Shelbyra Fitri "다비치"

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference"

Whatever I have accepted until now as most true has
come to me through my senses. But occasionally I have
found that they have deceived me, and it is unwise to trust
completely those who have deceived us even once.
Meditations on First Philosophy - René Descartes

It would be a pretty straightforward answer, at first.

It's me, he'd say -- the same me as the one before he fell asleep. Same appearance and memories, same convictions and aspirations. Same warts, in all likelihood. But then again Zhuangzi, the famous Chinese philosopher, would distinctly remember the fact that right before his eyes opened, he was this radiant butterfly fluttering about in the air, without a worry in the world. He'd consciously recall feeling those sensations as real, and not merely think of them as a realistic mind construct. So what exactly guaranteed him that his current state – that most straightforward me – wasn't just another very realistic illusion he wasn't able to wake up from quite yet? After all, the air which gently caressed its wings felt just as real as the soft touch of the pillow he was now resting his head on -- the only difference being that the former would generally be described as a dream, the latter as reality. A matter of perception, surely?

Maybe it's that simple. Like when you take your sister to a modern arts museum, and in the twenty seconds of spare time you get before her next iPhone stanza, her eye catches a glimpse of Mondrian's art – inevitably followed by a bemused mug and the last famous words before she immerses herself back into the world of bits and tweets: “I could do that in twenty minutes with Photoshop, what the hell is it doing in a museum?” Perception, all right.

Psychologist Jerome Bruner – of red spades and black hearts fame, which probably explains why I so fondly remember him as one of the leading lights in cognitive psychology -- seems to think that this kind of situation can be explained through a set of simple patterns most human beings follow whenever perceiving something unfamiliar: we initially become curious about the unknown; we try to find familiar patterns so that eventually some kind of label can be attached to this mysterious entity; we narrow down our profile – by eliminating, ignoring and sometimes even distorting the elements we perceive, in an effort to somehow categorize what's in front of us. It's exactly this cognitive “sacrifice” of sorts that defines the difference between a Mondrian and a hack job done with Photoshop in our eyes. You put all the input you get through your mind's own grinder, and what comes out is your sense of perception. Your reality.

That, of course, can apply to everything in life that can't be explained in an objective way, like our perception of the people we interact with. Bruner's model would, for instance, explain why so much of our perception is influenced by first impressions – when we tend to judge a book by its cover, whether we like it or not. All the tiny elements creating that complex whole can't be immediately perceived (or even understood), so we narrow them down and come up with a label we can live with. The gradual process of opening ourselves to a wider spectrum of input can help us perceive a lot more right away, and limit the amount of cognitive sacrifices we have to go through to reach an initial verdict (our perception), but it doesn't eliminate that flawed process entirely. Simply because something has to click, the ice has to break for us to realize what lies beneath.
For Park Mu-Yeol of 난폭한 로맨스 (Wild Romance), the catalyst leading to this sudden realization is something you wouldn't generally associate with romantic comedies: a punch in the face. The label did saywild, folks.

Up until that innocuous sparring game, Mu-Yeol had never thought of Eun-Jae as a woman. All he perceived her as was this hyper tomboy he had emphatically nicknamed 꼴통 (blockhead), what with her Jo Yong-Pil meets Cocker Spaniel hairdo and “takedown first-talk later” Cynthia Rothrock-like aplomb. The complex elements which contributed to the creation of Yoo Eun-Jae the Woman certainly hadn't changed, but what evolved was Mu-Yeol's own perception of them – by adding many more layers to that initial label. Seeing Eun-Jae react like a woman before his flurry of punches suddenly breaks the ice, and adds that element of understanding Mu-Yeol had purposely decided to ignore when he built his initial perceptions of her. So suddenly the Photoshop hack job starts to look a little more like a Mondrian. At least to his eyes.
The fact it took twelve episodes for this to happen should tell you something about Park Yeon-Seon, and the way she approaches storytelling. Mind you, it is nothing revolutionary: most romantic comedies begin with misguided first impressions and then gradually dig deeper, eventually erasing the damage made by the aforementioned cognitive sacrifices. What's different, then, is the fact that said transition is generally a microscopic narrative device, a gimmick whereby only the characters' perception is incomplete, not ours. 

