I’ve been watching a bunch of Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, and lakorns recently and you know what I’ve noticed? All the female leads have a female best friend in tow and that is awesome.
(Master Devil Do Not Kiss Me image courtesy of Tencent Video)
The female best friend is someone every girl in real life needs. They’re the cheerleaders, the protectors, the confessional box, the trash talker, the ice cream buyer, and sometimes, the truth speaker to the female protagonist's wrongdoings.
So why does it seem like a lot of K-dramas neglect this character in their scripts? I'd like to chalk it up to cost cutting but more than likely, it's because they prefer making their female leads be so invincible that they don't require female friends.
Is it true female BFFs are scarce in K-dramas?
To test my theory, I looked into the last 10 K-dramas I’ve watched.
30% of the K-dramas I’ve watched had sistmance (Fight For My Way, Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, and Suspicious Partner [and with the latter, the sistmance didn’t really happen until the latter half of the show… Eun Bong Hee weaselled her way into Na Ji-Hae apartment and life].)
(Fight For My Way image courtesy of KBS2)
(Chicago Typewriter image courtesy of TvN)
Some might say I have a poor sample size and I’d agree since this is my list of recently viewed shows. However, I challenge every reader to look at their queues and shows completed to figure out the bromance/sistmance ratio in the K-dramas viewed.
Done? So, what is your bromance/sistmance ratio? I’d bet it would be around my ratio. At best, it would be 50%.
An argument that could be had is that in K-drama land, a female best friend doesn't push the story forward. Stuffed toys are enough to provide comfort and support.
(Goblin image courtesy of TvN)
I’d buy that argument if the protagonist is 10-years old. Otherwise, it is poor logic. When a heroine encounters hardships, even the most tough-as-nails or secretive woman would have a moment of weakness, so much so she confesses to another woman (she may sometimes be a stranger) that she’s having a bad day.
Let’s take for example My Secret Romance. Lee Yoo Mi doesn’t tell her mother her issues but she opens up to Lee Kan Hee (Cha Jin Wook’s mother), a total stranger, that she may not cook for her loved one anymore.
(My Secret Romance image courtesy of OCN)
Another person may argue a heroine doesn't need a specific gender to have a BFF.
But almost 100% of male BFFs turns out having jjak sarang (unrequited love) for the lead female. An example is Choi Woo Seung and Lee Ji Hoon in Hit the Top. As much as Ji Hoon wants to remain as Woo Seung's BFF, his ultimate goal is to be her main squeeze.
(Hit the Top image courtesy of KBS2)
I do admit that as much as I love bromances, I’m getting tired of just loving them (CPT Yoo Si Jin and Master Sergeant Seo Dae Young, Kim Shin and Grim Reaper, Han Se-Joo and Yoo Jin Oh) and not having the same sistmance connection. The closest instance of sistmance where I felt I wanted that kind of connection is Kim Hye Jin and Min Ha Ri in She Was Pretty. Before that, it was Pan Da Yang and Choi Won Yi in Panda and Hedgehog.
(She Was Pretty image courtesy of MBC)
Maybe I’m just going to have to rely on international shows to get my sistmance. But if you’re paying attention, K-drama writers, please have more stories where your heroine has a supportive girl friend at her side to cheer her on. She may be Wonder Woman but she'd be a more rounded character if she has a BFF right next to her.