Not like other girls: the skin-deep feminism of Love to Hate You

This weekend’s binge watch was Love to Hate You, which dropped in full on Netflix just in time for everyone in the known world to watch it at the same time. The opposites attract, enemies-to-lovers, pride-and-prejudice-esque romance about an arse-kicking lawyer and her romance with a woman-hating actor was a slick, eminently watchable piece of fun.

Which is why the narrative forming over the weekend went something like this: yes this is really problematic and we’re not happy about it but how churlish would it be to, like, say it. Should I write that blog post on it? Maybe just let this one slide, enjoy it for what it is and wait for the next really problematic one to come by.

Also it’s 2023 and we’re all kind of tired of making these arguments over and over. “Oh sure this drama is a ridiculous sexy romp but seen through a feminist lens…” and suddenly we’re fun-killing wowsers. Maybe.

But there is also a thought bubble following me around that instead says, “hey, if shows like this start pretending to be feminist then isn’t that kind of worse?” to which the warring tiny version of me on my other shoulder noted that almost none of us were fooled here. Certainly not anybody I talked to about it in my usual drama spaces.

But there were enough comments about this quite dated Korean romcom being “modern”, “progressive” or other similar epithets (whether complimentary or pejorative) to give me some concern. Spoiler alert: it is neither of these things. Yes a female lead was both not a virgin and got to have sex. Welcome back to 2005.

Anyway, here I am. For better or for worse. This is the blog post. I’m doing it anyway.

Sorry. For being that person. For my permanent feminist lens. And for being such a wowser. It’s not like I didn’t enjoy Love to Hate You. I mostly did.

But Love to Hate You has a thin layer of feminist critique over a huge body of internalised misogynism. And, like most narratives underpinned by the concept of Not Like Other Girls, it tends to pull its punches on systemic sexism by essentially blaming its victims. Love to Hate You walks obliviously past Korea’s structural gender issues and starts punching down on individual women instead. And yes, this is a problem. But is it a huge problem? A deal breaking problem? A blog-post worthy problem.

I guess we’ll see.

Please note: there is actually a lot more to unpack in Love to Hate You around sasaeng culture, parasocial relationships and privacy but I’m going to try to stay on topic. This is entirely about the show’s feminism.

If there’s one thing Korean writer’s love, it’s their oppositional romances. Lining up two characters with different personalities or experiences (at least on paper) and exploring the opposites attract, yin and yang of that dynamic. Opposing forces coming together to maintain balance.

She can’t remember anything, he can’t forget. He’s immortal, she’s terminally ill. He believes in rationality and science, she’s deeply superstitious. And of course the timeless: he’s rich and she’s poor (and almost never the other way around).

On the surface, Love to Hate You embodies this dichotomy: a woman who hates men and a man who hates women (I should note that the trailers for this show refer to him as being anti-romance rather than anti-woman, although the ongoing misogynism of this particular character starts in the first episode. He’s not against romance, he clearly just hates women).

Yeo Mi-ran (Kim Ok Bin) is an energetic and athletic woman who’s clearly felt limited and even suffocated by the grinding sexism and double standards of Korean society, starting with her very patriarchal father who treats her mother as an emotional (if not physical) punching bag. Although the show’s first scene implies that Mi-ran is just a healthy woman with a normal sex drive who refuses to pander to the restrictive gender roles placed upon her, this is quickly jettisoned. We soon learn she’s angry at the double standards underpinning the world she lives in and refuses to abide by them. All men are lying, emotionally-manipulative cheaters who treat love and sex like a war and secretly despise the woman they date and sleep with. Best to strike pre-emptively.

Promised a romcom about a woman who just liked men and dating and wasn’t ready to settle down yet – or possibly at all – I admit I wasn’t ready for the female lead’s crippling cynicism. None of what she does is because she likes men, dating or sex. It’s done because she’s making a point. If men insist on positioning sex as a battle in which there is a loser, then she will be the winner. Nothing in this is about a woman enjoying sex. It’s about reflecting patriarchy back to itself.

Yeo Mi-ran is not having a good time at any point in this drama. Yeo Mi-ran is pissed.

Really what this character needs isn’t a love interest, nor to have her edges dulled so she can accept love and her male co-workers for their inadequate selves. What this character needs is to burn the fucking patriarchy to the ground.

This is not what Love to Hate You is about. Just so you’re aware. I mean I know it’ll be a surprise. But it’s not.

No, Love to Hate You is a love story! Because that’s absolutely what Mi-ran needs. Who needs systemic change when you can have nookie?

Nam Gang-ho (Yoo Teo) is a popular romantic lead with an active fan club and a reputation for being Dramaland’s best kisser. But he is hiding a dark secret. After his girlfriend dumped him for her acting career and he realised his mother never loved his father, he’s decided that all woman are conniving gold diggers who use men to advance their social status. This belief mysteriously dovetails into wider societal misogynism, a fact that nobody on the writing team or in the drama seems to notice – except for possibly Mi-ran herself.

