In Defense of Olly Wang

*Spoilers; I don’t own Lookism*

Recently read Lookism again (because I’m still not travelling and it’s too cold to hike… thanks, covid/the weather). While Lookism as a whole has strayed far from it’s original premise, unlike other manwhas *coughs in True Beauty* it still manages to be entertaining, coherent, and thoughtful.

The story of Olly Wang and Hostel made me wonder what exactly makes a family? Was Olly Wang just a selfish, sociopathic, piece of trash or were his actions, up to an extent, understandable and even sympathetic?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hostel was founded by Big Daddy Eli Jang mostly by accident after Sally discovered him loitering like a hissing feline in her run-down abode. Both Sally and Eli were orphans, the latter of whom had a tough childhood (to say the least). But they found one another and soon accumulated quite a runaway crew composed of Derek, Max, and the Mighty Warren Chae. It’s not long until Heather and Olly Wang join too; the former of whom Eli has a baby with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The runaway fam is born and things are good for about two seconds.

All good things come to an end though and things go sour once Eli and Heather start a thing. Olly worships the ground Eli walks on, literally, and does everything in his power to please him. Literally. It’s hard to tell what exactly Olly admires about Eli, but in the simplest of terms it’s probably Eli’s “freedom.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or at least, that’s what Olly says. However, it’s clear that while Olly was lacking freedom and felt shoehorned into an existence he didn’t like, Olly was also lacking a family in the intimate sense. From what snippets we see of Olly’s parents, they only cared about his grades but not really about him. In Hostel, Olly found people who didn’t care how he performed academically, who treated more like a family than his own parents did.  Olly had finally found someone to look up to as a father figure.

It’s important to note that:

  • Olly has some sort of analgesia, which makes him incapable of feeling pain. 
  • Olly was emotionally abused, making it difficult for him to feel emotions as well. That is, until he gets curb-stomped by Eli and misconstrues his feelings of guilt over Heather’s death for fear.
  • The reason Olly is rejected from being part of the runaway fam is because he had somewhere to return to (so did Heather, but that’s an entirely different story).

We know Heather and Olly had somewhat similar childhoods, which is why they became friends to begin. Both had cold parents who shoehorned them into a lifestyle full of grades and more grades. Yet, Heather was accepted into the runaway family where Olly was not.

 

Olly and Heather are alike in many ways, including their “affection” for Eli. But the difference in that affection is that Heather’s sought to soften Eli’s wildness, Olly admired it. This might seem innocuous but Olly already has some emotional problems, Hostel is the only real family he has, and now a wild Heather has appeared.

To Olly, Heather’s existence threatened the entire family structure. After all, Eli was Hostel; he formed it and they were there because of him. But if Eli was no longer the Eli of Hostel and became Eli of Heather, that entire family structure might crumble, leaving Olly without a family once again. Furthermore, the sting of being rejected while Heather was accepted, despite them both having very similar lives, had to suck particularly given these very well may have been the only folks Olly had ever genuinely cared for up to that point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Olly was rejected because he had somewhere to return to, but did he really?

What exactly makes a home and a family? Olly Wang may have had a physical home with parents who were alive and took care of his basic needs, but is a home merely a physical place or is there something else to it? That’s not to compare and say Olly’s life was worst than those who were orphaned; however, I’d wager Hostel felt more like a family to Olly than his parents were; it’s somewhat telling, after all, that Olly would rather go through Gun’s training than return home.

The sting of being rejected by those whom were more of an actual family to him had to hurt, particularly since Heather also had somewhere else to be but she wasn’t rejected. Coupled with Olly’s inability to feel pain, it was the perfect set-up for a disaster. After all, even Olly admits he wasn’t trying to break up the crew, just break up Eli and Heather. And while his actions later on seemed cruel, we know that deep down Olly felt immense guilt over what he had done and even went out of his way to ensure Eli’s crew wasn’t bothered by Gun over money.

It’s easy to compare Olly to Jiho as their similarities are ripe, but there’s a clear difference between the two of them. Olly genuinely viewed Eli and the runaway crew as his friends and cared about them, even until the end. Jiho cared about Daniel ft. crew inasmuch as it benefitted himself. Olly wanted to win Eli’s favor because he admired him; Jiho wanted to win Daniel’s favor because he envied him.

In the end, Olly not only made sure Hostel A paid their dues, but he also ensured Gun wouldn’t kill Eli by tossing himself off a roof.

While Olly was certainly flawed, he’s not a terrible person. Rather due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, he became part of the tragedy that was Hostel.

I still didn’t really like him though lol.

References:  Tae-joon, Park. Lookism. Seoul: Daewon and Book, 2014. Digital. 

https://www.webtoons.com/en/drama/lookism/list?title_no=1049&page=1

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