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Soft Men and limited love of Jinho Heo's films

Bae, Saerom 1

1연세대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Recently, with the increasing female subjects supporting feminism, critique has been strongly made about patriarchal male characters in popular culture texts. It was no exception for Korean movies and the male protagonists who abuse the weak and still want comfort and help from them have started to be criticized unprecedently. In this respect, Heo, Jinho's films occupy unique place. In his movies from his feature debut film <Christmas in August>(1998) to <A Good Rain Knows>(2009) that mainly depict contemporary heterosexual romantic relationship, we can see men who embody softness. They do not insist it is only men that are the subject of history by suffering and owning narrative, or fall into self‐pity. Instead, they are kind, polite and show empathy to those around them including their partners. This paper names these characteristics as 'softness' and tries to demonstrate how it is different from the dominant masculinity of contemporary times. The reason this different masculinity was able to be represented is that dailiness was reinstated and intimate relationship has been more important to men due to improved gender equality with the arrival of the 1990s when institutional democracy was established. Still, this softness is possible only with the hegemony men have in unequal gender hierarchy. Men have more opportunities in public sphere to be recognized and approved which means women they are in relationship with are not in an equal position that pushes men to actively negotiate or resolve conflicts. In Heo's films, it is described by female characters' more putting more efforts in forming and sustaining the relationships. Not falling into self‐pitying colonized masculinity, Heo's films have shown softness which is a rare feature of masculinity in Korea. However, it still needs to be pointed out that it is only men's privilege based on patriarchal gender hierarchy. The fact that his representation of contemporary heterosexual romantic relationship has stopped in 'the era of misogyny' and ten years of conservative regime implies that the current relationship is in a very different phase. Through the analysis of soft masculinity in Heo's films, we can understand undiscovered masculinity and the changing aspects of gender inequality.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.