“His Man” Series Review (Ep.1 to 11)

“…as long as nothing happens between them, the memory is cursed with what hasn’t happened.” – Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair

While not a dramatic BL series, you will find nothing closer to bona fide drama than this series. Why? Because it is a ‘reality’ series exploring gay love. ‘Reality’ shows are not completely pure as all of them are planned, edited, and set-up with rules and conditions. This one, however, at least is honest and touching. First and foremost, these men that had the courage, guts, and fearlessness, to proudly proclaim their gayness that took nobility and fortitude. While I know little about Korean culture, I do know they are reserved, polite, stoic, and tend to not want to share their inner thoughts and desires, especially publicly. So, these guys, in my mind, are heroes to the gay community. To be able to display their vulnerabilities, malleability, and fragilities with such grace, dignity, and valor was remarkable. This had to be so difficult to do. I can only imagine….

To be honest, I hate reality shows, especially ‘dating’ shows. And so, I was not expecting much from this. Being an American, reality shows are so far removed from reality that they are merely unrehearsed and unscripted drama series. But this is different. I believed these guys. Each man was unique, different, and at various stages of acceptance in who he was, with all of them learning to accept their gayness within a society that is repressive and certainly not tolerant or welcoming of gay lifestyles. To show that to the world becomes a must see for every young man who thinks he is gay or is struggling with acceptance of that fact.

The series starts out with six men coming together who do not know each other. The only thing in common is that they are gay. In the beginning, the guys are not permitted to reveal their ages or occupations, which is remarkable as those two questions are the very first questions asked of anyone who you are getting to know. These two questions represent the ground floor to first connections. This literally forced them as a group and on their one-on-one to pose questions about who they were as individuals, their interests, and their likes, and what they are looking for.

The second impressive action is that they chose their sleeping arrangements randomly. There were 3 options – one single room, one room with double beds, and the third room was for the remaining three. They did not know each other and were forced by chance to choose a card with the room assignment hidden. Each had to deal with the prospect of living with an unknown someone, whether you wanted to or not. Or deal with living alone while the others got to know each other.

The third remarkable change from normal reality shows is that at the end of the day, each had to go to a special telephone booth to confess to one of the remaining contestants that he found him interesting. Even at this early stage, you could sense where connections might occur, with one being strong from the beginning. The ones being called were scattered around the house (mostly in their bedrooms), thus allowing others by chance or circumstances to know who was getting calls. At the end of the first day, 3 received no calls, one received one call, one received two calls, and one received three calls. Each and everyone had to learn how to deal, with either feeling positive about themselves or feel the sting of rejection and humiliation at an early stage in this venture. Most were stoic and, even those that had several calls were philosophical. Being gay, they were all familiar with feeling demoralized; there was no reason to revel. The tables could turn and the one you really might want, might not want you.

In the third episode, a new player is introduced which changes the dynamics of the group, as expected. Rearrangements of feelings are evident as they get to go on individual ‘dates’ or get to know others. In this episode, they are finally able to reveal their ages and professions. I cannot help but feel that this revelation was the turning point for either finding a connection or diminishing feelings. Both age and employment are directly connected to status and stability. Although none of them directly stated any of that as a major factor, but feelings did change. Despite what appears to not necessarily be an overt criterion for choosing an individual interesting, it was a covert reason in wanting to solidify a connection with someone else. After all, if you feel a person closer to your age is more stable and acceptable, then you tend to want to be with those characteristics. Also, if you are looking for ‘boyish beauty’, and the age confirms that criteria, then other characters about that individual is heightened. Also, if you are introducing an individual to family and friends, does a drag queen or vlogger fit an acceptable status criterion? I am NOT passing judgment here; merely making an observation of an outsider looking in.

In the fourth episode, another player is introduced, which again changes the dynamics and living arrangements of the group, forcing each to deal with circumstances that places them both physically and emotionally in uncomfortable realms.

The remainder of the episodes are devoted to the development of who each wanted to either to get to know better or have strong feelings for.

Here for me is where the series becomes a new revelation that I wish I had realized at the beginning. I am indeed myopic and was thinking more like an American. This is NOT a dating program. That may not have been clear at the beginning. This was a mere journey to finding someone they liked enough or connected with on a more personal level to DATE on the outside after the series ended. It was the rumblings for romance; not romance itself. And that is why this series is so unique. It is a pilgrimage of discovering that spark for another person you might want to explore but without all the cameras. If you are expecting lust, hook-ups, or slavish devotion to wanting to be with another, this is not it. I am NOT saying that some were not feeling that. I am sure they were, but we never got to see that externally to any great extent. At least not until the end.

