Is This the End of Prince Un-Charming?

This has been on my mind for a while and after reading Happy Squeak’s article called "When Male Leads go from Swoon-Worthy to Cringe-Worthy", I thought about how many downright creepy male leads there are in Dramaland.

We have all seen this guy in various romantic dramas from all over Asia: The rich, ignorant jerk, who somewhere deep down actually hides a misunderstood kind soul that has to be uncovered by our clumsy yet lovable female lead. And yes, we loved watching those egomaniacs slowly change and we even liked the bickering and back and forth. Some even find it romantic or sexy if the guy is forceful (sometimes nearly violently so) by pulling the girl into an embrace, forcing a kiss on her or simply deciding that they love the girl and not giving up until she loves them back - which always happens for some reason?!

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Secret Garden had a few really uncomfortable, not so romantic scenes

On a side note: My Korean friend referred to her armpit hair as a ‘Secret Garden’ once and now that image is forever stuck in my mind. You’re welcome!

After the guilty pleasure of watching many of these storylines repeated in a more or less similar pattern (my first one being the Japanese drama Hana Yori Dango), I do feel a bit sick of it now.

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F4... (get about them!) 

I am not saying I didn’t like the story or any of the characters, but the ‘bad boys’ started to annoy me more and more. It got to the point that I didn’t continue to watch some of these dramas or didn’t even start to watch them at all.

The new Prince Charming

Now it seems like I am not the only one looking for a change in the romance department. Lately, I have seen a few K-Dramas with sweet, and I mean super sweet, male leads.

The kind of good guys that keep you swooning not only over their pretty faces but over their sheer ability to make you wish somebody would look at you like that. You see the sparks fly from their eyes when they gaze at our female lead and you are convinced they fell in love with the girl the moment they set eyes on her. All of these men have some things in common (with minor exceptions):

1. You never doubt their true and honest feelings for the girl, sometimes to the point of being devoted or even willing to die for her, which is a bit extreme to me.

2. They let the girl know from the start or early on that they like her. Even if they don’t say it from the beginning, you can tell from their behavior that they really like her.

3. BUT and that’s very important! They don’t expect the girl to like them back.

4. They are never forceful in any way that would make you feel uncomfortable.

5. Not only do they confess their feelings, they also take action, they are there for our female lead and even her family.

6. They are supportive of her and her dreams, but don't make the decisions for her. 

7. They are simply cute! Yes, they are still manly, but they have some serious ‘aegyo’ skills.

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Joon Hyeong is teasing but supporting Bok Joo at the same time.

Indeed, I find these are many qualities that the second male lead traditionally has, with the important difference that these guys make sure the girl knows she is important to them. They don't passively stay by her side hoping she will come to them one day.

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 Min Min is always thinking of his Bong Bong

Most of them are still rich or well-off, self-confident (not conceited!), and of course, they are all hot and popular with the ladies.

But contrary to traditional male leads, they are never in complete denial of their feelings for the girl, saying stuff like: ‘What should I want with someone like her?

They don’t see themselves as superior and are not trying to ‘buy’ their girl with their status and money. Also, they don’t have these annoying back and forth situations, such as still liking their ex or another girl, or the classic: ‘I would like you, but we could never be happy because of our different backgrounds...’

They don’t keep on fighting with the girl, their fights are usually cute bickering or of a serious nature, where the girl realizes: ‘Oh crap, that guy really does love me.'

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Goong had an actual Prince and he was an actual jerk

Of course, nice guys are not entirely new to Damaland and I can remember a couple of other guys who were different from the usual jerk male lead.

Two examples that stuck to my mind are Ho Goo from Ho Goo’s Love and Kang Hyun Soo from Smile, You (which I still have not finished for other reasons.) Those two are a bit shy and second male lead material, but they still get the attention of the girl… I think it's mainly because they are there for her during a difficult time in her life - and by that I mean they offer actual support and not some sort of contract or forced cohabitation. The difference here is that the female lead takes the first step and the whole story is more complicated with many people involved in the relationship.

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The Cute Kangs ~ Kang Ho Goo and Kang Hyun Soo are real sweethearts

Finally, here are some examples of recent dramas I watched, which in my opinion feature the newborn Prince Charming:


!!SPOILER ALERT!! for Descendants of the Sun, Goblin, Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon.


Descendants of the Sun

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Yoo Shi Jin staring dreamily at Kang Mo Yeon

Yoo Shi Jin didn’t come to my mind until I was in the middle of writing the article, and in hindsight, I think he actually might have started the trend a little bit. With his baby face, he seems more like a ‘soft guy’ but in this drama, he was a tough soldier and from the very moment he met Dr. Kang he started heavily flirting with her. He knew what he wanted and went for it. He is just a bit different from the other guys because he seemed so easy-going to me. Although he was serious about her, I couldn’t help feeling that his work was still more important to him. 

