[Dramaland Catnip] Beta males and the alpha ladies who love them
by Guest Beanie
[We’ve had prickly tsundere heroes and bad boys, but there’s another much-beloved hero archetype in dramaland—the beta males we’re talking about today. ‘Cause while alpha authoritativeness has its whole host of appeals, the beta’s less forceful nature can be a refreshing contrast. –javabeans]
Back in high school, I never fell for that handsome guy everyone goes ga-ga about, because realistically I know I would never get him, especially when I was a wallflower that nobody knows about. In contrast, I found myself attracted to a guy like me: always in the background, more of a sidekick to the hero, who sat in the front of the class studying in thick glasses, who was always been friend-zoned by the girls, and who was so shy he would be sweating bullets every time the teacher asked him something. All I could see is how adorable he was when he smiled with that dimple of his, and how charming he was when he quietly helped everyone without asking anything in return. He made my heart flutter, and I fell for his charm. So yes, I was attracted to a beta male.
My attraction to beta males knows no borders, and K-drama only helps to accentuate that feeling. It has always been my catnip, even with the rarity of finding beta males as heroes in dramaland. There’s always something so fragile about them that you can’t help but feeling protective and not wanting them to get hurt, and yet they can be so attractive when they did something that warms your heart.
Smile, You was my first 45-episode K-drama and I watched every episode because of Jung Kyung-ho. It was one of the first dramas I watched that featured a beta male as the lead. Shipping the main couple was great, because Jung Kyung-ho was an adorable noob when it came to wooing Lee Min-jung, and his epic fails in preparing grand romantic gestures were hilariously memorable. And their chemistry? It was off the charts.
Ho-gu’s Love was another favorite when it comes to the beta male leads in dramaland. I mean, how can you NOT fall in love with Ho-gu? He’s adorable, he’s loyal and he’s always there when you need him. And when he falls in love, it feels like the whole world falls in love with him. I rooted for him like no other—I wanted him to get the girl, I wanted him to know that he’s a worthy suitor, and I wanted him to realize that he deserves all the happiness in the world. Because Ho-gu was so timid, I cheered for Do-hee too, because she complements him in many ways—and I dig the pairing of alpha females and beta males in kdrama—especially in this drama where the alpha heroine shows admiration and respect towards him. What is it not to love?
And remember Baek Seung-chan (Kim Soo-hyun) from The Producers? How can you say no to this slightly heodang maknae, who was so at lost with everything and got panic at the sight of problems? He was nervous as hell, but he worked really hard on everything, and when he did something right, you could see it clearly on his face that he was proud of himself, and I felt like patting his back and saying that I’m proud of him too. When it comes to love, he was adorably clueless but when his heart broke, I feel like my heart broke with him.
In My Girlfriend Is a Gumiho, Dae-woong exudes that heodang charm of beta males in full force. He’s a cutie pie and he loves like no other. And it was even better when he fell for Mi-Ho, even after being afraid of her at first. But she was utterly charming and awesome, and we saw that she adored him. Their relationship felt equal as they supported and protected each other—not in a grandiose kind of way, but in that understated simple manner that was always so honest it touched hearts everywhere.
The downside of crushing on beta males is that sometimes, you are bound for very painful heartbreaks. It gets worse when you think the beta males deserves someone better than the heroine. In Introverted Boss, I loved Hwan-ki with all my heart. I wanted him to be more confident in facing the world, and I cheered him when he managed to do that, albeit after struggling for a very long time. I wanted to give him that hug at the end, for being true to himself and still earning the respect that he deserved. But I also watched the show hating the heroine—no matter how much the show toned down her attitude in later episodes, I was never able to warm up to her. It felt forced, and I was so protective of Hwan-ki because I know he deserves better. And rooting for him with his cool first crush didn’t help either.
My most recent beta-male heartbreak comes in the form of Choi Woo-shik’s character Moo-bin in Fight My Way. I was probably one of the few who kept on defending Moo-bin’s awkward behavior with Ae-ra, because I kept seeing him as this awkward boy who is simply inexperienced when it comes to love. Of course he’s slightly weird, but his beta male status makes me simply wave that aside, and I keep giving chances to him to prove himself. Hence, I did not see the twist coming! I was so shocked and it broke my heart so badly I was almost traumatized by him. Perhaps I was blindsided because of my love for beta males—and Choi Woo-shik.
