Title: The Remarried Empress
Author/Story: Alphatart (original story), HereLee (adaptation)
Genre: romance, fantasy, drama
Hosted On: Webtoon/Naver
Official Link(s): English, Korean
Navier Ellie Trovi was an empress perfect in every way — intelligent, courageous, and socially adept. She was kind to her subjects and devoted to her husband. Navier was perfectly content to live the rest of her days as the wise empress of the Eastern Empire. That is, until her husband brought home a mistress and demanded a divorce. “I accept this divorce… And I request an approval of my remarriage.” In a shocking twist, Navier remarries another emperor and retains her title and childhood dream as empress. But just how did everything unfold?
If you’re ever wondering what series sparked the catalyst for my webtoon obsession, I think the closest we can come is Alphatart, HereLee, and Sumpul’s The Remarried Empress on Webtoon.
This is the series that I come back to all the time, and it’s given me a lot to think about when it comes to storytelling, misogyny in the narrative, and internalized misogyny in the reader. And it all starts with how Navier’s callous husband Sovieshu (known in the fandom as “Sovieshit”) brings the wide-eyed naif Rashta (who fandom calls “Trashta”) into the castle and installs her as his mistress without any thought of what that would mean for Navier’s public reputation.
It kills me to think of the fact that Sovieshu doesn’t, at any point, think to himself “if the emperor’s family appears fractured and has controversy, we won’t be respected”. He’s deep in his feelings and mad that Navier, who does love him until she cannot love him any longer, is a cool and competent empress that doesn’t need him the way he wants her to need him. There’s literally a moment when he tells Navier this, that he had to help Rashta – who’s a former slave with a complicated and mysterious past – because he couldn’t have Navier relying on him. Because his masculinity is so fragile… He wasn’t getting his cookies from his wife, he proceeds to embarrass her by taking a mistress.
At first, I had wanted to understand Rashta. I didn’t want to like her, mind you, because even with the European middle age fantasy of it all, she could’ve handled her relationship with Navier so much better… but I wanted to understand her. However, I got so tired of watching Rashta fumble her way through royal etiquette and using her helpless femininity to protect herself at Navier’s immediate expense. That’s the thing that frustrated me with her: if she’d just gone after Sovieshu without hurting Navier or framing her as the villain(ess) in the way of twoo luv, I could’ve just vibed but nah. Because of both her clear trauma from her past as a slave and her entitlement to Navier’s role in the empire (and Sovieshu’s attention), Rashta will do anything to get what she feels she deserves and needs to survive… including hurting Navier.
The Remarried Empress isn’t doing anything new by having a secondary female character that practices being helpless and cute to get male attention. The internalized misogyny activating characters like Rashta here, Sumin in Marry My Husband, or Jin Yoo-hee, the antagonist in the 2022 drama Remarriage & Desires are a staple in these types of dramatic series. These characters tend to be mirror images of the female lead who is somehow undesirable in society in the narrative. Rashta – soft, sweet, and helpless – is the opposite of Navier, who protects herself and holds her feelings close to the chest and comes across as untouchable to those who don’t know her. Sumin’s duplicitous nature means that the people in their classrooms and work think she’s a far kinder/nicer person than the bespectacled Jiwon. So she’s burdened by a reputation she did nothing to deserve. And of course, in Remarriage & Desires, the sharp eyed and wealthy (seeming) lawyer Yoo-hee is valued far higher than widowed single mother Seo Hyu-seung who’s working as a teacher to keep her family afloat. You’re told by the people around the female leads that they’re lacking compared to the person performing a really specific kind of womanhood – hinged on public performance of softness and fragility – and then you’re shown what that kind of performance costs.
Whenever I engage with these characters, I find myself going “okay but calm down” to myself because I get so heated. I want to root for all women, truly, but some of these characters make me rethink that. With Rashta coming in as the interloper actually stealing Navier’s position and the “love” of her husband, it’s hard to even want to understand the role systemic misogyny plays in their lives. Sovieshu is the worst, of course he is, but Rashta… is not actually that far off.
And the thing is that of course Rashta is annoying… but Sovieshu is so much worse. He empowers Rashta’s behavior, coddles her to the point where she cannot take care of herself, and of course… betrays Navier and ruins her happiness. He is ultimately responsible for all of the bad feelings I feel as I yell my way through rereading the first few chapters of the series. How do you have a wife as capable and as beautiful as Navier and… toss that aside from some literal nobody?
Anyway, I love The Remarried Empress because Navier and her relationship with Heinrey are honestly both well done. Navier is a really solid female lead. She’s sharp and decisive but she’s also very sweet when you know what to look for. She’s not someone who lays all of her cards on the table but when she reveals herself, it’s so incredibly rewarding. Some of the female leads in webtoons are clearly aspirational. The creator wants you to want to be like them. For me with Navier, I just want to help her and hang out with her. She’s surprisingly friend-shaped and I want her to succeed at life and in love with Heinrey.
The only true weak part for me in this series is that there’s a brown-skinned character – implied to be South Asian – who winds up obsessively in love with Navier because of a magic potion. I’ve talked a bit about how these different webtoons suffer from an annoyingly large amount of orientalism and this was not actually an exception. The character, whose name I’ve forgotten, is decent and he hits some fun back-up love interest tropes… those tropes also become problematic and yes, racist, when layered onto a visibly brown character. (Because The Remarried Empress, like a lot of second-world fantasy webtoons… makes it clear that the characters are WHITE and not Korean or racially ambiguous… up until a character comes in that needs to be exotified.)
Overall, I would actually love a chance to interview the creators because this series lives in my head fully rent free. The way Under the Oak Tree is for so many webtoon/webnovel readers? That’s what this series is like for me. I am obsessed with it and with the emotions it inspires in me. We’re eagerly awaiting the third season now and I cannot wait to see where it goes!
One thought on “[Webtoon Wednesday] The Remarried Empress”
I love Webtoon Wednesdays a lot, but this one hit me hard because I’m caught up and now I have to wait for the rest of the issues to come out! Thank you, and also I am sad.