Think of the all entertainers that you know. A variety of people will come to your mind. However, think back through your list, how many were females? You will realize how few entertainers you know are female. There are actually many more than you may think. Female entertainers are now taking their places among top celebrities in the entertainment field. It is now time for all societies to recognize the ‘power’ of female entertainers.
Entertainment programs have steadily increased their audiences over time. In the past, these kinds of TV shows were not well-loved, but with changes to their programing style, they have become loved by all ages. Most entertainment programs used to be produced and their content is created by men and starred a cast of male actors. However, programs broadcasted these days are being headed by more female directors and are casting more female actors compared to the past. In the past, the roles women took were narrow, and most appearances of females on shows were eliminated during processes of both planning and editing. Also, programs with high viewer ratings were those that featured males. For example, the Korean entertainment program <Infinite Challenge>, distributed and syndicated by MBC from 2006 to 2018, which had the highest viewer rating during that period at 28.9%, was a program produced by a male PD and starred six male entertainers. Another famous program <2 Days & 1 Night> featured five male cast mates and was aired for 6 years. The program was produced by a male production team. Female entertainers seldom appeared on the entertainment program, and when there were females on the show, there was always a love storyline of the female entertainer with one of the regular male entertainers. Or else, the females were portrayed as silly in order to attract audiences to the show and away from programs such as <X Man> and <Gag Concert>.
There were several reasons females were excluded from appearing on entertainment shows. The first centers around female stereotypes being pushed by producers. Producers were reluctant to cast females because they believed female entertainers could not attract viewers, which would directly affect the profits of a program, and that is a clear indicator of a program’s worth. At the same time, many people in society believed females should not be featured on entertainment shows because they view females as a “commodity” that should always just be beautiful, interested in their looks and presenting a gentle image. Therefore, producers preferred male casts over females, which made it really hard for females to get hired for more diversified roles in the entertainment field. A producer of entertainment in ground wave broadcasting station who wants to remain anonymous said "While people insults female entertainers who show ridiculous figure, they praise male entertainer who do the same thing."1) However, over time, attitude and programing have changed in the entertainment business. It’s now easy to see females starring on entertainment programs. Such changes in entertainment shows have built the different image of female celebrities.
Quantum leap of female entertainers
The change in the entertainment industry has led to many women entering the field. As mentioned above, entertainment shows aired episodes that were male led, planned, and designed in the past. The main objective of these show episodes at that time was to make the audience laugh. To achieve this objective, producers created episodes in which the male actors participated in hilarious scenes that were clearly unnatural and artificial. On <Infinite Challenge>, the cast often wore clothes made of spandex, which made the entertainers seem ridiculous. The cast of <2 Days & 1 Night > played a hit-and-miss game with the penalty of sleeping outside or going into the water in the winter. Because of these types of ideas and the direction of the programs, having females on those entertainment programs was both uncomfortable for the producers and the rest of the male cast. However, nowadays the show programing has change and audiences clearly show they were happy with the new direction and to see female celebrities on the shows rather than watching clearly manipulated happenings. These days, various entertainment programs with different traits are featuring a variety of themes. For instance, eating programs, ‘Mukbang,' have gained huge followings, and <Tasty Guys> is a good example. Some popular shows now present cooking methods and recipes such as on the show <Soo-mi’s Side Dishes> and <Youn’s Kitchen>. Other kinds of entertainment shows look at the natural and typical life of a celebrity like <I Live Alone> and <You Are My Destiny>, and they are loved by wide audiences. In the program <Where Is My Home>, the cast finds houses for their clients while the casts of <Love_Ozirap> listen to the love story of clients and give them advice. On each of the programs mentioned above, the female cast members show remarkable activities. Lee Yujeong, producer of the program <Video Star> with 4 female MCs, which is another version of <Radio Star> with 4 male MCs, said, “<Video Star> shows a different type with new traits that it is softer and more sophisticated comparing to the past programs.”2) As she noticed, entertainment program’s new trait aside from artificiality and extremity has appeared and diversified over years. With the range of entertainment programs becoming diversified, audiences are looking for a wider variety of color on their TV shows. This has heightened the position of females on entertainment programs.
