Pandemic Diary July: Wounded Men, Questionable Healing

In July, I fell into FOUR shows which involved men with traumatic childhoods and the women who patiently put up with their nonsense and fall in love with them so they can heal. The woman may also have some healing to do, but it is often secondary. Hrumph.

While on the one hand I can easily get swept up by the allure of a wounded man narrative (ugh we are so conditioned to), how these shows frame and shade those wounds and how the female characters get treated deeply impacted my experience of them.

I also came away a big fan of Park Min-young. What a ray of fucking light and more of her please.


The worst show in this selection was My Holo Love which ended up a bit like You’ve Got Mail with more stalking and less consent. A technological Cyrano mixed with some troubling “bed trick” type of switcheroos. Add in a woman with her own vulnerabilities and trauma and the more it went on the less I was happy with its path.

In this show, a loner, pissy, angry, hostile, asshole of a programmer Go Nan-do (Yoon Hyun-min) develops an AI, Holo, that looks just like him. The hologram works through a pair of eyeglasses which end up in the hands of the unsuspecting Han So-yeon (Ko Sung-hee). She suffers from face blindness (after a childhood trauma) and becomes quickly attached to the attentive and caring Holo who helps her identify people and tends to her every need. Her lonely, isolated life becomes a lot more fulfilling and she comes out of her shell with Holo’s help.

Sounds great, except the programmer and his company are watching everything she does and treating her like she’s beta testing the hologram. They are fascinated by how much the AI is growing and changing with his involvement with her. BUT SHE HAS NO IDEA SHE’S BEING WATCHED.

Because she is faceblind she does not realize Go Nan-do moves in next door to spy on her further. There are a couple of incidents where Go Nan-do steps in to pretend he’s Holo with her.

Of course, there’s a reason for his hostile attitude and frustrations with Holo and So-yeon getting close. He’s developing feelings for her himself. But he has zero ability to process any of his emotions so they just come out as rage and misbehavior. It borders on the disturbing.

One thing I’ve learned this summer from K-dramas, is that there are a lot of evil, abusive dads who run chaebols and they pass along terrible lessons to their sons. This show has one and the bad dad looks like the Wayne Newton of Korea. I don’t know what was happening with his hair.

During this entire “limited” series (I could not believe even got to 12 episodes), I shouted at the TV that everyone should just get a therapist. While that might eliminate the “drama” in this K-drama it would be healthier all around for everyone involved. Probably including me who was getting irate at the bad choices everyone kept making in this show.

Eventually, they get around to trying to explain the why behind the characters, their trauma, and their connection, but I was never comfortable on the path the show takes. There’s just something abusive about this set-up that never is ameliorated. Go Nan-do’s trauma is never a sufficient justification for his egregious behavior. I’m particularly bothered that any woman would wait around to heal his stupid inner hologram child too. She literally cuddles his inner hologram child at some point.

However, there were some very good kisses. I hate myself.


Speaking of kisses, What’s Wrong with Secretary Kim, has correctly been ranked as a show with the steamiest kisses and I understand why it's a fan favorite. 

In it, a demanding, narcissistic corporate Vice Chairman (Park Seo-joon) comes to completely depend on his endlessly competent secretary of nine years Kim Mi-So (Park Min-young). When she announces she’s quitting, it upends their professional and synchronous working relationship and opens the door to an unexpected romance between them.

While the Vice Chairman is a self-involved, buffoon from the start, there’s something softer about it. He is too direct in all aspects of his life. He is constantly unfiltered and his relationship with Secretary Kim is not the only space where he acts this way.

In fact, you can’t take his ridiculous narcissism literally or seriously. It is a coping mechanism and there’s no malice in it (Holo take some notes). Even when he calls Secretary Kim “my woman” it’s laughable more than chauvinist (ok it’s a little chauvinist and she gives him side-eye over it at one point). Quickly the show provides vulnerability and flaws to his “perfect” façade. It helps his harmless arrogance is played for comedy and that Park Seo-joon plays this with stupid adorableness.

Secretary Kim’s patience with him is enormous, but that too starts to unfold into something more complex for her. Her own family history and trauma shed light on her caretaking behavior and put a why on her dedication and self-sacrifice. The class issues that exist between them are handled with some interesting candor and confrontation between her sisters and Vice Chairman.

The “justifications” for all their behaviors are promptly revealed (unlike Holo) and it takes the edge off some of the questionable workplace dynamics. Also, Secretary Kim holds her own even if Vice Chairman has all the power and money. In the end, it ends up a stumbling, awkward sexy workplace romance that also unpacks past experiences they both need to heal from.

The show blends highly stylized comedic visuals and sound effects. These play like comic book word balloons with bleeps, bloops, squeaks, quacks, whistles, meows, and tweets accompanying reactions, quizzical looks, and asides. There are also quirky animations that pop-up from time to time. Not my favorite approach.

But then there are the kisses. So hot, guys. So hot.

I tuned in specifically for Park Seo-joon after his role in Itaewon Class and no regrets as the show delivered on him shirtless, sexily flummoxed, and truly pained. I was also rewarded with my introduction to Park Min-young who I came to love over the month of July.

I didn't like the hyper-stylized comedy with the ensemble and cared less about the other characters who develop their own workplace crushes. But Vice Chairman and Secretary Kim (they use their titles even when they start dating) made for such a precious, swoon-worthy couple I muscled through it all for them.


