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Gender and Asian Dramas (Post from my blog)


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Here's a link to my actual blog where the post is.


I made this picture myself! I feel so accomplished! (with my sister's help, of course.)

During my time of 5+ years watching dramas, I've found out a lot about myself. The one discovery that impacts my life the most is my gender identity. I've struggled with accepting myself for years and, as of now, am struggling with how to tell the world I"m not part of their majority, when the world isn't particularly accepting of those that don't fit into the norm. It's been pretty hard finding a place I belong to in the international drama fandom.
As dramas are mostly catered to a female audience, I can't help but feel a little at odds. Expressing myself as something other than female is very difficult -- especially since I was raised to be nothing but female. I fit into the female demographic viewership because my tastes in television and film are distinctly so -- female. In other words, romance and comradeship are right up my street. Things like fighting and getting the girl are cool and I definitely enjoy watching them and always root for the character to win the fight and get the girl but, shows focused on relationships and those kinds of struggles are the themes I connect to the most.
It's hard to connect to lead characters, as well, when the male is always a jerk and the female is a little too naive for her own good. I usually relate most to second male leads because they're introspective and good-natured. I only ever really relate to a female lead if she's a tomboy or is a cross-dressing character. Which leads me to my next point: gender-swapping dramas.
Gender-bending in dramas, manga, anime, films, novels, you name the medium and I've probably seen it. Female leads in gender-bending dramas achieve my ultimate dream: they get the freedom and overall respect that comes with being male in a patriarchal society -- without ever actually having to change into a male.
"Men are defined by self-determination, power, and control, while women are defined by how they look and the quality of their relationships with men. When a girl pretends to be a boy, she inherits all the rights and privileges inherent to that gender... On the other hand, when a boy pretends to be a girl, he’s taking a step down the ladder of social hierarchy, and his sphere of influence shrinks from the whole of human endeavor to the constricting circle of home and hearth." (Outside Seoul)
They're also wholly accepted as romantic possibilities by their male counterparts because, they're really girls after all so it's okay. Being feminine isn't just a way of experiencing things as a female character in dramas, either. It comes with very obvious extras like makeup and short skirts to exemplify that, hey, no worries here, I'm feminine and dependent in a relationship! (Because, really, you ain't going nowhere fast in them platform heels you wearin', girl.) Society says males have to be masculine and dominant -- in charge, if you will -- and thus the media portrays them as so. Dependency and vapid-headedness in female leads make these qualities stand out for the males in Dramaland. Unfortunately, film and television reflect the world around us -- thereby influencing it, too. Thus, when females in dramas are required to say "Eottoke!" and "Oppa~", the real world expects real life females to do the same.
I recently read an article about Moon Chae Won (Good Doctor) and how she said she wanted to play a different kind of role. That she wanted to play some of the roles the men got to play. She also said something along the line of female parts always being the same basic role -- just in a different story line. Females tend to get the short end of the stick both in South Korea and internationally when it comes to characters. This makes being a gender non-conforming viewer tiring -- especially a feminist one to boot. The few that do get to be masculine and aggressive (kick-ass, even!) also have distinct female characteristics, whether that be their wardrobe (stiletto boots to kick ass in, really?) or a specific hobby (I'm mainly thinking of guilty pleasures, here).
Where do I fit in? As a lead character, I imagine I'd be like Eun Chan of Coffee Prince or like Hoya's character, Joon Hee, of Answer Me 1997. Do I relate to these characters because of the struggles they've gone through? Yes. Of course I do. But, I mainly relate to these characters because of how they went through it. Their pain or happiness through it all is what I found relatable. Joon Hee was going through something other people didn't even acknowledge or thought was a disease, like myself. Eun Chan was a tomboy through and through and no one could understand why she could possibly want to look like a boy. Why wouldn't she want to wear dresses and makeup and do her hair?
But, how about as a fan? I don't especially like being automatically lumped together with other female fans as a female fan, but I don't fit in with male fans either (which are few and far between, anyway). As a writer, how can I come across more masculine and/or boyish when all of my fan vocabulary consists of "Squee~" and "He's so cute/charming/hawt" and my normal writing has so much inflection in it, I obviously come across as most likely being female. As a future film and television writer, how do I avoid making all of my characters male -- and inversely, how do I stop thinking that males have some sort of entitlement in the world and just make better characters?
All I know is Asia (and the rest of the world) has a long way to go and I'll be watching and rooting for them every step of the way.
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