Positive Masculinity: Stephen Ahn & Gray Yeon


Masculinity is hard to define, since most of it is rooted in cultural ideas which change over time, rather than Biblical truths. However, generally we associate manliness with trucks, beer, and guns working/being hard working, being logical/stoic as opposed to emotional, or being prone to outbursts of anger, being a provider and protector of the family unit, possessing raw physical strength, being handy with tools, etc. Toxic masculinity seems to describe when these masculine traits work to the detriment of men. For men, they’re often confined by these masculine ideas with the expectation they’ll live up to them, even if those things don’t come naturally, or it works to their disservice.

In fact, men are often shamed for expressing emotions besides anger, or made out to be weak for doing traditionally feminine tasks (gardening, caring for children, etc.) even though objectively nothing makes those tasks or emotions feminine and again ideas of masculinity have changed over the years. Even in the confines of romantic relationships where men are supposedly allowed to be tender, society will call men who outwardly display their affection whipped.

In fiction then we typically only see a man’s tender, more protective side via romance, which doesn’t hold true for women. The manwha Weak Hero balks at that idea, something I rambled about already as we see the boys of Weak Hero defy gender stereotypes by opening up to one another and acknowledging one another’s weaknesses whilst beating the life out of others. Still, I wanted to talk specifically about the positive masculinity between Saint Stephen Ahn and Gray Yeon.

If ever there was a quote that described Gray Yeon, the verse, “meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless,” comes to mind.

At least everything is meaningless until Gray meets Stephen Ahn.

Stephen is just built different. Even the kids in his class notice.

A panel from the manwha "Weak Hero". In it is a kid with brown hair, parted in the middle. The text bubbles from him say "What? He's loaded like that?"
A panel from the manwha "Weak Hero".  The picture contains the torso of a boy wearing a dark brown blazer, standing in front of a window with sunlight filtering in. The text bubble reads," Stephen Ahn was a peculiar guy."

But Gray and Stephen are two sides of the same coin. Gray is wholly focused on his studies despite finding little joy in them (or anything); he lives with no clear purpose or direction in life (same), no goals nor desires, just merely existing.

An image of a boy with gray hair looking dour. The text reads," I didn't know what I was supposed to do."
A panel from the manwha "Weak Hero".  The image is of a school-age boy with gray hair sitting at a desk, surrounding by books. Several over-sized hands are pointing down at him. The text reads," So I just did as I was told, like a fool."

Interestingly, Stephen doesn’t seem motivated by any strong goals or desires either besides being a saint keeping others happy.

A boy with brown hair. The text bubble reads, " So I guess it's some kind of self-satisfaction?"

For Gray, life is serious business – the only thing that matters is learning. For Stephen, life is a playground meant to be enjoyed and nothing is taken too seriously.

A boy with dark, brown hair lounging on the bed and studying for a test by reading a book. He wears a brown sweater. The text above his head reads, "I can smell what will be on this test?" The speech bubble reads, "like he was playing a game."

Still, it’s no surprise Stephen noticed Gray studying mindlessly – in Gray’s meaningless existence, he likely saw a darker, more sober reflection of himself.

The two soon become bros befor hoes amigos, finding joy in their relationship with one another (and video games).

A boy with gray hair wearing a slight smile. The text bubble reads," Was the one who completely filled,... the hole in my heart."

Alas, nothing good last forever!

A rogue Bryce Oh appears, or rather Saint Stephen takes Bryce under the shadow of his wing after noticing him solo. Bryce, the physical embodiment of everything Stephen isn’t: selfish, insecure, and cruel without reason. In contrast, Stephen’s sacrificial behavior makes others think of Jesus dying on the cross for them (lol).

This sacrificial love is most prominent towards Gray. After Bryce steal Gray’s home work for LOLz Stephen gives Gray his own, taking a beating from the trash teacher on his behalf and uttering what seems to be a prophetic statement.


