I know there are dangers to oversimplifying characters and losing some of those all-important nuances, but please forgive me for doing so here.
I’m here with regard to the “Mr. Darcy” Archetype.
You know, the rich snob with a heart of gold who is at odds with the less financially fortunate female lead but falls in love with her despite himself?
That is an archetype that I truly love seeing over and over – in part because I enjoy seeing a strong male lead butt heads with a strong female lead. There is just something about seeing a man’s pride crumble in the face of love that appeals to me.
After I ventured into watching Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Korean television shows focused on romance, I eventually decided K-dramas had stolen my heart. Now, I almost exclusively watch K-dramas. I think part of the reason for it is that K-dramas absolutely abound with the “Mr. Darcy” Archetype. In fact, one word you’ll see a lot when reading reviews of K-dramas is the word “chaebol,” which has to do with family wealth in business. (A lot of shows will have a rich son as the heir to his family’s company.)
The Hallyu craze (meaning the increase in popularity of South Korean culture worldwide in the past decade or two) means that South Korean television shows are getting easier and easier to find and watch. You may have to check out a few places, but places I have watched K-dramas include Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Rakuten Viki (there is a free version of Rakuten Viki, but it has ads).
If you enjoy television shows where a rich man with a holier-than-thou attitude gets taken down a few notches by the female lead, then I have some recommendations for you! Please note that these K-dramas have happy endings and typically involve a mix of humor and drama along with the romance. (Most K-dramas make me laugh more than American television shows!) In addition, because the titles are translations, you may see the same show called by a variety of names.
What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim
This is my favorite K-drama involving a rich snob and a poor girl! The male lead is the VP of his family’s company, and the female lead is his secretary. She is by no means meek, though, and she is quite skilled at what she does. When she decides to quit working as a secretary and puts into motion training her replacement, the narcissistic male lead can’t believe she’s leaving and tries everything he can to figure out what is making her want to go. His snobbery lacks some of the gravitas of Mr. Darcy and is played more humorously, but you can certainly see some resemblance. This show is primarily in the romance/comedy/drama domain. Park Seo-Joon, the male lead, is now my favorite actor of all time.
This one feels especially Pride and Prejudice-like in some ways, though it sounds quite far from it. The male lead is a rich jerk, but the female lead is a stuntwoman. Due to some unusual circumstances (of an, erm, magical bent), however, their lives become unavoidably intertwined. An interesting part of this show is the male lead’s house, which seems almost to be a character of its own. Though it doesn’t have the massive and beautiful grounds, the house makes me think of Pemberley in some ways. It serves as the male lead’s refuge, which I rather imagine Pemberly to be for Darcy. The house just seems important, much like Pemberley, Netherfield, Rosings, and Longbourn.
100 Days My Prince
This television show may not 100% qualify with the guidelines I set up, but it is in keeping with the spirit of the Darcy Archetype. In this K-drama set during the Joseon period, a prince issues an edict that all the kingdom’s subjects must marry by a certain age. Well, due to certain circumstances, he gets amnesia and is forced to be married to a “commoner” per his edict, not knowing he is the prince who issued said edict. But despite not knowing the true circumstances of his birth, he still acts very much like the cold and snobby prince was before…that is, until his heart is melted by the female lead.
Boys over Flowers
This one is spot-on with the archetype. You have an incredibly wealthy male lead who is a major jerk and a very poor female lead who refuses to allow him to intimidate her. In this show, the female lead gets a scholarship to a prestigious school after she saves a student trying to commit suicide due to bullying. But when she goes to the school and the male lead tries to bully her, she refuses to have any of it. The male lead is even harsher than Darcy was, but that makes his transformation all the more meaningful.
Her Private Life
The female lead’s new boss at the art gallery is the male lead and not a friendly person. But she has a secret that she must keep from him and others at her work at all costs: she is a celebrity’s ultimate fangirl. She runs a fansite and plots when and how to take the best pictures of this celebrity, all while trying to maintain professionalism at work. I suppose Elizabeth Bennet never had a secret quite like that, but if you squint, you could say the circumstances involving Lydia are just as important to keep quiet!
The Beauty Inside
This one doesn’t completely match in terms of monetary status, but it is so good it is worth mentioning. The male lead is a snobby executive, but the female lead is an actress who isn’t exactly hurting for money. Still, their differing careers do make the archetype feel appropriate. This show has such an odd premise that I passed it over several times before finally giving in. The male lead has a secret that may partially explain his snobbiness: he has prosopagnosia (which means he can’t recognize faces). The female lead’s secret is even bigger: once a month for a limited time, she transforms into an entirely new person – sometimes old, sometimes young, sometimes male, sometimes female.
I Am Not a Robot
The rich male lead has an allergic reaction whenever he touches other human beings, so he intends to assist with funding for a human-like robot, as this is his chance for a companion. Well, the robot’s inventor modeled her after an ex-girlfriend, and when the inventor, who needs funding from the male lead, has issues with the robot, he enlists his ex-girlfriend’s help by having her pretend to be a robot in front of the male lead temporarily. There is lots of good fluff in this one. The male lead truly longs for human contact in a way that I think Darcy privately does as well.
1% of Something
In this show, a young man’s well-meaning grandfather forces him to enter a 6-month contract engagement with a school teacher. Said young man considers the school teacher very much beneath his notice…until of course he begins to notice her. Definite Darcy vibes here!
My Love from the Star
This one does NOT feel like a sci-fi series and is more in the drama/romance/humor territory, but it will sound like one. A centuries-old alien (whom one might think of as being a bit like Superman, except that he has no interest in going out and being a superhero) finds his life entangled with that of an actress who is in a bit of a rough patch. They’re probably somewhat equal financially, but the cold male lead certainly sees himself as above the female lead, and he can scarcely believe how their lives keep getting entangled. This one is fantastic despite its odd setup.
She Was Pretty
In this one, the female lead used to be rich and attractive when she was young, but now she has fallen on hard times and has self-esteem issues. When she is to meet with an old (male) childhood friend, she panics when she sees how handsome he is and asks her friend to pretend to be her. Well, when it turns out that childhood friend is now her new boss and treats her coldly, the female lead has to tread lightly to avoid having everything blow up in her face.
So there you have ten television shows with snobby rich men who ultimately prove themselves to be worthy of love! Because these are K-dramas, there is frequently some sort of big romantic gesture that is made, much like how Darcy works to save Lydia for Elizabeth’s sake.
I’m sure folks here watch a wide variety of television shows. Do you have any to recommend that seem to follow the Darcy archetype and include happy endings? I would love to hear from you!