Kill Me, Heal Me – Shakespeare Would Approve

There is something very Shakespearian about Kill Me Heal Me. We love it because it is a funny show with romantic moments, however, the lightness exists in strong contrast to the dark. As awesome as Yo-na is as a character, or as humorously Ri-jin reacts to Perry Park and Se-gi’s outrageous behaviors, there is always the sadness of Yo-sub to remind us how tragic Do-hyun’s existence is.

The shadows have grown even more in the most recent episodes, as the audience approaches the central mystery of the trauma that shattered Do-hyun’s psyche.

It can’t be that interesting being Do-hyun, living in isolation from his own life.  Yo-na and Perry steal the pleasures of the manic highs – chasing idols, drinking heartily, blowing things up – escaping from the routine. Yo-sub and Se-gi bear the misery and face the lows. He has no seat on this roller coaster ride. He may hear the rumblings of approaching thunder, but only gets to clean up what the departing storm left in its wake, without enjoying the thrills or facing down the fears himself.

The drama could be considered an adaptation of Hamlet’s To Be or Not To Be soliloquy, as performed in parts by each of his seven personalities. When Ri-jin asks Se-gi why he hasn’t accused anyone of the abuse suffered as a child, why they remain silent, he replies,

“That bastard cannot handle it. In the end, he will end his own life.”

Ri-jin disagrees affirming ”Do-hyun can handle it. He can overcome it.”

Then Se-gi explains how this would be counter-productive, to say the least, for his own survival.

“Then we die! We were made to take in that bastard’s pain instead for him. If that bastard’s pains go away, then we all die. Either he lives like this while covering it up, or instead of him, I remain alive. It’s one or the other.”

Se-gi is a man whose “birth” resulted from a horrifying truth, who knows his slim existence could end any second, who depends on the weakness of his host to continue living. While Do-hyun hides somewhere in the back, it is Se-gi who suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and takes arms against a sea of troubles. It is Yo-sub who offers time and time again to let them all sleep and end the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

But whatever fragmented this person so long ago, it did not destroy him. Despite the torture, despite the loneliness and embarrassment his unconscious actions have caused, Do-hyun continues to survive, but barely. His happy relaxed moments come few and far between.

Keeping his core personality from memories of past trauma is causing the Do-hyun who wants to break out to erode slowly. He is losing himself to himself bit by bit.

Philospher Carl Jung wrote a lot about how everyone ever struggles with the same problem – of facing their inner demons. “What if I should discover that …the poorest of beggers, the most impudent of all the offenders, the very enemy himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of…my own kindness – that I myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then?…We hide [the rage against ourselves] from the world; we refuse to admit ever having met these least among the lower in ourselves.”

This is how poor Se-gi feels when he condemns Do-hyun for his cowardice, that Do-hyun needs to face the torment himself. So what would happen if Cha Do-hyun finally allows himself to see and feel the trauma and agony that caused the rupture of self?

When the walls come down, and the movie of abuse starts to play and replay in his mind, will these sights and sounds in his memory break him further?

Humans need to properly prepare to deal with huge stressors in our lives. When panic hits, we need to be able to bring our heart rates down, control our breathing, force our brains to stop seeing the horror. Train our brains to move to happier thoughts. All the years that Cha Do-hyun suppressed the images, he hasn’t learned to cope with them. We are led to believe that the brunt of the anguish these events caused was felt, and keenly, by a separate section of his brain, namely Shin Se-gi. How did Se-gi develop the mental fortitude to cope? Where did he derive the strength not to fall apart? Or, has Shin Se-gi suffered all those years from the same nightmares Do-hyun has started to experience? It hurts my heart to picture poor little Se-gi enduring panic attacks, loss of appetite, depression, feeling numb and alone.

It seems that if it were Shin Se-gi who had to deal with the sorrow, that during those years and months, Cha Do-hyun’s body would have also physically suffered. Weight loss, decreased immune system resulting in more illnesses, emotional reactions to every day stresses. He would have engaged in risk-taking behaviors to numb himself – drinking and drugs. His inability to control his emotions would have landed him in jail for violence, and in fact, it did.

We didn’t see that happening with Cha Do-hyun, instead, we have this pure soul who outwardly seems to be able to maintain an eerie equilibrium through disturbing times. That means that deep in his psyche surrounded by a firewall is a cowering, battered person, torn up with grief, guilt and shame. Reuniting the calm with the sick means facing the trauma in as safe an environment as possible with Ri-jin by his side.