Of course, Bryce’s petty behavior only escalates from there partially egged on by the validation he so desperately craves and gets from Oswald Yang, who’s wealthy and tough. We see some of Bryce’s resentment, and the reason why he turns on Stephen, most clearly when Bryce notices how the girls don’t pay any attention to him but only Stephen and Gray. Gray at least is good at something – he’s very smart, one of the top of his class. But in Bryce’s eyes Stephen is on the same level as him and not deserving of validation either. Coupled with his insecurities, it didn’t take much for Bryce’s ego to get scarred.

Oswald Tang mini HBIC of class begins bullying Stephen after Bryce spreads rumours about him wanting to throw hands, albeit bully seems almost too soft of a term, – really, they’re like torturing him. Consequently, Stephen ensures Oswald Yang’s attention remains on him and not the frail Gray by not putting up a fight. Given Bryce was “friends” with Stephen and turned on him violently as soon as his feelings got hurt (talk about toxic masculinity lol), it’s not outside the realm of possibility to believe the same could happen to Gray.

Side Note: There’s a slight implication in-text that Stephen probably could’ve adequately defended himself.

Physically Trash Bryce was weak af and there’s little evidence Oswald was like Wolf Keum/Jimmy Bae level strong – even his classmates seem surprised Oswald is suddenly “acting up”. Not only does Stephen get clobbered several times yet recovers quickly, we see him playing basketball and mentioning walking for exercise, giving the impression he’s in decent shape and relatively strong. Notably, Stephen never even tries to defend himself.

We see this lack of trying more metaphorically in Stephen’s ability to become the HBIC of class. If he tries, he gets the top spot. But he doesn’t (except to woo Gray). Applying this logic to his physical prowess, it’s reasonable to say had Stephen tried to defend himself, he likely would’ve been able to hold his own, or at least become enough of a hassle bullying him would be too much work.

Of course, Stephen doesn’t try solely to ensure Oswald’s attention remain on him.

Eventually Dumpsterwald Oswald tells Stephen if he gets the lowest grade in class, he’ll lay off. Whether that’s true or not, IDK. Nevertheless, Stephen rises to the top for the sake of Gray. This sacrifice culminates in him “falling” off the roof of a building. Whether pushed intentionally or not, seems somewhat irrelevant (though it does stand even Trashwald and his goons were genuinely shocked, so they likely didn’t actually mean for Stephen to fall).

Gray later visits Stephen at the hospital and there we see probably the most emotion he’s ever displayed aside from when he went ham on my boi Wolf.

Just as Gray saw light in Stephen and was changed by it, did Stephen see a light in Gray and was drawn to that? Or was Stephen merely alone, even until the very end, and seeking some sort of companionship as a result of that solitude?

Alas! We’ll likely never know. Stephen (if he’s still alive) was brain dead and unlikely to ever recover. Gray has a new harem of True Companions.

Weak Hero has many good examples of positive masculinity (it has toxic examples too lmao), but it displays the beauty of male friendships and how men can bring the best out of one another, rather than the worst. Stephen exemplifies the very best version of masculinity, or as my favorite book says,“[g]reater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13).

References: SEOPASS/RAZEN Weak HeroLine Webtoon/Naver, 2019. Digital.

Rating the Female Characters in Lookism

Lookism has a plethora of great characters, some of them are female. Therefore, I will rate them.

**Spoilers ahoy**

All ratings are based 100% on my personal opinions.

My criteria essentially is:

  1. Their removal would affect the plot
  2. They undergo some change/character development, good or bad
  3. We see different sides of their personality
  4. They have a plot of their own that doesn’t revolve entirely around a male character. OR
  5. They are well-developed within the confines of the role they are written to play 
  6. They don’t toss away every traditionally feminine trait in an attempt to be a strong, independent womyn

Johan Seong In a Dress

Zoe Park  (Ha Nuel)

An image of a Korean Teen in a red jacket leaning against a wall.

Zoe is probably my favorite character in Lookism, mostly due to her fantastic character development. She starts off as a vain, self-obsessed annoyance, nearly gets assaulted by an old gremlin after hoeing herself out for balloons, is saved by Fat Daniel from said gremlin, and has a slow but realistic heel-face-turn where she realizes looks really aren’t everything.  It’s the heart that matters. Also, she:

  • calls Little Daniel piggy
  • actually likes Little Daniel more than Big Daniel
  • is good at math
  • regularly harasses Little Daniel at work
  • is actually nice (giving creepy stalker girl a hand warmer thing, among other things)
  • is generally annoyed by Crystal’s very existence
  • is willing to put herself in actual danger by dating Logan so Little Daniel doesn’t get the snot beaten out of him for the 1000th time.

