“Light On Me” Series Review (Ep.3 to 16)

My heart is satisfied. I know there are some people out there who aren’t, who watched the Korean BL Light On Me and felt led on by the slow burn triangle this show delivered. I’m not one of those, and I will tell you why.

For the first time, I felt liberated by a Korean BL. Light On Me celebrated what it means to be young and gay, from the uncertainty to the awkwardness to the pain of coming out amid fear. We have gotten so used to dividing ourselves into lead and second lead teams as they vie for the main character’s affection in a drama that we aren’t used to celebrating what it means to cheer for both.

Light on Me gave us two very satisfying journeys. Although Tae Kyung is the handsome and honest male character both Da On and Shin Woo fall for, winning his love becomes less important than the bigger journey Da On and Shin Woo take.

In many ways, Da On and Shin Woo are as alike as they are different. Both of them are hiding. Their hiding methods and confidence in themselves are different, but the similarity that Light On Me gives us is a deliverance from the shadows they placed themselves in. We got to see two young gay men come out in two very different ways. Da On’s journey was about realizing his sexuality and publicly expressing it despite his fears. Shin Woo’s journey was about expressing the confidence he already has in his sexuality by finally taking himself off of the sidelines, by removing the line he’d drawn between himself and others. Shin Woo made himself the main player when he was always more comfortable watching. Light On Me gave us the chance to watch both Da On and Shin Woo bloom, and for me, that was way more important than the romance.

But, oh, the romance. My heart fluttered with every scene Tae Kyung had with Da On and every scene Tae Kyung had with Shin Woo. For different reasons. And because of that, I understood Tae Kyung’s division. I was Tae Kyung, and I experienced every moment of indecision. Considering this is based on a game, the writers did a brilliant job of using Tae Kyung as the viewers’ avatar, allowing us to enter this heartwarming game of young, undecided love. And they did it using an honest character who is entirely unapologetic about being undecided but sincere when he has decided.

We learn near the end that Tae Kyung always saw Da On, that he realized Da On’s smiles hid pain and a bigger truth. He fell in love with Da On’s pain because he wanted to be the one that fixed it and transformed it. In the process, Tae Kyung was hurt. I understood Tae Kyung’s pain, but the depth of blame thrown at Da On for hiding also hurt. Facing one’s sexuality is much more terrifying than falling in love. It’s a much bigger truth to face than simply saying, “I like you.” At one point, I felt like Da On was being villainized to transition the story forward toward the Shin Woo and Tae Kyung end game. This blame is why I was glad Light On Me chose to use Nam Goong and Seo Haet Bit to illustrate why it was okay for Tae Kyung to feel hurt but also okay for Da On to soul search. It allowed viewers to experience Tae Kyung’s pain while also showing that Da On’s journey was not something to villainize. Da On was searching for truth amidst fear, which is like walking through a funhouse of mirrors with your reflection looking back at you in every single one, and you don’t know which one is real. His later coming out and confession is even more potent because of this. He broke every mirror, leaving him with the real man he wants to be. The man he has decided to be despite what pain it may bring him later in his personal life and at home, and that’s brave. It is truly courageous.

This brings me to Shin Woo. I adore that Light On Me gave us a male lead with one focus; Tae Kyung. Having accepted his sexuality and past, Shin Woo stepped out of the shadows for love, and he grasped it. Not only did he grasp it, he took charge of it in a very quiet but powerful way. What Shin Woo could not say in words, he said in gestures. Every feeling he expressed was based on the growing feelings he had for Tae Kyung, even his anger at Da On. He never lost sight of what he was determined to prove to Tae Kyung and to himself. I get the feeling the boy he first fell in love with in the past, the one that people started rumors about years before, is someone he stepped back for, and he didn’t want to repeat that. Shin Woo was not stepping back for Da On, and I respected that. Despite feeling painfully awkward because of his introverted shyness, he was steadfast, selfless, honest, and strong. He stayed by Tae Kyung’s side, and in doing so, swayed Tae Kyung’s heart. Not all leading characters have to be assertive and outgoing knights in shining armor. Shin Woo stood out, not because he was outgoing or wildly popular, but because he stayed. He reached out, he comforted, and he pierced Tae Kyung’s heart while doing so.

Invalidating either Da On or Shin Woo’s journey is like invalidating either ourselves or someone we know. My coming out journey largely resembled Da On’s, and because of that, I related to him in a very personal way. But I have friends and acquaintances who are very much like Shin Woo, and that journey to step out of being someone who normally prefers being overlooked is equally important. From the beginning of the drama, I always felt Shin Woo was endgame, and to be honest, I wanted that. Shin Woo seemed to suit Tae Kyung in a way Da On didn’t, not because Da On isn’t a good choice but because I felt like Tae Kyung was looking for someone with less responsibility, for someone who could give him the attention he needed. Da On likes his duties as much as he likes Tae Kyung. He likes feeling needed, and I think he’s learned how to balance love and responsibility through loving Tae Kyung. Now that he’s accepted himself, I foresee a great love story in his future. I appreciate Da On for the character that he is. I appreciate that he never attempted to thwart Shin Woo’s advances or bring Shin Woo down in any way. Even when Shin Woo spent most of the first half of the series pushing Tae Kyung away, using brusque behavior as a shield and avoiding Tae Kyung any time Shin Woo felt too much around him, Da On kept encouraging Tae Kyung to keep trying with Shin Woo and to not give up on him, even sending Tae Kyung after Shin Woo. He encouraged their friendship in an understanding way. And I love that, in the end, when Da On wasn’t Tae Kyung’s choice, that he took the time to reflect and not the time to be petty.

