Even fledgling Korean drama addicts will soon start to recognize certain characters that appear in nearly every drama. Here are a few you may know:
The Spunky Heroine
Energetic, outspoken, very pretty, and under 35. There is often a secret about her birth, and one or both of her parents are dead. She is optimistic in the face of adversity, and courageous in the face of injustice. Although she may be the smartest character in the drama, her desire to believe the best of people causes her to initially overlook villainous acts right under her nose. Defying obstacles and personal risk, she sticks to her goals. Through persistence sometimes bordering on stalking, she overcomes rejection, and shames good people who are behaving badly into changing their ways. She is flawed, but that saves us from hating her.
The Damaged Villain
Handsome, and under 35, he wears an expressionless mask most of the time, yet manages to be the most charismatic character in the drama. We rarely see him smile, and when we do, it’s an unpleasant smirk. He is an arch manipulator whose motives are never what they seem, but may show flashes of honorability, which are usually as unsung as his villainy. He has a traumatic backstory. We see his inner loneliness and despair, and want him to turn out to be a good guy in the end, even after he commits irretrievably evil acts. Female viewers may yearn to personally reform him. We always see him shirtless at least once, and are better for it.
The Slightly Above Average Hero
Any age (though typically under 35), attractive, personable, uncomplicated and underachieving. He has talents, but not necessarily intellectual ones, and they may not be immediately apparent. When we first meet him, he shows signs of immaturity, but soon we see that he is deeply loyal and can (motivated by The Spunky Heroine) discover unsuspected reserves of honorability, perseverance and capability in himself, and turn into a real hero, deserving of The Spunky Heroine’s love.
The Opposing Woman
Any age, this woman creates obstacles for the hero and heroine, and may be the primary villain or a sometime co-conspirator with The Damaged Villain or The Abusive Father Figure (but only for as long as it benefits her). She is often loved by a weaker but better man, who has little influence over her. She may be a conniving businesswoman with a hidden agenda, a mother or grandmother stuck on an irrationally negative notion, or a former love interest of the hero. Her rigidity is a key plot device, and can take the form of utter self-repression, ruthless abusiveness, or relentless scheming. Colleagues, family members and friends try to intervene unsuccessfully. She may have secret allies, usually an alternate love interest, jealous relative, or competitive colleague of the hero or heroine. If her power is in the home sphere, she probably repents by the end of the drama. If in business, however, not so much. She may end by suicide.
The Abusive Father Figure
Over 40, in a leadership role, single-mindedly ambitious, and remorselessly violent. Usually travels with an entourage of lackeys. A classic bully personality, charming in public and brutal in private. Often involved in political conspiracies to enhance his business opportunities. Sees good people as weak, and his worst behavior as completely justifiable. Since he can’t repent, he must end badly.
The Spoiled Brat
Female, and under 40. Attractive, but with such a petulant expression on her face most of the time that we hardly notice. She has a whopping sense of entitlement, and is hostile and arbitrary when she feels it has been violated (usually by the heroine, through no fault of her own). She is often competing with the heroine for motherly love, and refuses to accept that they can both receive that love. She may lose the hero to the heroine through her mean behavior. She matures during the drama and grudgingly accepts the heroine in the end. Sometimes The Spoiled Brat becomes The Spunky Heroine!
Usually (though not always) male, any age, and in a position with some influence. This character usually provides comic relief with unexpected or silly behavior. He may be a major or a minor character. When he is a major player (The Wily Clown), he is a conscious trickster, manipulating the hero or heroine into growth experiences without fully revealing his motives until later. When his character is minor, the story may turn (for better or worse) on his actions. He is usually regarded with respect or affection by the hero or heroine. Even when his errors or bad behavior cause harm, it is understood to be inadvertent (if it comes to light at all), and he is rarely punished.
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