Zoe is one cool cat.

Zoe Park’s Rating: 8.5/10

Mira Kim (Mijin)

An image of a young, cartoon woman in a pinksweater seated n holding a babt

Mira is the underrated baddie of Lookism, putting Zack in his place, and despite being a general creep magnet who’s had several traumatizing experiences, she doesn’t let that color her perception of the world. 

  • She’s genuinely a good person, probably one of the few, attractive characters who’ve been nice since their first appearance.
  • She refused to date a bullying Zack.
  • She’s the main reason Zack stopped bullying (and generally became a better person)
  • She not physically strong, but on multiple occasions she’s proven she has grit and will stand up for herself (putting herself between Zack and Logan, biting pedo cult leader’s foot, doesn’t put up with Zack’s bullying, fought those girls in the bathroom).
  • She’s a good friend, visiting Johan’s mom and generally being amazing.

Not much is known about Mira’s life outside of Zack, though they’ve been childhood friends for years. Despite her primary role as a love interest, she manages to be neither annoying, nor in the way and is in fact quite helpful at times. All hail Queen Mira, Zack Slayer, Creep Fighter, and General Cinnamon Roll.

Mira’s Rating 9/10

Crystal Choi (Soo Jung)

Ice Queen Crystal, like Daniel, has a Little and Big version of herself. Like Daniel, Crystal also realizes she has a bad worldview and attempts to change herself. Crystal had certain preconceived biases about attractive people, assuming most good-looking people are jerks (and to be fair in Lookism, 88% are) and that all men only care about looks (also, not entirely off base here). Then she gains a slew of True Companions, meets Big Daniel (who prefers her Little Crystal body – so does Eli Jang), all of which challenges that worldview. 

Also Crystal:

  • can fight for real in both her Little and Big bodies
  • beats down Daniel’s stalker girl
  • was willing to save Big Daniel even though she thought he was trash
  • is rich

Crystal’s Rating: 8/10

Joy Hong (Jae Hye)

Joy’s another character who goes against the stereotype that good-looking people are mean as Joy is kind to everyone, all the time, from the moment she first appears and maintains that niceness despite becoming an idol. She’s also Jay’s little sister and their competition for Daniels’ affection makes them quite a hilarious pair. We also know her dad is kinda of sus, so the fact she’s still nice says a lot about her character.

Joy is one of the characters for whom it’s impossible to dislike even if you don’t ship her with Daniel. Her only flaw is that she’s quite one-dimensional.

Joy’s Rating: 6.5/10

Yui Kim

Yui is the HBIC of Paprika TV, pimping herself out for the bag. But Yui goes through a good amount of character development in that she realizes she was going down the wrong path (dating her garbage, abusive boyfriend and hoeing herself out for balloons) and sort of changes. Big sort of. Yui is still vain and kinda mean, and still getting money from simps on Paprika, but she’s chilled out quite a bit thanks to savior Zack, she helped Crystal infiltrate Workers, and she doesn’t seem to be dating gangsters any longer.

Yui Rating: 7.5/10

Jasmine Huh

The girl who cried wolf. Or did she? It’s implied Jasmine wasn’t actually lying about her trash, abusive father (and the fact she chose to stay with James and raise a gaggle of kids rather than go home says a lot).

Jasmine is actually pretty cool.

  • She gets along with genuinely insane James and tries to start a family with him.
  • She got Zack and Daniel to almost kill each other, inadvertently awakening Daniel’s Gun mode.
  • She played a light hand in bringing down Olly’s Hostel.
  • She not only lies, but embellishes her lies with more lies, creating a wall of impenetrable lies.

