by dramaworld, April 4, 2020
62

OKAY, so part 2 is FINALLY here. Full disclosure, while I mostly watch from all MDL countries (nothing from the Philippines yet), Kdrama was my first; the one that shoved me into this whole dramaland abyss, so of course, part 1 was dedicated to it. Now, part 2 is about the rest of the countries I also love and enjoy. Though I've been watching from these countries for years, sadly, I can't watch as equally as I'd like. As you will see, in some countries I don't think I have enough information to discuss strong female representation and evolution in the decade, but I tried my best. Also, writing this part didn't go as easy as I hoped; one of the major problems I faced was, sadly, the lack of tagging for non-Korean dramas. Searching for strong female leads in the decade only gave me a few results for each country.  Until this was submitted; I only got 117 results tagged for China, 49 results tagged for Thailand, 34 results tagged for Japan and only 23 results tagged for Taiwan for dramas tagged with a strong female lead in the last decade.

Some things to be clear about:

  • This is by no means a list. This is about the way strong women were portrayed in each dramaland and if there was a change from 2010 to 2019.
  • This article also doesn't define what strong female lead is; it can mean something different to each of us. (Which is why voting on tags is important). I am merely discussing the sort of strong women, presented to us through the decade. Some of the mentioned in this part don't even completely meet my criteria. 
  • While romcom is considered an inferior genre for some reason, it is the genre that highlights the characters the most; so I am staying consistent with part 1.

That said, since each country has its own unique flavour and some of you are loyal to some more than others (also this article got LONG), I divided the article according to countries.

China had 117 tagged results from the 2010s (mostly 2017 to 2019 historical fantasy).

The early years in the decade were not so good for us – non-mandarin speaking fans - because of the low production quality and the hardly available subtitles. Then the times changed and sites like iQiyi and WeTv and others came to life while Netflix added Chinese content, which lead to more subbed Cdramas available online to binge.

The amount of fantasy Wuxia is abundant in that dramaland; with their gorgeous scenery, imperial harem fights and exaggerated martial fighting. They are known to mostly have scheming or physically strong women, sometimes both (everyone basically is).

Let's talk about the strong women in modern dramas I got to come across. The later years in the decade had more modern, strong (non-fantasy) female leads in the romance genre as far as I could find. The number and quality of strong female leads reaching us kept rising going forward with the decade despite all the Chinese government censoring. With the decade ending, we got high production value dramas with shining strong women. It still has ways to improve in order to reach more layered characters and present more than the confident, strong woman, but I love it nonetheless. 

A few dramas with strong women, I got to watch or hear about:
Go Yi Yi Go 2010 (can't find it anywhere but MDLer's seem to agree she's flawed yet strong), Love's Relativity 2014 (low production value which was weird for me considering it's the same year we got Boss & Me 2014 which had high production but not a strong female lead), The Whirlwind Girl 2015 (tagged as such  but according to the drama page she is not (the comments and the reviews don't usually agree, so when they rarely do, I tend to believe them), My Amazing Boyfriend 2016/2019 (watching this fierce comfortable confident woman fighting for her place in the world while also fighting for her love and even trying to protect him despite how strong he is was so fun), Across the Ocean to See You 2017 (she's clearly written as a confident strong career woman), About Is Love 2018 (I can't, in good faith, say she's written strong but she was confident rejecting him (I basically watched for the second cat ♥ couple and Fei Fei was definitely strong)), The Love Knot: His Excellency's First Love 2018 (a very strong woman who is smart and leveled, she's confident and independent and listens to both her heart and mind), All I Want for Love is You 2019 (she might be obsessed with her crush but she can destroy any man and work hard to get whatever she wants), Destiny's Love 2019 (a flawed drama but the female lead kept getting up every time someone tried to knock her down), Go Go Squid! 2019 (she was childish with a huge age difference, but she still made it work, she was confident and determined in going after what she wants), Love The Way You Are 2019 (despite her trauma she's a very strong, confident, smart and kind lead).

Taiwan had 23 tagged results from the 2010s.

TW dramas are hard to find; despite having talented cast and high production value with sweet scenes, the subs seem to be specifically rare. Especially after the passing of our beloved Dramafever - RIP - we had an even harder time finding them. So, sadly we don't have much of them around for us international fans.
To be fair, they tend to be draggy. The attitude of "You seem to like this! Then, let me drag it way too much for you" is often very common as it's a habit to extend dramas if they get popular.

But I can honestly say that from the very beginning, the women were written beautifully. They were strong, made no excuses, showed vulnerability and stayed true to who they are. Tw romcoms I saw through the decade -though sadly not much- had been consistent in stressing different strong female characters.