Another contribution that has given women more authority in the entertainment field is the movement of feminism. Females are increasing the struggle for their rights and gender equality. At the end of last year, every book store presented books or stories on ‘feminism’. Interpark pointed out that equality is one of the key trends of 2018 and reported that one of the biggest issues of 2018 was feminism. Interpark wrote, “Feminism is a huge trend of this year; it can never be eliminated.” Yes24 reported the publication of 114 books on feminism, the highest in the last 3 years. Kyobo Book Centre also recognized feminism as a strong movement last year and noted the popularity of books: Egalias Dotre and We Need a Language.3) There has also been an increase in the number of feminism movies, which reflects the interest of people in feminism. With interest in society growing, feminism is gaining more and more attention. People are starting to discern unjust expressions and discrimination towards women in all types of fields. Some people have even started to voice the need for more females in the broadcasting industry as well as the entertainment field. Because of this, people in the entertainment business are now being careful with their script language and discrimination. This has led to a fading of misogyny statements in the entertainment business. Female entertainers are no longer portraying an image of beauty that is all cosmetic; they are presenting their natural looks without fear of rejection or being labelled. The courage of a few have dissolved the frame that boarded women and separated males and females in the entertainment field.
One more reason that made female entertainers become more active is the change in TV viewers. Female viewers have now started to support female entertainers for several reasons. Thanks to the change, female entertainers have started to appear on TV programs more frequently. Opportunities to be cast members on diverse entertainment programs have given women platforms on which they can showcase their talents. Viewers are captivated by the new charm they see. Supports for female entertainers among young female viewers in their twenties and thirties affect the increase in females on entertainment programs. Song Dabin, majoring in physical therapy at Yonsei Mirae Campus, said, “A comparison of entertainment programs of present and past reveals more females. I am pleased with this trend because people can now enjoy various programs on diverse topics and with authentic humor. Many of my friends and I thoroughly enjoy these new types of programs that feature female entertainers.” According to Song, many younger generation females are showing a positive view towards female entertainers and programs that cast them. With backing from viewers, female entertainers have started to stand tall. They are performing more actively and confidently on entertainment programs displaying their abilities, and in 2018, two female entertainers were nominated for the Grand Prize in Entertainment award on KBS. This nomination came 17 years after the first female won the same prize. The award being presented to a woman reflects changing viewers’ perspectives and interest in the entertainment programs starring female entertainers. To sum up, changes in entertainment programs, the spread of feminism, and changes among viewers in their attitudes towards female entertainers have all contributed to changes in the entertainment field.
Who makes the popular one? Female!
There are several common characteristics of female-oriented programs. Most of all, these new programs tend to value “harmony” and “relaxation”. When the entertainment field was overly male-centered, the programs focused on competition between cast members. However, with the higher proportion of female entertainers, themes of programs changed. Rather than broadcasting male entertainers physically competing against each other and cheating to win those competitive games, more peaceful and simple ideas are now popular and examples of these types of shows including <3 Meals a Day-Mountain Village>, <Bob Bless u>, and <Camping Club>. Especially, on the program <Bob Bless u>, experienced female entertainers such as Lee Youngja, Kim Sook, and Choi Hwajung listen to viewers’ personal stories and discuss the stories in conjunction with their own lives over a meal. Because the stories are from the heart and honest, viewers become active watchers and sometimes even feel impressed. <Bob Bless u> has been able to reach an average viewer rating of 0.9% even though it is aired on cable TV. Also, female-centered programs have gradually increased feminism contents. As an instance, recently, the girl group AOA performed on <Queendom> on M-net. During the performance, the male backup dancers wore skirts and high heels while AOA members wore suits. The idea was to reverse conventional gender roles and eliminate the wearing of the corset by female entertainers, many of whom were forced into wearing one in the past. This new trend could also be a reason for support from the young generation of female viewers.
