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New machos dominate TV programs

Posted March. 25, 2014 00:10,   


KBS airs a pilot program titled “I’m a Man” on April 9. Although it is not a regular program yet, it draws a lot of media attention in that Yoo Jae-suk, a national emcee, hosts the show. It is his new program in four years since “Running Man.”

The pilot program is a group talk show “of the men, by the men, and for the men.” Co-hosts are all men including Yoo Jae-suk, Noh Hong-chul and Yim Won-hee. The first episode is said to have hosted 250 audiences including ordinary citizens who graduated from boys’ middle and high school and majored in science and engineering. Reviews on its website showed that the pilot program was reminiscent of barracks. The audience hailed with cheers when Suji, a member of Miss A, a Korean girl group. They also sang along men’s favorite songs such as Still Heart’s “She’s Gone” and Yim Jae-beom’s “Go Hae (Confession).” The producers of the program said, “Today, men feel marginalized both at work and home. The purpose of this program is to comfort men by communicating each other.”

Entertainment shows have long been dominated by men. Men were preferred as they were not reluctant about making fun of themselves to make others laugh. Only men appear in or men dominate signature entertainment programs such as MBC’s “The Infinite Challenge,” KBS’s “Happy Sunday – One Night Two Days” and SBS’s “I Like Sundays – Running Men.”

Recently, entertainment programs that highlight masculinity, brotherhood or men’s perspectives were added. There was a notable increase in programs that cover men’s interests such as military, hunting, and automobiles like MBC’s “Real Men,” SBS’s “The Law of the Jungle,” and XTM’s “The Bunker.” Some programs disclose men’s personal lives (MBC’s “I Live Alone”) and others cover adult topics from men’s perspectives (tvN’s “SNL Korea” and jtbc’s “Witch Hunt”). Min Jeong-ho, XTM channel team head, said, “There were many programs about fashionable men in the past, but today, we see programs that are more true to masculine instincts like ordinary citizens exploring martial arts are getting popular.”

Some programs are in search of new masculinity or comfort men who are marginalized in a society where successful women are highlighted. The identity as a father who fosters his child is well identifiable in programs such as MBC’s “Dad, Where Are You Going?” or KBS’s “Happy Sunday – Superman Is Back.”

What is interesting is that women are more interested in men’s stories. The broadcasting community says that programs for men not only strike a chord with male viewers but also can give a fresh impression on female viewers. For example, “Real Men,” a show on military life, has more female viewers (55 percent) than male viewers (45 percent). “Most viewers of TV programs representing masculinity are women,” said culture critic Kim Eun-yeong. “It’s because women are interested in real men’s stories, which they did not know.”

Some experts say that increasing social anxiety is part of the reasons behind the increase in such programs. “Today, new ‘machos’ who are physically healthy, economically competent, and take good care of his wife and family are popular, not ‘patriarchal machos,” said Lee Na-yeong, a sociology professor at Chung-Ang University. “Both men and women want strong masculinity in an unstable society, and media represents the trend in various ways.”