In Time With You 2011 (the ultimate friends to lovers drama with a confident, smart woman), Love, Now 2012 (a favourite of mine, it showed a woman so strong and kind that her family and coworkers had to trick her into taking a vacation so they can also relax), Bromance 2015 (when Megan portrayed a strong woman who had to hide her gender to appease her parents, but she was still comfortable and strong in the face or her troubles), Marry Me, or Not? 2015 (a career-driven woman who is always strong and fierce in going after her goals), The Perfect Match 2017 (the hot-tempered female lead, who stands against any threat to the night market and still willing to learn to be the best), Meet Me @ 1006 2018 (this underrated drama showed how the focused, righteous and strong female lead can still be cute), Triad Princess 2019 (physically strong and independent woman, who was still responsible despite all her antics), these were some dramas that showed different strong characters and were fun to watch through the decade.

It was also noticeable how the actress's portrayal of the strong character is very impactful; in Prince of Wolf 2016 (which is tagged as strong female) and Hello Again! 2019 (where she is written strong, smart and resilient), Amber could've shown them stronger, but to me, her tone and facial expressions prioritized looking younger and more innocent, which stripped away so much of the character.

Honorary mentions:
Autumn's Concerto 2009 and MARS 2004 (I mean, these women can't get any more tortured or anymore stronger, the things they survived and how they overcame it all is remarkable. And all that in the 2000s).

Thailand had 49 tagged dramas from the 2010s

Disclaimer:
 ● Mentioned in this section some slap/kiss dramas. Though I marked them, you still need to check all drama tags before watching in case I missed something to avoid any triggers.
● I would never recommend an s/k drama for someone young (age or drama watching) and I in no way agree with them. Some of them are too disturbing, they should be horror-thriller, not romance, few have more of a very intense and aggressive kabedon vibe, and they all have toxic relationships. These types of dramas are so prevalent in lakorns they had to be mentioned in this article.
Also, and this is the most important, if you find yourself in a relationship similar to ones in that genre, PLEASE, reach out, ask for help and try to find safety away from that toxic relationship.

(Be careful of triggers, following the red links) 

In my personal opinion, lakorns were the most to change regarding female representation; and the only reason for that is they were the worst ever, so they had and still have A LOT to improve. I spent a lot of time looking for dramas were the women are treated with basic human decency, but apparently, that was asking for too much from the early 2010s. It wasn't only about the widespread slap/kiss genre but many other things; for example, the banshee voice all women had for some reason and the number of slaps the female lead had to accept with no retaliation to show the audience she's a good innocent girl.

Thai dramas even had a problem showing women strong and independent because the man always had to be stronger; so watching dramas like Wanida 2010, I could see they wanted to show her strong but was she really? She was always the damsel in distress, and her strength is more of, being stubborn and ending up in bad situations; Game Rai Game Rak 2011 s/k, which was a weird one, as she was helpless in the first half, so he was nice but in the second half when she's actually strong, he becomes cruel; Roy Lae Sanae Luang 2013 s/k, typical revenge forced marriage slap/kiss with a cruel man and a strong woman, always trying to escape him but gives up because he "loves her and he said sorry". But then I saw a small glimpse of hope in  Dao Kiao Duen 2013, in which a single woman tries to be single mother, the premise is empowering, and she was strong but the sarcasm and how she was laughed at and ridiculed by everyone for wanting it, was too much. Another 2013 lakorn is Hua Jai Rua Puang s/k, I actually liked this one, she's a really strong kind smart woman; the lakorn has one or two S/K scenes, and I have no idea why they even added them, It didn't make sense with such nice smart characters.

Dramas at the time were mostly the same; there were still the high pitched screaming women and a good amount of slapping. Things were still generally bad with slap/kiss despite some voices speaking against it; lakorns still used rape as a tool to move the story or as a way for the man to get the "good girl (an act of love)" and punish the "bad girl (ex. dressing provocatively)".

After that, the public was horrified with the girl on the train tragedy (2014), and an article published referencing it and other horrific cases, and the influence the lakorns has on rape culture, anger and awareness started showing from the public. A petition started collecting signatures to end all this.

At that time dramas airing were still pretty bad but the ones with strong women were like: Roy Fun Tawan Duerd 2014, a drama with calmer voices and few high pitched scenes; yet, the drama offered a strong woman with a nice man. Ruk Nee ... Jhe Jud Hai 2014, this one was a little rough on my ears, but she was strong and super focused on her career. Wannueng Jaa Pben Superstar 2015, she was persistent, smart and strong always doing her best to follow her dream. Song Huajai Nee Puea Tur 2015, the drama is not a favourite of mine, but she was strong and righteous till the end. Mafia Luerd Mungkorn: Suer 2015 s/k the writer wanted to show her strong, but she was not, she just came out as idiotically stubborn while succumbing to his dominance, and that's it; another part of the series was Mafia Luerd Mungkorn: Krating 2015 s/k, where Cherry did an amazing job showing the strength of the character, even in the scenes written to show her weak, even though the drama was somewhat problematic; I hoped the script was a bit more polished and less chaotic.

In 2016, some guidelines were enforced as a result of the petition and dramas found violating them were fined. So things, in general, started to slightly improve. The banshee voice calmed down a bit, the strong female lead can now slap back and still be presented as nice.

