Kmuse’s Musings – Cancer is the New Amnesia


After checking out all the new dramas this week, something clicked.  Something that is perfect for a Kmuse Musings topic.  So come join me as I discuss the newest kdrama trope trend.

It seems like just yesterday that I was lamenting how overused the Amnesia/Alzheimer’s tropes were getting.  Amnesia seemed to be popping up everywhere in shows like I Remember You, Remember: War of the Son, Memory.  It even had mini plot moments in current airing dramas Monster, Let’s Fight Ghost and W- Two Worlds.
I am not saying that it was always done poorly.  In fact, several of these shows used the memory loss trope perfectly.  But, after a while, you just wish you could have your own bought of amnesia and forget how often it is used.

For those of you that feel the same way, there is a bright light on the horizon.  It now seems that instead of the tried and true memory loss trope, we are diving into the Cancer and/or terminal illness trope.  YAY?


I know.  You are probably raising your eyebrows and thinking that this fangirl has been watching way too many dramas to think that cancer is actually a good thing, but hear me out.  We are not talking your random, out of the blue, third act onset of makjang cancer type of stories.  But dramas that take the concept from the very beginning and show the reality of dealing with a terminal illness and its effects on their lives and friendships.  Something that has rarely been shown up to now.

So I thought it would be useful to go through a few of the shows using this trope and explain why you should or shouldn’t  take a moment to check them out.

Beautiful Mind

I know… this one didn’t specifically have cancer as the main theme.  HOWEVER, it was the first in a line of dramas to humanize dealing with various ailments, permanent health, and mental problems.  Not to mention it was an EPIC drama that still deserves more praise than it got while airing.  Jang Hyuk and Park So Dam redefined what a good medical drama should be.  It is just a shame that the low ratings will probably prevent other writers from taking note.



I was very wary of watching this drama when the synopsis started off the terminal illness talk.  But for my love of Ji Soo, I was willing to make the sacrifice.  Here I am two episodes in, not a sign of Ji Soo (Looks like he will be showing up in ep 3) and loving every minute.  Maybe it is because the show is focusing more on the “what does one do when one finds out they have cancer” rather than all the doom and gloom sadness aspect.  But it really has hit me in the feelz.  I also want to give credit to jTBC for realizing that strong female relationships can be good for ratings as well.


At least half of the story so far has been about our leading lady reconnecting with her high school best friends upon realizing that time is short.  It is a sad moment when you realize that you rarely see female friendships that are not revolving around romance or vague side character support of the OTP (One True Pairing).  So when dramas like Fantastic and Age of Youth (also a jTBC drama) come about, one should take note and share with the world.

Jealousy Incarnate (Incarnation of Jealousy)

This is one of my favorite new dramas.  Which is a total shock since the previews were “meh” at best.  Also, there wasn’t even a hint that this drama was going to be all about cancer and serious relationships.  I was expecting a traditional romantic hijinks rom-com and was already wondering how I was going to make it through 24 episodes of barely there plot.


The unique part of this drama is that for once it is not the lead girl dealing with breast cancer, but our leading man.  Yup, we get to watch Hwa Shin (Jo Jung Suk) go through the trial of discovering that men, can indeed, get breast cancer.  Then have to come to terms of what it means to his life, his career, and love.  Not to mention how to navigate the experience without it affecting all three negatively.


For those of you who take my advice and start this drama, the first two episodes are a little bit choppy.  Not horrible, but you won’t fall in love with the show and characters until the 3rd and 4th episode.  Just a warning since I don’t want you all to think I am leading you astray.

Uncontrollably Fond

Sadly, they can’t all be winners and Uncontrollably Fond definitely takes the loser position in this drama post.  Things started off well.  We found out Woo Bin’s character has terminal cancer within the first ten minutes.  Not my happiest drama watching moment, but I can deal with it because I enjoy a well-told story even if it ends tragically.  Note the phrase “well-told story”…….. This is the opposite of that.


Sure there are a few things that I would change if I had the power.  Suzy is just OK in this drama and I occasionally wish for fewer turtlenecks.


But the clincher is really the nonsensical storytelling that is going on.  Our sexy leading man makes no sense whatsoever.  I won’t go into details since there are still those of you out there that will watch for Woo Bin, but rest assured the 2nd half of the drama will have you yelling, “What the fudge???” along with the rest of us.

So that completes my list of current cancer dramas.  Do you have a favorite?  Are you avoiding them like the plague?  Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments.  Also be sure to let me know what topics you would like to see discussed in future Kmuse Musings.

Til next time inspiration hits,



0 thoughts on “Kmuse’s Musings – Cancer is the New Amnesia

  1. I think I must be one of very few people raging against Fantastic. I’ve watched two people who were quite literally soulmates deal with (and consecutively die from) terminal cancer, and there was nothing remotely romantic or comic about it. It was slow, painful, degrading and bitter. Of course, having someone incapacitated from either severe symptoms or aggressive treatment, or both, does not make for great viewing, so Fantastic is going to have give her “Drama cancer”. that magical malady that lets her lead a symptom-free life right up until they want to yank the heart strings by having her die prettily. Unless the PSY/JS arc can save the Drama this stinking pile of BS will be dropped by me, and jTBC will have a big black mark to erase.

      • Even from a narrative POV, I’m disappointed. It is simply not possible to build a Drama around someone who has 6 months to live and have anything resembling reality about it. It trivialises and demeans the reality of cancer suffering for patients and carers to pretend that ANY cancer patient can live the sort of life we see her living when they’re down to their last 6 months. Especially aggravating because the comic potential of the rest of the setup is great. If they weren’t peddling the usual Korean “pain is pretty” BS as the core storyline, this could’ve been a favourite.

  2. I think it’s nice to see some real grown up themes in dramas lately. I really loved Marriage Contract and how they didn’t “cure” her. The thing to remember is that dramas will almost never truly reflect real life. Some dramas capture the feeling of grief that we all feel when we deal with major illnesses and death, and it may be prettier than real life, but that’s ok.

  3. I think Cancer tropes are far more realistic than Amnesia tropes. It’s rare that people get Amnesia in real life. It’s a constant trope for Hollywood too and its become romanticized. But, I’ll be watching it again in this Shopping King Louie Drama. Yay!?

    I’m not fond of melos, so I can’t really think of any cancer ones. But I remember Thank You with Jang Hyuk and Gong Hyo Jin. Her daughter had Aids, or HIV-Positive anyway. And the show dealt with the fallout and how this poor child and mother were treated on the island full of ignorant, mean people.

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