(Quick Note: I realize there are now some overtly, awesomely gay Korean Dramas. I wrote this post in 2017… so forgive me, but I haven’t had a lot of time to update it.)
Let’s face it – there are a lot of gay-questioning dramas out there. Okay, sure, they’re not implicitly gay; Only recently have dramas crossed the purebred gay border, though their feature films have definitely made some expeditions to gay town in the past few years. But it doesn’t matter if they’re gay or just questioning. We love it! Whether it’s one sided or misdirected, for comedy or for drama, for love or for money… K-Dramas are sprinkled with the gay rainbow. And no one can deny it.
Korean dramas often depict variations in sexuality, sex roles, sexual attraction, and sexual fluidity. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to their seemingly strict gender assignments and homophobia… and/or perhaps a direct result of them. Because the rules are there, it’s more fun to break them.
Off the top of my head – there are three excellent examples of LGB with a large emphasis on Q in K-World. Cross-dressing is the biggest culprit in these same sex shenanigans – and, if we’re honest, the reason these dramas are so frequently made. It’s not all LGB with Q, of course. There are plenty of examples of the T within various shows as well but as of yet not as the lead romance. And even an A show now.
Let’s run through the questioning dramas together…
I think I might be….
L – Lesbian – Painter in the Wind. A young artist disguised as a boy becomes obsessed with painting a certain gorgeous hooker… who in turn falls head over heels with the painter and doesn’t seem to change her mind once she discovers her love is a woman. Good Lord, the lesbonic action in this drama WORE ME OUT.
Just looking at this picture wears me out. This was one of the most beautiful, romantic lesbian romances EVER and the drama totally failed to embrace it. Watch it and tell me that’s normal behavior between an artist and their subject. Cause I was an art major and though I went to bed every night dreaming this could happen it absolutely never did and never will cause that kind of behavior is totally inappropriate unless you’re trying to bone your model so much you’ll risk getting slapped with a lawsuit. Clearly this artist is going to risk it…
Thankfully Painter in the Wind gave us many, many steamy scenes before jumping the gay cruise Olivia and heading towards dull hetero shores. (Painter in the Wind Review)
For an actual lesbian couple, you have to settle for the single episode of Seonam Girls High School Investigators’…. where not only do we have a lesbian couple, but they kiss!
G – Gay – Where Your Eyes Linger. I’m so happy to update this list to include the first openly gay romance between lead characters where there was no gender confusion involved! Where Your Eyes Linger is an extremely short but extremely cute gay romance between two young men who have been close their whole lives but realize their feelings may have jumped onto the rainbow express train to gay town.
Read more about it: Where Your Eyes Linger Review.
G – Gay – Coffee Prince. A young heir falls head over heels in love with his twink employee and, after a tumultuous personal exploration of his sexuality, much denial, anger and longing, he decides to go for it!
Complete shocker for him to discover his new boyfriend is girl. This show really went all out with its gay questioning theme, much to everyone’s delight. Still my FAVORITE DRAMA EVER and this is one of the biggest reasons… the love between the lead characters was EPIC.
Remember when he’s trying to figure out if he’s sexually attracted to his coffee mate or just really close friends and he uses the “hug test”? My heart broken into a million pieces of happiness watching that scene… their chemistry was MOLTEN LAVA deserving of all caps. There was so much cuddling and canoodling in this drama.
Oh, Coffee Prince. We would all go gay for a love like that (Coffee Prince Review).
There’s also a cute gay couple in Cheese in a Trap… but they’re side, side side characters – and as they are really gay and not pretend gay, their romance gets an entirely different treatment. Basically they’re treated like shit. By everyone. Kicked out of their homes, hit in the head with bricks, spit on, demeaned… it’s sad. As a result, they’re rather sad… floundering, angry, alcoholic, frustrated young men. Wonder why, eh? (Cheese in a Trap Review)
There’s also quite a few dramas with one side love – where one dude is gay and crushing on his best friend but it never goes anywhere except into sad pining. Reply 1994, Reply 1997, Secret Garden, Personal Taste, The Lover, Strong Woman Bong Soon, etc.
