[2019 Year in Review] Watching, reflecting, and coming to terms with my fear
by Guest Beanie
Hell Is Other People
Note: This post contains spoilers for Hell Is Other People and Be Melodramatic.
My utmost fear is of going insane: losing touch with what’s around me, abandoning common sense, and throwing all logical thinking out the window. In every possible scenario I’ve imagined, this could only happen due to an accident or an illness that might cause brain damage. Never in my wildest dreams had I thought I would love a drama that speaks to my worst nightmares until this year came and brought me not just one, but two such dramas in Hell Is Other People and Be Melodramatic.
While thinking about the fears which these dramas had portrayed, I was quite surprised by how different my reaction was to each of them.
Hell Is Other People
My fear poked its head out in Hell Is Other People as the hero puppy Jong-woo started going bonkers. Watching this happen got me angry, frustrated, scared–and sad for him. To make matters worse, he was losing his mind due to internal and external reasons that didn’t involve accidents or illness.
His nightmare started due to the stress from dealing with moving to an unfamiliar environment far from the warmth of his home and family. At the start of the drama, Jong-woo was just beginning a new job, but it was at the expense of his dream of becoming a novelist. A lack of support from friends and loved ones, as well as financial insecurity, prevented him from living in decent accommodation. Instead, he moved into a rundown goshiwon that put him in the grasp of a bunch of psychopath killers who wanted either to kill and feed on him, or were aiming to make him their “masterpiece” (I really hate you for this Moon-jo).
All of this was portrayed in a beautiful yet scary way as Jong-woo was locked up in his own mind, a space that ended up being smaller than his tiny rented room in the goshiwon from hell. In that small space, when faced with a choice between life and death, instead of reaching for help, he just lost it. Jong-woo ultimately went crazy and killed those psychopaths in a frenzied haze and turned into a psychopath himself.
Hell Is Other People
I wanted badly to do something to help save him, yell at his girlfriend or even his treacherous friend to pay attention to what he was saying. I wanted to help him out of that hell, but obviously I couldn’t do a thing and he was lost. Witnessing this unfold on my screen was heart-wrenching and painful because of the what ifs. What if he had headed home to the safety of his loving mom? What if his girlfriend hadn’t been too stressed out and absorbed in her own problems and listened to him? Really listened and gave him the support he needed to move out of that place?
I noticed that the same fear I experienced in Hell Is Other People was present in another one of my favorite dramas, Be Melodramatic. I bet it’s surprising that a rom-com would give someone a fright, but as I said earlier, the idea of going crazy is pretty scary to me. And yet, my reaction to the same concept was different this time.
Here, instead of being scared and anxious, I felt compassion. While watching Eun-jung hallucinate and converse with her dead husband, I felt a sense of understanding and acceptance. Most times those scenes made me to tear up, and I watched while wishing I could give her a hug. I would probably have reacted the same if I were in her shoes.
The scene where she watched the footage of herself talking to no one was very difficult to witness. The realization that she truly was alone and not with her beloved husband finally prompted her to deal with her mental and emotional problems fully. It all started by asking for a hug from her brother and friends; all of them had been waiting patiently for her to open up and get out from the small space she had created for herself as a way to hide from her grief. That turning point made me cry and it also made me forget about my fear of losing my sanity; I ended up focusing on how much I empathized with her loss.
In comparing the two characters, I can see that Jong-woo was getting more closed off by the minute–to the point that he wasn’t able recognize a hand extended in the spirit of help (bless your soul, Officer So Jung-hwa). On the other hand, Eun-jung was able to see and take the outstretched hands that were waiting to help her get out from the cell she imprisoned herself in.
So while going crazy is still my biggest fear, by comparing these two dramas and my reactions to each of them, I can safely say that I faced what I consider to be the source of my terror. I’m still scared of being thrown into the same situation as Jong-woo, one that might drive me to close up in my own head, left to face my own demons all alone. But I’m no longer as scared as I once was of losing my mind because of an accident, illness, or bereavement. I have what Eun-jung has: a loving support system.
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