Just the thought of being intimate with a woman nauseates Gang-ho and he has to take medication to get him through love scenes in his dramas. Having seen the dearth of skinship scenes in modern Korean dramas, this doesn’t seem to be too much of a burden but Gang-ho nonetheless has to keep this aversion a secret. Gang-ho’s dislike of physical intimacy is the kind of conceit that too neatly separates him from the other cheating men in the drama. See he’s not sleeping around like everyone else. Not because he doesn’t want to, mind you, but because he physically can’t. How this qualifies him as being somehow superior to the other men eludes me. Surely choosing not to be a cheating scumbag would be better than having it forced upon you.

Nonetheless, Gang-ho is pure as the driven snow apart from his extreme and violent hatred of women as insincere social climbers who are only motivated by money.

Ironically, this leads to one of the drama’s most head-scratching scenes (for me at least). Mi-ran overhears him parroting standard sexist and misogynistic things about his drama co-star and leaps to the conclusion that he is a woman-hating jerk. This early drama scene is classically one of eavesdropping leading to a misunderstanding that drives the first half of the plot but is then resolved later on. Except, in Love to Hate You there is no misunderstanding here. These are his genuine beliefs. She heard him correctly. They’re an accurate reflection of who he is and what he believes.

Gang-ho is a woman-hating jerk. What misunderstanding is there to resolve here?

Well, of course, these would be his super special snowflake reasons for being a woman-hating jerk.

From the beginning, Love to Hate You acts as though the male lead’s trauma from his break-up and Mummy issues is equivalent to the female lead’s trauma from systemic lifelong differential treatment. In doing so, it claims a commonality between personal experiences that ignores a larger societal framework.

The fact the male lead’s opinions on women reflects wider social attitudes towards woman is seen as some kind of unfortunate coincidence leading to the female lead’s ‘unfair’ prejudice against him. We’re asked to accept that the male lead’s hatred of women is somehow different or unique to broader misogynism because its causes and intentions are personal and different.

This kind of humanised bigot is in the same vein as, say, high profile TERFs like J.K. Rowling. Sure they sound exactly like far right groups and violent Men’s Rights Activists but that similarity is merely some kind of coincidence. To which one would usually respond with something about ducks and quacking. Or birds generally. Flocking.

If you sound like a misogynist and act like a misogynist then you are a misogynist. Your special hurt man feelings are irrelevant.

In comparison, the female lead’s anger and hatred towards men is again framed as an entirely personal thing rather than as a reaction to systemic issues. “The misogynist and the misandrist” sounds good on paper but it ignores the larger society in which the two are living. The male lead’s stated views on woman just make him an average man. The female lead’s ‘misandry’ is instead rational self-defence.

The problem here is that at no point does the show gun for wider social commentary or explore the way in which the male lead’s views on women are created and reinforced by societal structures generally. For many women in even the not-too-distant past, marriage was their job and the only one they could get that paid a decent wage. Women were forced to marry for money and then condemned for doing exactly that. But the drama is never interested in the way in which society forces women into certain roles and then judges them for being there.

Instead it works hard to carve out a special niche for our female lead where she can dare to be different while changing nothing about society itself. Because Yeo Mi-ran, you see, isn’t a rational actor responding to a lifetime of patriarchy that applies to other woman both within the text and outside of it.

No, instead, she is Not Like Other Girls.

Now at this point you’re probably thinking you agree with me but also the text is a lot more nuanced than that and in this I completely agree. Like most rants, the above is slightly reductive as it attempts to convey the problem while possibly sweeping past all the ways in which the text is more subtle about these things. There are several moments in the show that seemed to suggest a different framing and possibly it’s the place the writer started.

From the first episode, the drama is interested in how women and romance are portrayed in traditional Korean film and television versus the real lived experience of both men and women. On these points, the drama is on firmer ground. But its scatter gun of reproachment doesn’t stop with the passive and useless female leads of the average action film or the giddy simpering nitwits of romance dramas. It expands outwards to include women who embody these caricatures.

There are women in this drama who play the characters in the fictional dramas that the show is going after. The aforementioned romcom lead or the male lead’s girlfriend in the action drama. But these women are the same as those characters. The co-star Gan-ho hates really is a simpering nitwit who is out to get him. His film costar and ex-girlfriend really is that passive and useless. So how does that critique those tropes and caricatures in any way? If anything, the show lambasts women for not rebelling enough against the system: blaming them for being weak or manipulative and for not demanding better. It reinforces the idea that most women really are like this and our female lead is, once again, Not Like Other Girls.

This means the male lead’s personal growth is not contingent on realising that he’s wrong about women. It’s instead about realising Mi-ran is an exception to that truth.

The problem with Not Like Other Girls is that the niche it carves out is just as exclusive as the one that men occupy. It’s not quite equality but a special treatment card because you’ve been deemed to be superior to others. It’s not that he and the rest of society have decided that woman are people who deserve better. It’s that they’ve decided that you are a person who deserves better.

