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[2018 Year in Review] Flavorful heroines


Life on Mars

By liar song

I grew up watching Korean dramas. My idea of a perfect drama as a child was where the Candy heroine and chaebol heir fell in love with each other and lived happily ever after. Flash-forward to 2018 and I am still watching Korean dramas. As I grew up, my taste in dramas and my criteria for the ideal heroine eventually changed. I am now more likely to like strong independent heroines and female leads I can connect with. These days, some dramas have climbed to the top of my favorites list, some I dropped, and others I ended up finishing–with my finger on the fast-forward button. These flavorful heroines not only helped save the dramaverses they lived in, they also saved my drama-watching experience this year.


I’m Not a Robot

Mint flavor

Jo Jia, just like mint candy, burst onto my screen with her refreshing character. It’s not often that I see a heroine who’s both an awesome person and an incredible inventor. Despite the difficulties she faced in her life, Jo Jia was fun, quirky, outspoken, and inspirational. Her dream was to be an inventor and nothing life threw at her could stop her from chasing her dream. Refreshing characters are relatively rare finds in dramaland, and I am so glad that Jia was able to reach Kim Min-kyu and my heart this year.


Are You Human Too

Orange flavor

Kang So-bong went from being one of my most hated characters at the beginning of Are You Human Too, to my favorite character next to Robo-Shin. Like oranges, she had this bitter and sour flavor, but there was a sweetness to her too. So-bong was strong and fierce, but at the beginning of the show I disliked her because she was willing do anything for money. As the drama progressed, her strength and fierceness made me love her. She always spoke her mind and this quality helped Robo-Shin realize that he was his own person. He was a person with his own free will and no one could change or take that away from him. Also, how gratifying was it to see a female lead punch a jerk in a drama?


My Ajusshi

Herbal medicine flavor

Lee Ji-an may have had the most street smarts out of all of 2018’s dramaland heroines. She had a tough and prickly shell, but she on the inside she was a tender person. Ji-an had a habit of pickpocketing and stealing, but she also managed to steal my heart. I couldn’t help but sympathize and give her my respect because of how hard she worked. Ji-an had some tough life circumstances handed to her, and she did her best to live her life. Like herbal medicine, Lee Ji-an’s life was bitter at the beginning, but that bitterness gave way and ultimately faded. Ji-an suffered, the drama ended on a high note and with a happier Ji-an.


You Who Forgot Poetry

Cotton candy flavor

Woo Bo-young was a big fluffy hunk of cotton candy who was sweet, and melted easily. She was undeniably a heavy crier, but it’s probably because she was so easily able to sympathize with people. Sure, she was also a mess who made mistakes often, but that was part of her charm and it made her even funnier. I connected with Bo-young on a spiritual level as I, too, had to give up what I really wanted to do in order to graduate with a degree that would be practical for landing a job. Bo-young may have been embarrassing most of the time, but her big heart, work ethic, and dedication to her job was most admirable.


Thirty But Seventeen

Chocolate flavor

Woo Seo-ri’s life had a very long intermission, but this break made her stronger as a person. Chocolates don’t grow ready-to-eat on trees. They undergo a process to become the chocolates we buy and eat. Like chocolates, Seo-ri had to undergo a process in order to become the best version of herself. I could commiserate with Seo-ri not really knowing what is means to be an adult. I never really felt like an adult and watching her take small steps in order to become the Woo Seo-ri I said good-bye to at the end of the drama warmed my heart. Becoming an adult takes requires growth, and everyone grows at different rates. It’s okay to take your time.


Hundred Million Stars From the Sky

Rocky road flavor

Yoo Jin-kang was admirable because she had a very strong set of principles; this applied to how she looked at people and how she looked at life. Like rocky road flavored ice cream, she was a mix of different things: Fun, lovable, compassionate, and strong-willed. Nothing could affect the drama’s other lead, Kim Moo-young–except for Jin-kang. She made him want to make an effort to become a good person. If she had been given the chance to live in a dramaverse where her fate was not so tragic, she could have touched many other people’s lives too.


