How Women Make a Living in a Korean Movies?
The ‘film world’ is a fiction from imagination. Women in the film world are interesting to observe. The image of women is depicted as what the world wants, rather than women’s independent life. Women in the film represent the desire of men rather than women’s inner desires because the subjects of the film world are created by males. Looking at films like <Thieves> and <War of Flower>, only a handful of women plays on the screen and usually act as a sex appeal temptress.
The early 20th century, in the movie, <The Vow Make below the Moon, (1923)> the woman has the role of a good wife that rescues her husband from a gambling addiction. The woman dedicates to her husband, and this women’s character became the origin image of a ‘good wife.’ However, the heroin of <Sweet Dream-Lullaby of Death (1936)> is the opposite of that good wife. She resists her oppressive husband and her desire hits her daughter with a car and poisons herself because of the guilt. The ending contains the message that a woman who refuses to be a ‘good wife’ is going to be punished. This flow is maintained in other movies such as <The Ae-ma Woman and Madame Freedom>. These movies imply that women who pursue their desires are punished and vilified.
The image of women that were adapted to dedicate her husband is repeated and followed in many films. For example, <Spinning the Tales of Cruelty towards Women>, and <The Surrogate Womb> are depicted gloriously in the dramatic tragedy of a patriarchy that kills women. In addition, <An Idiot Adada> and <Potato> reveal the cinematic proof of a cruel history of women sexually exploited in the Japanese Colonial era.
Subsequently, Korea’s film world is now focused on the mother instead of the wife. <Love Me Once Again> (the original form of melodrama in Korea) details the heartrending and instinctive love story of single mothers. Recently, the instinctive love of a mother is intensely shown <Mother>. In the movie, the mother becomes crazy trying to save her son. In the film <Goodbye Mom>, a mother endured a husband’s violence for her daughter. These mothers are close to the myth of motherhood. The saying ‘Women are weak, but mothers strong’ emphasizes the mother’s role; however, it also deprives the women’s presence; ‘Weak women versus strong mother’ means ‘mother is not a women’ and makes a mother lose her femininity.
Through this aspect, films that evocated a women’s identity have emerged after the late 1980s; <the pillar of Mist> is representative of these. The story is about a heroine who divorce from her oppressive husband to find her own identity. The awareness of being a ‘good wife’ as a traditional value is not true value of women that has occurred in melodrama. Subsequently, in the <An Affair>, an affluent housewife finds her own life not as a wife and mother. In addition, <Mayonnaise> overturns the existing of devoted mothers and presents a mother who is faithful to one person. However, these movies have limitations because they did not depart from a women’s charity.
With these small changes, the movie that represented women as holistic beings was born after 21C. <A Good Lawyer’s Wife and Family Ties> break the framework where women must be devoted by a lifetime of marriage. Women in those movies are represented in the form of evolution. They did not regress to traditional values. They connected with their inner self and lived a second life subjectively.
In the <Forever the Moment> married, divorced and single women have promoted friendship through a volleyball game, regardless of marital status. And, <Sunny> gives hope and a new life to middle-aged women who have previously lived hopelessly. They looked back at the 25 years they have spent to be a ‘good wife.’ Encounters with old friends remind them to expose their true colors that have previously been hidden. Sunny gives a great and humorous power to women. The movie has found the full support of a women audience and recorded the best box-office income in 2011.
Recent achievements show the history of evolution of women’s roles. Women in the story get their way shows preferences from most women audiences. Yet it is only a tiny start on the change that is required. Regardless of the movie, women are usually led by men in most movies. The film world should realize that women have equal rights to men even in films.
Yu GiNa (Professor of department of film and digital media, Dongguk University)
Translated by the Vista reporter, Park YooJin