Both Train Man and My Sassy Girl are examples of early 21st century romantic comedy films with origins in the internet. Yet the characters in both films act outside of the typical gender roles that are present in romantic comedies. Normally, in order to get a girl, the man makes grand romantic gestures and occupies a position of dominance. In Train Man, the main character attempts to take on such a role by fulfilling the traits and going through the moves that an anonymous group of people online believe to belong to the ideal man. In My Sassy Girl, the main character Kyun-woo is faced with a difficult–and indeed very sassy–girl, who strives to take on an assertive, dominant role in her relationships. Kyun-woo must reevaluate his own gender role in comparison to the abnormal role which the girl has taken on.
Although these male roles differ widely in personality and the way in which they develop their relationships, they both face difficulties and frustration in their attempts to find the proper role for themselves. For Train_Man, fitting the ideal means abandoning his true personality. In spite of his efforts, he manages to show himself to Hermes, yet rather than ruining their relationship, it allows her to fall for him. Furthermore technology, which initially seems like a negative trait for Train_Man, brings the couple together when he helps her buy a computer. After struggling with the sassy girl, Kyun-woo learns that he cannot fit into the typical “ideal” male role because of her domineering personality. Yet although initially unmotivated and lacks direction, he finds his place through his relationship with the sassy girl.
Through these atypical love stories, both films suggest that perhaps there is no place for the ideal romantic man in modern romance. The internet, once seen as something inhuman and “nerdy,” proves to be a place full of real people with emotions and experiences, who pull together to make romance a reality for Train_Man. In My Sassy Girl, Kyun-woo tries to play the part of the strong, heroic male in order to take care of the sassy girl, but fails when he finds that she prefers to occupy the more dominant role in the relationship. By taking these image of the ideal romantic man and taking it out of its basis in reality (and making it comedic), Train Man and My Sassy Girl propose a new, more flexible role for the 21st century romantic male.