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?!
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.
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.
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.
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.'
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ^__^