An Empress’s Dignity

Makjang flavor

Oh Sunny started out as one of the most naive Candies I have ever seen in dramaland. If she had stayed a naive Candy, it could have been annoying, but when Sunny vowed to take vengeance against the imperial family, she showed me that she had a spine of steel. Love was a big factor in Sunny’s decision to take revenge, but it wasn’t Sunny’s unrequited love for the emperor. Sunny’s desire for revenge stemmed from Sunny’s love and affection for the grand dowager empress, her one friend in the palace. Everything about the show An Empress’s Dignity screams makjang, but the drama makes makjang revenge look very good. What’s not to love when there’s a brave heroine, and some crazy royals?


Life on Mars

Coffee flavor

The adorable Officer Yoon Na-young surprised me with her lovable personality, intelligence and badass judo skills. She was such a fluffy cinnamon roll that she amazed me with her badassery and amazing profiling skills. Like coffee, Na-young was able to open the minds of the people in Violent Crimes Unit 3 and wake them up to the reality that women, no matter the era, are capable of doing amazing things. There’s not much more I want to say, except that I love this girl so much. You go girl!

This year gave us some memorable heroines in dramaland. Some of them amazed me with their physical and mental strength, some reminded me of myself, and some of them gave me joy with just their outlooks on life.

 
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Great list. I was especially touched by your review of jung so min's jinkang. I also loved Just between lovers' heroine. So very brave in an ordinary way.

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I'm also going to be controversial with this one, but I really like how the strength of Boyfriend/Encounter heroine is quietly but steadily growing each episode. Like a flower you never thought would bloom suddenly opening up its first petals after the longest time.

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Encounter is on my watch list and seeing how much the Beanies like this show makes me want to watch it more if I get the time! I am always in for heroines blooming and growing in a series (and also Song Hye-kyo).

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I also liked Ha Moon-soo from Just between Lovers but I couldn't pick a flavor for her by the time I was writing this Year in Review. Maybe she's like a ramen because she's a mix of sweet, kind, mentally strong, and brave, like how a ramen wouldn't be complete if an ingredient is lacking, and that she had her life experiences as she grew up, no matter how traumatic they were, to shape her as the great person she is now, like how a good ramen broth takes time to be made.

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Ramen flavor,, so cute..

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Or a carrot flavor: crunchy and sweet and tough! Qq

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Lovely comparison of the heroines to different flavors and food. I especially agree about Na young and bo young(hehe). Seo ri's the best- chocolate doesn't grow on trees, but undergoes a process to become one, similar to growing up.

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To be honest, it also took me some time to think of Seo-ri's flavor that it required a loooooong time before I could actually think of a flavor similar to her character like chocolates.

It is clearly obvious that I have strong affection towards heroines and food.

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Love you,, liar song.. 😘😘

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I also love you, @jeanthierrycha! 😘

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Thank you for you review of these memorable heroines! I do like how kdramas have more than one-note Candies now that definitely have more complexity to them. It shows how much they have grown and I’m a bit jealous you’ve grown up right along with them! Great piece, as always.

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Thank you, Ally! I have not yet reached a complete character growth, like the heroines in the review, so maybe we can grow together? HAHA

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It looks like you and I have similar taste in dramas since we watched and enjoyed many of the same dramas this year. I really need to watch My Ahjusshi and The Last Empress.

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I am glad I am not the only one with this taste in dramas HAHA. I just caught up on My Ajusshi and The Last Empress before Christmas came and I really enjoyed both dramas so I think you will too!

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This was a wonderful concept for a piece on our fav leading ladies! Your taste (pun intended) in dramas is great! haha

Might I add:
Red pepper flavor: Han Ji Min in Familiar Wife: Seo Woo Jin.
Specially in the new timeline she certainly had a fiery quality to her which ultimately served her well!

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The Red pepper flavor really suits the new Woo-jin!

Maybe the Woo-jin from the original timeline had a fiery spicy flavor because she rages at everything that annoys her, especially her husband

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OOH Yes for Woo Jin being red pepper

Also @sensationalfantasy (liar song) Great review and reflection! ❀ I loved many other 2018 heroines too so let's give your taste tips a try ^_^ :

Go Hye Ran (Misty): Cocoa Powder- Dark and bitter tasting initially but rich, chocolatey fluffy goodness when baked for a ruthlessly ambitious queen with a hidden soft edge.

