What’s Wrong with Vincenzo: the trivialization of female characters

Writer’s Note

This article expresses views, thoughts, and opinions that belong solely to the author.

I love this show very very much! And it’s totally understandable if you don’t agree with what I say as everyone is entitled to have their own opinions. 

If you clicked into this article, let me guess, you probably like to spend your free time binging k-dramas like me, and immediately recognized the word “Vincenzo” from the title. 

You’re might be thinking: what’s wrong with Vincenzo? I love it! Well, count me in. “Vincenzo” (2021) has an amazing plot development and the finest details among perhaps every k-drama I’ve ever watched, and this is coming from a loyal k-drama fan.

No loopholes. No boring moments.

This kdrama is a potpourri of legal/revenge thriller and dark comedy centered around the plot of fighting the evil corporation. It is among one of the top ten highest ratings among Korean cable television history. 

From Asianwiki
Yes it is the famous Song Joong-Ki from ”Descendants of the Sun”

Nevertheless, even shows like this have their flaws. In this case, a big one. That is, the screenwriter of “Vincenzo” can’t write female characters. 

This may seem to be a rather extreme claim, but one I can substantiate.

Trivializing female characters.

Here’s the thing. 

There is the main protagonist, Vincenzo, an Italian lawyer and a Mafia consigliere. Then, the main female lead, Hong Cha-young, an able young lawyer fighting Babel, the corporation, together with Vincenzo. Followed by the antagonist, the CEO of Babel Group. 

They are the main characters the show can’t live without. Yet, the female lead does not have a soul.

No character development, no backstory, no opinions, no agency. 

It’s absurd the fact that she appears in every episode yet the audience does not know a thing ABOUT her. Ironically, the first few episodes focus heavily on her relationship with her father but there are no scenes of her childhood nor  her upbringing as well.

Oh wait, we do know one thing about her, that she has experienced a major glow-up and is embarrassed of her looks in the past. 

Of course, it’s about her appearance.

This is what’s wrong with  “Vincenzo”.

The presence of a supposedly experienced and competent lawyer is trivialized into a stylish quirky career woman being placed in the story just for the sake of it. 

As the main female lead, she is a character without a story. The importance of her role in this drama only resides in her chemistry with Vincenzo.

From INKIStyle
From INKIStyle

Perhaps in the eyes of many who have watched Vincenzo, they may deem this as unimportant because the drama is more about Vincenzo and his revenge journey. Or simply because this is just a kdrama, it’s no big deal, but “Vincenzo” is merely an example of this phenomenon.

In the writer’s 2016 drama, “Good Manager”, a workplace light-hearted version of “Vincenzo”, the protagonist’s close female friend/past colleague has it even worse. 

As a character who appears throughout the whole drama, where does the most of her screen time lie? Appearance. When she is given a major glow up by her housemate, the episode details everyone feeling shocked seeing her the next day at work.

Her character is made light of throughout the drama as she represents an ugly country girl who stands out in the vibrant city of Seoul with her exaggerated body language and loud noises. Viewers are almost forced into a superior position to judge and mock the character’s “try-hardness” to be as pretty as women in Seoul.

Despite how trivial the scene is, it’s inevitably sending a message to the audience, “look how pretty she is now? well, she wasn’t back then”, as if that is so important.

It’s everywhere.

It’s everywhere. Female characters without a soul, trivialized, and created based on physical appearances.

Art, no matter in the form of entertainment, literature, or any other, originates from life, and it holds a mirror up to society. It reflects the value we hold and reinforce them at the same time.

If we as an audience see this depiction of women in television, films, or novels as acceptable, appropriate, and normal, how is this unimportant?

How far have we come?

There is the dumb blonde, the gorgeous girl with an unbelievable hour-glass body adored by all men around her, the manic pixie dream girl with an approachable and quirky personality “unlike any other girls”, the shy and innocent girl who’s unaware of her attractiveness… 

They are all set types of female persona built by people who see women as nothing but objects of desire and fantasy. We’re all too familiar with it, don’t we?

Surely this can be a little outdated, and thankfully, most forms of entertainment today have stopped portraying women as such. 

Though, has it really disappeared? 

People have quickly realized that it’s not possible to make a story successful if they were to only cater to the male audiences today, and so, a new type of character is made to cater to the likings of female audiences. 

That is, a rich and working female lead under the disguise of an “independent career woman” who sadly serves no purpose to the plot. And she needs to be fashionable because viewers love to see that.

I’m not saying the career woman type of character is wrong in nature, in fact, it’s amazing. There have been plenty of excellent female characters written that showcase women’s agency like “Search WWW” (2018). The gradual improvement in how women are portrayed in the media is an exact indicator of how the world we now live in is less of a man’s world. 

Search: WWW (2019) — An Overview – Korean Dramaland
From Korean Dramaland

The world has seen women more than just pretty faces, right? I can’t bring myself to wholly agree with this. The act of trivializing women as all about appearances still exists. 

It is often hidden beneath the shield of what seems to be an improvement in the portrayal of women. The mindset of “because we’ve added a career woman in this story, that’d do the job of satisfying the female viewers right?” is prominent.

How is this any different than dumb blonde chracters?

Bottom line.

This article is written in hope for more to consume media content with a conscious mind of what we are really watching and what message the show is sending to us, no matter if it’s done on purpose or unconsciously. Of course, there is no right and wrong on how people consume media and what you get out of it but this is just what was going on in my mind when I was watching the show.

Regardless, I enjoyed every episode of it and would highly recommend it as a satisfying drama to binge-watch after Week 12!

To end this, here’s a satisfying scene from “Vincenzo” (no spoiler).

Article by Shannon Ho

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