Some of my best friends met through Hanson fan boards back in the day. I came to fangirling very late in life and growing up before the internet really took off, any fangirling I did was solitary and involved photocopying articles about Harrison Ford from the public library and making a scrapbook of them. Sooooooo analog and there was no community to it. The upside is there was minimal harm when fangirls turned on each other.

Her Private Life offers a deep cultural dive into Korean fangirl culture. Here, a thirty-something fangirl Sung Deok-mi (Park Min-young) runs the most popular fan website for Cha Shi-an (Jung Jae-won). By day she is a mild-mannered art gallery employee and at night she is essentially a top-notch paparazzo covering the object of her affection. But through her job she ends up meeting Cha Shi-an and gets caught up in an internet rumor that she might be dating the Cha Shi-an. The fangirls turn on her quickly so her stern and aloof boss Ryan Gold (think a stuck-up Mr. Darcy type) proposes they fake a relationship with to convince the sasaeng (obsessive fans) that she’s not a threat to them.

In a rare queer storyline, Ryan Gold (Kim Jae-wook) mistakenly believes Deok-mi is a lesbian which is why he steps in to pretend to be her boyfriend. He defends and protects her against discrimination, even though it turns out she is not a lesbian. There is another queer storyline here too that is handled with great sensitivity. Because so much of the drama romance is straight, I really feel like these small queer nuggets are so important. 

They cast a real life rapper as the superstar. I feel like they wanted him to be a Harry Styles-esque art collecting trend setter, but he ends up more a little wisp of a Korean Justin Bieber. He is quite sweet and a mess. 

As with all these shows, both Ryan Gold and Deok-mi have got some childhood shit to work through. At some point, Gold says “I’m fine” and Deok-mi says “You’re not fine.” This moment of honesty caused me to applaud. Sometimes you need someone to speak out loud that this is a lot of fucking trauma guys and you’re not ok.

In theory, all these shows are supposed to be about mutual healing for both partners, but they don’t always feel totally reciprocal. 

Here, the story is stretched quite thin at times, but there was a narrative twist I did not see coming. So congratulations to this show for sliding in that surprise. 

I was very confused by Ryan Gold's wardrobe throughout and his tendency to wear what I can only describe as “blousy” pants. He also wore a double-breasted suit without a shirt? It’s hard to take someone seriously as emotionally wounded when you’re wearing a suit without a shirt under it. Also, why does your sweater not have elbows? These were the hot button questions I had. 

I also deeply hated that the theme song had the lyric, “I wanna be all day. You’re precious little girl.” Vomit. 

As much as I really like Park Min-Young and enjoyed learning more about fangirl culture and fangirl vocab, I didn’t totally ship this couple and fast-forwarded a bunch. Reasonably steamy kisses though.


I felt like I had neglected my burgeoning crush on Ji Chang-wook after seeing The K2. So when I realized he did a drama with Park Min-young I immediately decided I had to see this collaboration, Healer. While it was no K2 (what is really), I enjoyed their relationship and characters.

Here, Ji Chang-wook plays a “nighttime errand boy” (which appears to be a kind of thief who works on commission and takes on illegal tasks as a mercenary, never caring who hires him). He hides his identity from the world, using the code name Healer, and works with an older woman hacker (Kim Mi-kyung) who provides all his surveillance and tech. He has no cares and lives without emotion or attachment (for reasons OBVIOUSLY) and just wants to save money to buy an island and live out his days there.

But he encounters a journalist Chae Yeong-shin (Park Min-young) during one of his errands. He becomes fascinated with her and why his client Kim Mun-ho (Yoo Ji-tae), a famous journalist and brother of a powerful publishing figure, wants to know more about her. 

He becomes her de facto protector going so far as to go undercover working alongside her at her entertainment news website as a kind of inept, panicky dork, Park Boon Soo. Meanwhile, she falls for this mysterious Healer who has rescued her on multiple occasions. But he cannot quite reveal his true self to her, because he’s not even sure who he is really is after a lifetime of hiding and disguises. They also have childhood shit to work through.

There's a subplot about political action in the 80s and the fight for a free press (which is quite interesting). But at it's heart it's an action mystery with the romance underlying it.

The upside here is Chae Yeong-shin is styled as a unique weirdo who kind of moves to her beat. She’s bossy, cunning, and relentless even if things don’t always work out for her. She’s a plucky heroine who has carved out a life for herself after early childhood tragedy. So, I love her.

There are threats to her safety that she is unaware of, so there is slight justification for Healer’s surveillance of her, but it would be really nice if men were not secretly monitoring the women, they have feelings for. I hate that I keep stumbling upon stories with these creepy invasions. Even if done with “good” intentions, I dislike the framing of this as romantic.

Ji Chang-wook gets to kick a lot of ass and saves Chae Yeong-shin from some impossible situations. But she's no damsel-in-distress. Her persistence and self-possession make for a much more compelling character.

That said, I cannot resist Ji Chang-wook’s wounded, inarticulate but relentless protector characters. His stupid face is my kryptonite. The two of them together therefore are irresistible.

Even if this does get dragged out to a questionable 20 episodes, I will make time for them in my life and I regretted nothing.