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"

What's in a name? And no, forget Shakespeare. I mean literally.

If a strange malady assaulted providence out of the blue, and those curious ailments forced her to bestow the role of TV drama writer upon me, perhaps I would spend more time mulling over my characters' names than the drama's subject itself – and maybe I would start a serial killer flick with murderer and soon-to-be-murdered debating the finer points of cooking spaghetti while piss drunk, knowing how I write reviews. Some actual writers like Moon Young-Nam and Im Sung-Han seem to be afflicted by a similar dilemma, knowing how deliriously silly – and, after 15 years of the same tricks, tiresome – their name choices are. Others, like Jang Young-Cheol in 샐러리맨 초한지 (History of the Salaryman), give names an extra layer of complexity by mirroring those of historical figures like Qin Shi Huang and Liu Bang. Some even create a sort of dramatic persona which follows them for a good portion of their career, like Park Mu-Yeol does for Park Yeon-Seon's dramas, including her recently concluded 논폭한 로맨스 (Wild Romance)
It's not just a simple matter of choosing a fitting name – Jack Bauer sounds a lot more badass than Jim Pansey, doesn't it? It's the value you give to that singular moniker itself that matters. This is perhaps something that will resonate more in cultural environments dominated by family dynamics, and where individualism is still a rather eclectic (or, hell, controversial) trait and not the norm. 

Korea, for instance, considering the maddening family nomenclature which assaults you with different definitions for paternal and maternal grandmothers, uncles who become little fathers, and married couples who seem hell bent on calling each other everything but their own names. 

Set aside the cultural intricacies behind such naming patterns, from a certain standpoint this could be considered a dehumanization of sorts: the name of an individual ceases to exist, replaced by his role in the social hierarchy, turning men and women with distinctive traits into aunts, mothers, brothers, sons and whatnot. And it's not just about family.

Wild Romance goes a step further, extending that concept all the way to its two prospective lovers, who choose to address each other as 꼴통 (blockhead) and 냥반 (nyangban, a quirky and derisive variant of yangban, literally “fella”). 
The fact it takes until the very last episode for one of them to call the other's name is indicative of something that the simple narrative tropes of the romantic comedy canon cannot answer on their own: what does it really mean for two people to call each other's name, particularly in Korea? What does it entail, and is the effusive exposition so predominant in the genre really enough to convey the complexities that those few words can unravel?

If you forget for a moment the flimsy, visceral concerns which populate the minds of the average viewer approaching this genre (shall I mention cacophony like OTP or “shipping,” not to mention their infinitely more appalling Korean equivalent?), then you'll discover that this drama is not really too interested in romance as a simple excuse to stick two supposedly charming leads together and have them explore the finer points of petting. Wild Romance was in fact a title forced upon Park by what has become a disarmingly complacent industry, fearing her initial draft titled 스트럭아웃 낫아웃 (Strike Out – Not Out) could lead viewers into thinking that, God forbid, this might not actually be another intellectually bankrupt trendy drama. But in a way that unfortunate title does explain her motives.
Wild is the desire which moves these characters to hear someone call their name for real. Not Mother of Woo-Young (what is she, a Klingon?); not with a laconic, dismissive “Aunt” which turned a flower of youth into dry flowers served in hot water by who has become nothing more than a glorified maid; and most definitely not just Blockhead, even if said with a certain dose of affinity. But this tentative to highlight the individual is not really a wish to break from social standards – rude and crude individualism – but rather the desire for love and understanding. These characters want to be loved by someone for what they are, not just for whom they're associated with – as a mother, daughter, aunt, blockhead or whichever other moniker they've been branded with, willing or not. Then, and only then, is when the romance comes into play, as a culmination of that understanding. The fact the show goes to Bollywood-like lengths in avoiding the payoff until the very end might have caused the indifference it has been subjected to by the masses, but it's also what might have ended up elevating it to heights rarely seen in this genre.

When I say every character in Park Yeon-Seon's dramas is a lead, it probably stems from the fact that she deeply loves and understands each and every one of them. Other formats like daily and weekend home dramas tend to put the spotlight on a wider array of characters, making the idea of a singular protagonist moot. But for the most part we're dealing with the aforementioned social dynamics, as those shows never really explore the individual, but only their roles within the family. Park's works, instead, try to make a case for everyone, to give them their own little opportunity to speak out and seek the understanding which defines them. It happened in 연애시대 (Alone in Love) and particularly her magnum opus 얼렁뚱땅 흥신소 (Evasive Inquiry Agency), dramas which might have danced within the confines of genre canons, but always took time to single out tiny moments which highlighted each and every character. The same goes forWild Romance.
This lack of decisive focus on the leading quartet is what breaks from the norm, rewriting the grammar of trendy dramas (rom-coms in particular) in much the same way 추노 (Slave Hunters) altered the predominant narrative (and lexical) structure of fusion sageuk. Again, this became another point against the show becoming a success, as hordes of viewers lamented the fact there was no romance in this Wild Romance, a consequence of years of thematically anorexic trendies shoving copious amounts of romance down your throat, trying to mask the fact said romance lacked thematic and sometimes even emotional logic – bastardization which evidently was successful, given how antsy the mainstream gets whenever a show tries something new. Here we don't get the end of a marathon and following celebration, but the process, the race itself.

