Warrior Hair in Kdrama

kingdomofthewind

Historical Kdramas are known for the palace intrigue, political drama and tensions between the ruler and the ruled. But if you are a frequent viewer, you also wait with anticipation for the other hallmark of the period Kdrama: warrior hair!

What is warrior hair? Warrior hair is an aesthetic common to the historical Kdrama, when heroes (and villains) tie their hair up on their heads or back in a ponytail,  presumably to keep it out of their eyes and they embark on the multiple episodes that make up these kdramas, all the while allowing it to cascade down in all kinds of ways.  Headbands are optional.

You know what I’m talking about. Exhibit A: Ji Chang Wook as Baek Dong Soo in Warrior Baek Dong Soo:

warriorbaekdongsoo

Before he decides to stop being a boob and devote himself to martial arts, that hair is just, well, there. You know he’s serious when he ties it back.

Exhibit B: Lee Min Ho as Choi Young in Faith:

faith

Do I even have to say anything about this? This is great because from episode one, he’s a warrior, so the warrior hair is always on display.

Exhibit C: Jang Hyuk as Lee Dae Gil and Oh Ji Ho as Song Tae Ha in Chuno:

chuno

Here we have two for the price of one!  While Tae Ha is technically the only warrior, you get the picture.

Most viewers of Kdrama I know agree: everyone looks good in warrior hair. But it also serves a couple of  important purposes. First, warrior hair marks the transition in the development of a character. Sometimes, it appears after the requisite “child phase” with the first appearance of the adult versions of characters.

Second, warrior hair denotes class distinctions. Most of the time, if you are sporting warrior hair, you are not inclined to follow the rules. You aren’t part of the royal family, and you are definitely not part of the noble class. You are drifting on the outskirts of society, like one of my favorites, Kim Nam Gil as Bidam in Queen Seondeok:

seondeokbidam

But even military officials and members of the court may fall out of favor with respectable society. How do you know? LOOK AT THAT HAIR! That’s precisely what happens with Lee Seung Hyo as Alcheon in Queen Seondeok. For much of the Kdrama, Alcheon is prim and proper with his hair tied up in a respectable way, nary a strand of out place and a key member of the Hwarang. However, once stuff goes down in the palace, and Seondeok and her loyal followers are hiding out in the forest, no one has time for that. It’s warrior hair time!

Finally, facial hair is the sidekick to warrior hair. And like warrior hair, it means something. Sometimes, it’s used to tell the viewer that a character has gotten older (you know how much time a Kdrama can cover). However, it can also be used to suggest a change in character and nowhere is this more apparent than with Ju Jin Mo as Jin Ha in Bichunmoo. He starts out as a nice, considerate guy, but once a whole bunch of tragedy befalls him, not the least of which is when someone tries to kill him, he becomes a lot less nice and forgiving.  And in case you missed the personality change, warrior hair is there to help!

Source:  http://www.soompi.com/forums/topic/176217-drama-2008-bichunmoo/page__st__40

Source:  http://www.soompi.com/forums/topic/176217-drama-2008-bichunmoo/page__st__100

So the next time you watch a sageuk, take some time to appreciate the warrior hair!

Things I’ve Learned From Watching Sageuk (Historical Kdramas)

I am an avid watcher of Korean sageuk (historical Korean television series). They have something for everyone: romance, adventure, political intrigue, mystery.  Little did I know that I was learning things along the way. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from watching sageuk!

Continue reading “Things I’ve Learned From Watching Sageuk (Historical Kdramas)”

Stealing the Show: Unintentional Leads in Queen Seondeok and Warrior Baek Dong Soo

When a Kdrama starts, I’m sure the writers have a clear idea of who the lead character is. Sometimes, that plan goes awry, as other characters become so compelling that they come in and steal the show…..