Goblin 

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The reverse version of the frozen stare kiss

Kim Shin certainly is a weird character, but I would still put him in the category of Prince Charming, simply because he was so cute. A grown up supernatural being, hundreds of years old, yet behaving like a boy who has a big crush for the first time. Actually, his cutest scenes were with the Grim Reaper, but you could see that he deeply cared for Jin Eun Tak and did everything to make her happy.

Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo 

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The moment he realizes his feelings for her

Despite the fact that he loved teasing Bok Joo and kept calling her ‘Dung’ (chubby), Jung Joon Hyeong was a great example of the nice and sweet guy. Not only was he like her best friend staying by her side through thick and thin (pun intended), but you could see she was the most important person to him and he was totally in love with her. (Which - I read - was actually real and not just acting, which makes it all the more awesome!) The way he took care of her father and also his own family surely makes him the dream son-in-law for many parents.

Strong Woman Do Bong Soon

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Prince Min Min emitting his sparkles

The drama I finished just a week ago and still feel hung up on. Ahn Min Hyeok might be my favorite romantic drama male lead of all time and it’s because he was simply the most adorkable and supportive, loving, funny, crazy, cute Mr. Elf Ears Min Min and I just can’t deal with his cheesy charming hotness!

Of course, I know that these perfect god-like beings don’t exist on Planet Earth and sometimes we love the drama because of the drama. Does he love her, or does he not? Real relationships don’t work like that anyways, but I don’t want daily life problems in drama, I want dream life.

So if this is a new trend then I am IN, because I do enjoy the fluffy feeling I get when I watch those dreamy guys. And I can finally understand why the female leads love them so much, because who wouldn’t want a Prince Charming like that, honestly?

The fact that opposite these charming men stands a strong and independent female lead, who doesn’t just melt away, makes it even better to me because we need more powerful portrayals of females who know their worth.

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Strong girls: Kang Mo Yeon, Ji Eun Tak, Kim Bok Joo, Do Bong Soon


What is your opinion on the Prince Charming theory? Did you feel the same about these guys? Are you rooting for Mr. Nice Guy or do you prefer some bad boys from time to time?

I only talked about Korean dramas this time. Have you noticed a change in any other Asian dramas?


Thanks for reading~ bye-bye ^__^

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Comments (71)

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  • Reply
    Youlie May 20, 2017

    Yup this is a trend I'll gladly follow! These leads are so lovable and cute (even if, somehow, we always end up loving the jerks too).

    Don't forget Shopping King Louie, he was cute (like a puppy ^^).

    And Yoo Shi Jin may have started the trend, but the romance in DOTS would have been much better with another lead actress, because despite Song Joong Ki doing an amazing job at being... well, YSJ, I couldn't feel anything because of Song Hye Kyo.

    Anyway, I agree with you, this new generation of male leads is refreshing and only make me want more of it!

  • Reply
    Letty May 17, 2017

    Beautiful Gong Shim

  • Reply
    yuna May 17, 2017 - edited

    I totally welcome the new trend because I cringed everytime when a condescending jerk whose only "redeeming" feature is his money/good looks, coupled with cliché plot deviced like accident/amnesia/mean mother-in-law etc, is treating the poor heroine like crap "because he doesn't know how to express himself" - for me, that's not an excuse. It creates a power imbalance in the relationship which often puts the heroine in a position where she is vulnerable to bad treatment/bullying. I mean, if the jerkish main guy wasn't a model chaebol, nobody would look twice at him. If you take away money, appearance and status, then you see a pitiful husk. I'm korean but I don't like the materialistic value system of our country - so perhaps it might be a personal opinion but I rather prefer main leads who might be poor but are hard-working and have intrinsic value like wholeheartedly loving the heroine.

  • Reply
    AnicsiRoscoe May 16, 2017

    I so agree with you! And coincidentally the four dramas you mentioned are among my favorites (well, ok, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon ended up being just 'okay', but damn, that killer smile of Min Min makes up for everything else this drama is lacking!). I think you definitely forgot Shopping King Louie, even though he is yet another type of character.

    I think I mostly like the characters that are somewhere in-between though, f.e. in It's Okay, That's love and Another Miss Oh. I just have a soft spot for realistic love stories.

