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Masculinity in Korean and western films

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  1. Introduction.
  2. Top-grossing films based on super heroes in the United States.
  3. Looking back to heroes of less recent films.
    1. The essence of Western society's appreciation for violence and displays of strength.
    2. Masculinity through the light of self-sacrifice.
    3. A major similarity between A Stray Bullet and The Coachman.
  4. Traditional Korean values and films.
  5. The five relationships of Confucianism.
  6. Conclusion - Similarities between the father figures in A Stray Bullet and The Coachman.

Korean cinema has made significant progress over the years. Two of the greatest Korean movies are A Stray Bullet (Obaltan) directed by Yu Hyun-mok (1960) and The Coachman directed by Kang Dae-jin (1961). A Stray Bullet is about a man named Chul-ho who leads a life of honesty and morality. Despite poor living circumstances and suffering experienced by both him and his family, he chooses to work hard instead of looking for an easy way out. The Coachman is about a father, Ha Choonsam, who makes a living through a horse-drawn carriage and suffers from the poverty that plagues his family. Despite physical injuries and his old age, he refuses to allow his eldest son to assist him in walking the horses; the father is determined to be the provider for the family and wants his son to focus his energy on studying to pass the bar exam. Though the father figures from the films, A Stray Bullet and The Coachman, come from different backgrounds, they both demonstrate dogmatic devotion to their families, sometimes at the detriment of themselves.

[...] There is a stark contrast between Korean society's definition of masculinity and that of Western society. In modern films, it seems that there is a general theme of heroes and masculine figures portrayed as big, strong, and immune to violence and pain. However, it is necessary that film viewers have the ability to identify with characters such as Chul-ho and Ha Choonsam and recognize the masculinity that they represent as well. Figures such as Chul-ho and Ha Choonsam who willingly endure pain for the sake of their family highlight values that are being forgotten in modern day Western societies. [...]

[...] The poet is physically frail and weak compared to strong figures that represent masculinity in Western society. David Scott Diffrient highlights this point in his article: ?Like the poet in the aforementioned The Stray Bullet, who has a hang-up on part-time student Sol- hui (who, like Myong-hui, imitates Hollywood star images), Ch'oe, a lovelorn reader of French existentialist philosophy, is the flip side of Korean masculinity-an emasculated alternative to military figures who are physically strong and morally uncompromising? (Diffrient 36). [...]

[...] The masculinity of these heroes is elevated to the extent where the character seems to almost enjoy the pain that he experience during his violent encounters, because it highlights the toughness and strength of his body. It is necessary to recognize that not all heroes and figures that are portrayed as masculine in Western films are characterized by traits of strength and enjoyment of violence. There have been characters in Western films whose masculinity has been defined by their desire to put others before themselves and help other people. A recent Western film that portrays an individual's self-sacrifice for the sake of his family is John Q. [...]

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