Kang Su Jin (Mother): Orange- almond-ginger cake- A cake with sweetness, sourness and a hint of bitter to suit the multidimensional, intricately layered main mom of the story who'd break the law carelessly to save a child.

Park Cha Oreum (Ms. Hammurabi): Homemade Apple Pie for a wholesome female lead who crackled with energy, emotions and opinions whilst standing up for injustice.

Cha Woo Kyung (Children of Nobody): Blueberries for a frosty, ambiguous woman shroud with secrets and bitterness underneath the hints of sweetness and sunlight.

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Haha, makjang flavor. When are they going to make makjang Melonas, I wonder.

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Makjang Melonas must be tasty. I need one now.πŸ˜‚

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Makjang Melonas will be like Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. You don't know what new, strange taste you'll get until you lick it. XD

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That description tastes exactly like... An Empress's Dignity. You never know why people like the makjang show until you have watched it. πŸ˜‚

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This is fun. Reminds me of a book tag. Appreciate that you focused on the heroines.

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My first draft was actually about rains and umbrellas in Dramaland but I hit a writing slump midway so I had to change it to something I liked from Dramaland this year: heroines!

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What a beautiful flavors..
I chuckle at Ji Ahn's Herbal Medicine flavor,,and choked a bit at Seo Ri's part, for i can relate about being an adult thingy..

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Like Seo-ri, I never felt like a real adult. Maybe we all can never be an adult and we just get older?

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*Psst ... that's who adults are ... older kids* 😜

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Hooray for strong, intelligent women in kdramaland. πŸ’›
Jo Jia and Nayoung are my favorites this year!

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This year could be the start of strong female leads dominating Dramaland! Let's hope for more next year!

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This piece couldn't have come at a better time!

Of late, many have voiced their disappointment over the weak heroine of MoTA. Someone wrote that it's the typical treatment that female characters get in kdramas i.e. to serve as merely the love interest of the hero. Yes, there is unfortunately still such 'heroines' but I think there has definitely been progress in writing more layered, more diverse and more interesting female characters. I don't even need them to be always spunky and kickass although it wouldn't hurt.

Na Young is the perfect example of feminine yet totally badass. I love coffee and I love Na Young!

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The writer of MoTA could have given us more of Hee-joo just like what the writer of APAD did with Bo-young so well so we could feel and symphatize with her character although she's a big crybaby, but that person chose to give more of other things. Heroines serving as love interests could also be more interesting and layered!

Also, I love coffee and Na-young so much too!

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I agree. I had no problem with Bo Young's crying at all and I found her lovable. It's because she's an awesome gal with compassion and a hilariously wild imagination. Hee Joo on the other hand is the perfect Candy on paper and nothing else besides crying.

Flavor - Bland.

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Jung Hee-joo: Flavor - Bland

That was the most on-point flavor πŸ˜‚

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My problem isn't even that she is "weak", I could understand a weak heroine if such a character make sense in context of writing e.g. Kang Mirae in Gangnam Beauty, Eun Jae in AoY or WooKyang in Children of Nobody, their character fit their backstory but with HeeJoo with the way her story was told in MotA the way she behave doesn't make sense at all, and I don't want let it pass because that's how it is in dramas.

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What fun @sensationalfantasy Liar Song! My mouth started tasting the different flavours as I read your post. I do agree that Jo Jia was a Minty girl, even as a pretend robot. Sweet and demure to an extent and then surprisingly refreshing!

Ji An - If the medicinal taste was at first unpleasant, at least the herbs got Ji An healing with the help of her Ajusshi.

Seo Ri - like chocolate melting slowly and smoothly into slightly sticky adulthood LOL. Who's to say being an adult is not just a stickier version of being a child?

And Na Young - LOL loved her in that first screenshot above. Amazingly able to bow gracefully before and withstand the sexism of her time to gain the respect all the men in her team. Definitely a kick butt, shake 'em up, eye-opening coffee flavour that I simply love. 😆

Thanks for this Liar Song!! 😄

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Thank you for taking the time to read this, @growingbeautifully!