This brings me to something that really bothered me while watching thisdrama. The hate the non-toxic characters received by viewers based on the personal need for one character to succeed over another broke my heart. Tae Kyung had a choice he needed to make, and he made it. No one else could make that choice for him. And neither Da On nor Shin Woo deserves hate for liking Tae Kyung or for the different ways they confronted their sexuality. I find myself saddened by humanity when a character is attacked for choosing to take time to face his sexuality. I find myself discouraged when others feel it’s okay to break the heart of one character in favor of protecting the heart of another. There was no way for this show to end without someone getting hurt, but pain doesn’t always mean failure. Pain doesn’t always mean defeat. Pain often means new beginnings with clearer eyes. Hate should be reserved for dramas with real villains with evil intentions.

In Light On Me, Tae Kyung first fell in love with Da On. Tae Kyung had never encountered someone like Da On, and it really affected him. While Shin Woo was figuring out how to express his feelings in the beginning, Da On was there spending time with Tae Kyung. There was nothing Shin Woo could do about how Tae Kyung felt. He could only be there for Tae Kyung and hope that Tae Kyung’s feelings would change one day. Later when it was Da On’s turn to take time to figure out how to accept his burgeoning feelings, Shin Woo stepped in and showed Tae Kyung how much he’d been thinking about him even even it seemed like he wasn’t. When Tae Kyung’s feelings changed, there was also nothing Da On could do. In many ways, Da On knew that, but he needed to be able to publicly like Tae Kyung to prove to himself and those around him that he was okay with his sexuality. He needed that transition period and Light on Me gave him that. Da On and Shin Woo took charge of themselves in this drama. At different times and in different ways. Both of them spent time pushing away and avoiding the guy they liked for different reasons. Both of them thought about Tae Kyung when he thought they didn’t, which is clearly shown in Shin Woo’s text messages and Da On’s secret kiss on the forehead. Because Tae Kyung was the object of their affection, and I say this with all the love in the world for Tae Kyung, it was Tae Kyung’s responsibility to make Shin Woo or Da On feel secure about their positions in Tae Kyung’s heart. Not Da On’s. Not Shin Woo’s.

So, as much as I wanted Shin Woo to win Tae Kyung’s heart, I never once felt any animosity toward Da On. Instead, I fell in love with him. I fell in love with his troubled journey, with his being outed before he was ready, and for his decision to take the time to come to terms with that. He apologized to Tae Kyung for inadvertently hurting him by putting him in uncomfortable situations and pushing him away, but he didn’t apologize for actually taking the time to figure things out. I’m glad of that because I think it would have lessened the importance of what it means to many of us to take that time to face our confusion.

The way I feel about Da On is the same way I feel about Shin Woo. I appreciate Shin Woo. I am proud that he stood his ground and held strong even while Tae Kyung faced his confusion over Da On. First love isn’t always steady, but it leaves an impression. Tae Kyung and Da On discovered themselves and their sexuality through their mutual feelings. They shared the pain of being outed together. Tae Kyung was able to face being outed without fear, but Da On needed time. Neither reaction was wrong. But that first love changed in the process, and Shin Woo’s steady presence and affection paid off. Tae Kyung saw Shin Woo, and his heart softened. The wonderful thing about love is that it breaks us, but it also heals us. With each new encounter, we learn a little more about ourselves.

I hope we all take that experience away from Light On Me because the writers did a brilliant job expressing it. I love that Light On Me gave viewers a non-toxic love triangle full of meaning. They kept to their course and remained faithful to these good-hearted characters. In real life, love doesn’t just move on quickly. And in a show where two different loves are happening simultaneously, it’s important it kept to that course until the end. Light On Me did that. They gave everyone significance.

I didn’t forget about Nam Goong and Seo Haet Bit. They are brilliant allies, and I love that we had them in this drama, that they stood out and stood up, that they cheered for both Da On and Shin Woo without choosing a team. They built them both up. They gave unbiased advice and boosted confidence. We need more allies like that in the community, allies who don’t feel the need to hurt someone in order to support someone else. We need more allies who support whatever decision their friends make, whether it’s staying closeted or coming out. Nam Goong and Seo Haet Bit became shining role models. They picked Da On and Shin Woo up when they were down, focusing on their journeys rather than knocking either of them down based on romance.

Light On Me is a “bigger picture” youth drama. It opens windows and doors. It opens up avenues of conversation. It gave people something to talk about, something to feel passionate about, and something to celebrate.

In the grand scheme of things, this drama was never about what team you play on, it was about sitting on the sidelines, watching our screens, and being the kind of ally Nam Goong and Seo Haet Bit are inside the drama. If I had to pick a team, then I’ve always been Team Shin Woo for Tae Kyung but I’ve always been Team Da On for Da On. I needed Da On to rise above himself, and he did.

I highly recommend this drama to everyone. I’m not suggesting it because it’s romantic, although it is. I’m recommending it because it’s valid. Everyone in it is valid. Everyone’s feelings have meaning. And the writers of this show didn’t forget that even while faced with a firestorm of “I’m on this team, and I will riot” debates. They kept to only one theme: love is love. They proved that love can be undecided and still be strong. They proved that quiet love grows in unexpected places. And they proved that accepting one’s sexuality is as potent as falling in love.
Rating- 5 out of 5

(Pictures Credit- @pvnn93 Instagram

@officialboysloveph Twitter)

One thought on ““Light On Me” Series Review (Ep.3 to 16)”

  1. I think I fell in love with LOM all over again after reading this review!! Brilliantly analyzed and extremely well written!!

    Like

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