In this case, not only do we discover that Yeo Mi-ran is a capable fighter and stunt artist who risks her life to save her colleagues on set, she also only did all that dating with other men as revenge for their treatment of women. See she wasn’t really promiscuous, she wasn’t really dating around. She was just pretending to for the greater good.

So where does Love to Hate You‘s Not Like Other Girl’s feminism leave women who aren’t vigilantes and action heroes? Ones who maybe do actually like sex, want to date a lot before marriage, or have had a lot of boyfriends?

It leaves them exactly where we found them. Nothing has changed.


25 thoughts on “Not like other girls: the skin-deep feminism of Love to Hate You

  1. I haven’t watched the show but my question would be did the show frame men cheating as the primary reason for Miran’s misandry? Unless there is something I am unaware of cheating isn’t a feminist issue right?

    I guess this question is more about the framing of both of their issues with the opposite gender stemming from personal experiences and not systemic issues?

    Of course this is put into question by what you mentioned about her experience with her patriarchal father. I guess I just feel confused? Without the inclusions of systemic issues – if her issues with men solely stemmed from her experience with individual instances of cheating and his issues solely stemmed from his individual interactions with bad faith actors do you think the show could have been salvaged?

    I guess my broader confusion is with the framing of men as cheaters – this feels personal so it feels at odds to also include systemic issues.

    Not sure if any of this made sense.

  2. Well, I binged it in one go, too. I did enjoy it overall. My very scant notes go something like this:

    “A great start. Very good through the middle. It could have finished with 9 eps. The final ep wasn’t bad, it lacked certainty. I think they took the easy way out portraying her as a vigilante re cheating boyfriends.”

    I suppose the take away for me is this: I knew show was pushing me in the direction re the male lead’s redemption because I was hopeful that his new found relationship would help him change his view overall regarding women, but that didn’t materialise. I did think his physical reaction to intimacy was very thin (weak trope) and in that respect, very outdated. It reminded me of some recent Chinese dramas I have watched eg “Flight to You.”

    In the end, I have Boz Scaggs running around in my head: “what do you want the girl to do.” I’m not sure what my thoughts are really trying to tell me here, but perhaps, I am very, very lucky with who I have as the significant other in my life.

  3. How perfectly you identified my discomfort with this drama. I often try to rationalize the patriarchy-on-steroids in Kdramas by telling myself that young girls might see a different path for themselves by emulating women who are not an average girl/woman. Your brilliant treatise punctured that balloon. They will see just another variation on the theme that women are second class, no matter how hard they try. Unless they are “special”.
    I read with mild amusement the Chicken Little reports of tanked out birthrates in South Korea and Japan. Hmmm, maybe women in impossible situations do have an unexplored option: not bringing children into this misogynistic, economic wasteland. That might get a few old geezers to finally pay attention. Or not.
    By the way, quoting Boz Skaggs has great lyrics running through my head.

  4. I did find a lot of points of agreement with this take, and some where I have a slightly different perspective. Off the top of my head, as an incomplete list:

    1. I do agree that there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying sex or having a long dating history, and that it would be good to see it framed like that, rather than as an expression of her misandry. I would in fact say that being sex positive is incompatible with misandry -or misogyny-, in a heterosexual context, because she would, after all, sleep with men, and if she wanted to have casual sex, her partner would be someone that also enjoys causal sex, and sleeping with them while looking down on them as womanizers for sharing her same attitude and behavior does seem hypocritical and unhealthy, just as it would be for them to look for casual sex and them slut-shame her. In defense of her characterization, while it was not consistent, it was not clear to me that she was insincere in enjoying the sex and dating and it was all due to hatred of men.

    2. I do think that an irrational prejudice is by definition not a rational reaction. In that sense, I don’t really think that misandry is any more rational than misogyny. In the end, it all comes down to taking single episodes or even trends and generalizing to an entire population, and pre-judging single individuals of that population based on such societal stereotypes (the philandering actor, the gold digger, etc.).

    I guess that I would come closer to consider this a rational reaction if 1) she lived in a society which was so oppressive that she could safely assume that any male she encountered would be actively working against her, and 2) she lived in such a state of isolation that made it impossible for her to imagine the existence of societies where men could be on her side. I don’t think that either is true of modern Korea, with all its problems, and in fact she was shown to have at least one male acquaintance she considered decent enough to present to her friend (which turned out to be a scumbag).

    To be honest, though, she didn’t hate the guy before learning about his bad behavior, so it’s not as if her behavior in his respects, as shown in the drama, was irrational. Had she hated him because he was a man despite considering him a good guy -had he been one-, that would have been irrational. So this is more of an argument against this person completely blinded by misandry that is not actually how she was characterized in the drama. That would have been completely irrational. She was simply prejudiced, I guess, meaning by this that maybe she had a low opinion of men by default, but could change her mind once she got to know them.

    Misogyny is obviously a bigger problem in society, but I wouldn’t say that this makes one prejudice better than the other on principle, in the same way that obviously racism is a bigger problem in society than, say, discriminating red headed individuals, but if one hated another person with equal intensity based on one’s hair rather than skin color, conceptually it would be equally irrational, it would just not be something that society should prioritize discussing and addressing, given that it is not a massive societal problem, and racism is.

