The film ‘The Art of Seduction’ is one of the well-known Korean romantic comedy films and was made in 2004 by Ki-Hwan Oh who is one of famous and influential film makers in Korea and also made Someone Behind You (2007) and Ogamdo(2009) . It is a film version of a book called ‘The Art of Seduction’ and it is said to be everyone’s must-see film in order to understand the reality of relationships between men and women in today’s lives.
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There are two protagonists in this movie is Ji-Won (Ye-Jin Son, a South Korean actress who got the best actress awards more than ten times in Korean Film Festivals and now one of top ten Korean stars), a fiercely pretty girl who always has had any guys that she wants. The other is Min-Jun (Il-Gook Song, one of popular Korean actors, who is the son of a Korean actress and a member of Korean parliament Kim-Eul Dong), a successful architect, and attractive young gentleman. Both of them have their own rules for 100% success in any dates. Ji-Won follows her own dating rules, she makes a fake car accident to get Min-Jun’s attention and approaches him successfully. However, although both are very attracted to each other at first sight, they start a game which seduces each other using their own rules. What intrigues Ji-Won is that Min-Jun does not act the same as guys who always fall for her charm. Min-Jun also thinks Ji-Won is the perfect match and ideal type of woman for him but never shows his true feelings. They are both veteran players in the game of love but finally they fall in love with each other. It is interesting to see that the movie does not end with the two protagonists becoming boyfriend or girlfriend, they appreciate each other’s expertness and go for a new game of love.
Notting Hill overview
Notting Hill is a British romantic film which was produced by Roger Michell who also directed Changing Lanes (2002) and The Mother (2003) in 1999. William Thacker (played by Hugh Grant) is a bookseller in Notting Hill district in West London and shares his house with his Welsh friend, Spike (Rhys Ifans). Every man’s dream comes true when Anna Scott (played by Julia Roberts), the world’s most famous and beautiful American actress who is in London working on a film, enters his travel bookshop. She buys one book from William and their relationship would end here if William did not go out for another cup of orange juice a few minutes later. He bumps in to her and spills orange juice over her top. William offers to clean up at his place which is very nearby and Anna agrees since he looks harmless. Anna thanks William and gives him a kiss, which surprises her even more than him.
They eventually get to know each other better but they find it difficult to be together as Anna is the world’s well-known star. They get on fairly well with each other just before her American actor boyfriend flies to London to see her. Anna, one day, comes to William for help, she is upset because of harsh press and needs calm and comfort. Once again, being together with someone who is the world’s most wanted is definitely not easy. William’s close friends arrange dates for him, helping him to forget about Anna Scott and move on. After months, Anna visits his travel bookshop with little gift, asking to love her again but William replies to her with an answer ‘no’. He thinks what he said to her was the right answer and tells his friends who are shocked to hear the story and tell him to get her back before it is too late. William and his friends run into where Anna is having the last interview in London before she flies back to America. William pretends to be a journalist and asks her questions about their relationship and whether she will forgive him and give another chance for their love. Anna says yes with a big happy smile and the movie ends with their successful romance.
Both films ‘The Art of Seduction’ and ‘Notting hill’ are made in contemporary background and the two films are set in urban area. However, when looking at the main male and female characters in these films, there are some differences in character settings except the fact that male characters are heterosexual. Min-Jun, the male protagonist, is a successful architect in his 30s and he seems to have grown up in a high social family. It is shown by his father being a playboy and having many young women around him all the time not because of his charm but his money. Min-Jun in the film is described as handsome, rich, smart and fashionable. The main female character, Ji-Won, is also a successful fund manager and her character is what Korean women’s image is all about, she is portrayed as independent, assertive and perfect face and body.
The main male character in Notting Hill, William Thacker, is a divorced middle-aged bookseller in West London. He is portrayed as normal, little boring and incapable and he does not belong to high social class. Anna Scott, the female protagonist in the film, is one of the top actresses in the world, portrayed as rich, attractive and every man’s dream.
