KoreanTV: Wow. When You Go There …

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Dear Korean TV Land,

I love how you can surprise me. Generally, I find the heteronormativity of your world a bit disturbing. It is a 100% presumption that everyone populating the Korean TV planet is heterosexual. I’ve yet to see a depiction of a non-heteronormative relationship, even as supporting or background characters.

When you decide to break that presumption, though, you do it with an surprisingly tender heart. You actually had a lead male character, who has been unquestioningly heteronormative for 30 years fall in love with someone he thinks is male. You have him struggle, in a very tender way, with his attraction, attempts to deny it, attempts to manage it. You have people around him, some of whom did not start out open to the possibility, affirm that gender doesn’t matter, out of their love for their friend. Ultimately, you have him determine that he can’t deny what he’s feeling and have him pursue the relationship with a man.

In the context of Korean TV Land, it was a stunningly beautiful display of acceptance and choosing love over repression.

And imagine my surprise to see a lead character who self-describes as “not sure if I’m male or female.” One who is biologically female but has never felt compelled to express what is commonly referred to as “feminine.”

This character proactively presents as male because they can get better pay for the same job and, ultimately, can only get the full-time job they desperately need at the time, if they are male. Addressing some serious gender inequality issues in the Korean workplace.

There is never a push to have this character become ‘girly’, even after they must reveal that they aren’t biologically male. Instead, the man who loves them is outspoken about how people need to get over the idea that only dresses and makeup, etc make for an attractive woman. He is perfectly happy with his partner as is and never once seeks a change in presentation.

I forgive you for making the love story more socially palatable by having this couple be biologically heterosexual. I imagine it would have been nearly impossible to successfully push the message of being open to different gender and sexuality expressions to what I presume is a very repressed audience. I could critique aspects of this (particularly some of the sitcom-y crap), but I’m so impressed by how far away from the heterosexual norm that you went, that I’ll prioritize appreciation.

Thank you.



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