International Dramas: Her Private Life

Screenshot of Kim Jaewook and Park Minyoung in ‘Her Private Life’. Copyright goes to Studio Dragon and tvN.

Hi! It’s Annie!

I have been stuck in the wormhole of K-Drama binge watching for the past few weeks. I watched four dramas in a row and it was really difficult to get over any of them. I will somewhat space out my reviews of the dramas I watched (one of them is already posted), but we’ll see how much I hold off because I have so many thoughts about literally all of them. Today, I just finished this drama which I thought I would review so soon because it’s another drama about K-Pop. Though, this one is more about K-Pop fans. The show follows Sung Deokmi, a K-Pop fan who runs a fan-page for her favorite idol, Sian, and she’s also an art curator at an art museum. After an incident where she was accidentally photographed coming out of Sian’s apartment building, fans begin to assume that she is dating Sian. This leads to issues for both the idol himself and it calls into question her safety; which prompts her boss at the art museum to suggest that he pretend to be her boyfriend in the hopes that she’ll stop being attacked. This is actually a really good use of K-Pop in a show and an excellent try in getting people to better understand fans of idols and idol groups. While this show doesn’t actually follow idols and idol groups, it’s nice to get a show that focuses on K-Pop where I really liked the writing. For the most part. This review will have MAJOR SPOILERS, but in my personal opinion, there aren’t too many plot twists so there isn’t much to spoil. Let’s get into it!

The Good:

The Main Romance- I am not able to speak enough about the main romance in this. It’s the type of relationship that is so cute it will definitely make you feel lonely if you’re single. Ryan and Deokmi begin on semi-bad terms, though not completely. This isn’t really a hate to love story. There’s just a small misunderstanding that goes away very quickly after they start getting to know each other better. And then there’s a bigger misunderstanding that goes away a bit later. (He thinks she’s dating a woman, which he’s actually really supportive about.) He at first offers to pretend to be her boyfriend to hopefully make fans believe that she isn’t dating Sian, but then things get complicated when the two start falling for each other. They officially get together about half way through the show, but the show still never fails to focus on their relationship from there. They don’t throw in too much drama, they treat the relationship itself as an interesting enough plot point. Which is something I want to see more dramas do! You see them goof around with each other, develop a sense of humor all their own, develop inside jokes, support each other when they’re having a hard time, encourage the other to cry in front of them if they need to, etc. This relationship is so meaningful and emotional because the show takes all the time it possibly can to focus on them as a couple. It doesn’t just stop after they get together in order to try and add more drama. Speaking of which…

No Break Up- There is no weird misunderstanding that leads to a dramatic break up here! There are misunderstandings between the couple, but they actually talk them through. (Gasp!) And when Ryan finds out that Deokmi’s close friend Eungi has a crush on her, he doesn’t get super angry. In fact, he encourages Deokmi to try not to get too uncomfortable and not to give up the friendship over it. A boyfriend with healthy relationship practices? What??? Ryan also knows that Deokmi is a major fangirl even before they really start dating and he doesn’t let it bug him. In fact, he spends the final episode trying to get concert tickets with her. He recognizes it as a passion of hers and accepts it. And there’s also a point at the end of the show where the show teases you into thinking that he’ll have to move to New York and she’ll have to stay behind. But then they both go because they both find opportunities there. There’s no needless dramatic break-ups here! I promise you, you’re safe. Take a deep breath, I know we’ve all been burnt by K-Dramas before. (I’m looking at you ‘The King: Eternal Monarch’.)

