We have seldom encountered a “male lead” as swoon-worthy as the ones in Korean dramas. Of course, they don’t come without their problems, and by that, we mean their obsession with finding the girl who is “not like the others.” That is why each “female lead” of the k-drama world is written with a hint of manic pixie in her because, at the end of the day, her not being like others serves the purpose of emotionally healing her love interest, who has been hurt in the past by the said others. Maybe that is why the question arises as to why we love these stories so much. To be honest, if we don’t keep feminism away from ourselves while watching these, it would be hard to sit through even one episode. But that is surprisingly doable because it is something women are used to in multiple interactions throughout the day. Don’t fight us on this because compromise is a parasitic part of a woman’s life, no matter what noble garb it wears. But the moment it gets annoying is when the dramas pretend to be something they are not, and even worse is when they are confused as to what they are supposed to be.
We understood Mi Ran, from “Love To Hate You,” clearly because that is how well-written her character was. Though she never used the term herself, we know she was a feminist. Some people might say that her suspicion of men was a little extreme, but if you are a woman living in a male-dominated world, suspicion is a way of protecting yourself. The thing about Mi Ran was that she lived her life on her terms. She was a feminist and a well-written one. It is rather easy to assume that her actions were centered around her trying to prove that she was just as good as men, but that is where she proves us all wrong. Mi Ran was never trying to prove anything. She was just doing what she wanted to do, and she says as much when her ex questions her about her dating choices. It is sad that the writers felt the need to take a U-turn on this characteristic of hers by making it seem like all of her dating history was about her being an avenging angel for the women wronged by the men she was going out with. There was not a single comment on the double standards between the genders, which makes it so infuriating. The ridiculous virtue signaling of Mi Ran’s past was how they solved the problem with a neat little bow, and it felt like a disservice to everything she stood for throughout the series.
As for Kang Oh, well, we must say that he was pretty consistent throughout. His mother, who came from severe poverty, had married his father for money, as Kang Oh interpreted it. We are not going to debate that because we agree that it is a possibility. When his father lost all his money, his mother apparently never once comforted him, and after his death, she immediately married someone else equally rich. At no point are we going to question that his mother was indeed looking for a partner with enough money to support her through life? But did it never occur to Kang Oh that in a capitalist country where the poor are not afforded as many opportunities as the rich, in addition to the bias that women have to face regarding their professional capabilities in daily life, was it really a crime that his mother chose the easy way out? When you place so many obstacles in a person’s path on an already uneven playing field, it becomes harder to judge them for the morally gray choices they make.
As for her lack of affection for his father, what can we say, except that this wouldn’t be the first marriage where the husband and wife don’t really like each other? But the next betrayal in his life came from Se Na, his “first love.” She broke up with him to get further ahead in her career and did not protest when her manager filed a false complaint against him. Of course, she was wrong, but did Kang Oh really fail to realize the impact the truth would have on her career, even though he had similar experiences with himself and Mi Ran? We are not making an excuse for Se Na; she was undoubtedly wrong, but why was her imperfection used to form a prejudice against the entire womankind? That is because our society is used to thinking of women in a certain way, and we only love them as long as they fit that mold—and sometimes not even then. We are so used to thinking of them only in terms of their relationships with men that we don’t understand how to judge them for their mistakes as individuals. That is precisely what Kang Oh does. Don’t even get us started on the anxiety angle that the makers tried to write for him. It made no sense because had he really been taking therapy; he might have known some of the things we spoke about.
The makers just incorporated that to make the audience sympathize with him and excuse his misogyny. However, what makes us sad is that we have actually met men like this, the kind who blame women due to a lack of understanding of their advantage over them. Was it really lost on Kang Oh that he must have been getting paid more than the actress in the series he was working on? Or did he not notice that in the press conference, he was being asked each and every question while the woman was mostly ignored? Did he really not see that the reason most women choose a domestic path is because of the endless obstacles presented by a society that refuses to see them as capable individuals who can make their own decisions? We have the answer, and that is that Kang Oh, indeed, did not see any of this. He wouldn’t be the first to do that, and he certainly wouldn’t be the last.
When he met Mi Ran in “Love To Hate You,” his first emotion was dismissal, thinking of her to be just like other women, but his next emotion was “respect” because she could fight and was self-sufficient. Of course, he doesn’t understand the pathetic reality that most women are self-sufficient either way, but they take a backseat to men because the options are limited when you are a heterosexual woman who carries the onus of maintaining the relationships in her life with men and women.
Honestly, any and all the love he had for her stemmed from the fact that she was “different.” She was different because she could fight; she was different because she did not celebrate her birthday with any fanfare; she was different because she did not present herself as weak; and she was different because she jumped into the fray to save his life instead of waiting for a man to do it. There is something that Kang Oh failed to understand here. Mi Ran, unlike other women, was not trying to get married or gain her sexist father’s approval. She was just herself, and she left it to others to decide if they wanted to be a part of her life. Her difference came from her not caring, and to be honest, we agree that more women should be like her. But, of course, that would be detrimental to men who wouldn’t know what to do without their socially designated caregivers. However, this series does not care about sexist nuances.
When Kang Oh tells Mi Ran that he likes her because she is not like other women, had we been in her place, we would have felt a bit of our love die down. But Mi Ran had met a guy who respected her and would not take her for granted, and this meant a lot after years of seeing the way her mother and her friends were treated by the men in their lives. Additionally, Kang Oh is nice-looking and charming, so it might be worth it to get your heart broken by a guy like that. As for Kang Oh, other than the fact that he finally found a woman who was not a “social climber,” we never saw any chemistry or common ground between the two. But we suppose that we all take what we can get in this sea of trash that is dating. All we can do is pray to God that Mi Ran sticks to her principles and does not marry Kang Oh because his lack of understanding of feminism just means that he will not understand Mi Ran through a lot of her decisions in the future and will eventually fall back on blaming her and women instead of looking at the reasons behind their actions. But if his thinking actually evolves with time, he might be a great non-married partner to her, which is probably the best option for the couple.