    I guess that what I am saying is that there are various levels, a personal level where being hated for something outside of your control, without you personally doing anything wrong, is hurtful, a conceptual level where indiscriminately hating someone over an unchangeable characteristic is irrational, and a societal level where, given the history, culture and prevalence of a phenomenon, one thing could be just personally irritating, and another a massive societal problem that society should actually focus on.

    I did find it impressive that they would bring out the topic of ageism/sexism in terms of relationships with age gaps, and point out how irrational it is to celebrate it or criticize it based on who is the younger party. I agree that this double standard is logically indefensible if the baseline not to deny adults of either gender their agency.

    3. I think that, if anything, in principle having a personal trauma as an explanation for such an extreme outlook does make more sense and is more realistic than simply existing in a society where there is injustice. Factually speaking, most people living in the same far from perfect society do not start indiscriminately hating the opposite gender as a response to prejudice and injustice.

    This is just an empirical question: I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think that adopting such an extreme outlook would be more likely had there been some personal trauma in one’s life (up to extreme cases such as parental or spousal abuse, or sexual violence) than it would be just existing in a society and being exposed to the same injustices everyone is, but developing an irrational hatred of a whole group where most other people in the same circumstances do not.

    I think that it would undeniably be more understandable: there is some specific event or trauma that caused you to adopt an extreme outlook which is not shared by the majority of people in the same circumstances, while if you had simply lived through the same things as other people that don’t share your extreme worldview, it would beg the question of why you have chosen to adopt said worldview while almost everyone else that had been exposed to similar experiences did not.

    I think that in FL’s case, though, we are a bit in the “personal circumstances” case as well, because of some of the experiences shown in the drama. Nothing as extreme as any sort of physical abuse, etc., but she apparently didn’t have a lot of positive experiences with men, given that she had exactly one male friend that turned out to be a lying scumbag.

    4. I did think that the reasons given for ML’s trauma didn’t really explain him adopting such an extreme outlook and developing such a physical reaction. I also felt that these should really be treated as two different things, because on one hand we have ideas and beliefs that could be argued against and changed, on the other what is essentially an illness that ought to be treated with therapy and medication (and I think he got some medication for the symptoms).

    5. I do tend to share Kfangurl’s opinion that ML does seem to have changed his outlook towards women in general by the end of the drama, rather than just make FL a special case, and the same seems to be the case for her. He does not have adverse physical reactions anymore, and generally seems to have started relating to and treating women better.

    I would say that the same goes for FL, who seems to have also changed her outlook in general, though in her case the situation seemed to have started off in a less serious place, as she did have the one male colleague at the beginning of the drama, and she never did have an adverse physical reaction to having contact with men.

    6. Plus she did have a boyfriend in the beginning, though he cheated on her and she slept with other men in return, which in my eyes was perfectly fine -he was not going to show her any loyalty and honesty, and should therefore not have expected any in return-. I don’t think that falls into the “two wrongs don’t make one right” category. I see it quite different from responding to irrational hatred and prejudice with irrational hatred and prejudice.

    The latter would be more akin to her starting to hate all people sharing the same characteristic as the person that wronged her, such as having black hair, or being of a certain age (in as far as one want to argue for an irrational hatred for a whole group based on convictions about their belief and worldview that they acquired in part through socialization in an unjust society, I guess that the same argument could apply to age or social class as well: for example, older people likely to have more conservative social beliefs… this, of course, ignores the fact that individual differences are such that two people will differ more from each other much more than they any similarity they might have because of common background or characteristics).

    7. I would say that, on ML not cheating not being a choice, I do think that the implication was that he wouldn’t have cheated regardless, and in the end when he solves his issue with physical contact, she doesn’t suspect him of being a philanderer. Point is, he clearly was not going to be physically or emotionally close with other people, so that simply made the chance of him cheating a moot point there, had this been a concern for her, but of course, if he couldn’t get past this block, he couldn’t have a relationship with her either.

    8. In general, I don’t really think that art should be a lecture from the pulpit, so I don’t think that the drama would have been improved if it had turned more preachy. I think it’s a fine line to strike, to convey a message and showcase a theme, but not to become too pedantic and didascalic. The viewer doesn’t want to feel lectured to (let alone shamed). I did think that the drama touched on a lot of important topics, including public people’s right to date who they want without needing to involve their fans in the decision.

    That said, I do agree that it would have been nice to see the characterization put more emphasis on things such as enjoying sex and not dating only the one person you were going to marry not being “right” just because men do it too. I mean, it’s not as if deceiving one’s partner is right because men do it too and society is more lenient towards them -though I guess that there is really no society where the uniform opinion is that that kind of deception is right-.

    The point that should have been made is that men (and more generally people) should not get a free pass for bad behavior, while she shouldn’t be shamed for things that do not hurt anyone else, such as enjoying sex (or, if I can make a small modification, not hurt anyone that doesn’t deserve it… her cheating boyfriend doesn’t really have any room to complain: he didn’t show her any loyalty, and has no right to expect any in return).