Oh well, I love my chaebol heirs, but I love my beta males better. It is more satisfying rooting for the underdogs who started at the bottom (or the middle) of the chain, and work themselves up. It was even more satisfying when the girls they have their eye on like them back for who they are, all charms and weaknesses included. I am bound for some heartbreaks along the way, but it wouldn’t stop me in my catnip quest for beta males in dramaland.
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Answer Me 1997
For a long time, I have been wondering what is that thing that makes me squeal, cry, hug my pillow, and daydream about even for days to come whenever I watch a Korean drama. If I tried to make a full list, it would probably reach the moon, but I realized that the storyline in K-drama which truly excites me is the reversed gender roles—that is, the famous alpha female and beta male line.
We have seen many alpha males in K-dramas and some of them are very charismatic, but when the guy goes to the world’s end for the girl and becomes a puppy in front of her, it delights me to no end. It is more squeeworthy when the guy is the glamorous, popular hero to the others, but becomes a puppy in front of the girl they like.
Take Answer Me 1997, Answer Me 1988, and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju as examples. The heroes Yoon-jae, Taek, and Joon-hyung are popular, charismatic and dominating in their fields but meek and abiding in front of their crushes. (Kyaa!) The cherry on top is when they get jealous. They become so petty that it is ridiculous and hilarious for us to watch. Dong-man (Park Seo-joon) in Fight My Way also shows his childlike pettiness whenever he sees Ae-ra with another guy, and it’s so satisfying to watch!
Answer Me 1988
I also adore the girl’s reaction when she realizes that she probably loves that one person she has never saw as a “man,” after crushing on the opposite alpha guy! Their light bulb moment happens when the guy takes the initiative and does something swoonworthy. When Joon-hyung confesses to Bok-ju, she thinks he lost all his marbles. Also in Answer Me 1988, when the ever-so-weak Taek picks up Deok-sun like its no biggie and runs, she looks as if Taek is an alien.
What I also adore about the alpha female and beta male setup is that the hero always shows respect and adoration towards the heroine, which I truly appreciate. I never liked the rude, bad-tempered and self-centered rich chaebol hero as presented in most of the dramas. Is it too much to ask for mutual respect between the guy and the girl?
The alpha female and beta male line is not about who is superior but how two imperfect souls come together when they realize that they both respect and love each other through their denials, trials, and tribulations. Of course, these denials, arguments, and imperfect confessions are also hilarious and squealworthy to watch!
This is my dramaland catnip because whenever I see the superior perfect heroes looking into the eyes of the heroine with all the love and affection in the world, I cannot help but to melt like a slab of butter and pray for the one who will look at me like that in the future.
Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju
- [Dramaland Catnip] The bad boys of dramaland
- [Dramaland Catnip] Prickly marshmallows and tsundere heroes
- [Dramaland Catnip] Reverse harems
- [Dramaland Catnip] Noona romances
- [Dramaland Catnip] Secret identities and alter egos
- [Dramaland Catnip] Disastrous first meetings
- [Dramaland Catnip] Cohabitation shenanigans
- [Dramaland Catnip] Enemies turned lovers
- [Dramaland Catnip] Crossdressing and gender-bending romances
- [Dramaland Catnip] Opponents turned allies
- [Dramaland Catnip] Marriage before dating
- [Dramaland Catnip] Swooning for dramatic height differences
- [Dramaland Catnip] Ragtag bands of misfits
- [Dramaland Catnip] Finding satisfaction in sad love stories
- [Dramaland Catnip] The magic of bad drama magic
- [Dramaland Catnip] The stinging embarrassment of thinking someone likes you… when they don’t
- [Dramaland Catnip] When the hero falls first
- [Dramaland Catnip] The angst and thrills of dramaland’s reunited lovers
- What’s your dramaland catnip? Tell us your stories!
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