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[2017 Year in Review] The year of the girl gang


Because This Life Is Our First

By dramabee

Coincidentally, 2017 marks a decade since I discovered both Dramabeans and Korean dramas. I was drawn to the quirkiness of the plots (A girl masquerades as boy to work in a pretty-boy coffee shop… what?!), the intensity of the love squares, and the surprising earnestness and heart of even the most outrageous dramas (looking at you, Come Back, Ajusshi!).

That being said, back in 2007 I’m not sure that any of the K-dramas I watched would pass the infamous Bechdel test. The test sets a pretty low bar. Essentially, to pass the Bechdel test, a drama would need to have two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. This is admittedly an imperfect measure and TV shows can still be progressive and have great female characters without passing it. Nonetheless, through the years I’ve found that K-dramas have lacked a strong portrayal of female friendship. The female lead would usually have a plucky best friend, but these characters were often afterthoughts or seriously underdeveloped.

But 2017 has been a pleasant reversal of this trend with dramas like Age of Youth 2 and Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju celebrating the ties that bring girls together. It was clear from these dramas that friendship between girls can be messy and complicated, especially when it intersects with first loves and heartbreaks. Both of these dramas also showed that you can’t get through either of those things without your besties to back you up, whether it’s to interrogate boyfriends or comfort you with song when he goes to the army. Your girl gang lifts you up (sometimes literally) but keeps you grounded and sane as you navigate the insanity that are your twenties.


Age of Youth 2

What was so great about the 2017 girl gangs though, was that they didn’t just showcase the friendship of our twenties, but of our thirties and forties as well. With the proliferation of #squadgoals and Instragram-only girl gangs, we forget about the girl gangs that get us through the challenges of aging—be it secret babies, decreasing alcohol tolerance, or contract marriages. Because This Life Is Our First had one of the most wonderful and realistic depictions of female friendships. We all know people in our girl gangs who have an affection/frustration dynamic like the one between Su-ji and Ho-rang, and we all know a sensitive dreamer like Ji-Ho who reminds us of the things that matter.

Most importantly, this drama highlighted the stability that a girl gang can bring as your world falls apart or changes at the end of your twenties, be it letting you stay over after you end your seven-year relationship or encouraging you to maybe make your fake marriage to your landlord a real thing. Even though our main ladies had each changed from high school and university, their friendship, like a home, was something they could return to. Like home, their friendship was a place where they could recover, process, and laugh-cry (as was often the case with this drama).

The friendship between our three leading ladies also fit really nicely with the theme of female empowerment throughout the drama. I cheered when Su-ji took down her sexist coworker like the revenging angel she is, and was proud as Ji-Ho decided to take legal action against her assaulter. The progressiveness of this drama on the female empowerment front wasn’t only these individual takedowns of the patriarchy, but also the non-antagonistic dynamic between all of the women in the drama. Too often women in dramas are rivals or enemies. The true progressiveness of this drama was that women help other women.


Buam-dong Revenge Club

Sometimes, though, your middle-aged girl squad might not be the same as your friends in your youth. Sometimes your teenage girl gang disintegrates as friendships ebb and flow. Instead, you might find yourself a new gang of ladies to help you take revenge on the men who did you wrong. Buam-dong Revenge Club quickly became one of my favorite K-dramas of all time, not because of the club’s hilarious revenge antics, but because of the way that these middle-aged misfits (and high-schooler Soo-gyum) each gained a newfound lease on life because of their friendship with each other.

The wonderfully naïve and adorable Jung-hye discovered a love for ramyun, as well as a backbone, while Mi-sook and Do-hee became more and more unwilling to put up with the shenanigans of the corrupt men and women in their lives. This strength that all three women gained came from laughing, drinking, and crying together. By showing their most vulnerable selves to their girl gang, these three women were able to build new armor to take on a world that would have them shut up, sit down, and stay in the kitchen. Who needs super-strength when your girl gang has your back and is willing to do anything for you? (I should mention that “anything” also included an incident with the sexist school principal involving glue, a chair, and laxatives.)

