Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Baby-faced Beauty

I watched part of the second episode of Babyfaced Beauty (동안미녀) last night, curious to see if it was any good. I was about to leave after about 10 minutes since I didn't find the comedy in this rom-com to be appealing, but I stayed to finish the rest of the episode. Generally, the audience sympathizes with someone struggling to succeed. Jang Nara as the mid-30s single spinster is still trying to make it in her dream career, as a fashion designer. In some ways her acting reminds me of Lee Bo-hee in Smile, Donghae. It seems like she's got the attitude and way of speaking of an older Korean woman. I don't know if that is deliberate or if Jang Nara has matured away from her cute persona in this direction.

Still, the drama has its problems. It's not very realistic in its consolation of older single women. It is said that Korean single women in their 30s are invisible. How many of this is due to circumstances beyond their control, and how much of this is the result of their own life choices? Hypergamy is alive and well, and the culture of arranged marriages may be fading away. Many of these women do not want to marry the single Korean farmers out in the countryside.

Jang Nara's character berates a group 20-something men for criticizing their unmarried female classmates for still being single, and pointing out that men become more attractive in their 30s while women become less so. Her potential love interest, played by Daniel Choi, is 6 years her junior and is initially unaware of how old she really is. Is this drama going to be a feminist dream, with the women satisfying her career ambitions and getting a younger man? Being a fashion designer may be frowned upon by American feminists, but it is a glamour job for trend-following female Korean consumers.

The fact is, age does matter for women because fertility does decline and the primary purpose of marriage is... procreation. (There is also the question of malleability -- whether a women can conform herself to a man or not.) There is a strong connection between youth and fertility, and youthfulness is a strong attractor for men.

The drama is just more evidence of the encroachment of feminism into Korean pop culture.

Some teasers:

Later I watched the episode of Kim Seung Woo Win Win (김 승우의 승승장구) featuring Girls Generation. Korean males, especially the fans of actresses and girl groups, whether they be in high school, college, or the army, seem to be rather beta in their behavior and devotion. It may be a sign of innocence, but it is also a lack of maturity which is disadvantageous in dealing with women but also in society at large. A culture of arranged marriages would help them find a wife, but if it is replaced by modern dating and Korean women are left to their own impulses, paying no heed to the more practical considerations of marriage and traditional mores, they will start to lose out.

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