We were deeply disappointed by the way Joo Oh Nam’s character turned out in Mask Girl Season 1. We genuinely had high hopes for him when we first saw him in the show. Maybe it was the sympathy that worked in his favor. But when he thought it was okay to make decisions for Mo Mi, we realized that he was no better than the many people who regularly thought of her as less than them.
We saw that Joo Oh Nam was bullied as a child, and he was never able to confide in anyone about it. He never even told his mother about it, even though she may have helped him. But that is not a fault on his part. Children often find themselves unable to express such tricky situations. As Joo Oh Nam grew up, we heard from Kyung Ja that he used to get good grades. But we also saw Oh Nam read manga hidden in his books, which must mean that though he was decent in school, he might not have been that ambitious. He probably just wanted a safe space for himself, and when a person’s thoughts are consumed by safety and survival, it doesn’t leave much room for ambition or anything else. It is absolutely sad that his safe space turned out to be literature that objectified women. Notice the contrast here: Joo Oh Nam is scared of real women but claims a right to objectification over the fictional ones. He was scared of women because of his history of getting bullied and his fear of humiliation and rejection. But that did not mean he respected them or saw them as equals. His being a victim did not take away his sense of entitlement, his misogyny, or even some empathy.
Joo Oh Nam moved away from his house so that he could finally have a space where he could live without hiding the things he liked, whether they were terrible mangas or life-size dolls. We are not debating his need to keep his mother away from his house, but we don’t understand why he so desperately wanted to cut contact with her. But again, we cannot underestimate the effect of harsh words on an already damaged psyche. Joo Oh Nam might have recognized the sacrifices that she made for him and even forgiven her for not noticing what he was going through as a child. But he still did not want to listen to her constantly compare him to his more successful peers while calling him a failure.
It was at a time like this that he met Kim Mo Mi. Oh Nam was a regular on Mask Girl’s streams. We still remember what he said about her: that her service was the best, better than the ones who were “already good-looking.” That one statement told us a lot about how he perceived the difference between some people. He had assigned certain characteristics to Mo Mi when he discovered her identity, and he believed that he had a chance with her because of those very things. It is important to remember that he started being attracted to her because he discovered that she was Mask Girl. Otherwise, much like everyone else, he had not noticed her before. Once he realized that she was a girl he was already attracted to and that her looks meant that she would be willing to give him a chance, he allowed his fantasy to take flight and became very invested in Mo Mi. He knew everything that she was doing and feeling, and he had no one to tell him that he was wrong. Case in point: while Mo Mi still managed to have some friends in the office, Joo Oh Nam was a complete loner. If only either he or Mo Mi had found a therapist at the right time, their lives could have been rather different.
While Mo Mi tried to move on from her disappointments by giving dating a chance, Oh Nam couldn’t stand back and watch. Maybe we are jumping the gun with this statement because he did contain his frustration until he realized what Handsome Monk’s real intentions were. After that, he simply did his best to protect Mo Mi, as he should have done. When he found that Handsome Monk was dead and he discouraged Mo Mi from taking it to the police, he was not wrong in his assessment that the case would entirely be against her. But this was more because he did not want to lose her. We don’t think he was being selfless. But there was a turning point for him, which happened when he killed Handsome Monk. Other than the fact that he had no choice, it was an act of pure panic followed by a lot of suppressed anger. After all, Handsome Monk was nothing more than just one of the bullies, and he had tried to do something really despicable. This act really flipped a switch in Joo Oh Nam and ended up tying him and Mo Mi together forever.
What intrigued us the most was his anger at Mo Mi getting her face done. It is correct that he had to meet Mo Mi anyway after everything that had happened. She may have wanted to isolate herself from the world due to the trauma of the whole thing, but for practical purposes, they had to meet, and we feel that Oh Nam understood both sides of the coin. But when he saw that Mo Mi had gone ahead with her plastic surgery, he felt like he had been wronged. After all, if she was going to be pretty now, it would mean that she would be out of his league. Sexual assault is an act of violence, not lust, which is proved once again by what Oh Nam tried to do with Mo Mi. We don’t think she had ever trusted or understood him, but what he did destroyed any last shred of faith she had in people’s goodness outside of their judgment of looks. Joo Oh Nam deserved a better life, but he never managed to be a good person in Mask Girl Season 1. A little less entitlement on his part could have meant a different outcome for the story, and hopefully, that is what happens in some other universe.