We love them and we sometimes hate them, but our girl gang is the family we choose, for better or worse. And so, I think it’s safe to say that my 2017 in Korean dramas has been the year of the girl gang, and I am 500 percent here for it.


Buam-dong Revenge Club

 
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My girlfriends are my life right now, because I've never really had good girlfriends in the past. And I've so enjoyed seeing these relationships portrayed in kdramas! This was my first full year finding kdramas and dramabeans, so I guess it was a good year to do so!

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Wow that's amazing! Considering the articles and posts you shared here, I sincerely thought you are at least few years tempered!
For a first year, you mastered a kdrama piano piece, went on a trip to celebrate a drama, got an article published at DB....wow. It sure was a good and lucky year for you.
Here's hoping for many more lucky years to come!😃🙏💐

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What can I say? I’m a quick study! Not really, but when I find something I like, I make it a mission to become as well versed in it as I can.

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I just started missing my girl gang after reading your post while its midniht at my place.

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One of the dramas that had a very good friendship (but weird plotlines) was Perfect Wife this year.
I love how being friends for so long allowed them to love each-other but still get annoyed and whine about absurd things. And the whole friends-over-man thing that lasted half an episode 😂😂😂😂

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Nice one there👏👏👏👏

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nice writeup. and let's not forget the one in 20th century boy and girl. I do envy their solid bond

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20th Century Boy and Girl and Go Back Spouses also featured awesome girl gangs.

I'm glad you wrote about this theme because it's finally time for the KDrama world to actively promote the strong bond between female bestfriends. I mean I live for the bromance in some dramas but when they showed us that girl gangs are wonderful too, I can't help but wish that future KDramas will utilize this refreshing trope.

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Omg I so agree. ^^; Thank you for writing this. When I read the post about the theme for this month, 'girlfriends' was the first word that popped into my mind.

Yay! Three cheers for all the awesome womances in the world! :D
Hip Hip Hooray!
Hip Hip Hooray!
Hip Hip Hooray!

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Oh yes! Girl gang is the latest development of kdrama that I enjoy and truly appreciate. In the past, trend in drama land were mostly reverse harem. In reality though we hope and dream to have a reverse harem friendship, how many of us who actually really comfortable in it. Girls/women are more likely feel comfortable talk and hangout with other girls. My favorite are still Bok-joo and her friends. But I also enjoy song ma-rin's friendship with the piano teacher and the frenemies, namhae girls jiho-suji-horang, majinjoo and his girl gang and buamdomg avengers ahjummas. Age of Youth and Girls Generation are still on my watch list.

One of the reason why I side eyed Goblin so much was because the lead female, a high school student, didn't have any girl friend until later when she's almost graduated. Instead, she put her life around a middle age men. But I hate Goblin, so whatever....

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Hehe, from BTIOFL I learned that there'e one thing you DON'T talk about with girl gang, and that is your contract marriage. 🤣

I wish we could have had more girl friendship in School 2017, but tae swoon factor was too great. I haven't watched Lingerie Girl's Generation 1979... has anyone seen it and recommends it?

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I definitely recommend GG 1979. It's a really beautiful coming-of-age story mainly about a girl figuring out how to be a good friend and person amidst the growing pains of being a teenager and a really interesting historical setting. It balances the cute, funny, and serious/thoughtful moments well.

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Thank you! :)

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Couldn't have said it better than Jig!!
I definitely recommend it as well!!
+100

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I would also add that LINGERIE GIRLS GENERATION also has a terrific OST and vintage background music. On my fan wall I posted links to all the BGM I could identify, in addition to the original music. ;-)

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Girl gangs for the win this year in kdramaland! Thank you for highlighting them.

Part of the reason why I love the shows you mentioned was that I could identify with some if not all of them in terms of girl gang dynamics and made those shows more relatable to me.

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I miss my girl gang...

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Yes to GIRL GANGS!