Let us look at these eight remarkable guys:

1. Kim Hyeon – 31 reveals himself as a ‘drag artist’. By the reactions and nonverbal language, I am guessing many of them had no appreciation or understanding of what a Drag Queen is. He might as well have been born on another planet. I found him, while jovial, friendly, and making jokes, to be one of the least understood individuals here and is not pictured as someone with serious connection qualities, despite being one of the handsomest men in the house and with an entertaining personality. Seemingly taking all of that in stride, he is devastated and hides behind humor every chance he gets. He seemed deeply lonely to me.

2. Jeon Eun-chan- 27 was once an idol trainee but now is a brand manager in a department store. He is the ‘go to’ person in the group – the counselor, a mentor, a guy who is always there and ready to help. But is never really thought of or looked upon as a partner. He is introspective and an astonishingly likeable person. But is never considered in any deeper sense than that. Unceremoniously dumped as an idol, he seems to have retreated into himself and hides behind an existence he is bored with. He is a talent singer, but recalling that lifestyle seemed painful for him. Of all the men, he was the most profoundly affected by this experience. Indeed, he is the one that seemed ready and willing to work on a relationship with intensity and passion. He was left – alone. His emotional breakdown at the end had me in tears and I felt his pain and related to where he was, as I was once there myself. If anyone learned anything from this experience, it is Eun-chan. But I am not so sure it has been a necessarily positive experience for him though. Someone captured his heart, and I do believe he had very strong feelings for that individual. But unfortunately, that individual did not see it until it was too late. I would love to have him as a friend because of his intense loyalty.

3. Kim Seon Yul- 35 and one of the oldest in the group. He is a sommelier. Very reserved and easily fixated on one particular person. With that, he closed off the possible development of any other type of feelings for someone else. It was one of those cases of hoping against hope. He too, is very phlegmatic.

4. Kim Chan-gyu- 26 is a vlogger and a creator. Obviously very talented creatively, but seems to be the least experienced in living and knowing who and what he is. Pretty much in his own little world, he acted more like a person not in touch with his feelings and therefore did a lot of observations to see if he could better find a path to self-discovery. He is also upfront with his emotions and feelings, which I think became a turnoff for many of them. Being continuously rejected looked to have further isolated him from others, and he was pretty much defeated by the end. Yet put up a brave façade to save face. Of all the participants, I felt his pain the deepest. When he got anxious, he would twitch his face as a nervous affectation. Never feeling like the fit in, he sometimes became his own worst enemy. I have a confession to make; if I were in this House, he would have been the one I would have pursued from the very beginning. He is the most honest individual here and does not, or cannot, or simply has not yet learned how to hide behind the Korean exterior of politeness, reservation, and unemotional attachments. He is one I wanted to know the most. He simply captured my heart. He, like Eun-chan would have been a great partner as the world for him is so new and a wonderment. I would have loved to have shown him the intense pleasures of living in this world.

5. Kim Chang Min- 28 is a caterer and a restaurateur. He is a very enigmatic individual who has the facial features that put people at ease. While his affect is very flat and he is emotionless almost all the time, there is just ‘something’ about him that draws people to him. He has the “It’ factor. He is very analytical and while focused on one person almost from the beginning, he played the hand dealt with precision and he was laser-focused on making sure his decision is the right one. He only peripherally understood how that route would make another person feel. For me, he was the least likeable person. I hate saying that but my inability to understand him made me at times, second guess what he would do. And I think that was his intent. Yet, looking back on his actions (and I did review this series twice), he had really only one that he truly liked and admitted to that almost from the beginning. He was the ‘prize’ from the beginning, and he made guys work to prove themselves to him. He would not be caught off-guard.

6. Lee Jeong Hyeon- 21 (but really 19) is a makeup artist and hairstylist. He is an individual with a complex background. He, like Kim Chan-gyu, is drop-dead gorgeous, but both never use that to score points. I found him ironically to be the least open and therefore did not really get to ‘know’ him. But I think that is how he played this gathering. He initially focused in on one person and stuck to that one and endeared him to that person. While jealousy and worry might have driven his actions, he never let those overwhelm him and used them to have his focus (in this care, Chang Min) steadily lead toward only one conclusion. In hindsight, the connection between Lee Jeong Hyeon and Kin Chang Min, for me, was evident from the beginning.

7. Hyuk Jun- 31 is a hairstylist. He approached this experiment with earnestness and determination. He looked at this experience with some reservation but embraced it and learned a lot about who he was. More importantly, he felt connected to another person in what was the most intimate scene in this series. While initially vacillating between two others in the beginning stages, when the new person entered the picture, he was captured and smitten.

