Unpopular opinion: Second male leads are selfish.
[Disclaimer: I'm merely showing images of love triangles in this article. Not showing which second leads are selfish or necessarily better. There could also be spoilers!]
You’ve probably heard of the term, “second lead syndrome”, also known as SLS if you’ve been watching Asian dramas for a while. If you don’t know what it means, second lead syndrome means that you essentially prefer the second lead over the main lead. For my examples, I’ll use a female lead stuck between two guys - one is the male lead, and the other is the second male lead. In this case, having second lead syndrome means that you prefer the second male lead for the female lead instead of the male lead. You think that the second male lead deserves the girl more than the male lead. It could also mean that you just like the second lead better but don’t necessarily ship him with the main female lead. A lot of Asian drama watchers have second lead syndrome while watching a show that involves a love triangle, just like in the example. Traditionally, male leads are pretty mean, abusive, not well mannered and just straight-up jerks. Second leads tend to be the nice ones. The one that will comfort the girl when she’s having problems, especially if those problems have to do with the male lead.
Now looking at this scenario, who wouldn’t have a second lead syndrome, am I right? Obviously, it would be better for the girl to pick the nicer guy versus the jerk. Here’s the problem: although second leads appear that they are better at heart, they really are just the ‘nice guy’.
Just because someone is nice to you doesn’t mean you’re obligated to give them your heart. They don’t have the right to feel that only because they’ve been kind to you, they deserve your love.
If a girl doesn’t catch feelings for the guy no matter how nice he’s been to her, then it just simply means the girl doesn’t like him in that way. You can’t control who you like, but it doesn’t mean you should always act according to your feelings, especially if it means hurting everyone, including the girl you claim to love.
This is the problem I find with second leads. Second leads are, yes, helpful to the girl. They do so much for the girl. I’m not saying the girl isn’t grateful nor does she deserve the second lead’s niceness, but the girl usually never asked for the second lead to help her, nor does she ask him to comfort her. I rarely ever have a second lead syndrome. It’s only when I find almost no chemistry with the male lead or hate the male lead so much that I will have a second lead syndrome. Actually, now that I think about it, the only time I’ve ever had second lead syndrome is when the male lead is a creep - so much of a creep that I would consider it dangerous to even be with them.
Male leads tend to appear to be jerks, but in the end, they are just good-hearted people. There’s a reason they were chosen to be the male lead. There’s a reason why they ended up with the girl and not the second lead.
One of the many things I hate about second leads is when they choose to disregard the female lead’s feelings and confess to her, making her choose between him and the male lead, or trying to create a wedge between the female lead and the male lead. They never realize that they’re only hurting the girl in the end. They’re hurting everyone else because of their own feelings.
One of the most recent dramas I’ve seen where I have never hated a second lead so much was Ashes of Love. I cannot even begin to tell you how little pity I have for him. My heart is entirely stone when it comes to him. I feel like he doesn’t deserve love. He ended up hurting so many people, including the girl he claims to love. Yes, he did so much for her, but he also hurt her way more than anyone ever could. He’s manipulative, and he was selfish. The female lead never asked for his help, but he did it anyway. It doesn’t mean she wasn’t grateful, but it also doesn’t mean he deserves her love.
Another thing in general with male leads is just that they have better chemistry with the female lead. I mean, the female lead and male lead like each other and in the end, that’s all that matters.
Now, I don’t hate all second leads. The second leads who back off as soon as they know that the female lead and male lead like each other are the ones I love. They’re some of my favourite characters. In fact, that’s what all second leads should do.