Strong Woman, Do Bong-soon: Empowered women

The scene that most resonated with me in eps7/8 of Strong is where Bong-sun, her granny and mum share a loving moment together in the playground and the older women encourage Bong-soon to have a daughter, so that their god given strength can be passed down to her (the great granddaughter). And what is more interesting is Bong-soon’s reaction: she initially did not want daughters, preferring sons instead (and preferably with Kook-do). But after hearing her mum/ grandma encouragement, she begins to think daughters are not too bad.

While Bong-soon being partial over boys stems from her shame of having extraordinary strength, it is also a common perception in all cultures. I’m not limiting it to juz Asian cultural preference for male offspring, cos most societies are still patriarchal in nature. I have already mentioned in my previous post that Strong uproots stereotypes, particularly around gender.

We have so many empowered women in Strong that the men literally pale in comparison. Min-hyuk may be a charismatic male lead, but all those scenes (imagined by Bong-soon) of him with Kook-do effectively effeminate him. Kook-do on the other hand, annoys several (female) viewers with his rather stick-in-the-mud perception of women. So much so that he is dismissed from the “Swoony Second Lead” pedestal usually reserved for the Mr-Perfect-Who-Never-Gets-The-Girl. The so-called mobsters? They are supposed to be “scary”…but with seasoned comedians Im Won-hee and Kim Kwang-bok playing their head honcho, Baek-tak, and Second in Command, Won-hae respectively, they are juz a bunch of gorillas in clown suits. Especially Won-hae, with his halbae walking aid, the pee-bag and that ever-popping dentures. Every time he shuffles out, I start giggling.

In comparison, the women are much stronger in Strong. From petite Hercules Bong-soon, who is plain adorable even when she is flinging some baddies around in the air, to level-headed Hee-ji, who is more honest with her feelings that Kook-do ever was, Strong has a myriad of women who outshine their male counterparts.
In the parallel scene between the meeting of the community ahjummas and the police force, we see a stark contrast – the housewives, in their simple café, and the stern uniformed men in the police HQ. However, note that the intercut scenes show an ahjumma asking — possibly the SAME — pertinent questions, which the Police Chief answers. They may be having meetings in entirely different places and one group is the so-called professionals and the other, a bunch of busybody housewives…but Strong shows that the amateur (female) group have the same razor sharp observations and comments as the uniformed (male) professionals. (I am hoping that the housewives manage to nab the perp faster than the silly police)

Even the link of the Bride Kidnapper with Bluebeard legend, despite women being taken hostage, is a form of empowerment. In the fable, Bluebeard’s crime on his 6 previous brides is discovered by his 7th wife, who manages not only to evade death, but also brings down Bluebeard (she kills him with help from her family) and later inherits his fortune. So while Bride Kidnapper is scary, I am very sure his days are numbered. If he (stupidly) takes Bong-soon as his last bride, he is seriously looking for trouble.

The only issue I have with Strong’s empowerment of women is Mama Hwang’s domestic abuse of her husband. I am not comfortable with that…but hopefully, it IS a once-off incident. By all accounts, likely. Since we don’t see Papa Do getting bruised everyday – hustled yes, but not beaten up.

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