There are differences in constructing masculinity between the two films and the next section will look at different aspects of masculinity other than the character settings.
As Min-Jun appears to be rich, attractive and smart, he cares a lot about his clothes and fashion accessories which women used to care more than men in the past. “It is called ‘Metro sexual’ which was born in Europe with increasing male diversity and Min-Jun is also one of metro sexual men who is interested in fashion and invest money and time for himself.” (í™©ì˜ê±´·ì˜¤í”¼ìŠ¤ì-ì´ì¹˜ ëŒ€í‘œì´ì‚¬, í•œê²½ë¹„ì€ë‹ˆìŠ¤, www.kbizweek.com: 20 feb 2010)
He goes for gentle, sophisticated and chic style of clothing and the suits he wears are mostly from Dolce&Gabanna, Givenchy and Yohji Yamamoto. What is more, when women are obsessed with bags and believe that which brand or how much their bag costs shows the standard of living and lifestyle, men believe nice watches and shoes make them feel confident. Min-Jun also sells his precious watch, which costs over ¿¡3500 by Gio Monaco, in return for a fabulous night with Ji-Won. Not only has he cared about outfits, but he is also enthusiastic about his lifestyle and appearance. Min-Jun is confident about his looking but when he was asked to attend charity evening, specifically called ‘Slave date auction’, by Ji-Won, he determined to get fit by taking lots of exercise at gym. His aim to get a masculine body is successful and he waits to appeal his masculinity to Ji-Won but suddenly loses his confidence as soon as he finds out other participants with more masculine bodybuilder body.
“Since the beginning of 2000, a variety of men’s types have positioned them as they are and it has become their competitive differentiations.” (í™©ì˜ê±´·ì˜¤í”¼ìŠ¤ì-ì´ì¹˜ ëŒ€í‘œì´ì‚¬, í•œê²½ë¹„ì€ë‹ˆìŠ¤, www.kbizweek.com: 20 feb 2010)
His enthusiasm about appearance applies to female counterpart. Plastic surgery is very popular among women in Korea and men looking for perfect-looking, which includes big eyes, small face and skinny body, can be one of the reasons why women get this surgery done. Sometimes men judge women by their appearances more than personalities and it is shown by Min-Jun thinking Ji-Won can be a perfect match for him a minute after looking at her outfits and appearance.
Additionally, Min-Jun is looked as a sexual object by women. The film ‘The Art of Seduction’ starts with him seducing a female psychiatrist by unbuttoning his shirt slowly and at the same time appealing his sexuality to her. Ji-Won, like Min-Jun, is assertive about her appearance. She attracts attention from many guys with her exceptional prettiness and her occupation as a successful private banker is a plus element in consisting of her charm. Unlike the male protagonist, Ji-Won tends to wear clothes in conservative style, but still shows her S-shaped body line.
William in ‘Notting Hill’ is rather very ordinary type of a British man who usually goes for classic and casual style of clothes, which perhaps match his occupation as a bookseller. Not only William does not take regular exercise to get fit, but also he does not seem to care too much about his appearance or his outfits and it is shown by a scene where he goes out to the cinema with Anna Scott. He looks for his glasses all over his house and realises he is likely to be late, he decides to take another option, swim-goggles. It looks funny that he wears swim-goggles while watching a movie but also shows that he prioritises practicality rather than obsession in styling. What is more, he seems lack of self-confidence and it is probably due to his social status compared to Anna and previous marriage failure which should have changed his lifestyle a lot.
William is portrayed as heart broken and fragile and it definitely is opposed to Min-Jun who is always confident about himself. However, Anna, a big world star, slowly attracted by William who could have been just a guy who sold her a travel book while she was in London. Anna even has a boyfriend back in America and she has much higher standard of living compared to William’s.