Read more here at KPK: Kpop Kollective (originally published on September 3, 2011)

Stealing the Show: Unintentional Leads in Queen Seondeok and Warrior Baek Dong Soo

When a Kdrama starts, I’m sure the writers have a clear idea of who the lead character is. Sometimes, that plan goes awry, as other characters become so compelling that they come in and steal the show.

Read more at kpopkollective.com. (published September 3, 2011)

Stealing the Show: Unintentional Leads in Queen Seondeok and Warrior Baek Dong Soo

Originally published on KPK: Kpop Kollective on September 3, 2011 by CeeFu

When a Kdrama starts, I’m sure the writers have a clear idea of who the lead character is. Sometimes, that plan goes awry, as other characters become so compelling that they come in and steal the show.

In watching Warrior Baek Dong Soo, you expect the title character to be compelling enough to hold your attention.  You see how he has such a hard time coming into the world.  His father is executed as a traitor, and his mother dies soon after birth.  To add to his problems, he is born with birth defects that require that he wear bamboo braces.  Kinda hard to be cool in those. Nevertheless, he comes off as a plucky, determined hero.

However, Yeo Woon has an equally sad backstory.  The son of a righteous hero-turned-alcoholic who kills Woon’s mother,  he grows up to be a sullen young man, mostly due to his father’s assumptions about his “killer” nature.  When he finds out the truth about his other, he becomes an angry young man, and is mentored by the WRONG person, Chun.  As the final test of his training as a ninja (um, were there Chinese ninjas?), he is supposed to kill the closest person to him. Despite his father’s opinions, Woon is reluctant to kill his father (patricide is a no-no), and it is unclear whether he actually does the deed, or Chun does, or Woon’s father saves from having to do the deed.  As a result, Woon becomes a melancholy spy for the ninjas.

So, while I know I’m supposed to be intent on Dong Soo, I find myself more drawn to Yeo Woon.  Even though he doesn’t say much, he is more compelling than Dong Soo, who, after episode 10, has yet to make that turn from goofy to great hero.  He also at this stage is not much of a fighter.  He can hold his own, but he has yet to win in a fight against Woon, who is the better fighter. Woon’s character is deeper: not only may he be working for the man who killed his father, he is also friends with the guy he’s sent to spy on and, one would expect, will be ordered to assassinate at the right moment.  His ambivalence is palpable, and while he starts off as arrogant, he comes around to be a sympathetic character.  Oddly enough, I was not all that thrilled with Yoo Seung Ho, who plays Yeo Woon, as Chunchu in Queen Seondeok. Dude is a great actor!

I’ve seen this kind of thing before in Queen Seondeok.  It’s called Queen Seondeok, so you do find yourself drawn to Deokman, her sad backstory of being hustled out of the palace, raised in the desert, only to return to the capital and join the elite young warriors, the Hwarang.  One thing that is great about her is that she’s clever, uses her mind to get out of situations, although most people don’t know it because she’s passing as a man.  She undergoes all of this, only to discover that she is not only royalty but daughter to a king.  Of course, by this time, everyone knows she’s a girl, and, apparently, is the one who will be able to regain the throne.  And yes, it does matter that she’s a girl, because she has to fight that fight to be the first female ruler of Silla.

What she doesn’t count on is having to tangle with Mishil, the royal consort.  That doesn’t even come close to describing how Mishil uses her feminine wiles to manipulate the men around her.  And rather than being a damsel in distress, she’s often the one dishing it out. I think the writers thought Mishil would be a minor character, but she practically takes over the Kdrama. She’s a villain, and she’s good.  Like eerily good. She knows her opponent’s plans because she has spies everywhere (they, on the other hand, seem to try really hard and get lucky with their plans).  She’s not afraid to back down, threatening everyone with that Mishil smile.  At the same time, you find out that she has motives that are kinda honorable? She’s complex, in a way that Seondeok fails to be.  Come for the Seondeok, stay for the Mishil.

I’m not mad at these developments.  I just think that it’s interesting how these things turn out.