There’s something that’s been bothering me. I’ve seen it, you’ve seen it; we’ve all seen it.
Let’s talk about the K-Drama Wrist Grab: it’s an inescapable sight to bear, men forcefully grabbing women by the wrist.
It’s used in one of three major ways (yes, there are more): one, to stop a woman in her tracks. Two, to drag a female away from a situation (and/or into a conversation). Three, it doubles up into two men fighting over a woman, yanking her from side to side. Cue my obligatory K-drama groans.
It is these latter two scenarios which I find the most irksome. Here are a few reasons why.
1. It Literally Hurts To Watch
My instinctive reaction is, well, pain (I have tendonitis in both arms). Though the characters and storyline are fictional, the pain – and accompanying cringe – are very real.
2. It Makes Women Rag Dolls
Tsk, tsk, tsk. Wrist grabbing sometimes results in a woman caught in a tug-of-war between two men, and the whole thing reeks of men being seethingly possessive. This, in turn, gives off the women-depicted-as-possessions vibe, and I’m just not down with that mess.
3. It Turns Men Into Neanderthals
It reminds me of two toddlers fighting over G.I. Joes. (Sidenote: remember G.I. Joes, y’all?) It’s not a pleasant experience for women to be tossed between two men, but it’s not doing the men any favors, either. It may serve as a moment of jealousy in the scene, but while this might seem manly to the characters, it only makes them appear juvenile.
4. It’s Become Ubiquitous
How many times do we have to see this? Wrist grabs pop up in nearly every K-drama, sometimes multiple times within the same series. When men are a little too insistent and a little too grabby, well, I’m probably sufficiently creeped out.
5. The Offended Female Doesn’t Seem Offended (Or Not Offended Enough)
Sometimes it’s the female characters’ reactions that bother me. They don’t seem offended, or their indignance is far too subdued. In which case, I find the writing and direction suspect (which may be said for the existence of the wrist grab to begin with).
6. I’m Right Here, So Just Talk To Me
It’s not necessary to grab a woman and drag her aside to exchange words. Communication does not require physical aggression. Simply tap me on the shoulder. Call me by name. Just talk to me – I’m right here. In front of your face. Also, my wrists already hurt (did I mention I have tendonitis?).
7. Cultural Influence Is Real
No one can deny that media images influence people on some level. Entertainment is a massively pervasive piece of pop culture, and as a major export of South Korea, K-dramas carry large doses of cultural exposure for many international viewers. As a hyphenated American, and as someone with a media background, I’m painfully aware of the reality that pop culture can give birth to and/or reinforce cultural stereotypes by what’s depicted onscreen. (And stereotypes are a whole other thing.)
So about that K-Drama Wrist Grab.
Yes, it’s fictional, and yes, it’s entertainment; but yes, it’s definitely an image (and message) that’s getting sent out into the world.
For example, one might assume, from certain scenes in K-dramas, that Korean society is a predominantly patriarchal one. Or, subconsciously, that it’s okay to grab women by the wrist and drag them – in Korean culture. (And then there’s that whole issue of how aggression onscreen desensitizes people, to some degree). Or, it may affect how international viewers perceive a nation’s attitude regarding gender roles.
We live in such a media-saturated, image-potent cultural landscape today that I can’t help but stop and take a moment to think about the implications. You didn’t even have to twist my arm for me to do it. Or grab any wrists.