goo's Love came immediately to my mind, I really had to look the rest up.

    • Reply
      fiflydramalover Apr 23, 2017

      Men are not always stronger though. Weighlifting Fairy Kim Bok Jo is a good example of a physically stronger lead. Strong Woman Do Bong Soon as mentioned before is a good one as well. There's also Legend of the Blue Sea which has another ridiculously strong female lead.

      I don't really remember that well but I think in Secret Garden the female lead was just objectively physically stronger than the male lead?

      In Mirror of the Witch she probs wasn't physically stronger, but she was more powerful in general for a number of different reasons.


      But yeah Strong Woman Do Bong Soon gives me weird feelings in a lot of ways but also just in some of the comments the male lead makes about Bong Soon? I can't think of a specific example right now but there's a couple moments where I'm like????????

      But also I think your point is still made, kdramas tend to favor males in terms of who has the most power in a drama. There are some exceptions, but even some of those exceptions won't keep that approach for the entire drama. Usually when the lead girl starts dating the guy the power dynamic changes for some reason?

  • Reply
    Akaisora Apr 1, 2017 - edited

    I love dramas about possessive/crazily jealous male leads. (Yes, feel free to recommend, but take it as a challenge - I've probably seen them all lol.) But in real life, I hate jealous guys. I can't stay for a second in a relationship if he's jealous, so it's funny that it's my favourite plot device. o.O

    • Reply
      catshannah Apr 2, 2017

      ahh me too i absolutely adore jealous/possessive male leads. I got into yaoi because i was out of guy/girl relationships with that type of guy in it lol. it's only nice in fiction tho.

    • Reply
      Kat Apr 4, 2017

      It's the confrontation with our own wish for leadership that at some point realises the limit of abuse and goes up in love (or at least tries). And it's a confrontation with our own inner self-abusing behaviour, too. Like a safe way to dip into it and figure out what we like or don't and why. It's an inner school for inner growth that spares us the overly hurtful real-life experience that will usually leave behind too much damage to grow from it. :)

  • Reply
    BaDaBa11 Apr 1, 2017

    I guess Best Wedding was sh*t...male lead gone wrong mentioned all throughout this post

  • Reply
    Eunha Mar 31, 2017 - edited

    I really liked your idea, since I guess I like balanced stories too. I'm not going to fret about a wrist grab (most cases) but male leads can go to far like pushing someone who can't swim into the water.

    I don't think writers know the difference between teasing and bullying. I liked watching Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, because that is what teasing looks like, he never hurts her but looks out for her. Characters don't have to be angels, honestly that might not be as entertaining, but don't make them devils....... and then use a not good enough reason to show they are human again. Not everything is redeemable, so at the least writers should recognize that.

    • Reply
      Kat Apr 4, 2017

      Right? They do it so often! They completely break people's limits. Like joking with people's strong fears (of heights, of dogs, of water, and so on). In real life there's a lot of people who laugh about these things for real. Who laugh when a person falls really badly. Thy'll first laugh, then eventually they slowly realise that the other person is really hurt or in pain or seriously freaking out and then they feel sorry. But laugh the next time again. (°-°) They really do not understand the difference. Usually, because it never happened to them or these kinds of things are commonly accepted. Guys tend to be worse than girls, too. Though female bullying is just as terrible. (T~T)

  • Reply
    chibiladychoi Mar 31, 2017

    But Kurosaki-kun is forgivable after that bath tub scene :)

  • Reply
    Trouble-chan Mar 31, 2017 - edited
    Reveal Spoiler »
  • Reply
    rosyprincess Mar 31, 2017

    nana chan

  • Reply
    bojinator Mar 31, 2017

    I'm real disappointed Hye sung had to drop out. I would actually love it if they just paused production, idk. But I guess it wasn't possible. (Yes, I understand the issues that would arise)

  • Reply
    Nana8 Mar 31, 2017 - edited

    Ugh, I hated Bae Su Bin's character in Secret so much XD

  • Reply
    Jessica Mar 30, 2017

    This made me think of Se Gun in Queen of the Ring

  • Reply
    Astrologist Mar 30, 2017

    SHOUT IT

  • Reply
    Panda Mar 30, 2017 - edited

    The idea behind "boy hurts you and bullies you because he likes you" is so elementary school.
    If its 7 yearold boy doing it i can think awww cute coming off age kind of japanese drama/anime.
    But some thirty yearold man doing it because he cant figure out his feelings is not cute its repulsive and i dont think it occurs in real life.

    • Reply
      deliverygirl Mar 30, 2017

      it occurs daily in real life. it's called assault.

    • Reply
      Panda Mar 30, 2017

      The boy doesnt end up with the girl after assault. He ends up in jail lol.

    • Reply
      Jesa Mar 30, 2017

      "Oh boys will be boys"

  • Reply
    ayacherry Mar 30, 2017 - edited

    Hahaha, I dislike all of the character traits you mentioned but now i just wanna check some of these dramas out.

    • Reply
      Olive4213 Mar 30, 2017

      Yes, indeed. And in "Black Devil and White Prince" (the movie), he pulls her hair so that he can bite her ear. It was sweetly erotic, as is the entire film.

    • Reply
      HwangEunByul Mar 30, 2017

      if you havent watched "secret" (the last scene in the article) you gotta watch it

    • Reply
      HappySqueak Mar 30, 2017

      Best Marriage is a funny train wreck, I have watched it twice. Once you start that one it is hard to stop.

    • Reply
      cllanti Mar 30, 2017 - edited

      I might have watched that scene in BDaWP more than once.

  • Reply
    Fukai Mar 30, 2017 - edited

    Don't forget the wacky psychologists who did totally unscientific experiments on his love interest in Madam Antoine. I just kept on thinking "just kick that wacko to the curve already!"

    • Reply
      Jenny Mar 30, 2017

      I actually couldn't make it through Madam Antoine cuz I just couldn't get past how much I despised the main leads character when I had started the drama for him in the first place. I just couldn't respect the character who was that heartless even if its just a drama that was supposed to show how he would change.

    • Reply
      HappySqueak Mar 30, 2017

      yeah that male lead was extremely cringe worthy in his personality and just how he treated not only female lead, but the other female test subjects in his theory.

    • Reply
      Faith 5 days ago

      Lol yasss.

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