    1. I did think that the bit about her being a “vigilante” was a bit unnecessary, but I rationalized that it was meant to portray a part of the truth to help her with PR, and that it didn’t invalidate her enjoying sex or wanting to not settle for the first person she date.

      I was frankly a bit taken aback by the bit about her “seducing” (whatever that means) someone that was about to be engaged and was two-timing another girl… Probably it would have made more sense and caused less pain if she had simply gone and talked to the girl the guy was engaged with. But this signaled to me that I shouldn’t exactly be looking at it as if it was a “serious” , it was meant to be comedic. By this I mean not that it didn’t deal with serious themes, but that being a romcom, and on the comedic side of that, often I got the feeling that the emotions were amped up on purpose and I shouldn’t take everything literally.

    2. I must say that I did kind of appreciate her knowing how to fight and being all around independent, but I didn’t think that that meant that she felt she was superior to other women, or that those women should have been mistreated.

    3. To be perfectly honest, I was not really a fan of how the controversy was resolved with the video either… I didn’t really like the cheating ex-boyfriend getting some sort of redemption arc? And being the one that “saves the day”. I think that the public starting to change their minds a little at a time and them choosing to stay together would have been a better approach. Equally realistic (with no major sudden alignment of the public), but avoiding that whole thing with her colleagues, redeemed in extremis and all ends in kumbaya… not a fan.

  5. To be honest, I think that making the ML be an cold or insensitive or abrasive, etc. is not really a change from the typical old school kdrama (take ML in Coffe Prince, etc., basically an adult behaving like a kid that bullied the girl he had a crush on). In that respect, I think that it’s a nice change that they at least attempt to provide a reason in the trauma/illness he suffers to explain his behavior. I do think that this has to be put in the context of the comedic tone of the show, accounting for some over the top behavior ramped up for comedic purposes, or to create additional drama. Plus, playing on the old trope -not that I mean it in a bad way, it is a trope for a reason- of her being the one to “change him” and heal his wounds and change his mind (I guess, though, that in this case it was reciprocal).

    I don’t really completely agree with the assessment of their characterization in terms of their respective misogyny and misandry, to me there was some nuance in how these were represented.

    On one hand, there is a difference between ones’ beliefs and ideas and what is essentially a medical problem. His trauma and the physical symptoms he experiences are things to be dealt with via therapy and medication. That’s a medical issue, not merely a matter of his outlook. In that respect, FL didn’t really even show similar issues: she could be intimate with men, she could even date them (she had a boyfriend in the first episode), or be friendly with them (though her colleague turned out to fit the societal stereotype she usually judged men by).

    I do think that this also means that FL was not totally blinded by irrational hatred of an entire gender, otherwise she would have hated her colleague from the get go, and wouldn’t have thought he was a good guy and presented him to her friend (unfortunately, again, he turned out to fit the stereotype). So, while she was prejudiced, it was not to the point where she was so irrational that she would hate someone on account of his gender even if she thought he was otherwise a good person (again, in this specific case she was unfortunately mistaken about his good character).

    I do think that her responding to societal pressures by hating men with such a passion that she wouldn’t be willing to give them a chance even if they appeared to be good people would not have been a rational reaction. I could imagine a situation where it could be, for example had she lived in a society so oppressive and at the same time isolated that the only reality she knew was one where men were uniformly her enemies and she couldn’t trust them at all. I don’t think that this would be a realistic depiction of modern day Korea, no matter its problems. I also don’t think that this description fit her characterization in the show, however, otherwise it would have been impossible for her to have a boyfriend or a male friend in the first place.

    To be clear, obviously any level of dislike, even if milder, that was based on prejudice, would have been by definition irrational, and therefore, if one was inclined to address it, it would have been something to be corrected, not encouraged. But I don’t think that her hatred of men for simply being men was absolute (in fact I guess that had either of their issues in that regard been that pronounced, it would have been impossible for her and ML to ever enter a relationship).

    All in all, I do think that at the end the drama meant to show that they both realized their outlook, pre-judging people of the opposite gender based on society’s stereotypes (the womanizing male celebrity, the so called “gold digger” or social climber, etc.), was wrong. He doesn’t appear to be suffering from any physical symptoms anymore, so his illness is apparently cured. He is also shown saying nice things and apologizing for his past behavior to the women he had been mean to in the past. At the end of the drama we are also shown how he doesn’t mind FL loving sex and having had multiple relationships in the past (not saying that he should have minded, but a misogynist would definitely have), and defends her from s**t-shaming. I must say that the scene did work for me, just like the transphobic parents in Sense8 finally seeing sense and defending his daughter.

    All in all, I do think that this is indicative that he has essentially become a normal person, and FL is past her hatred and distrust of men as well (just like I assume that at the end of Sense8 the previously transphobic parents have turned a new leaf). All in all, I do wish the show had depicted certain things differently or dived deeper into some nuances, but I choose to give it the benefit of the doubt and read it in the most positive light/interpretation. I do appreciate that the show never turns preachy, pedantic or didascalic, or give the impression to be giving a one-sided lecture from the pulpit of its moral superiority, with an inflated sense of self importance, and I think that it is not a mistake that the drama doesn’t take itself too seriously.