Fangirling- This show is absolutely amazing to anybody who has ever called themselves a fan of any idol group. Because it doesn’t demonize fangirls or fanboys. The show also actually takes the time to explain the difference between healthy fangirls and unhealthy ones. Obviously, the ones that attack Deokmi because they think she’s dating Sian are not healthy. But the show takes time to recognize that groups need fangirls and there’s nothing wrong with fangirling. The few characters that view it as stupid realize that they’re wrong in the end. Because there’s nothing wrong with trying to support other people in the world that you’re passionate about. The show also acknowledges that Deokmi and her friend, Seonjoo, know that groups like this sell romance. They had an entire conversation about that, which I thought was both funny and reflected a lot of the conversations that fangirls are having now. We’ve all known for years that idol groups market themselves as datable people because that kind of thing sells. We aren’t stupid. But there’s nothing harmful about letting yourself fall into that trap but still knowing what’s realistic. Most fangirls (and boys too) balance both, and let’s be honest, we balance it well. This show is nothing but kind to K-Pop fans and the industry itself. I’m grateful to see a portrayal of fans that is so kind and so willing to promote a better understanding of us.

Sian- The K-Pop idol that everyone adores. He’s basically made to be Jungkook from BTS. What I liked about him was that he was humanized. When it comes to showing celebrities in shows that women specifically like, it either goes one of two way usually. Either he’s the absolute perfect person and there’s nothing flawed about him, or he’s absolutely horrifically terrible and there’s some lesson thrown in there about how women should stop having crushes on people they don’t really know. Which I find ironic because most people, at least at first, develop crushes on people before they really know them. Celebrity or not. Anyways, this was not the portrayal of Sian. Sian was innocently adorable, but also often naive and overly willing to crash into places he shouldn’t be unexpectedly without asking. In other words, he was flawed. You fell in love with him, while also being able to tell that he had an annoying side. One of my favorite scenes of him was when he drunkenly swam across the floor after crashing Ryan’s apartment. It was so cute! The show also created a song from his group ‘White Ocean’. They only created the one song and they used it a few times in the show, but it was actually a pretty good song. It sounded like a signature idol group song and I enjoyed when and where it was used.

The Sub-Plot Romance- This is not your typical sub-plot romance. This actually depicts a young married couple who has to work through issues and falls in love all over again. It’s adorable and I couldn’t get enough of it. Deokmi’s best friend Seonjoo is married to her husband Seungmin and they have a young son together named Geonwoo. Seonjoo begins the drama a bit distracted from her married life because she wants go back to having more free time. Then Seungmin publishes an article depicting fangirls as insane in order to receive a promotion at work, and they almost divorce over this article. And you can see why, because Seonjoo is also a fan of Sian. By publishing this article, Seonjoo feels both betrayed and like her husband doesn’t actually understand her. Seungmin immediately notices his mistake and seeks to rectify the situation by showing her that he supports her passions. And Seonjoo remembers what it was like to fall in love with him and notes that he basically became her very own idol. The process of them falling back in love after so much time is adorable and feels very real. It is one of the most unique takes on drama sub-plot romances that I’ve ever seen, and it really did pay off.

Sindy- I was not prepared to like this character as much as I did by the end of the show. She starts out as a spoiled Sian fan. Her parents are rich and she’s more concerned with getting more followers than she is with the safety of idols or their fans. She later learns the error of her ways and makes a path for herself without her parents or their money. Her storyline takes place in the background and isn’t focused on entirely, because it really didn’t need to be. But it was focused on just enough to show her journey to becoming a more independent person and it was actually pretty inspiring.

The Kissing- I still can’t believe that this has become part of my review categories for shows. But the kissing in this show was romantic and reciprocated. There were no frozen lips to be seen here.

LGBTQ+ Representation- It isn’t much, but it’s there. Ryan and Deokmi go to persuade the friend of an artist who recently passed away to give them his last photography projects in order to honor him. They find out that this friend is actually the former lover of the artist who regrets not being comfortable enough with his identity to fully show his reciprocation of his feelings. I would love to see more of it in other dramas too, but considering this representation is only beginning to be fully explored in South Korean television, I’m glad that it was there.