She is portrayed as independent and perfect looking to the public but no one except William truly understands her feelings or emotions. Although William is not what we call ‘manly type of guy’ or an assertive and smart guy, he instead has true heart and naÃ¯ve personality which may be another important element to become a real man.
There are clear differences in which the two main characters behave and treat their female counterparts. Firstly, what Min-Jun does is all studied beforehand. His aims are to seduce and win over the woman who he thinks is the perfect match for him, though not necessarily as his girlfriend. Therefore, he does not show his true feelings about her at the beginning and pretend he has not set up anything in his mind. In fact, the main male character is a type of true carers and it is shown by many scenes in the film. For instance, he says to Ji-Won “Yesterday, you were so out of wits so I have asked the doctor to take care of you.” It was surprising for her because she crashed into his car and he should have been the one who needed to see if he were hurt.
What is more, all of Min-Jun and Ji-Won’s credits cards suspended by jealous Do-Chul who has loved Ji-Won for a long time and always gets rejected by her. They decide to stay in a Motel and Ji-Won starts complaining about its condition and dirtiness. Min-Jun lies to her that he will go to restroom and he goes out to a pawnshop to sell his expensive watch to get money for dinner and hotel room.
Since he has much self-respect, he never says he feels ill all after running in the rain so many times at night in order to satisfy Ji-Won. He actually is a carer and nurturer but does not show his genuine personality to win her. This contradictory personality is what Korean women these days, especially younger generation prefers than nice and good guys.
Though macho man has been the most classic and representative masculinity, macho man in 2009 is far from its perceptions that he is patriarchal and male superior but he is sexually attractive and what we call ‘a real great man’ (í™©ì˜ê±´·ì˜¤í”¼ìŠ¤ì-ì´ì¹˜ ëŒ€í‘œì´ì‚¬, í•œê²½ë¹„ì€ë‹ˆìŠ¤, www.kbizweek.com: 20 feb 2010)
Limiting expression their feelings and ‘one step forward and two steps back’ date rule makes guys attractive. What the male character does impresses women as they do not expect a lot in the beginning. Min-Jun is gentle and smart and can be a bad boy to those women who he thinks do not deserve him at all.
It applies the same to the female character in the film ‘The Art of Seduction’. Men usually act more bravely than women and Ji-Won is portrayed as the god of innocence which most of Korean women would become when dating with men. When there is a date for dinner, she hardly eats and says “I am full already.” She never shows her true feelings to Min-Jun because she strongly believes herself that she will lose out as soon as he senses that she likes him. How she behaves and talks to whom she likes is one of the typical characteristics of Korean women although it has been changing slowly by younger generation who respects honesty and are braver when dating with men.
William Thacker, on the other hand, has the characteristics which are opposed to Min-Jun. He is nice, gentle and truthful although these can be seen as quite unattractive and boring to some women. William and Anna’s relationship begins when he offers to clean her clothes at his place and he continues to offer drinks and food to her. Everything he does to her is not studied at all but it might be due to the fact that Anna is a famous world star who is an unrealistic woman for him. What is more, even when she confesses him saying “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her,” he could not have believed his ears.
Women in Korea used to fall for nice and truthful guys and their preference changed to more ‘bad boy’ type of men. It does not mean William’s character was not popular among them when the movie came out; his English gentleness is special and it is what they have not seen in Korean men.
William, at first, was scared of showing his true feelings to Anna but as their relationship grows he is no longer shy and becomes more brave. He goes out with Anna for dinner and hears people talking and laughing about her rumours and gossips. Since they are having dinner in public place, he tries to ignore them but becomes intolerable. He asks them to stop talking about her because he wants to protect her from getting hurt by a bunch of stupid people.
The main male character appears to be nice, shy and sometimes dull, he is still a man who is not scared of protecting a woman and shows he does care about her.
