An Ode to 4 Remarkable Lead Ladies

We all know some recurrent (think strong and classical) clichés that are going around in the Asian dramas sphere: some are our guilty pleasures, and we probably watch them with a grin on our faces but heart eyes and butterflies in our stomachs... BUT some aren't that charming. Especially for the dramas' ladies: evil mothers (in-laws) treating people like garbage or soulless objects, slut-shaming female characters,  portrayals of women as innocent virgin doll vs. bitchy and confident - think manipulative - or even alluring representations of female leads with Z.E.R.O self-worth/self-esteem. If you're a long-time drama enthusiast you'll know what I mean, but even if you're a recent addict (as I am) you most likely know too.

Those are some stereotypes every drama's amateurs certainly run into along her/his dramas journey... I don't know about you fellow mdlers, but for me, seeing that kind of thing on my screen in 2017 - and even with western TV shows - is more and more annoying. 

Thankfully Dramaland isn't only loaded with screenwriters' patriarchal mentalities. Increasingly the drama gods send us refreshing female characters and they're pure gifts. Here are four of these gems I recently came across:   


Jo Soo Ji (Lee Shi Young) - The Guardians     

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Soo Ji is a police detective who's passionate about her job. In the beginning of the drama, she faces a tragedy which causes her to lose faith in the justice system and afterwards she develops a deep need for revenge and justice. Here's the thing: Soo Ji isn't perfect. She sometimes takes huge, inexplicable risks to her life or partners' safety, and she's hotheaded, making decisions based more on her feelings than upon rational reasons. Yet...she's freaking bold. Like really. She doesn't hesitate to take some risks, yes,  but mainly when her belief of doing things that seem fair are at stake! She's a passionate, determined and competent investigator. She doesn't need to be saved because she knows how to take a beat and doesn't let people boss her around. This character is so damn well-written, it feels really good to see her on my screen and her action scenes are precious and carefully executed.    


Byun Hyeyoung (Lee Yoo Ri) - My Father is Strange

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Hyeyoung is actually my little fave of this list, as she easily managed to steal a special spot in my heart. Hyeyoung is a lawyer (and she's freaking competent) and the elder daughter of the Byeon family. She's a 34 year old fierce and smart lady with a non-existent love life - at first - but again she doesn't need one, because she's totally the kind of girl who's her own lover. What's admirable about this character is that she's sassy, beauty-conscious, and sometimes she's fierce even when she's wrong BUT she's never manipulative, arrogant or mean on purpose, she's just really outspoken. She knows how to, and likes to, stand up for herself and her loved ones. Seeing her being confident in this healthy way and watching her deal with her life's hardships with so much class is truly inspiring. Also, I've to give Lee Yoo Ri a special shout-out tho~, she really embraced the role and made Hyeyoung a vivacious girl (AND she has some super funny scenes totally worth watching).


Su Mang (Wang Claudia) - Across The Ocean To See You

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Here again, a super (competent) woman! Su Mang is a divorced Chinese woman in her early 30s, so at first, one can think all the merit goes to her being a successful career woman. Make no mistake, she's a lot more than that. She's capable and charismatic during work time, yes, but also incredibly wise and thoughtful in her daily life and possesses a great sense of humour joined with a humble mind (see, perfection!). As though it's not enough that Su Mang is a career woman, she's also an unmarried pregnant lady (oh jeez~). Throughout the whole show, I couldn't help but be in awe of the way she managed to be respected in her job, while at the same time rocking her personal life and assuming her personal choices and opinions regardless of the annoying advice of the VERY uptight/conservative characters surrounding her. Extra: She has some terrific and truthful - long - lines about gender equality, women's conditions and stuff and it's quite satisfying. 


Choi Ae Ra (Kim Ji Won) - Fight For My Way 

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Aera is basically the girl next door for me, yet still amazing in the refreshing way this character is written. Aera is cute, sensible and full of insecurities, only she doesn't need her insecurities to be dealt with by someone else. She's wise enough to be confident and moving forward with her head high up regardless of these insecurities in her daily life. Aera isn't much different than the usual Asian drama lead girl in a lot of ways: she doesn't live the dream (still she has a big one deep in her heart), she's poor, doesn't have a "good" family background and has to deal with all the crap that goes with it (like swallowing her pride in a situation of unfairness, her obvious amazing capabilities don't get recognized and lot more similar nonsense) but she's so fierce, resolute and pleasantly honest - in both her ups and downs -  that I can't help but love her. If you're not convinced enough of her dopeness, I'll just leave you with one of her -fabulous- quotes:

"You must think the world is full of women dying to ride on your white horse but Cinderella stories aren't popular anymore. The real world it is filled with moronic women who work hard and succeed on their own."

Comments (16)

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  • Reply
    Hapi 12 days ago - edited

    right now mine is NANA from "the good wife"

    • Reply
      iswak321 4 days ago

      you should watch the English version and the good fight!!!

  • Reply
    Aoolai 14 days ago

    Thank you for the article :)

  • Reply
    Dounie 14 days ago

    It's a really great idea for an article especially that we often tend to list the merits of male leads but very rarely for female characters. I have only watched "Across the Ocean to See You'' from your list so I can't tell about other dramas but those female leads seem really interesting judging from your descriptions. And I really enjoyed reading your analysis about their characters ;D

    Great job chingu *.*

  • Reply
    CharlieBishop 15 days ago

    Thank you for taking the time to highlight these characters! I think interesting, unique leads like these deserve recognition.

  • Reply
    Mareina 15 days ago

    My favorite current one would be Han Yeo Jin of Forest of Secrets. She's badass!

  • Reply
    Sakumina 16 days ago

    Hye Young is my favorite character *.*

  • Reply
    kez 16 days ago

    My ult fave from this list would be Hye Young ♥
    and followed by Soo Ji then Ji Won hahahah

  • Reply
    Rebecca 17 days ago

    yass i love su mang!!!

  • Reply
    lovelydream 17 days ago - edited

    Great article, I am so happy with the current crop of leading ladies this year, it's been delightful, among the dramas airing rn i'd say besides ae ra, ji soo and hye young, there is bong hee and yeo jin from suspicious partner and stranger respectively who are both fantastic in their own rights, i can only hope this is a sign of dramaland giving us more complex fantastic ladies in the years to come.

  • Reply
    Jeana 17 days ago - edited

    I was waiting for a list like this to pop up cause I really need some Lady badasses in my life. Thanks girl. Your article was poppin'. I'm now gonna dab my way onto checking all of these dramas. ;)

  • Reply
    Malu 17 days ago

    You really did a great job describing these female characters, you explain very well their strengths and weaknesses and why they are on this list.
    I'm watching FMW and it's really refreshing to see a female lead with a burning dream in her heart. You have left me very eager to see the 3 remaining dramas, but above all I have too much interest in Su Mang, I'll watch the drama soon, I hadn't even heard of it.
    How useful these articles are! Thanks for sharing <3

  • Reply
    Shay 17 days ago

    Can confirm how much I love Choi Ae Ra and Jo Soo Ji <3
    Haven't watched the other two but I'll try them maybe :)

  • Reply
    EmpyreanConqueror 17 days ago

    I dropped Fight For My Way, I haven't seen My Father is Strange, I'm re-watching Across the Ocean to See You and currently watching Lookout//The Guardians.

  • Reply
    Sian 17 days ago

    Only haven't watched Across the Ocean to see you. But I love the other three ladies so much! ❤

  • Reply
    DBSK 17 days ago

    Love ♡

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