    1. I think that, in terms of the foolishness of hating on or discriminating against someone based on arbitrary characteristics, it would be equally as foolish as if she had started blaming every black haired person for what her boyfriend did, or every person of the same age (actually, if one wanted to -absolutely irrationally- attempt to rationalize hatred of an entire group based on what could be thought of as typical ideas shared by members of the groups based on some process of socialization, the same could be applied to age: for example, older people tend to be more socially conservative… now, it should be perfectly clear to anyone that discriminating on someone based on age -or gender, for that matter-, on account of an argument such as this, would be utterly foolish, because it would ignore the fact that both age and gender groups are not monolithic and people different between each other much more than they are similar to each other based on some common characteristic or belonging to the same group-).

    2. I too am not sure about the final resolution with the colleagues sticking up for her with this PR hit that kind of solved the issue without addressing the fact that it would have been okay for her to like sex and have a long dating history (I feel that cheating, if it hurt another woman or broke the trust of someone that was loyal to her and treated her honestly, wouldn’t be). I don’t think that I need to throw that bit out, though, given that it’s clear that she didn’t only do it for revenge… the man she slept with in the first episode, the romantic dude, clearly wasn’t someone that she picked up because she was trying to mess with him or someone else, she just wanted to have a one night stand with him.

    3. I do think that dramas like Liberation Notes or Misaeng do highlight the problems in the workplace in a more serious manner… but in terms of expectations, I don’t know that it is realistic to expect a romcom to address society-wide change. The show needed to end on an upbeat note, and it would be hard to do it if it required a society wide change. I meant, they could have showed it, but I don’t think it would have been more realistic or credible than what we got.

    4. I do think that on balance, the show succeeded in raising some interesting issues. It’s frankly difficult to even have a serious show deal with the issues and convey a message without sounding pedantic and didascalic, and starting to preach to the quire. And at that point, you wouldn’t really be convincing anyone, just reinforcing the ideas of people already agreeing with you. In general, people don’t like being talked down to or feeling like they are in a Church and being lectured from some place of moral authority. They have to feel that the theme is being conveyed through the story, and I have trouble imagining a resolution where society as a whole comes together and radically changes: we can pretend it would be possible, I guess, but people online have trouble agreeing on even well established things (there are flat earthers, after all).

    5. I do think that, overall, this romantic comedy managed to raise a bunch of issues, and probably was more effective in conveying certain messages to people than if it had been a non-comedic show, taking itself way too seriously, putting the viewer though some sort of lecture about all that is wrong with society. Frankly, I have seen other dramas in the past that attempted to make a point and kind of overplayed their hands, with one sided dialogues or situations with plenty of non-sequiturs and interlocutors unable to come up with a convincing and nuanced case or rebuttal despite pretty glaring flaws, or society suddenly and inexplicably changing and unbelievably aligning behind a message (note that in reality we have people disagreeing even about the most obvious fact, such as the fact that we went to the moon). In other words, picking a winner and pushing ahead with plot armor or just pretending that the situation or dialogue made sense. All in all, I felt that this was largely avoided in this drama, which was a romantic comedy, and therefore using a different tone which requires adjusting one’s expectations for some over the top situations. So, I would have maybe appreciated more nuance in what was the truth and what was PR, but I chose to go with the most charitable interpretation and give the drama the benefit of the doubts: she liked sex, she was sincere when she told people that there was nothing wrong with a long dating history and she doesn’t feel the need to go steady with the first person she ever dated, and the bit about her being some sort of “avenger” only going after scumbags was only a part of the story. We see for example that she certainly didn’t get a boyfriend or sleep with the guy she slept with in the first episode because she was trying to teach them a lesson: she didn’t think that her boyfriend would cheat when she begun dating him six months ago, and when he did, she slept with other men as well (which I thought was perfectly fair: he didn’t show her any loyalty or honesty, so he shouldn’t expect any in return: loved that she made that point when he incredibly tried to take her to task for her behavior). As for the guy she sleeps in the first episode, she obviously wanted to have a one night stand, she had met him only two hours before, so she clearly didn’t intend to punish him (for that matter, she discovers he is a romantic type, and it’s not as if she has some strange thought that she should only sleep with scumbags for revenge… no, he was someone she was attracted to, and she had a one night stand with him: this was something she enjoyed doing, not about her proving a point or wanting to hurt the guy). So in terms of her enjoying sex, etc., I don’t think it was invalidated by the video in the last episode.

    6. If I reflect on this, I do tend to agree that the situation with the scandal would have been probably better resolved by them sticking it out, staying together, and the public slowly shifting opinion enough once they realized that the ML and FL couldn’t be bullied into submission, to allow him to carry on with his career. Not a magical realignment of everyone’s opinion, more like a gradual shift of the younger generation (which are likely the main consumers of his works), and so on. I didn’t really like the cheating ex-bf and the colleagues getting kinda of a redemption arc, happy ending, kumbaya moment: in that respect, I do thin it shouldn’t have been about her settling and “forgetting” bad behavior and everyone having a group hug, that does sound like cope, etc.