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Very very very good post, I have known almost all the heroines you have us, and I agree with you. I loved specially Jia, Boyoung and Jian. Unforgettable girls!
What a pleasure of dramayear!πŸ˜‰

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A real pleasure indeed. Here's hoping we get more amazing heroines next year!

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Aww. Love this! Like you, my taste in dramas (and corresponding lead characters) really changed over the years. It's always refreshing to watch a drama with a strong (whether emotionally or mentally) heroine. In this list I've only watched Jia, Jinkang, and Booyoung but other great heroines come to mind like Ha Moonsoo in JBL, Park Cha Oh-reum in Miss Hammurabi, Song So-eun in Your Honor.
Some hate Jung Heeju in Memories of the Alhambra but I like her so far--she became the breadwinner of her family at a young age.. she's independent.. And she called JW out on his bs. Lol

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Thank you for this lovely and delicious article. Yayyy for more awesome female leads in dramas!
I found a few more awesome female leads in dramas:
1. Wo jin Ah: JBL
2. Song Hye-kyo: Boyfriend!
3.Kim Sun Ah: Children of nobody!
4. Nam Gu Ryi: Children of nobody!
5. Lee Bo Young: Mother
6. The other two mothers in Mother!

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5 & 6 are my favorite heroines this year!

also Na Young and Sunny!❀️

I love Somin with a passion but JinKang still had weak principles so I’ll place her a tad bit lower than these 5.

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You've chosen wonderful screencaps, @liarsong !
I find that Coffee flavor is very apt for Na-young, not only for the reasons you mentioned, but because of the era the story is set at, and the period-drama way it was shot. The sepia-toned lighting and color palette ALWAYS give me warm and fuzzy coffee-like vibe. Like the last days of autumn. Everywhere is brown and orange and chrome, and the weather is cool yet warm. So comfortable. In the evening light, you can sit on a cushioned rocking chair by the window, and sip a mug of coffee. The ultimate Hufflepuff feel! That's the same way I feel towards these oldie drams, like AM 98, LoM, and also RDTK where the Doldam Hospiatal was set in the same atmosphere.
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Call me naive. Hehe. ;-)

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Well written heroines can never receive too much love. I hope the classic candy is forgotten and we continue to get more and more strong, flavourful women in our shows.

Thank you for this wonderful piece of appreciation!

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I adore na young! And i agree whole heartedly with your description of her. She's an awesome character, and i have sang her countless praises πŸ˜„

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Glad to see Kang So-bong getting a lot of love from your post! I actually liked her from the get go. I appreciated how real she is and how she doesn't always come up with the right decision. Seeing her grow as a character was so satisfying. The only disappointment was not seeing her display her MMA skills as the bodyguard. Props to Gong Seung Yeon for a job well done. That talent and face of hers should always be on screen.

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I liked the heroins on the list. For me I would add Mr Sunshine's Hina and Ae Shin, they were real badass! And Jin Ah of Pretty Noona because it's not easy to change and become stronger after 35 years old.

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My favorite is Na Bong Sun from Oh My Ghostess when she gets possessed by the sassy cute little ghost. Best combo ever - two of my favorite actresses in one body. Also, I have a soft spot for girls who cross dress and make guys suffer. Free spirited Go Eun Chan from Cofee Prince is my second favorite. Of course, that’s why scholarly Kim Yoon Hee from Sangkyunkwan Scandal is my third favorite.

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Oops. It didn’t register with me that it’s about 2018 flavors only. Sorry. Then it’s Go Ara’s judge in Ms. Hammurabi. That’s a good coffee and rocky road flavors combination. I like to mix flavors.

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Saw NaYoung 😍 and clicked on the post. So glad that I did. Beautifuly written! πŸ‘πŸ½πŸ‘πŸ½
Ms. Yoon was my favorite female character of 2018 and I love coffe. A match made in heaven. πŸ’ž
Jo Jia and Kang So-Bong were second favorites. Another fav (maybe controversial) of mine is Young-Jae from Third Charm, like the ginger flavor...

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A great list of amazing heroines. Like you, I loved every single one of them and I love how you tied a flavor to them. Great article!

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