If you've been reading my ramblings or followed me on social media long enough, you know that women's characters are important to me. Korean drama has had an odd relationship with them. Despite originally being marketed mainly to us, and despite the fact that the majority of drama writers are still women, the focus of the content has disproportionately been on the leading men.
Be it romance, where women are more of a vessel for audience projection, or even stories that start out as supposedly women's, their roles are often a supporting presence to the leading man, whose actor is quite often a desirable choice made for heavy marketing toward what is perceived as an audience inclined to desire solely that. Quite often, the entire point of a work has been the "oppas" and the marketing through "oppadoration".
However, many stories try. Because there is always a flipside, Korean drama has the unique structure of being a medium dominated by women, and therefore offering us great potential in terms of how we represent ourselves. Times are changing, and we've been seeing more and more leading and supporting women whose characters and stories are not hijacked or dismissed for the sake of the men around them. Ideally, we have stories where the casting order and gender do not control who get's the lion's share at all.
Ageism is still a problem, and this is where an article I found by reporter Lee Mi-hyun of "The Daily Sports" comes in. As you can tell from the title here, it speaks about the emergence of roles for older actresses, who have long been stuck playing stereotypical mother or "ajumma" roles that never quite get the chance to really lead, or develop into rich characters of the demographic they represent.
Jang Mi-hee has portrayed a supernatural being in "Black Knight" and she has recently been in a romance for "Shall We Live Together". Lee Hye-young-I played a different, more nuanced and developed mother in "Mother - Drama", and she is also a rare female villain in "Lawless Lawyer". So many more have been painstakingly going after diverse characters when available. These roles are important, because they break the habit of denying older women their value as individuals.
According to the piece by Lee Mi-hyun, an industry official has commented on the fact that, while in the past women's characters were secondary to men's, the increasingly prominent topic of gender in South Korea has also brought about change in popular culture. This means that the focus on women is getting bigger, which includes characters in their 50s and 60s being more sought-after now.
I hope to see this trend, even if it's treated as one for a while, continue. Leading and supporting men and women can have impactful characters and focus, regardless of their gender, age or appearance. I keep seeing more and more dramas that make me happy with how the times are changing. The industry is catching up. I hope this medium made largely by and for women can keep developing into one more about us as well.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing opinion pieces and database upkeep. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Orion's Daily Ramblings] Jang Mi-hee, Lee Hye-young-I and More Leading the "Post-Mom" Era of Emergent Characters"
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