  6. I do agree with some of the points raised above, and disagree with the assessment of some of the characterizations.

    On her loving to have sex and having a long dating history, I do think it would not have been the right approach to present this as a mere revenge on males. For things like deceiving one’s partner, the mere fact that males do it and are treated more leniently -though I don’t know of any society where lying to one’s partner is considered right-, does not mean that the behavior should be emulated. The standard should be about whether the behavior hurts innocent people: betraying one’s partner’s trust does, while her having sex with or dating casually other consenting adults does not. I did wish they dealt it differently in the “only dating scumbags for revenge” final bit.

    However, I disagree with the characterization somewhat, in that I think that she did genuinely enjoy the sex/dating as well. I see this similarly to her law degree, in that yes, this was all in the context of wanting to prove her father wrong, but it was not only about that -I don’t see it as a dichotomy-.

    Incidentally, I don’t really think one can be genuinely sex-positive when sleeping with people they feel contempt for on account of them feeling and behaving in the same way they do: this happens to her, and it happens to any male that would sleep with her and then s**t-shame her: it’s clearly hypocritical and unhealthy.

    In terms of misogyny vs misandry, I will state the obvious and note that, factually speaking, irrational hatred for someone based not on that person’s specific actions or ideas, but on some immutable characteristic they have no control over, is by definition irrational. Whether the motivation between the prejudice is one’s personal traumas, or general injustices in society, it doesn’t really make the prejudice itself any more or less irrational.

    I think that the point here is that there is a distinction between the personal and even conceptual level, and the societal level. If we take racism and discriminating redheads, on principle there hating someone for their hair color is no more irrational than hating them for their skin color, but obviously racism is a grievous societal problem and deserves society’s focus in terms of discussing the issue and dealing with it.

    So, the prejudice itself is conceptually no better or worse, but its impact on society, its history, the surrounding cultural context and the number of incidents all determine its relevancy in society and how much collective brain space should be put towards addressing the problem.

    Be it the womanizing male actor or the gold digging social climber, they are society’s stereotypes that they are both buying into and regurgitating. Misogyny is obviously a much bigger societal problem, but is in no way more irrational than other forms of discrimination.

    Empirically speaking, I do think that personal trauma (up to extreme examples such as parental or spousal abuse, or sexual violence) would make a more realistic explanation for adopting an extreme world view than merely being subjected to the same societal injustices that everybody in the same situation is subjected to. Because if they don’t similarly adopt an extreme viewpoint, it would beg the question of why, apparently, most people in the same condition do not, in fact, start hating an entire gender.

    And I think that in the case of the drama, they did show how her hatred of men was driven by experiences with his father, her job, and her relationships. And even then, it is clear to me that she was not entirely prejudiced: while ML couldn’t even physically stand in the proximity of women because of his trauma, she was able to be intimate with men, had a boyfriend and a male friend (who unfortunately turned out to be scumbags), and in her job interacted with male clients.

    As for ML, I must say that frankly, I didn’t really think that his experiences were traumatic enough to lead him towards this sort of extreme world view or cause him such a physical reaction. I do think that the physical reaction should be treated as an illness quite separate from his beliefs: the illness needs to be dealt with by a medical professional, the beliefs ought to be challenged.

    I was impressed by the call-out of the double standards in the perception of age gap relationships, being either celebrated or criticized based on who happens to be the older partner. If the goal is to respect people’s agency and not patronize them, then it does make very little sense to concern-troll from a position of faux moral superiority. Without bringing out Mr. Macron, or start a rant on ageism and sexism, the only position that makes sense is that what happens between consenting adults is their own business, and no, a random hick from some backwater that feels entitled to opine from a position of authority about a relationship that doesn’t hurt anybody as if they knew better than the people involved in in no way credible: a society that would laugh such an individual out out of the room would be much superior to one where, say, Mr. Macron and the first lady need deal with gossip from the peanut gallery.

    On ML, I do think that in the end he truly changed his mind about his beliefs -I think the lack of symptoms, him defending his girlfriend from slut shaming and apologizing to the other actresses, really altered his perception-.

    On the characterization of some of the female characters as flawed, I must say that I didn’t think that this was really the case of repeating stereotypes (if that was the case, basically all male characters are depicted as misogynistic, deceiving scumbags). It’s simply part of the drama’s comedic setting, and I didn’t think the female characters were that bad in the first place -you didn’t get the feeling they deserved to be mistreated because they were not like the FL, or at least that was not what I took away from the drama-.

    1. Actually, about Mr. Macron, I just learned that he and his wife had begun their relationship when he was 16, and therefore it didn’t fit the side-point about the different judgment of relationships between consenting adults with age gaps. I would just say that, as far as the criticism of that relationship was based on her being 25 years older than him (and much of the criticism was focused on that, rather than on when the relationship started), then the point still stands.