We usually have a full picture of the ebbs and flow, the quirks and charms which personify a character early on, if not immediately. Then, like in the laziest whodunit, writers milk the cow as long as they can, perpetually prolonging the breaking of the proverbial ice because the process of misunderstanding itself is the only structure they can come up with. 

In Wild Romance, this gradual enlightenment is used in a macroscopic way: both the characters and the viewers go through the same gradual journey of discovery. It's a subtle difference but one which, pardon the pun, makes all the difference.
The average trendy drama is like a hamster trapped inside a glass dome of its own making, endlessly running that wheel simply because nothing awaits outside. In hindsight, Wild Romance's rather unnerving early episodes were the first steps in that cognitive process which only singles out what's familiar and tends to distort or ignore all the complexities. Not getting the usual microscopic approach to characterization (which in an ordinary rom-com would have instantly added the “woman” element to our perception of Eun-Jae) created a situation in which we didn't have enough elements to judge the characters, so only the histrionics would stand out. This, more than anything, explains the rather lukewarm reaction it elicited from the very start – as you'd think such an overbearingly hyper incipit would exactly be the kind of mindless entertainment the masses are looking for.
That gimmick driving most romantic comedies is in itself a visceral catalyst through which viewers escape from reality – the process of discovery the characters go through alone becoming the means by which the viewer vicariously satisfies a repressed wish. But if you ask the viewers to approach the show beyond their initial perception (since not all the elements are at their disposal yet), then you change this from a purely visceral, passive experience to a more intellectual and active one.

Pay attention, and you'll realize how Park tends to use tropes from different genres as nothing more than a building block of her macroscopic characterization. Once you take that into account, then this stops being a mere rom-com, and becomes a much subtler and rewarding character study – just like previous work of hers like 연애시대 (Alone in Love) and particularly 얼렁뚱땅 흥신소 (Evasive Inquiry Agency). The budding romance between Eun-Jae and Mu-Yeol or the quirky romantic entanglements Dong-Ah and Chief Kim go through are not empty fodder for shallow romance, they're tools the writer uses to add more elements to her characterization – since our perception evolves along with that of the characters through this process of discovery. Even the whodunit, which is finally solved on Episode 11, adds additional layers to our understanding of these people, enriching the experience tremendously. It's an unique way of approaching storytelling, while at the same time using familiar ingredients. And even the thematic consciousness which eventually transpires is affected.
In the previous review, I mentioned how Park emphasized the dream element of every character, and their ultimate search for happiness. By gradually altering and enriching our perception, even those themes gain additional layers as the show goes on: now the characters' own dreams and sense of happiness are intrinsically tied to their past reality. Take Su-Young's decision to abandon her dreams of becoming a painter to instead build a family, which is ultimately tied to the sense of inferiority she felt in witnessing Jong-Hee's innate talent (something her mother never failed to point out); think of Eun-Jae and Mu-Yeol themselves, using baseball as a refuge from the suffering certain family members put them through. What seemed like a simple feel good story about the pursuit of dreams becomes something much more complex, smartly unraveling before our eyes as we go.

Alas, my incessant focus on Park Yeon-Seon is not a coincidence, as Wild Romance is sadly another case of bad planning turning what could have become a minor masterpiece into something that's nothing more than an eclectic variation on the usual canon. 
It's not just a matter of phasing out the writer's impact through an onslaught of misguided bling and CF-like excesses, like what happened with Noh Hee-Kyung and Kim Gyu-Tae in 빠담빠담 (Padam Padam) –which is simply a matter of producers wanting to impose their style at the writer's expense, generating a huge clash.

No, this is different. It's almost as if neither the producer nor some of the cast members were even understanding what Park is trying to do. Particularly when it comes to PD Bae. That little sparring scene is one of the most important of the entire show for what concerns that proverbial breaking of the ice I mentioned. It's the very moment when Mu-Yeol realizes that Eun-Jae isn't just a silly bodyguard with a tacky hairdo, but a potential romantic interest. It's the spark which could ignite the wild romance of the title!