Anna Scott, the female counterpart of William, is more assertive about her and has much self-respect than him. She is tired of too much attention in her private life and relationship she has had in the past. However, she is, unlike Ji-Won in ‘The Art of Seduction’, not afraid of showing her feelings and an enthusiastic attitude to her male counterpart. Anna is brave enough to tell William that she loves him whereas Ji-Won waits for Min-Jun to say it first.
There have been stereotypes of gender roles in our society, especially in Korea, men are still conservative about what they do or women do at home. “Young students are conservative in their views on gender roles, often copycatting their fathers’ viewpoint and they stuck to the patriarchal system.” (Kwon Mee-yoo, Staff Reporter, www.koreatimes.co.kr 20 feb 2010)
Min-Jun breaks the conventional gender roles by showing domestic side of him such as his exceptional cooking skills to Ji-Won. What is more, he feels more attracted to independent career women such as his ex-girlfriend, a psychiatrist, rather than those who become financially dependant on their boyfriends because they have no intellectual ability. He is not embarrassed to show Ji-Won that he is interested in cooking or making tea at home.
On the other hand, even though both of them have similar standard of living, he always want to look powerful and strong to her. As a man, he protects Ji-Won while they are in Jeju Island, trying to satisfy everything she needs or wants by whatever the methods he can do.
The female counterpart represents an ideal woman in our modern society, being confident and enjoying a decent lifestyle. Though there still exists the ethnic stereotype, the percentage of working women has been increasing in Korea, especially as a consequence of more and more parents letting their children study aboard. This phenomenon is to break the traditional gender roles, especially of women and give them an opportunity to become independent and intellectual so that they can realise their career in the future.
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Gender roles are slightly different when it comes to William and Anna; it is less conventional and conservative. He is still a man protecting his love from agony and distress by letting her stay at his house even after she let him down. Shelter and protection that he offers show his male dominance. It is certainly differentiated from being patriarchal; it is a facet of a great man.
Nevertheless, she is more in control of their relationship and acts in a way that she wants. It is due to a difference in their social status and of course William thinks it is ‘surreal’ for him to meet such a beautiful world actress. Men are usually more brave when they approach to women who they are interested in but he is rather afraid and gets more emotional than her.
Despite Anna’s dominance in relationship, she also shows feminine side of her such as making breakfast for him.
“In England their county has had a Queen that has political influence. The election and repeated re-election of Margaret Thatcher as prime mister show England’s desire to have people in leadership role according to ability and not gender.” (Trey Hill, http://ruby.fgcu.edu/courses/10251/e08hill.htm 20 feb 2010) It means that people in England do accept women can also be in powerful position.
Masculinity Index by Geert Hofstede
It is one of Cultural Dimensions by Hofstede, “looking at the degree to which ‘masculine’ values like competitiveness and the acquisition of wealth are valued over ‘feminine’ values like relationship building and quality of life.”
(http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/intercultural/masculinity.html, 22 feb 2010)
It indicates the distribution of gender roles in a society and it can be masculinity versus femininity. (Geert Hofstede, http://www.geert-hofstede.com, 22 feb 2010)
Korea MAS=39 (Feminine)
. In life the main priorities are the family, relationships and quality of life
. Conflicts should ideally be solved through negotiation
. Men and women should share equal positions in society
. Professionals “work to live,” meaning longer vacations and flexible working hours
UK MAS=66 (Masculine)
. Life’s priorities are achievement, wealth and expansion
. It is acceptable to settle conflicts through aggressive means
. Women and men have different roles in society
. professionals often “live to work”, meaning longer work hours and short vacations
http://www.kbizweek.com/cp/view.asp?vol_no=702&art_no=31&sec_cd=1037 date accessed: 20 feb 2010
http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2009/11/117_55813.html date accessed: 20 feb 2010
http://ruby.fgcu.edu/courses/10251/e08hill.htm date accessed: 20 feb 2010
http://www.geert-hofstede.com Geert Hofstede date accessed:
http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/intercultural/masculinity.html 22 feb 2010
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