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Yep, these were some of the best shows of the year - I wonder why?? Haha, I adored Buam-dong Revenge Club and Age of Youth 2 the most though. The way they promoted how friends can become better families than your original ones was beautiful.

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I care so much more for womance and sismance than bromance in my kdramas. Great article 🤗🤗

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In Go back couple, the friendship with the girls was also good... not wonderful, like in 20th century boy and girl, but it was ok. They helped each other and not always talked about boyfriends... They also talk about their future and family.
In 20th Century, I felt it was more organic and I absolutely felt the love between these girls, even when they talk about men, or the lackof, it was so fun to hear them say: "this is why I cannot cut you up, guys", because they were one another's compliment.
Honestly, I felt it was a show about family and friendship. They could have stayed single and still happy with themselves, because their happiness didn't depend on marriage.
But of course, they also found somebody! And they kept on being friends. I loved it.

So yes, great theme. 2017 was the year of girl's gangs.

And now I feel like watching the age of youth and the revenge club!!! 😃

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*I meant "one another's complement"'...
My English is not good.
Also I realise beanie @sriracha (comment #6) also talked about these shows. I could have queued with her.... next time!!

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I agree with you that the girls' relationship in 20th Century was more organic. I can relate to them because my bestfriends in high school are still my bestfriends now.

In Go Back Couple, they met each other in college and I've also met amazing girlfriends from that period in my life. We still keep in touch but not as much compared to my high school girl gang, hee.

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In my case, because I had a sad teen years, high school doesn't count. But I keep very good girlfriends from college, and since I am close to 40, I feel that was ages ago. Sadly, time and circumstances drove us to different countries, but we keep in touch. I love these dramas about friendship so much!!! 😊maybe because I miss it. 😐

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the girls were amazing both in a gang and on their own and in relationship to anyone else, trying to hit it out on their own, trying not to rely so much on men, just trying to find a real place in the world for themselves not just by a mans´ side. But learning to fit more things into their lives, mindsets and goals.

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My favorite girl gang was in Age of Youth. Love them since season 1. But the girl gang I enjoyed watching the most was Avengers Social Club. How I wish I had cool Unnies like them 💛

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Please don't call the Buamdong Revenge Club middle-age - they're far from being in their 50s. Because then I'd be middle-age too. And I'm definitely not *stomp feet*.

p/s: Anyone knows where can I watch the full episodes with English sub?

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missing my gang

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Peeps seriously needs to start watching money flower. The show is just too good.

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OMG, did I miss that picture when I was watching BSC? That goes straight to my saved pictures 😆

I love the way you point out that most dramas only add a friend as an after thought for a heroine toalk her frustrations about her lovelife to. I too am definitely here for the girl gang 😘😘😘

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I just found this book today on my sister-in-law’s bookshelf which I’m so excited to read, and it’s so appropriate to this “girl-gang” theme! http://www.dramabeans.com/members/ally-le/activity/330419/

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Suddenly I miss the Belle Epoque girls...

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OOT but is DB planning to have usual Dramabeans' end of the year polling?? I've been waiting for several days...

Great topic to choose @dramabee! I love the girls squad in 20th Century Boy and Girl. While I didn't watch other dramas, I appreciate that this year we have variety of girl friendships and more great female characters in general. I'm not sure if feminism influence kdrama writers or not, but I hope they continue writing great female characters, great friendships and family story, and more diverse relationships between men and women (not only love partners).

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now i miseed my girlgang like ever after read this post.. *sob*

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I've always loved Bromance a lot more than female friendship, but also because they never made nice and cool female friendships, they always end up putting them against each other, too much drama, as if in the cinematic universe they wanted women to always stand against each other, as if they were envious, jealous, a ridiculous stereotype, but once you get older, you begin to realize how much that is wrong and how much you need stories of female friendships, that’s import for real life.

And in kdrama, always had some friendships that were nice and interesting but did not go deep, not like bromance do, but lately, the dramas is so many well developed that I am loving every second and every friendship. I am watching Buam-dong Revenge Club, God I love these women. Later on my list is Age of Youth.

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