The Bad:

The Orphan Story- This only is expanded on in the last few episodes, and it really makes me feel as though this show didn’t need the last few episodes. We knew that Ryan had been adopted by parents from the US when he was young, but I didn’t actually feel I needed more of this storyline. A lot of shows depict adopted kids as having these huge dramatic backstories where they eventually find their parents, but I’m a big believer in found family. Your family is who is there for you and who takes care of you when you need it the most. So, I’m never a huge fan of these storylines. And it was shoehorned so oddly in only the last few episodes that I couldn’t help but feel that it wasn’t needed. Ryan didn’t need to have a connection towards those paintings or suddenly figure out that Sian was his brother. I actually liked it a lot better when I thought they randomly became good friends. I didn’t need more than that. I would have been totally fine with just focusing on Ryan getting over his past trauma in painting and slowly learning how to paint again. I didn’t feel this drama needed the trope-y plot twists.

Past Connections- I always really dislike when a drama does this. The writers decide that the lead couple needs more of a reason to be together, so decides on a fate storyline where the couple doesn’t remember that they knew each other as kids. Most real-life couples did not know each other as kids, so I’m not sure why dramas feature so much of this trope. I would much rather have the main characters be drawn together entirely because of personality than part of it being because they had a previous connection. I just want to focus on their connection now.

Random Death- In the second to last episode it’s revealed that Deokmi had a little brother that died in a car accident when she was younger. This plot point (that is not at all focused on) is used to explain why Deokmi didn’t have any childhood memories of Ryan and to explain why Deokmi’s Mom couldn’t have taken care of Ryan when he was separated from his birth mother. They didn’t need this at all. Most people don’t have clear memories of their childhood and they could have easily said that Deokmi’s parents didn’t have the financial stability to take care of another child. Especially because they had already taken in a child that wasn’t their own. This plot point was shoehorned so badly into the story that it was almost nonsensical. I can’t see why this was added in. It was just further proof to me that the last few episodes of this show weren’t really needed.

The Second Leads- Both of the main characters get a potential second romantic interest, and I didn’t like either character. Eungi’s interest in Deokmi was kind of gross to me considering they were raised together by the same parents and Eungi even considers her parents his as well. It really did feel like incest. And every time the story focused on him, it was literally nothing but him moping over the fact that Deokmi wasn’t interested in him. He even gave away the fake relationship secret to an untrustworthy party because he was frustrated. To top all of this off, he was not supportive of her fangirling at all. Definitely, not my favorite. Dain, who was Ryan’s friend, was even more of a jerk when she had a romantic interest in Ryan. She tried to make it seem like Ryan wasn’t interested in Deokmi, which Ryan thankfully quickly settled. She never seems to learn from her mistakes either. I just wasn’t impressed with either of these characters. I suffer from second lead syndrome a lot (and I mean a lot), but this was not a drama where that applied.

‘White Ocean’- This is the group that Sian is a part of. I wish it would have focused on fans of members that weren’t just Sian, even if they didn’t appear. I just would have liked ‘White Ocean’ as a whole to be mentioned more. We don’t want to promote solo stan behavior.

I actually really loved this drama. There was so much that it did well and some of the things it covered were things that I’ve always wanted to see in a drama. Like the extremely understanding and healthy relationship and the portrayal of fans of idol groups. Maybe in a re-watch I would skip the last few episodes, but I don’t think that would take away from my over-all enjoyment of the series. I loved this so much and I highly recommend it to K-Pop idol group fans. This drama seeks to make fans feel validated and it definitely succeeds. Go watch it if you haven’t!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

2 thoughts on “International Dramas: Her Private Life

  1. I like the format of your review here! It’s easy to follow and provides an intriguing amount of information so that I feel like if I watch this kdrama – and you’ve definitely got me curious about it! – I’ll be mentally and emotionally prepared for it. I absolutely agree that there needs to be more discussion and representation of healthy fan behavior in media rather than just the mean-spirited portrayals of hyperfandom that we usually tend to see, so it’s great to know that this show seems to do a decent job of it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting! One of my favorite parts of this drama was definitely its kind portrayal of fans, so if you do end up watching the show I hope you’ll find it as uplifting as I did! I loved reading your feedback!
      -Annie

      Liked by 1 person

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