While living in poverty isn't necessarily glamorous, it has led to epic romance for many webtoon couples. Poverty is often used as a plot device to create struggle and conflict for the protagonist. Fighting to overcome their financial difficulties, they push themselves to new limits and expand their boundaries along the way.
As these characters undergo their own personal growth, they also learn how to rely on their love interest for help. Here's how impoverished female leads have become a classic formula for romance webtoons.
Vulnerability in Romance Webtoons
Living in poverty is a major obstacle for female leads to overcome, and it consumes most of their time. Since they're busy working several jobs just to make ends meet, they lack the time or ability to date. Given their need to work hard, these characters are used to bottling things up and solving problems on their own. However, their hidden vulnerabilities are often exposed when the right person comes along to change their lives. While poverty can be accompanied with major themes of depression or disassociation in certain series like Devil Number 4, these raw and honest emotions can change in the presence of love.
With more pressing matters at hand, a relationship is the last thing on the lead's mind when they first stumble upon their love interest. Their desperate need for money can place female protagonists in situations that bring them closer to a possible love interest, like accepting payment in exchange for a fake relationship in Unlovable Replacement. This vulnerable state gives the love interest an opportunity to support and encourage the lead, allowing feelings of gratitude and mutual respect to transform into love.
Opportunity in Romance Webtoons
Many romance webtoons use the female lead's poverty and work situation to give characters the opportunity to interact. It's common for these types to have their first fateful encounter while the protagonist is on the clock, as most of these couples would never meet if not for the lead's current employment. In Unlovable Replacement, Chiko meets Nobi when she's delivering pizza to his apartment and agrees to their fake relationship until it eventually becomes a real one. Similarly, Ji-eon meets the famous actor and idol Doyun Nam while working part-time as an extra in Act Like You Love Me!
While these couples happen to meet at work, the lack of money can lead to other chance encounters as well. In Freaking Romance, Zylith can only afford an apartment that has unusually cheap rent because it's believed to be haunted, but she later discovers she shares the apartment with Zelan, her future boyfriend from another dimension. Meanwhile, some romantic relationships begin simply because they're financially opportunistic, like Rose's employment to Daniel in Age Matters.
Personal & Relationship Growth in Romance Webtoons
While many impoverished female leads start out as independent and stubborn, their personality is thrown off when they experience love for the first time. Their inexperience with romance often causes them to initially doubt and push away the love interest. Despite attempts to handling everything on their own, their love interests teach them how to share their struggles and accept help from others. As these leads undergo personal growth and transformation on their own to overcome their hardships, they also learn how to build a healthy relationship with others.
These protagonists often reject their love interest several times due to skepticism and inconvenience, so the love interest will go above and beyond to prove themselves and their relationship. This dynamic in romance webtoons offers readers satisfying character growth and unexpected plot developments. As their love interests prove their devotion and dependability again and again, these leads finally let their partners help them ease the burden of poverty.