Jun 24, 2020 in Art

Female Characters In Korean Cinema

The Korean films, My Sassy Girl and The Marriage Life, are romantic movies featuring female characters. My Sassy Girl was first released in 2001 featuring a college student who falls in love with a young lady who humiliates him at almost every opportunity, but he patiently hangs on as their love grows. The Marriage Life, on the other hand, is about two adults who fall in love and get married. The once tremendous marriage slowly degenerates resulting in a divorce. In the end, however, the man apologizes to his former wife and asks for a reunion. The two films demonstrate the empowerment and disempowerment of women as a result of their losses and individual accomplishments in a society that is dominated by men.

Acted in the modern Korean society, the films show the normal relationships prevalent in the current society. Unlike the traditionally patriarchal society, the female characters in the films are well empowered and do not accept the subordinate roles traditionally bestowed on women. In My Sassy Girl, the female character seems in control with the young man, Gyeon-woo patiently waiting to get closer to her. In spite her rudeness especially at the hotel and train, and at times violent nature he clings to the hope that they will have to date one day. In The Marriage Life, the initial scenes show Ji-hye, the female character, and her husband, Tae-gyu, live happily. Their marriage, however, takes the wrong turn when the man begins to practice chauvinistic principles that tend to even derail her career path. The formerly liberal man who could help her with house chores is influenced by his friends who believe that the woman's role remains at home. It becomes assumed that the woman is the man's subordinate and as such must conform to all his commands. This happens when Tae-gyu disengages from every homely duty leaving it to Ji-hye.

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Both ladies in the films are strong and empowered women who choose not to settle for anything that goes against their convictions. In My Sassy Girl, the Girl takes her bold move when she saves her boyfriend from the hostage situation during the scene at the Amusement Park. The soldier had earlier ordered her to go away but instead of running away in fear she sticks around to see the saving of her friend. Her efforts bear fruits when she softens the soldier's heart by narrating to him his love story. The move brings to an end the situation that could have otherwise lasted long or resulted in fatalities. In The Marriage Life, Ji-hye walks out of the car in the middle of an argument when her Tae-gyu alludes to the fact that she should be his servant. According to her marriage is a relationship of partnership and not a master-servant relationship as was the norm in the Korean society.

Both women are ambitious. In My Sassy Girl, the Girl is an aspiring movie script writer. The story which she narrates to her friend captivates him prompting him to ask whether she had also considered writing sad movie scripts. The magnificent talent she portrays and her ability to write an action movie script, a genre largely synonymous with men paints a picture of an empowered lady who cannot be put down by the societal stereotypes. The woman character in The Marriage Life is a voice actress. She displays her ambition and passion when she shoves off Tae-gyu's attempts to derail her in her career by making her life at home more demanding with a lot of work. The raw ambition is typical of the twenty-first-century ladies who want rise through the professional ladder like their male counterparts. The initial societal codes preserved ambitions to the males while the women were to be satisfied staying at home to take care of the family.

 In the pursuit of their dreams, both ladies face some hurdles that almost derail them. My Sassy Girl female character suffers great emotional pain from the loss of her boyfriend forcing her to try to find comfort in drinking. In the beginning of the film, at the train station, her drinking almost results in her accident by she is saved by her friend Gyeon-woo who later falls in love with her. In him, she finds a shoulder to lean on and slowly she reforms from her heavy drinking habit. The woman in The Marriage Life, on the other hand, suffers emotional problems when her formerly supportive Tae-gyu starts frustrating her. She seems to get no solution to their problem causing her peace fewer times in the house as they quarrel daily such as the argument on the correct way of squeezing toothpaste. The marriage finally ends up in a divorce further inflicting upon her emotional pain.

Both characters are career empowered. The female character in The Marriage Life film is a voice actress, a job that she guards well and she is unwilling to let go despite her Tae-gyu's perceived efforts to derail her such as his interference with her career. Women empowerment in the ordinary sense refers to supporting of women to attain their aspirations. Being employed, therefore, is a source of empowerment since the woman can easily attain her goals without over-reliance on her Tae-gyu. The Girl in My Sassy Girl is not yet career empowered, but she has trained her eyes towards the same. She aspires to be a movie script writer, and she has started writing stories some of which she narrates to Gyeon-woo and makes him act such as the Demolition Terminator. By writing scripts, she will be able to earn a source of income, therefore, empowering her to be self-reliant.