The strong female leads were even written better, in some cases like: Plerng Naree 2016, where she's a princess out for revenge, and she's a strong, calm female lead, U-Prince the Series 2016-2017, (everyone had different favourites from this series, but we all hated the Cowboy s/k one), most girls in the series were confident or know what they want even when they're shy. 2017 had The Cupid's Series, and all of them were strong female leads (EXCEPT Hunsa), we had different kinds of strong women too, the independent, the confident, the focused, the mature and even the man-hating in The Cupids Series: Sorn Ruk Kammathep and there wasn't really much-screaming banshee noises (but maybe because this is a series). When it came to lakorn, in the same year we had Bunlang Dok Mai 2017, a tough, strong-willed woman with an annoying, spoiled man and a little bit of the irritating high pitched voices, but it's pretty much tolerable. Rak Kan Panlawan 2017, which is a very cute refreshing lakorn with a bi female lead who is always strong, smart and focused. We also had Kleun Cheewit 2017 s/k and Ra Rerng Fai 2017 s/k; both had strong, smart and nice women; though the latter was much stronger than the former, and the aggression was a bit tamer than the usual s/k.

The last couple of years with the decade offered some really nice female characters. For example, Bpoop Phaeh Saniwaat 2018, watching her strong, sweet and smart character shine and dominate the drama was a delight, Khun Mae Suam Roy 2018, she is strong in every possible way; she is smart, kind, confident, and physically strong Jao Sao Jum Yorm 2018 s/k, a confident businesswoman, she's very strong and doesn't care about anyone (in fact she's so strong, she left him high and dry for no reason, why girl!!). Game Sanaeha (2018) she's not strong but annoyingly spoiled; on the other hand, her mom is the absolute best, with that cheerful, strong personality. Hua Jai Sila 2019 s/k, she is kind of strong and nice; as she speaks her mind to everyone around her but she was a bit of pushover sometimes. Yet, the real shining star here is Mam, she was fair and fearless even when she was at fault, simply the best.

Though I can see things improved, Thai dramas still have a long way to go. The high pitched women voices, for one, improved A LOT through the decade; it's now either tolerable or non-existent. Another thing is the more pleasant strong female leads; we can finally see some likeable, nice, non-bratty yet strong female leads in romance genre even if it's an S/K; the last couple of years had less aggression painted as romance in lakorns and just a tad bit less patriarchy; though, some still stir controversy.

*Read more:
(2016 viral article about the rape culture in Thailand), (An article discussing the drama Revenge (2017)), (A 2018 study about violence against women using the movie Eternity (2010)), (In the light of #me too movement Here ).

Japan had 32 tagged results from the 2010s (mostly thriller, suspense).


I mostly watch J-movies, and my romance Jdrama count is currently low (working hard on it). It was hard trying to find Jdramas tagged with Strong Female Lead in the decade; now imagine hunting for the early 2010s subbed ones. Respect to everyone watching and always hope they find good links.

So I haven't seen enough, to have a comprehensive idea if or how strong women representation evolved in the last decade. But I did notice that in Jdramas, strong female leads are in certain types. For example, career women, where the job is a great influence on their personality and/or the plot. With dramas like Konkatsu Deka 2015, it is even noticed in Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu 2016 in which she's very bold, smart and resourceful yet the job was still a great influence since they married as a job.

Yet we also had dramas like 5-ji Kara 9-ji Made 2015 where her career was important and used in the plot sometimes, but that wasn't the main force in her personality, Sekai Ichi Muzukashii Koi 2016 where her career mattered but she was vocal, confident and mature through the entire drama especially comparing her with Reiji's character, Good Morning Call 2016 and Good Morning Call - Our Campus Days? 2017 where she's a vocal and confident high school student in a cohabitation plot and Boku, Unmei no Hito desu 2017, this one actually focuses on the men, and I watched for Yamapi. However, the woman still proved strong and independent while seeming shy and innocent.

Another type is the older woman/younger man relationship. In dramas like Natsu no Koi wa Nijiiro ni Kagayaku 2010 and Last Cinderella 2013 also with Kimi Wa Petto 2017 (it's a remake, and I personally liked original more) and Hajimete Koi wo Shita Hi ni Yomu Hanashi 2019 where they all had strong female leads, and it was partly hinted that it was because of their age and maturity.


Fans still have different definitions of strong female leads, but one thing we all agree on is a well-written one is a good one. So when female characters are written as strong, it's important to see what were the aspects that the writers highlighted, did they make them likeable? And if we got to see women accepted and/or celebrated either in the drama or by us.


I hope this article helps other drama fans and encourages you to tag and vote your favourite dramas.  Please share your recommendations of strong female leads and let's all celebrate their strength. 

Also, share your thoughts if strong female representation changed through the decade in your favourite dramaland?

Hope we can all find new favourite dramas with amazing female leads and I hope dramaland always moves forward to give us even better dramas and better characters.


❣  Credits of the gifs and pics go to their respective owners.
❣ Images are linked to their respective drama pages.
    

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Edited by: Yuanwei (1st editor)  

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