Power in Unity!: Ideal Masculinity in Descendants of the Sun

Song Joong Ki as Captain "Big Boss" Yoo Shi Jin, Descendants of the Sun
Song Joong Ki as Captain “Big Boss” Yoo Si Jin, Descendants of the Sun

We all know the primary reason we are all over Descendants of the Sun is Captain “Big Boss” Yoo Si Jin (Song Joong Ki). He’s become one of my favorite male protagonists in a K-drama, so central to the story that he takes attention away from the female lead. At the same time, he reinforces male friendships.

Big Boss is pretty much perfect. He’s attractive. He dresses well. He’s courageous, often going into dangerous situations.  He’s humble (sorta?) but also confident in his abilities.  He’s really big on protecting and saving others (women, children and the elderly!). Car gone over a cliff? He’s your man. Gotta perform surgery on a high-ranking foreign official at gunpoint? He’s got your back. Need your shoelace tied? He’s on it! Some may say that he’s too perfect, and they are right. Big Boss is perfect. He does no wrong. You know what? I’m not mad at that. I can get my flawed protagonists somewhere else (looking at YOU, Yi Bang Won in Six Flying Dragons). Angsty might be in, but it’s a nice change of pace just to see a genuinely good guy.

In a nutshell, Big Boss is the type of guy that women like and men want to be like. And here lies the problem(?) with Descendants of the Sun. Look, I loved this K-drama, but let’s face it, it’s  ALL about Big Boss (again, not mad at this). He shines so bright that he actually outshines Beauty, aka Kang So Myeon (Song Hye Kyo). Every time Big Boss is forthright about his feelings, Beauty is all meh. What does she do after Big Boss (repeatedly) saves her life? Chastise him, walk off to a solitary place, regret what she’s done, then come back and ambivalently takes him back until the next crisis occurs. Big Boss has stepped up to the plate, confessed his feelings (repeatedly) and she’s routinely wishy-washy. I was willing to cut her some slack the first time it happened, but by the 12th time he’s put in a dangerous situation and survives, it gets a little old.

Big Boss (Song Joong Ki) and Wolf (Jin Goo), Descendants of the Sun
Big Boss (Song Joong Ki) and Wolf (Jin Goo), Descendants of the Sun

Thank goodness for Wolf, aka Seo Dae Young (Jin Goo), the other half of what has to be the best buddy team in recent K-drama history. Big Boss and Wolf are hi-larious! In their off hours, Wolf’s straight man act is the perfect complement to Big Boss’s antics. What makes their dynamic even more interesting is that they discuss their love lives with each other, offering each other (iffy) advice. They are men who aren’t awkward talking about the ladies in their lives. In the field, they are absolutely confident in each other. Even though the K-drama glosses over it, Big Boss and Wolf experience some traumatic events together, further cementing their friendship. Dudes are always getting shot, hurt, cut, tortured and otherwise treated badly. As fabulous as Big Boss is, Wolf is no shabby wingman. He has to be outstanding himself to hang with Big Boss. If Big Boss saves everybody, who saves Big Boss? Wolf, that’s who!  Alpha Team is also completely loyal to their young leader, following him into all manner of dangerous missions and disregarding orders at the drop of a hat. Even Big Boss’s superiors eventually come to admire his work ethic.

In the end, Big Boss not a descendant of the sun, he is the sun, outshining his female lead and shining his beneficent light on his male co-stars.

Images: 1, 2

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