While women are taking more charge on-screen internationally, why are we going backwards in terms of storytelling?
It’s been three years since I started watching K-dramas and if you even remotely know what they’re like, you’d know that they’re pioneers in showing the most gentle men on-screen. The greenest of flags and one that any woman would want as their ideal type. But it’s not just about the swoon worthy romance, it’s about how none of them are threatened when their female protagonists are CEOs of companies, earn more than them, are highly opinionated or sometimes even save them from the bad guys. Their masculinity stays intact throughout and in fact they go above and beyond to support them in doing better in life. It’s encouraging and comforting to watch in every sense.
Then Bollywood gives us Animal. Since the trailer itself, it stunk of toxic masculinity but I still gave it the benefit of the doubt for Ranbir Kapoor and also because all kinds of characters exist in the world of fiction. I watched the movie a week after its release and by then everyone’s reviews were already out but I was still curious to know the reason behind all the rage. I went for a night show with my best friend and the theater was mostly filled with middle aged men which was uncomfortable enough as it is, and then the movie started. I had given this film every chance to surprise me, prove me wrong and make me feel that what the public was saying was a mere exaggeration but the reviews were right indeed. It was not easy for me to digest what I was seeing, the misogynistic dialogues I was hearing. After the second half, my stomach literally dropped. I no longer knew the point of this film or me being in that theatre for three hours of gore violence and torture.
On one hand I see Captain Ri from Crash Landing On You find Yoon-Seri when she is lost in a crowded market by holding up a candle for her. On the other hand, I’m watching Ranvijay threatening to slap his wife in front of everyone if she takes away his cigarettes. It shook the roots of what I am made of and what my beliefs are about love and marriage. On one hand I see Jeong Gu-Won walking into fire to save the love of his life and on the other I painfully watched Ranvijay point a gun on Geetanjali’s head. K-dramas follow the typical hero’s journey arc whereas Animal doesn’t have a hero to root for at all.
The problem isn’t showing a dark character, the problem lies in glorifying him and showing no consequences to his behavior whatsoever. K-dramas have beautiful and romantic OSTs playing in the background, making the essence of the scene pop up more but in Animal, his entire gang of men were singing while he killed people left, right and center. The two worlds are poles apart but it's also so appalling to see how such extreme stories can exist on this spectrum that we call fiction. It was disturbing for me because I had just come to terms with the fact that maybe not all men are disappointing, they can be gentle and maybe there is hope for someone like me to find someone who will give me that K-drama love. But watching Animal felt like that hope was depleted and stepped on.
2023 was the year where Barbie was the biggest grossing film of all time. A film made by a woman, starring so many women. K-dramas have always been the flag bearer of showing women who are independent, confident and can take a story ahead on their own. So it goes without saying that it was rather disappointing to watch a film where women had no personality at all. K-dramas are also known to unfold and authentically show various layers of mental health, and how to deal with them in a healthy manner but Animal blatantly leaves a boy with massive daddy issues arc incomplete which is super disappointing. For the new year, this K-drama fanatic wishes to see something more hopeful, romantic and if nothing else, just a story that makes sense. Hopefully there will be an era of cinema where all sorts of stories can co-exist without triggering anyone.
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