Jasmine’s Rating: 7/10

Stalker Lady

This chick is crazy. However, Daniel’s Stalker is an interesting look at celeb stalkers in general, but also the central idea of Lookism itself. The girl is called ugly her entire life and shunned for it despite seemingly being nice; in jail she gets a makeover and boom, all the dudes that ignored her are falling over themselves to compliment her hideous ring. Stalker girl didn’t change, but her physical appearance did.

Yet despite being conventionally unattractive herself, Stalker Lady is clearly shooting for men that are out of her league (GD and Daniel). Goes to show even those who are harmed by lookism will happily play into it when it benefits them.

Stalker Lady’s Rating: 8/10

Daniel’s Mom

Fittingly only known as Daniel’s mom as her biggest achievement thus far is birthing Daniel. Daniel’s mom is not even given a name. She gets one point for being hard working and one point because she has a bf, and two pity points for fighting Logan.

Daniel’s Mom Rating: 4/10

Sally Park

Hostel’s Mother. Lover of Cats. Mother of Dragons. General HBIC. Sally is interesting as her life was all about appearances. Sally was pretty, presumably smart, and presumed to be well-off in owning her own building, but she was alone. Then she met Eli and gained her True Companions. The rest is tragic history.

Sally is also genuinely nice in that she let a bunch of strange, orphaned boys live in her building and fed them, was generally understanding of Eli’s wildness, and helped keep Hostel running after Eli dipped.

A true queen.

Sally Park’s Rating: 7.5/10


Tragic figure. Her love was turning Eli into a more chill person. Sadly, Olly wasn’t having any of that.

Heather’s Rating: 3.5/10

Johan’s Mom

Johan’s mom fittingly is also only known as Johan’s Mom as other than being blind, being Johan’s mother is the only memorable thing about her.

Where’s Johan’s father? Why did she never remarry while she had her eyesight?  Where are her parents at? Does she have any siblings?

Alas, we shall never know. But at least she can cut hair.

Johan’s Mom’s Rating: 2/10


Error 404: change of heart not found. 

IU Aru is introduced as a mega you-know-what and nothing that happens after that introduction changes our opinion of her. She single-handedly prevented Oliver from debuting, was generally mean, dated an actual gangster and then cheated on him with several other dudes.

A lot of Lookism centers around various, attractive characters somewhat realizing the error of their former ways after being humbled in some form (usually a beat down by Daniel, Vasco, Zack or all three) and consequently changing. Aru is certainly humbled after almost being blackmailed into taking nude pictures and forced into a slave contract, but like a dog goes back to its own vomit, Aru goes right back to her shady ways after being rescued.

Aru is, if nothing else, a realistic look at what it takes to rise to the top and stay there.

Aru’s Rating: 9/10

Ghost Lady

Scared the fear of God into Zack.

Ghost Lady Rating: 10/10

Mary Kim

All Hail the Queen of Two Seconds, Mary Kim. Mary is amazing as she:

  • generally puts Vin Jin in his place
  • seems to be the only person Vin Jin actually likes besides himself
  • was a Judo genius in middle school
  • is a reformed thug basically
  • could probably kill most of the characters in Lookism with her bare hands
  • likes to caress Jace’s ears
  • generally doesn’t go around beating people up for no reason

Mary’s mere presence instills fear in the hearts of others, sending them fleeing across the beach. While we don’t know much about her, it seems like with 77% of characters in Lookism, we’ll eventually get a 20 chapter back-story on her.

Mary Kim’s Rating: 8/10

Leon Lee (the Only Female in Burn Knuckles)

Leon being generally petty while Vasco was on a date is amazing.

  • her short hair is cool
  • she can go from Burn Knuckles bro to hot girl summer

Leon’s Rating: 6.5/10


A cute kid born out of tragedy. Also, thanks to her Eli abandoned Hostel, thus setting into motion a slew of events that ended with Olly Wang’s death and the end of Hostel B.

Yenna’s Rating: Big Daniel Breaking Gun’s Arm/10

I’m sure there’s someone I’m forgetting…but this is getting long. Anyway, who’s your favorite female (or male) character in Lookism?

References: (https://www.webtoons.com/en/drama/lookism/list?title_no=1049&page=1) “Lookism” by  Park Tae-joon