B – Bisexual – Sungkyunkwan Scandal. Though our main couple goes through the usual cross-dressing sexual questioning, it’s Yeorim, a secondary character, that brought this drama to life with his playful, flamboyant and sexually ambiguous nature. He seemed to like everyone and didn’t bother to hide it. He liked his best friend, the hunky wild man, he liked the pretty hookers, he liked his cross dressing friend, he liked them all! I think the only real question was who DIDN’T Yeorim like…
Song Joong-ki played Gu Yong-ha (nicknamed Yeo-rim = playboy ). As far as individuals go, I thought Yeorim was one of the most memorable and interesting side characters ever pushed out onto the drama stage. And I wanted to steal all his clothes. (Sungkyunkwan Scandal Review)
Jeremy is also adorably bi in You’re Beautiful, though not as comfortable with it as Yeorim. Still, he was a fun mix in that show as he obsessed over his new “boy” band mate and worried about his heterosexuality.
You also have the amazing killing machine Gil Tae-Mi in Six Flying Dragons, who was more than happy to slaughter dozens of people while wearing full on gorgeous eye makeup and flirting with men and women alike. This guy was super OUT and no one could say squat about it cause he was, delightfully, a deadly force who wasn’t about to put up with any gay bashing. (Six Flying Dragons Review – the BEST historical drama ever)
T – Transexual – episode characters (meaning characters that show up as side plots in individual episodes, not in the overall show) in It’s Okay, That’s Love – Master’s Sun – You Are All Surrounded. Hwayuki, the new Hong sisters show, has a repeating transexual/transgender character as the advice-giving bartender… so far that’s promising. Love the petticoats as lampshades, too.
A – ASEXUAL. Yep. We even got a nice asexy romance from Because This Is My First Life. How cool is that, eh? Okay, technically I would label our leading male as a demisexual, but demi’s are still under the Ace umbrella…. so I’m giving them full credit for their efforts.
Q – QUESTIONING. The fact that there are so many cross dressing shows makes me think there is a lot of Questioning going on in South Korea. Or rather, a lot of enjoyment in watching hunky guys question their sexual preferences when presented with twinky cross dressing girls. And probably a lot of girls wishing they could throw their high heels out the window and just pal around comfortably with the guys, too. I would never have thought there could be so much humor, intrigue, romance and general drama involved in a simple gender swap… so thank you again, K-World, for opening my eyes to the joys of sexuality shenanigans as entertainment.
Cross dressing is generally beneficial for women in dramas. And we love watching all the men swarm around them, their various stages of awareness adding interest and unique dynamics to the plot line. We also like watching beautiful women fall for cute girls dressed as boys sometimes. And we absolutely LOVE watching two male friends skirt the lines of friendship into the gay zone. Bromances have massive appeal and are cause for much Squee and Pinterest montages and Tumblr collages.
Some Other Good Cross Dressing Dramas to consider: (women as men) Gu Family Book, Queen Seonduk, To the Beautiful You, & (the Thai show) Bromance. – (men as women) Kill Me, Heal Me. There are others with an ep or two with a dude dressing up as a girl, but they’re not as good.
Some Good Bromances Dramas to consider: Warrior Baek Dong Soo (geesh, such a great bromance!), School 2013 (yes!), Shut Up Flower Boy Band (a must!), Heartless City (Soo!), and Goblin (supernatural besties).
Gay is fun. And fun to watch. And maybe straight homophobic people feel better about enjoying their gay fun since it all turns out hetero in the end, I don’t know. But I do know I am grateful they keep pressing further into gay town. Cause I like going there.
You can see genuine LGBT characters no questioning whatsoever in quite a few Korean movies, but we’re just starting to see the fully gay cause I’m gay characters in dramas. I’m down with these gloriously homo montages and heavily applied eyeliner on pretty men, please… cause wow.
But of course, I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed for more progress in the future. I’d love to see some genuine LGBT love. Give me some LGBT that doesn’t involve that person or couple being hideously alone, bullied, the brunt of all jokes, a sick stereotype or just a strange misconception concocted by some homophob in a writer’s room. The homophobia in so many shows is enough to make my skin crawl sometimes, and I know I often rant about it (see review for Marriage Not Dating or Strong Woman Do Bong Soon, for example). Is it so much to ask to get one gay show? I’m looking forward to the first “L Word” or “Queer as Folk” for K-dramas… where they just go for it! I’d even settle for a happy narrative about a secondary romance at this point. Heck, even just a happy gay couple as side characters. I’m begging for scraps at this point.
Show me some love, K-World.