      I feel that people mistake their personal biases and preferences for a rational assessment of what is ethically relevant. If it’s a relationship between consenting adults, the only question is whether it is hurting anyone (barring gossip-monger with too much time on their hands, or people that would like to be with them instead, or anyone else whose opinion shouldn’t really matter and that have no right to object to what consenting adults choose to do with their lives). If not, then there is objectively speaking nothing immoral about it (the two consenting adults in the relationship being the ultimate authority on their own thoughts and feelings). If yes, that that is the problem to deal with, not their age.

      I do think that people feel, for some reason, much more entitled to opine on topics like this than they would in any other situation… they wouldn’t turn the fact that they don’t feel attracted to people of the same sex, or someone above a certain weight (I actually am not sure I would feel comfortable expressing that opinion in public, and certainly shaming someone else for being in a relationship with a much heavier person seems appalling), into a moral issue.

      Actually, I must say that reviewing that part of the drama, it’s not clear to me how he thought the double standard ought to have been resolved. Obviously, I would only support the message if it was resolved in the direction of letting consenting adults make their own decisions about their personal lives -it’s not up to us to decide who their date or sleep with-. And personally, I absolutely adore Noona romances, and like how lately some show started not even commenting on the Noona age gap -that’s the world we want to more towards-. Even Noona romances that dealt with the age gap as an issue did so in order to ultimately conclude that it would be absolutely foolish to deprive themselves of happiness on account of someone else’s arbitrary standards about the ages of partners in a couple. The message of such dramas is precisely against the narrow minded societal prejudices about what a couple is supposed to look like.

    2. I have to say that I think that the final video of her being a sort of “fixer” for bad boyfriends was not really meant to be taken as the whole truth -I do think she was sincere when she talked about wanting to date multiple people to find the correct one-.

      I had absolutely no problem with her sleeping with the other guy while she was with her boyfriend, because he was disloyal to her and therefore shouldn’t have expected anything better in return.

      One thing I was a bit disturbed about during the final segment, where she is presented as a vigilante, was her “seducing” a guy that was two-timing his fiancee, and breaking up their engagement.. not sure what that entailed, but frankly I wondered if it was really okay and if it wouldn’t have been less hurtful and more realistic for her to simply go and tell the girl about her boyfriend two-timing her, rather than seducing him and breaking up the engagement.. seems easier for everyone. But that’s in line with the rest of the show where I think that you are not really supposed to micro-analyze these situations.

    3. I do tend to think that this would have been better without the cheating ex-bf’s video resolution of the scandal situation… On one hand, I don’t really like the idea of the ex-bf’s actions and all the issues at work being swept under the rug, and her colleagues and ex-bf having kind of a kumbaya moment, on the other hand, I do think that an equally and arguably more realistic outcome could have been achieved by her and ML staying together and waiting it out until public opinion shifted enough that this was no longer a problem.

  7. Overall, I think I enjoyed the drama and that I shouldn’t really think too much about it or take it literally. Frankly, I was “more okay” with her before the “explanation” (her seducing a person that was two-timing the woman he was engaged with and wrecking their engagement, rather than going to tell the woman that he was two timing her, seemed both more hurtful and effortful than one would guess). But I think that the explanation was framed to help her with PR, so in my mind she still enjoyed sex and I don’t think she lied when she said that she didn’t want to settle for the first person she dated, when it came to selecting a long term partner. So I compartmentalize this claim that she was an “avenger”, and the strange bits that came with it.

    1. I think it was a good drama and that it brought to light quite a few interesting topics. On balance, while I would have preferred to see somethings resolved differently, I think that the benefits outweight the costs.

      Also, I don’t think it makes much sense to see her change society all on her own. I do wish that they had stuck their ground with the story that she was simply enjoying sex and had a long dating history, and his fans would have to just adapt to that reality. Frankly, while I understand that she was doing it for him, I would have liked them to stick it out and ignore the fans.

    2. I did like the show overall. And on balance, I think that it was a good thing to raise some of these topics. I think that I set my expectations appropriately given that we were dealing with a rom com, and not with a non-comedic drama. So I was not expecting Liberation Notes.

    3. All in all, I think that we might be underestimating the amount of change made by ML (I do think he changed his mind about his attitude towards women in general, not only towards FL, otherwise I doubt he would have apologized to his colleagues for his atrocious behavior, or solved his issues with his illness, or defend FL when she was being s**t-shamed.

    4. All things considered, I do think that the video that resolved the controversy could have very well been avoided. I don’t really like seeing the cheating ex-bf getting to play the hero and save the day (and damsel in distress?), like the rest of her colleagues, and everyone having a kubaya moment, sweeping all the issues under the rug. I wouldn’t have considered everyone aligning behind her a realistic outcome, but if they had chosen to stay together and stick it out, I think that there could have been a realistic scenario where public opinion shifted enough that ML could have a career (also considering that his viewers are likely to be in the younger segment of the population who was more supportive of FL).

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