How did he deal with it? As if he was shooting a sitcom, what with the horrible close-up shots complete with cutesy expressions; the corny, almost trot-like musical piece accompanying the scene, and a general lack of understanding of what this entire situation truly needed to convey. A few “SMACK!” here and a “Da Da Da Da Da Da Da Da BATMAN!” there, and you'd almost think Adam West in a pajama was about to pop up. Now I understand Bae used to work on weekend dramas with people like Moon Young-Nam, whose narrative has the subtlety of an hot dog eating contest, but how can a veteran like him approach such a subtle piece of storytelling in this manner?
The same goes for a couple (just a couple, really) of the cast members. Episode 11 was thematically dedicated to the “breaking of the ice” between Eun-Jae and Jong-Hee, but it almost became Saving Private Granny-- as Jessica's painfully laborious and surgically-enhanced facial contortions can attest. And you know what? It's not even her fault. You can condemn the industry for once again throwing a pop starlet into the cauldron, since they bring investment from Japan at a minimal cost, and you can even fault her for not fully understanding her character, or at least not having the tools to convey her complexities. 

That is because there is a veteran behind the camera who should be there to guide her, to at least show her the basics. You can't leave a complete newcomer like her alone, without any pointers as to how to approach the gradual journey of unraveling her character goes through. Lee Si-Young is not much better, as her character has long stopped being a “blockhead,” and yet she rarely steps out of that initial perception, constantly trying to overemphasize every situation with an endless flurry of ad-lib.

It's painful to witness, because this is a very solid show, with a script that keeps getting deeper and increasingly endearing characters as the story progresses. It has a quiet, introspective beauty that at times explodes with the kind of intensity no romantic comedy of recent memory has been able to showcase. And yet, as it stands, Wild Romance is nothing more than a Mondrian done with Photoshop. Beautiful it can often be, but you know what they say about beauty...
난폭한 로맨스
(Wild Romance)

A GnG Production/유한회사 난폭한 로맨스 (Wild Romance SPC) Project
KBS2, Airing Wednesday and Thursday Night
Episodes 9~12 (of 16)

WRITER: 박연선 (Park Yeon-Seon)
PD: 배경수 (Bae Kyung-Soo), 김진우 (Kim Jin-Woo)
MUSIC: 김선민 (Kim Seon-Min)
CHIEF PRODUCER: 황의경 (Hwang Eui-Kyung)
ASSISTANT PD: 김지우 (Kim Ji-Woo), 이미나 (Lee Mi-Na)
CINEMATOGRAPHY: 권혁균 (Kwon Hyeok-Gyun)
LIGHTING: 조기남 (Jo Gi-Nam)
ART DIRECTOR: 이강현 (Lee Gang-Hyun)
COSTUMES: 김보배 (Kim Bo-Bae), 김희정 (Kim Hee-Jeong), 김율희 (Kim Yool-Hee)
ACTION CHOREOGRAPHY: 박주천 (Park Ju-Cheon), 한정욱 (Han Jung-Wook)
EDITING: 김미경 (Kim Mi-Kyung)
CG: KBS Mediatek
CASTING: 정치인 (Jung Chi-In)

Park Mu-Yeol: 이동욱 (Lee Dong-Wook)
Yoo Eun-Jae: 이시영 (Lee Si-Young)
Jin Dong-Soo: 오만석 (Oh Man-Seok)
Oh Su-Young: 황선희 (Hwang Seon-Hee)
Go Jae-Hyo: 이희준 (Lee Hee-Joon)
Kim Dong-Ah: 임주은 (Im Ju-Eun)
Kang Jong-Hee: 정수연 (Jessica Jung)
Kim Tae-Han: 강동호 (Kang Dong-Ho)
Kevin Jang: 이한위 (Lee Han-Wi)
Yoo Young-Gil: 이원종 (Lee Won-Jong)
Yoo Chang-Ho: 장태훈 (Jang Tae-Hoon)
Seo Yoon-Yi: 홍종현 (Hong Jong-Hyeon)
Mi-Jin: 이엘 (Lee El)
Jin Woo-Young: 김진우 (Kim Jin-Woo)
Mu-Yeol's Aunt: 이보희 (Lee Bo-Hee)

all credit & thanks to :

Lovely Reminder ♥ ♥ ♥ : PLEASE! If there's any page takes my posts here and repost it in your pages, give me credit for that. It's not that I don't wanna share, just remember my existence here and appreciate what I do is enough. ~Shelby

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