  • Reply
    Soju May 15, 2017

    Although I love the nice, transparent, supportive guy prince charming leads, love love love! I'm pretty sure the jerk prince charmings are here to stay, guys. That's something that will always be used... just like the concept of cute, bubbly, innocent, never been kissed before female leads will always be used --

  • Reply
    May May 15, 2017

    So true! I hope there are more "nice guys" as the lead for once! The whole jerk think is so over done I feel like it might make some think it's acceptable to be treated badly in real life too

  • Reply
    ReneeKaskelin May 15, 2017 - edited

    tried to find some good dramas to watch here but have seen all of those already >< any suggestions??

    • Reply
      Rebecca May 15, 2017 - edited

      hello there, here is a few suggestions, one or two are chinese dramas which i really enjoyed. Have fun watching! :)
      falling for innocence, goho's starry night, high end crush, love me if you dare, i remember you, doctor romantic, emergency couple, across the ocean to see you, something of 1% (2016), it;s okay that's love, secret romance

    • Reply
      AnicsiRoscoe May 16, 2017

      I second: I remember you, Doctor Romantic, It's Ok that's love (my favorite!!), and I add: Queen In Hyun's man, Another Miss Oh; Marriage Not Dating.
      That is, if you want to watch dramas with a lot of romance...

    • Reply
      Deska May 16, 2017 - edited

      Shopping King Louie is really nice and cute :D
      Oh My Ghostess, Healer and I Hear Your voice are cute too, but they have some scenes that can be kinda strong. Well, it also depends of the watcher haha
      My Wife’s Having an Affair this Week, Tommorrow With You and Reply 1997 are more realistic, but Reply has a lot of funny parts, while the other two are more dramatic
      If you like medical dramas, the recent "Romantic Doctor Kim" is reeeeally good!

  • Reply
    KoriNeko18 May 14, 2017 - edited

    I see the trend of male leads moving towards more real, tangible characters. Less of a mean, jerk caricature and not a second lead-type overly perfect lead either. (The second leads are changing too! They're becoming more than perfect, useless puppies and actually developing personalities and flaws!) It's interesting to see the writers step up their games every year with more and more different character types for male leads. Some become really interesting and complex while others remain pretty one dimensional or ridiculous lol.

    (now if only they could find a nice balance for female leads....)

    recently though, I watched What Happened In Bali, and it was really interesting to see Jo In Sung's jerk male lead character being MORE than just a jerk male lead (internally, with his struggles and all lol). A curious occurrence for an older drama like that!

  • Reply
    siracorn May 14, 2017 - edited

    Don’t blame the prince uncharming. Blame their bad heroines. We deserve female leads with a sense of pride, who doesn’t reward abuse with love. This is my problem. When the male lead just needs a bit of love to see how happy the world is.

    I blame the popularity of Dao Mingsi from Meteor garden. I guess the newer versions of Hana yori dango are the same (I just haven't watched them). But Dao mingsi often gets mentioned in tw-dramas whenever a jerk likes our heroine.

    The thing about Dao mingsi is that he’s ridiculousy stupid and flawed. It’s like he doesn’t even understand that kindness is an option, even less a thing. He’s just himself - spoiled, mean, loyal to a fault. He’s mean to our heroine because he doesn’t know what else to be. It’s pretty established from the start that him being a jerk is a flaw. It’s not going to get him anywhere.

    But the best part about Hana yori dango is that the woman he falls in love with isn’t childish, naïve, clumsy idiot with a magic wand of sunshines and rainbows. She’s also superflawed. Picking fights with everyone, forever judging in your face.

    She doesn’t allow him to be mean. She doesn’t demand that he betters himself. They both change as a side effect of being around each other and suddenly they are compatible. Dao mingsi is forever a spoiled hot-head, but with the ability to take responsibility for his actions. Hana yori dango never acts like abuse equals misunderstood. Such underrated female lead.

    • Reply
      rainruma May 14, 2017 - edited

      I agree... The male lead is flawed and just needs love .... what we need are more smart, strong and no-nonsense females that won't take his crap! .... not some dumb feisty but Useless noble-idiot female always cowering, in need of rescuing!

      I like the hateful and flawed male lead, but only when he is coupled w/ a smart female that stands her ground!

      I hope this is NOT the end, like several comments below said.

    • Reply
      alon-luna May 17, 2017

      Yeah, I actually like Dao Ming Si because he's a funny character- what makes it better is that San Cai doesn't put up with it. It was satisfying to see her smack his forehead and paste the red tag on it. We couldn't have that scene if he had been a nice guy because then it wouldn't have an impact- the girl would just be a jerk picking on a nice guy, not the kind of heroine material you'd root for.

  • Reply
    fallensnowflakes May 14, 2017

    When I watch male leads who are sweet and puppy love to female lead, I feel like watching a side character. I don't feel anything and their affections. I prefer male leads who are flawed and their build up to falling in love with the female lead and how they react to it. The feels are much more satisfying when it comes to it.

