Jo Yi-seo (aka Psycho Betty), played by Kim Da-mi, can fight and certainly isn't one to avoid a confrontation. She stays in them streets, as They* say. When she gets slapped she's that woman who slaps back!
Two of her more interesting facets compared to other female characters in the Asian television dramatic genre are that Yi-seo does not submissively accept abuse, and that atypically she’s a female antihero. I’ve been watching Asian TV for upwards of a decade and I can count Yi-seo’s contemporaries on fewer than two hands. I am not suggesting that female characters in Asian television lack intestinal fortitude or are weak, only that they most often exhibit their strength in socially acceptable ways.
I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve watched lead female characters get slapped in these dramas by parents, in-laws, jealous girlfriends, even strangers! And almost always the female lead doesn’t physically defend herself. Her good virtue is in accepting the slap with grace and stoicism.
Not Psycho Betty. She fights back! Not only does she defend and save others when and how she can, but the writer makes her a happy aggressor. She slaps, flips folks, throws coffee. What was most surprising is that no one escapes her ire, not even mothers!
In a rare and wonderful twist she, the fighter, the brash chick, the crazy bitch, the brave broad who openly thirsts for and chases after the male lead, isn’t a secondary character, isn't the "Bad Guy." She’s not a foil used to make the typical Mary Sue lead all the more attractive. Yi-seo, as the female antihero, was allowed to maintain equal footing in the show. She almost always retains a sense of her own agency and goes against archetype. She was allowed to flourish and have character growth.
So in celebration of the Rizzo of “Itaewon Class” please enjoy this highlight reel of some of Psycho Betty’s best fight scenes.
*“They” are the folks, not right here, who correctly use street slang and effortlessly know thangs like how to do new dance steps and where the popular clubs are. How do they know these things? Because they stay in them streets! They make that sacrifice so the rest of us don’t have to.