by HappySqueak, March 30, 2017

When Male Leads go from Swoon-Worthy to Cringe-Worthy


Hey Drama fans, have you reached a point in your drama/film watching of K/J/C/T dramas where those handsome male leads suddenly start depicting less desirable traits and unsavoury personalities? In a moment the sweetheart fluttering feelings can diminish and we are left scratching our heads with the thought of 'Why did he do that?'

I really like it when a drama guy gets his feelings shaken up enough to grab a wrist and twirl back the girl he likes for a confession or a kiss! Or the momentarily pinning her against a wall with an outstretched hand to capture her before she dashes away.

Here are some issues you might have or just keep trudging through pending your viewer preference:

#1 Violence or Causing Physical Pain to the Female Lead

Recently I’ve viewed some films/dramas but I found myself cringing from mean hair pulling where you can see he is actually hurting female lead, to threats as seen in Black Devil and White Prince (Part 1 and 2). Who doesn’t like the bad boy character type who deep down is redeemable?



It’s a character type with depth and possibility, often with some hidden vulnerability that makes him attractive and swoon-worthy to viewers.

(image below from Best Wedding)


But sometimes the bad boy character is just tacky in his behaviour that visually, and within the story-telling, all appeal is lost and it’s time to move on to the next one.

#2 Adultery and Cheating in Dramas

This prickly hot topic definitely intensifies drama plots and is a very common theme especially in daily dramas. One character or another has gone through it, sometimes it will be the leads, other times someone in the supporting character circle. This dirty business between the cheaters is high on the ick factor. For example, the writer will take a once loving ‘opening’ male lead as seen in earlier episodes and then turn him into a despicable creep while also demoting him into a 2nd lead tier when the new guy shows up to woo and win the love of the female lead. Dramas with these character types really make it look so easy for people who are involved in relationships to easily be swayed. 

As seen here in 2017 You Are Too Much


Poor female lead does not have a clue!


It doesn't help when the female rival is just as cringe-y as the cheating (beginning) male lead.



Abandonment usually follows next in this usual recipe of drama plots, often swiftly after the heartbreak.


The only good thing that will result out of a bad male lead gone toxic, is a new love interest for the female lead, to give viewers hope in romance, kindness and that there are honorable and good-hearted guys out there still.


The sad fact is also that sometimes the wealthy family members will help along a Bad Oppa (as seen in dailies). Encouraging the divorce and new marriage between the cheaters. Then send our poor lovely female leads away who then must rise up, overcome their amnesia and reclaim what they have lost.

As seen in the currently airing 2017 I’m Sorry Kang Nam Goo



Here the female lead records a video message to herself so that she won't forget the kindness of the new male lead who has helped her through her trying times. Just in case her memories of him are lost when she regains her previous life's memories.


#3 When Revenge is Taken Too Far

Full blown revenge (out of selfish love) can be disturbing and a hard story to digest. I’ll admit seeing the male lead get a little jealous of the female lead and 2nd lead is familiar and amusing situations to follow. It will make the male lead come to terms with his feelings and the realization that he, in fact, likes the female lead. But when a male lead is pushed past the point of fleeting envy into cruel revenge or acting out of spite when things don’t go his way, it can cause a good story to derive and make it hard for viewers to see him as someone worthy of the female lead.

Take a look at the drama (Spoilers Ahead) Best Wedding when the male lead fails to get marriage approval from his strict and traditional family after they discover she is pregnant, his father demands she conforms to their lifestyle and quit her job. Things get emotionally messy and the leads part ways.




She lies about her pregnancy to protect her unborn child, add a time jump and male lead slithers back in, to make her life impossible and to vindictively steal away her child. Seeing the purposely hurtful methods, the writers would have their characters sink to, can be disheartening as well the thought that there really could be people out there who act so vengefully if they do not get their way. #SilverSpoonSyndrome #BadChaebol

#4 Abandonment

While this is not the same as physical pain, emotional pain can be a hard toll on someone. When the male lead reaches a conclusion that the only way to protect the female lead whom he loves ‘so much’ is to walk away and abandon her. It just seems like he’s not thinking outside of the box, but of course, many factors can contribute to him reaching this decision; pressure by his family members, threats from the evil 2nd female lead who has her sights locked in on him, or at a high cost (his inheritance, job position or objections of female lead’s family). There is always something that works against the OTP maintaining what they have part way through.  There is also the abandonment for personal gain, greed, that will take an opening male lead down a dark path that usually he does not sway from and is not redeemable.


As seen in Secret after the opening male lead abandons the female lead due to greed and his own personal gain.


Leave it to Ji Sung to step in to protect and lend a coat to our fallen female lead.


A well-balanced story will, of course, have the ‘drama’ elements to engage you to feel the love, hate, humour, sorrow and triumph for the characters whom stories you follow. What are your thoughts on Male characters who may go too far? Any favourites like Tsukasa Domyoji (Boys over Flowers) or any you loathe? Let me know!