The release of Jang Geun-seok (장근석) and Kim Ha-neul‘s (김하늘) new film You Pet/You’re My Pet (너는 펫) has prompted an outcry and a legal petition from a Korean men’s association. According to the Chosun Ilbo, the association filed the petition as they were offended by the emasculating role played by Jang Geun-seok as he takes on traditional female tasks and acts like a dog for his ‘master’, the intelligent and successful Kim Ha-neul. The men’s association stated that that the portrayal was, “an insult to men’s dignity as human beings.”
The enormously popular Hallyu star was quick to defend his role in the film, positing, “Why wouldn’t you be able to be like a pet if the woman is older, more capable, and the whole dinner menu changes when you please her?” He continued that men shouldn’t feel threatened or that their masculine pride has been damaged, as it’s not a charming quality.
While this news may seem lacking in controversy for ‘western’ audiences, it highlights a growing shift in the deconstruction of gender roles in conservative Korea. As a very patriarchal society, the release of You Pet/You’re My Pet would undoubtedly be deemed as antagonistic by those that consider gender roles to be ‘fixed’. It is wonderful to see that the younger generation of film stars and film makers are challenging such archaic sensibilities, particularly someone as popular as Jang Geun-seok, as while the film may be a romantic comedy it will also serve to raise awareness of gendered stereotyping and the limitations thereof.
The legal petition submitted by the men’s association was rejected by Seoul Central District Court. The injunction had attempted to ban the film completely, but was dismissed in open court. As is often the case, the petition has actually served to increase interest in You Pet/You’re My Pet (너는 펫), which Hancinema claims is riding high at the box office.
You Pet/You’re My Pet is currently in cinemas in Korea, and the trailer is below.