8. Lee Jeong Ho (Hokeep)- 31 is a (modern) professional dancer. He is the last of the guests to arrive. He is an inquisitive individual who originally had set his sights on Eun-chan. But soon realizes when he gets to meet the others, one in particular is more interesting to him. During one of their personal group discussions, he shared with the group responding to a query of what it was like coming out; he told his family and his father stated that he regretted marrying his mother. If he had not, then Jeong Ho would not have been born. His father wished now he had married his first love and considered his son as unfilial. This story had to be painful to tell, and by the expressions on the faces of others, they understood. This was a powerful moment that defined this series and spotlighted what this series was all about. Commiserating with others just like them and sharing a bond among all of them. Finding themselves in others. I was so moved by this story that I found myself sobbing. This was courageous and a testament to his character. It is an unforgettable moment told like he was reading from a book. While hard to ‘read’ Asian men in general, it is particularly difficult to read Korean men. Not so in this case. The eyes in all of them gave away what they could not verbalize. Almost from the beginning, he focused with much sincerity on winning the heart of Hyuk Jun.

In the end, only two couples were connected close enough to choose one another. In my opinion, the third couple was obvious, but it simply was not to be. This was a remarkable journey for these two couples, with the remaining four rather perfunctorily left to drift out of the picture. There was something sad yet full of revelations for all of them to go through this process. Painful realities must be seen along with happy endings. I expected no less from the Koreans.

Initially, I was not sure of this series’ true focus or intent. I concluded it was a journey to see if there were couples compatible enough to begin the dating process. Nothing more. This was to find someone for sure, but to find someone for what purpose. It was not for love or mating. It was taking a journey to find a route for two people to take together that may or may not lead to something greater. Will these two couples succeed? I do not know but they are on their way to knowing each other better than any other reality show of this genre I have ever seen. A successful relationship is based on a lot of other factors besides a brief appearance on a reality show.

Several changes would have made this series clearer and more coherent. What were its rules? It would have clarified why these guys did the things they did do. Were they under restrictions? What were they? Could they have had intimate contacts with another? Could they have been on a ‘date’ with someone they liked without it being arranged or supervised?

Frankly, the editing of this series was not very good. It looks like they nearly filmed these guys continuously, yet the episodes were inconsistent, giving the impression that what we were seeing was a bit too polished. I would like to have known them better, especially the ones who were not called. Seeing them interact in other situations besides meals and their outings would have given us a better understanding of who they individually were. I appreciated and enjoyed their group activities while at the home; we got to ‘see’ them and learn who they were.

The translations were at times hard to fathom and decipher, especially the English. Sometimes there were two different English translations of the same scene, and it became confusing and distracting. Also, please slow down the translations so we can read them with some greater understanding. It moved too fast and made understanding the scene more difficult to process. I had to re-wind many times.

Frankly, I was surprised by the lack of any hint of sexual attraction or tension to each other. I will not even pretend to say I know the Korean culture but to have a bunch of gay men, all frustrated by the society’s pressure to behave appropriate with decorum and restraint, not be able to let loose or just shake the shackles of shyness even just a little, would have been a worthy goal for this program. I confess that is easy for me to say as I am not being filmed literally 24 hours a day. But these guys seemed so natural on camera that at times it appeared as if they had forgotten they were being recorded. Except when they conveyed something about their gayness, did the sense of unease hit them again.

None of this negated this series of impact or beauty, however. I am sure this was, as one described it, painful both emotionally and physically to do. We were able to peer into the minds and courting behaviors of gay men of a culture that is mysterious and unknown to many around the world, and especially me as an American. I could see their constraints, both internal and external ones. On the other hand, some of their actions and behavior were universally understood, irrespective of a country.

These men deserve our thanks and frankly praise for allowing us to see their vulnerabilities, their internal struggles, and for several, their pain of embarrassment of rejection in not being picked or chosen or called. I felt the melancholy as that transcended all language barriers as it came out of the screen, and smothered me like a heavy wool blanket would on a hot summer night.

I hope gay and straight people watch this series as a way of peering into the minds of a group of people long held to feel painfully out of place and unaccepted. The attempt to show that they feel, their cries, their loneliness, they hurt yet deep down wanting what the rest of their culture wants-Love and Acceptance.

“Let no one who loves be called altogether unhappy. Even love unreturned has its rainbow.” – JM Barrie, The Little Minister

Rating: 5+ out of 5


One thought on ““His Man” Series Review (Ep.1 to 11)”

  1. watched the first two episodes and am really looking forward to the rest. I also am not into the general actors/models going to promote their careers/fall in “love” that is the US standard.

    This was interesting and the varieties of ages/personalities is intriguing. Though lets face it- the looks and bods are way above average- making me feel for the fellows who are “merely” above average walking in and seeing the rest of the group for the first time. The humiliation of being a “hottie” and not getting a call also hit home.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s