Calling on all the positive energy at his disposal to knock out the negative. Calling on Yo-na, Perry, Yo-sub, Na-na (if she is real), and even SeGi to unite to face the devil and defeat it.

It ain’t going to be pretty, but I am hopeful that this drama will continue to manage the balance of dark and light using comedy as the relief we will need – the same way Shakespeare did, to lesson the tension long enough to allow us to laugh. This trick reminds us why we are put here in the first place, and how we can overcome anything life throws at us. We have as Mark Twain suggested “unquestionably one really effective weapon—laughter. Power, money, persuasion, supplication, persecution—these can lift at a colossal humbug—push it a little—weaken it a little, century by century, but only laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand. “ Because srsly, who could be able to overcome this?

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16 Responses to Kill Me, Heal Me – Shakespeare Would Approve

  1. alexe says:

    Calling up Shakespeare and Jung , I should follow you but this drama isn’t appealing for me – at all .

  2. trotwood says:

    Sigh. I love this show because of Ji Sung and the way he turns each scene into a weightier thing that it would not be without him. He literally looks different as each character like he is molding his face like clay. And we ache for each character who is desperate to live. Great post, Jomo. I can even put up with Jung for Ji Sung.

    • jomo143 says:

      Oh, Jung’s a nut, all right. But I though extremely fitting for this show!

      Your compliments mean a lot to me. 🙂

      And JISUNG MY GOD JISUNG…Can’t we have this show go on for years, with a new wardrobe for each of the 6 characters every week?

      • nomad says:

        AMEN to THAT! Ji Sung really…no word for him, no word would suffice. He is so incredibly good in this drama. I also really like how the writer seems to really understand her characters, they’re already fleshed out in her mind (assuming the writer is a woman, that is). Your last sentence, oh…how right you are. “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

        I didn’t know it so well before, how this defense mechanism is so embedded in my culture’s psyche (I’m Indonesian by heritage). Its capital city just currently faced one of its worst flood in recent years, and instead of sad and doom stories, what come out from my friends who are living there and facing the flood day by day, are pictures such as: (see Tintin in Red Sea picture) with the caption changed into: Tintin in Jakarta. Complete with background pictures of Jakarta’s landmark. Or photoshopped of the flood along with a submarine. All for laugh, in the midst of the misery (and nobody would call anyone callous about it, cause they’re not above the hardships, they’re right smack in the middle of it). I’m living in America, and can’t imagine if pictures such as that would come out following the Katrina Hurricane in 2006. But that’s what’s interesting about different cultures and how people face hardships differently.

        Nice writing and thoughts, Jomo!

  3. Arhazivory says:

    What a lovely commentary and totally on point. Its the reason I love this show. I feel such sadness for Cha Do Hyun – the man who had to split himself to keep from shattering altogether. I also hope the show continues on strong as it tackles this tender subject with some daek humour.

  4. Marchair says:

    Love this show too. He is nailing the different personas. Thanks for the good insights. I feel the angst and the laughs. Good job drama!

  5. Nabila says:

    loved your analysis and totally agree with it, his is why i love this show and ji sung. like my god this is man, is incredibly good looking but so so talented its crazy. of course i love my home girl jung eum, i feel like out if anyone she is the one that could have pulled this role of ri jin off. the sure is sure to go down a darker route and get emotional, but im ready for it and looking forward to it, like you i hope it has some lighter moments to bring some levity in painful times

  6. Pingback: KILL ME, HEAL ME. MBC | IKurate

  7. aoiaheen says:

    I loved your analysis and the whole article. It’s poetry.

    I always liked Ji Sung, but he was not an actor I fangirled over. But he just blew me away with his acting in this. I cannot believe how naturally he plays YoNa. There is not a bit of over acting.

    • jomo143 says:

      Thank you for the kind words!
      I, on the other hand, have fangirled like a crazy person for a long time. I think it is his voice that got me from the git-go. No matter what the hair looked like, he always had the voice and the delivery. Ahhhh. Love him.

  8. kngdrama says:

    “It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, we know our brotherhood. We know it, because we have had to learn it. We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.”
    ― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed

  9. Emmanuelle says:

    I just found your wonderful post and we are now at ep16 of this GREAT show. Pure angst from wall to wall.
    The humor you wrote about always left a bitter taste in my mouth because Kill me Heal me is a tragedy at its core.
    I still have hope it’s going to finish “well” (as well as it can) but KMHM is a great reminder how abuse can (and do) destroy children.

    • jomo143 says:

      Yes, the other shoe had to drop, so to speak, but at least there is time for them to face it down, and hopefully togeher with RJ’s whole family.

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