Such female-centered programs have increased the power of female entertainers. This increase in female presence on TV has brought about more diversity in the entertainment field. In the past, it was common for viewers to be solely exposed to programs that contain contents directed to males, especially army life. However, with female entertainers themselves becoming more empowered, they have been responsible for a new paradigm of entertainment programs. Lee Youngja is one representative female entertainer who is heading the new TV format. She is featured in episodes that show her eating at various local highway service stops eateries on <Omniscient Point of View>, which is a spinoff of the Mukbang trend. Besides drawing in more female viewers, the female entertainers are also attractive to male viewers. On the popular program <I Live Alone>, Park Narae, a famous female comedian shows the life of a single career woman without artificial manipulation. Viewers, especially those living on their own, are captivated by the fun and difficulties Park faces daily. Kim Minjeong, a student majoring in English Language & Literature '19, who has been living on her own near Sookmyung Women’s University, said, “Watching the episodes of Park Narae in the <I Live Alone>, I feel fully entertained because I am also single and female. As a woman who is living alone in Seoul far from my hometown, I empathize with her and her life. I am a big fan of the program, especially Park Narae.” As Kim expressed, such programs have caught the attention of female viewers and the empathy created by the program has increased fan followers.
Despite changes in TV trends towards more female casts, restrictions are still imposed on female entertainers. Most of all, females are still frequently shown as sexual objects on many usual programs. One example is <Miss Trot> which is a women audition to be a female trot singer. Female participants are divided into age and marital status groupings. Also, after categorization, women were forced to dress in sexually revealing clothing and perform in front of men. This show highlights how the entertainment field still considers female entertainers as objects for male viewers to for their sexual desires. Besides regarding of women as outlets for males’ erotic desires, there also remains a gap between the actual proportion of programs featuring male entertainers and those featuring female entertainers. Male entertainers still far outnumber those of females in terms of the number of times they appeared on TV and their appearance proportion during a TV episode. According to research by Nielson Korea, among the 84 entertainers who were recently on entertainment programs that ranked in the top 20 among Korean households, only 13 % were women. This low percentage is termed “programs are in men’s bath (only male-centered)”. To break this implicit gender discrimination, a number of female entertainers are openly supporting each other. Song Euni, a famous Korean female entertainer, gathered fellow female entertainers to form the entertainer group “Celeb Five”. Thanks to this group, fellow female entertainers have the chance to show their talents to the public. As this shows, female entertainers are developing by lending each other a hand and working together to eliminate gender discrimination in the entertainment field.
The future for female entertainers
“It’s not difficult to design entertainment programs that feature women or are female-centered, so I hope producers start creating them. More programs that focus on women and women viewers are in need, as well as there is a need for more female talk show hosts," said Kim Sook, a popular female entertainer in Korea.4) As Kim points out, female entertainers are still not treated fairly in the entertainment field. However, thanks to the effort of female entertainers and some producers who recognize the problem, the Korean entertainment field is gradually going forward towards gender equality. TV viewers can now expect ‘females’ to lead the entertainment industry.
1) Choi Jieun, “Why Female Entertainers Should Be a Real Men”, IZE, October 6, 2015
2) Park Kwiim, Moon Suji, “4 Different Colors, Will It Exceed ‘Radio Star’”, tvReport, July 12, 2016
3) Kim Seungil, “What Happened at Kyobo Book Centre, Interpark, and Yes24… Similar Statistics Reported at 3 Bookstores”, Readers News, December 9, 2018
4) Lee Sangseo, “The Reason Why It is Difficult to Find Female Entertainers in TV”, Yonhap News Agency, August 9, 2017
Kim Han Yujin / Reporter
Kwak Lee Shinyoung / Reporter