  • Reply
    All_In May 13, 2017 - edited

    I think there needs to be a middle ground. The point sometimes of the arrogant jerk character is that either A. he's not a jerk but just misunderstood or B. he just needs the love of a good woman to change him. I can handle watching both, but thinking you can change another human being is not really healthy. I mean it is possible just not reality most of the time.

    The issue I have with the nice guy thing is that they are too nice. One of my issues with DOTS is that they make the lead male too great and awesome. I mean he is pretty much a perfect guy except he has a dangerous job. The writer then doesn't provide a good enough reason for them not to be together except some contrived, "I don't like your job" stuff which sounds like a script idea circa the 1980s. I saw the same perfect guy issue on Strong Woman though the conflict worked a little better because the drama had so much going on. In DOTS there was so much grief given to the female lead in comment sections from fans for being unreasonable...all of it fell on her.

    I would like the writer to have characters with flaws and issues regardless of gender. This can be done and some go back a ways...Dalja's Spring, Faith, Healer, Fantastic, Shopping King Louie, Fated To Love You, Kill Me/Heal Me, Sensory Couple, Twenty Again,Two Weeks, I Need Romance III, A Witch's Romance, The Good Wife, So across all genres you can have male characters who aren't the stock jerk character but also aren't perfect and have growth that happens over the course of the drama. I notice that Faith and Healer have the same writer so perhaps some writers are sick of writing the same old stereotypes as well.

    • Reply
      princessofsummer May 14, 2017

      A big yes to this! There seems to be only two types of of lead guys in dramaland: 1) The perfect guy that is not only dreamy in terms of looks but also on every thing he does. Mistake and imperfection is not just in his dictionary 2) The douchebag. The type of guy you should run away from in real life.

      The closest middle ground that we get is a textbook tsundere - always misunderstood. But even those are borderline asses, to be honest. Their transformation from the bad guy to the sweet guy has always been stamped as 'character development'. But if not done right, I just see them as character inconsistency.

      Rarely is there a lead that showcases a 'real' guy. At least for women, there are more variety (perhaps, because most rom com writers are women). Then again, I'd rather watch perfect guys do their things than assholes with their i-couldn't-care-less attitude, so I guess I'll take it. Better the former than the latter.

    • Reply
      alon-luna May 17, 2017

      I don't mind a male character being perfect in the same way I don't mind it if he's flawed or a little mean at the beginning (it's the escapism for me) for as long as the characterization is well written and believable. I read a lot of reviews of DOTS saying the male lead wasn't really into the heroine as much as his job. So it killed my interest in watching it despite the hype. I agree that drama characters shouldn't be compared to real people- thinking you can change a person is grounds for failure, definitely.

  • Reply

    I am LOVING the new trend. *HEART EYESSS*

    thanks for the visual treat ahahaha

  • Reply
    fiflydramalover May 13, 2017

    Wow you're right!!!! What a nice new trend :') I hope it sticks around. I think Reply 1988 also has an end game that reflects this. I'm not sure but I think Lucky Romance did too?

  • Reply
    kdramasinpajamas May 12, 2017 - edited

    I really hope it is not the end. I love the Classic archetypes. I have always thought they were loosely based on Pride and Prejudice. At first he thinks he is above her and she does not deserve his attention. Then he is slowly won over (not by her looks) by her good qualities(cleverness/sweetness/common sense/optimistic outlook/loyalty/faithfulness). When he decides he can no longer deny his feelings for her, he comes on strong, in part, because it does not even occur to him that she may not welcome his adoration. The fact that she does not accept him at first, wakes him up to his own inadequacies. He begins to change because he wants to gain her "good opinion". I am not opposed to the occasional sweet guy. (I happened to love Ho Goo's Love.) However, I hope the "Mr Darcy" type NEVER disappears.
    I will second the recommendation for Across The Ocean To See You, for a nice guy. It is a very sweet series.

    • Reply
      rainruma May 14, 2017 - edited

      I agree, I hope it is NOT the end .... These jerk guys simply do NOT KNOW how to show their affection (like Mr. Darcy) and I love watching them go through the journey of learning!

  • Reply
    kailin May 12, 2017

    I didn't have time to read everything yet, but thank you all so much for commenting and for the many drama suggestions! <3 I want to start watching now~
    I do realise the good guy is not entirely new, it's just that I found the popular drama mostly have jerk male leads. And we will take a while or maybe forever before we will really hate watching our bad boys to be honest. haha I just like to see the usual patterns being mixed up a bit!^^
    (also I didn't hate Secret Garden, it was just the first time watching K-drama I remember thinking: is this really romantic? and why doesn't she kick his ass XD)

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