Both women are courageous and can stand up to men to speak their minds. Empowerment any sense involves believing in oneself. Self-confidence is one of the greatest drivers to since the affected persons can pursue their dreams without the unnecessary fear of failure.  In the film My Sassy Girl, the female character approaches men who are sitting with young girls in a bar. From their conversation, it was discernable that the men wanted to have sex with the more adolescent girls. The Girl, however, halts their plans when she orders them to leave after demanding that the ladies produce their identification as proof that they are not minors. She gathers the courage to ask the men if they have daughters too and why they would not look at the Girls like their daughters. For a young person, her age it is often difficult to approach older people and openly rebuke them even daring them to a fight. The female character in The Marriage Life, on the other hand, displays her courage when she walks out the marriage. She lives in a patriarchal society where it is considered very shameful for a woman to be divorced. Nevertheless, she ignores the possible stigmatization to pursue her happiness. 

In the movie My Sassy Girl the female also displays her courage when she rescues her boyfriend from jail and also from hostage. At the Amusement Park when the soldier held Gyeon-Woo hostage the lady saves the situation when all the efforts to save him seem to have failed. She chose to stay along until her boyfriend was rescued and the soldier arrested Thereby depicting great courage. This is in great contrast from the societal expectations in Korean in which patriarchy is the dominant principle. In any other instance, the Girl would have expected her protection from Gyeon-woo rather that herself. She would not have even bothered to seek the freedom of Gyeon-woo from the soldier.                                  

The female characters exemplify the continuous strides towards the realization of gender equality. Through their achievements and shortcomings, they reflect the resolve of women to chase their dreams competitively. The women also defy the notion that they should chase after men and instead choose to pursue their dreams. The lady in The Marriage Life continues in her career despite her Tae-gyu's deliberate effort to derail her. My Sassy Girl movie, on the other hand, features a woman who dreams of writing a movie script. Additionally, both female characters show ease in their relationships with male friends. In My Sassy Girl, the character finds it easy at the bar to even approach men and order them to stop seducing young ladies. She also finds it easy to hang around with the male friends. In the traditional Korean society, such friendships were prohibited. The cinema has undergone tremendous change thereby improving in content and quality. Their friendship demonstrates a move from the mainstream concept that women were incapable of maintaining relationships outside family.

In the movie The Marriage Life, both the female character and her Tae-gyu enjoy the sexual intercourse. The Korean society described sex as the pleasure that a male derives from a female body. It is a sexist society that believes that only men should enjoy sex and that women should just conform to the advances of the men. It is therefore not surprising when mature men try to seduce young girls into sexual intercourse as was the case in the bar where Gyeon-Woo had their date. Ji-hye is empowered to consider and enjoy sex as a woman contrary to traditions. Sexual satisfaction is no longer just an element for men in marriage. Rather, it gets down to the individual in the position of Ji-hye. This is attributed to her career as a voice actress as she appears liberated and off the mainstream beliefs. 

The Korean society was patriarchal meaning the women were expected to be mere servants. In the traditional setting, women were considered lesser beings and did not even have the right to stand up to the men. Their achievements were at the discretion of men. A woman could not pursue her career goals if the Tae-gyu did not approve of it. In The Marriage Life Ji-hye's Tae-gyu entrenches this when he tries to hold her back from chasing her career goals. Her determination, however, surpasses such hurdles, and she finally divorces when things do not work out.

The female characters make several strides to overcome societal boundaries, assert themselves and find their place in the society. In the two movies, the women characters portray the pictures of iron ladies who are ready to make sacrifices for their men. They do not accept subordination and follow their hearts. For instance, the Girl pursues Gyeon-woo even when their relationship was over while Ji-hye marries her Tae-gyu out of love. They are ambitious with the Girl seeking to write scripts while Ji-hye is a voice actress. They both are empowered and self-confident to speak their minds. The Girl demands confronts men at the bar while Ji-hye divorces her Tae-gyu. Ji-hye is also able to get out of a relationship in which she is oppressed as a woman. Such speaking of their minds is liberating for them as they find purpose in life and get what they want. The Girl ends up getting Gyeon-woo later in the film while Ji-hye is successful in getting her freedom, career, and dignity back. They strive for gender equality through getting to determine their relationships with men. The Girl dictates her relationship with Gyueon-woo while Ji-hye is able to walk out of her marriage with a chauvinistic Tae-gyu.

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