In My Sassy Girl, Kyun-woo fails to take on a traditional gender role given that The Girl adopts a more dominant role in the relationship. As a result, the film portrays a relationship in which The Girl exhibits more courageous and dominating attributes, so Kyun-woo always adopts a submissive role to compliment the woman’s comparatively stronger personality. The subverted gender roles in their relationship is reflected in how Kyun-woo always plays a secondary role to The Girl who plays the role of the dominant heroine in the film’s fantasized scenes. In all examples, The Girl and circumstances subvert the gender roles as evidenced in scenes that incorporate fantasies conjured by Kyun-woo or the Girl.
In the first example, the stark contrast between Kyun-woo’s fantasy of the perfect romantic date and the reality of it exhibit the subverted gender roles in their relationships when Kyun-woo is taken hostage and saved by The Girl. To prepare for The Girl’s birthday, Kyun-woo is trying to come up with a romantic idea. In his imagination, we can see that he is holding The Girl’s hand, guiding her through the amusement park. Because he is the person imagining the fantasy, the camera captures his face and not The Girl’s while Kyun-woo’s voice narrates in the background. At the end of his fantasy, he opens his arms wide as if to welcome the audience to his fantasyland in the center screen as the camera captures the shot by panning from above Kyun-woo to ground level, disrupting the fantasy. Then, The Girl hugs him, and the fireworks light up the night sky. Like a Disney commercial, everything happens seamlessly accompanied by the amusement park happy music. This fantasy expresses Kyun-woo’s happiness and anticipation about his romantic idea. However, his romantic ideas did not take place as it did in his idealistic imagination.
During the actual date, Kyun-woo and The Girl encounters a renegade soldier, who takes him and his girlfriend by gunpoint and forces them into a hostage situation. While he imagines fulfilling his romantic male role by planning the romantic date for her birthday. In the context of understanding subverted gender roles, Kyun-woo’s experience of being the wonderful boyfriend who planned the perfect birthday date is starkly contrasted by the date being hijacked by a renegade soldier who puts Kyun-woo in an emasculating situation in which he involved his girlfriend in a precarious situation but ends up being saved by her in the process, receiving the target of her beration following his rescue.
In the example of the screenplay, the audience may observe a metaphor of their relationship in which subverted gender roles is a major theme given that Kyun-woo is always the supporting character to her lead role as a heroine. Throughout the film, The Girl forces Kyun-woo to read her scripts as she is an aspiring screenwriter, and these screenwrites are depicted in live-action scenes. During one of their dates, The Girl forces Kyun-woo to read her screenplay. As Kyun-woo reads, the film shows a live-action of the screenplay in a Korea in which dynasties and kingdoms still existed. There is heavy and drawn-out electric guitar notes to provide background for the dramaticized showdown between the good and the bad guy. The Girl’s story is reminiscent of a typical martial arts film, but in this case, the heroine, not a male protagonist, must go defeat the villain on the wanted poster. After the heroine rips off the poster, the movie cuts to her encounter with the villain in a Mexican stand-off. In the stand-off, they cooly remove their rain cloaks and stare each other down before beginning to fight. As they both swing, first blood is drawn and stains the blades of grass. Although the villain prepares to sheath his sword, he weakens to the point that the heroine can make him fall with the push of a finger. In the aftermath, the heroine then becomes a king.
The screenplay further evidences how Kyun-woo’s character only served to support The Girl’s heroine, which is the lead role of the story. The reversed gender role appears as a theme in her screenplay given how The Girl’s heroine defeats the male villain and becomes a king. This also serves as a metaphor for the dominant role she plays in the relationship with Kyun-woo. It is her dominance and aggressiveness that makes their romantic dynamic different from how we expect Kyun-woo to adopt the lead role in the relationship.
This subverted gender role dynamic ultimately manifests clearly when Kyun-woo interrupts The Girl’s blind date and lists the ten rules of being a perfect boyfriend when in a relationship with The Girl. Due to The Girl’s parents, Kyun-woo was not accepted as suitable boyfriend for The Girl, and The Girl’s mother set her daughter on a blind date. In the scene when Kyun-woo meet The Girl’s blind date, he sits down and orders a cup of coffee just like when he is with her before. Whereas The Girl usually forces Kyun-woo to have coffee, she tells him that he can order coke if he prefers, indicating that Kyun-woo does not have to listen to her now that they are not dating anymore.
When The Girl left for the restroom, Kyun-woo told her blind date the ten rules to follow when he dates her. Her blind date, a mature professional man, then recites Kyun-woo’s words to her, cutting briefly back to his conversation with Kyun-woo. As the panning shot focuses on Kyun-woo and moves around the blind date’s head, the camera pans around to show The Girl’s face. We can still see the same word from Kyun-woo talking about the ten rules. We can see her facial expression that she is deeply moved by his caring words and action.
Suddenly, she just gets up and runs out to chase after him. Even when she is running, the audience can still hear his words in the background. Throughout the scene as Kyun-woo’s voice talks about the ten rules, a romantic ballad song plays. In this example, Kyun-woo expresses his sincere love and care for her. Because her dominance and aggressiveness from her personality, he is taking a different role to change himself to fit her need and make her happy.
Kyun-woo is a laid-back young adult who wants to be the playboy boyfriend who impresses The Girl as he initially intended to at the amusement park. Yet when he is met with the The Girl’s stubbornness and violence, he must learn to complement her personality. Kyun-woo’s increasingly subverted gender role, exists in opposition to the more typical, romantic male gender role which he initially tries to fulfill. For example, in their date after the kidnapping scene, the audience sees from Kyun-woo’s perspective the observed idiosyncrasies through Kyun-woo’s sensitivity and understanding of The Girl’s personality. An example that further articulates this point is in a scene that was edited out of the international version of My Sassy Girl. When The Girl is about to briefly leave to go to the restroom in the unedited version, Kyun-woo takes The Girl outside and talks to her before he leaves. He tells her to forget about the past boyfriend in preparation for new relationships with other men and gives her advice about qualities that other men like in women. The subverted gender role makes this relationship unexpected social norm and create interesting stories between the couples. When we are looking at their relationship, We even may think that this relationship will not work out. However, the movies shows that it does work out, even being “comedy” and funny. This shows the romantic part of the movie. We can see that this subverted relationship does not obstruct their romantic love.