‘Strong Woman Do Bong-soon’ defies gender role stereotype

A scene from “Strong Woman Do Bong-soon” / Courtesy of JTBC

By Park Jin-hai

Poster for “Strong Woman Do Bong-soon” / Courtesy of JTBC

“Strong Woman Do Bong-soon,” cable network JTBC’s Friday-Saturday romantic comedy, is a rare drama. Unlike most stories featuring a lovely but fragile Cinderella character often saved by a leading male character in dangerous situations, “Strong Woman” revolves around a female with Wonder Woman-like superpowers.

Do Bong-soon, played by actress Park Bo-young, a 1.6 meter-tall girl stops a bus that runs out of control and tosses bad guys effortlessly into the air.

The cartoon-like fantasy romance drama tells the story of Do, born with Herculean strength which is passed down to women in her family for generations.

However, Do has lived all her life hiding her real strength because of the curse that she would lose her power if she uses it for personal gains. She also wants to look “normal” to her long-time crush rookie detective In Guk-doo who said once that he likes feminine women.

A young gaming company CEO Ahn Min-hyuk, played by actor Park Hyung-sik, witnesses Do’s supernatural power and hires her as his bodyguard. Do then encounters a serial killer who targets female victims in her neighborhood and decides to use her power for good.

Unlike sexy female superheroes often seen in Hollywood blockbusters, Do is featured as a petite naïve superhero despite all her heroic actions and is depicted comically with some bold computer graphics.

Since its premiere on Feb. 24, the drama has continued to fascinate fans, renewing viewership ratings. It debuted with 3.8 percent viewership, setting a JTBC record for the first episode of a drama. The drama’s fourth episode garnered 8.3 percent. Its latest episode aired on Saturday and once again surpassed its record, posting 8.7 percent.

At this pace, “Strong Woman Do Bong-soon” is likely to outperform JTBC’s all-time high 2013 drama “Childless Comfort” which recorded 9.2 percent viewership.

Critics say the drama is more than just one of many fantasy dramas.

Culture critic Jung Duk-hyun says “Do Bong-soon” gives the same kind of satisfaction to viewers as the ongoing office drama “Good Manager” on KBS.

“If the Good Manager has a Don Quixote-like character and topples the violent social system, Do Bong-soon has a female hero who fights against the world’s prejudice and violence against women,” he said.

In the early episode, Do says to a groper “Would the world become a better place if I used my power properly?” and hesitates to reveal her strength before she bends his fingers backwards.

Do has inherited supernatural power but has hidden it under the social prejudice against women. Her relationship with her crush In has been too typical — Do single heartedly seeks for love from In, while In sees Do as a woman and a weak person to be protected by a man.

By being involved with a serial killer case, Do signals for greater changes.

“The real message the drama wants to deliver will be by showing how Do realizes her special abilities are nothing to hide but a gift and she comes to love herself,” Jung said. “In order to do so, the drama will take up the task of breaking discrimination and prejudice about gender roles in this society. The drama will ultimately ask the society what’s wrong with a strong woman.”

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