Arguably, whatever romantic entanglements the show went back to from time to time might just be a tiny concession by the writer, a tentative to compromise and involve even viewers who are not in tune with her irreverent approach to characterization. 
They might be, on the other hand, concessions forced upon her by the same people who insisted on pigeonholing a show which by nature defied all genre labels and generalizations. And one begins to wonder whether PD Bae was another one of those compromises, as pairing someone as eclectic as Park with your ordinary journeyman with a few hits under his belt reeks of the same concessions forced upon almost every one of Noh Hee-Kyung's shows. The result is that while Wild Romance benefits from one of the best trendy drama scripts of the decade, it will take some intellectual rumination to appreciate its merits, given how deleterious the music and directing often end up becoming.

I wouldn't go as far as saying that Bae purposely compromised the show by toning down its “excess of creativity,” but rather that he was completely ill-suited to this kind of complexity, resulting in a faulty interpretation of an unquestionably brilliant script. I loathe to turn this into another “us vs them” diatribe, but there are no two ways about it: if you respect Park Yeon-Seon's unique touch enough to give it precious time on your timeslot, why attempt to tone down or misrepresent its most winning characteristics? Are there people at the KBS drama department who really think Park could ever become a mainstream writer, or approach the rating heights of her hanbok-wearing competitor?
This is not your average simpleton-friendly pastiche, something requiring an active participation by the producer in an effort to mask the script's fallacies – shows where, before characters, actions and dialogue even justify an emotional response by the viewer, it is automatically shoved down their throat through aggressive music and camerawork, in no small part because the script would be unable to justify it. All that Bae needed to do here was accompanying the writer's prose and helping her whenever visual details were needed. Imagine if, for instance, he had edited in a certain close-up of a pair of green shoelaces during a thematically crucial scene – it would have avoided bursts of risible backlash from the viewers, at least.

This maddening refusal to acknowledge the very existence of diversity and creativity is what is turning this industry into a sorry shadow of its former self, trapped inside a cage that has never been so restrictive. At this point you even wonder what's the point. Why bother with Park Yeon-Seon, when you could get an ordinary scribe-for-hire to jot down the few trite dichotomies the viewers will accept, and earn your beloved ad revenue through inflated ratings? And when will this vicious cycle which is making the viewer dumber and dumber end? Because simply stating that until the mainstream learns to accept more intellectually stimulating material the industry will be unable to comply is rather dishonest – who planted the seeds of such bastardization in the first place?
People shouldn't debate what turned 해를 품은 달 (The Moon Embracing the Sun) into the megahit it has become – it's rather simple: the average Korean would rather see something he dislikes but everyone else watches so that he can participate in the frenzy surrounding it, rather than love something nobody cares about and feel left out, which explains why such an intellectually constipated sheep in wolf's clothing went from the mid-teens to an astounding 40% in a little over a month. The real debate should be about how we can make sure both sides of the spectrum (diversity and mainstream acceptance) can co-exist organically, without one (and always the same one) killing the other. For that to happen, we need to go beyond the dehumanization that Korean dramas have gone through the last ten years, if you allow me the pun.

Dehumanizing a drama means using the genre it's labeled with as a cage inside which you trap it; it means always and only expecting cheap thrills from a horror, endless petting for no discernible reason from a romantic comedy, or melodramas which incessantly rub onions under your eyes in a effort to jerk tears. It's the equivalent of turning an adult woman into nothing more than someone's wife, mother or daughter-in-law, and erasing all the complexities hidden behind the name which defines her.

Wild Romance
 is perhaps the best recent example, as the criticism levied against it feels like that of an unruly mob lamenting the fact a woman dared to be herself, and not the role society imposed upon her. It was the sum of many parts which might have looked to be mutually exclusive – like mystery thriller tropes populating what was supposed to be a romantic comedy – but which instead contributed to the definition of its own individuality. 
Much in the same way Park gave a voice to each character and their desire to be loved (and by that I mean recognized, acknowledged, understood), the entire drama itself is a 16-episode long love letter to the act of escaping from that process of dehumanization, and finally acknowledging dramas as a powerful tool to talk about life, convey true emotions, and stimulate your intellect even through seemingly silly questions. That it managed to produce so many memorable characters can also be attributed to what was a very effective cast (with its due and previously mentioned exceptions), but the respect for the genre (and drama as a form of art in itself) shown by this phenomenally talented writer is what enabled it to overcome all the potential pitfalls its path was laden with, and shine as one of the beacons kindling the darkness of a genre which has nowhere to go but up, after scraping the bottom of the barrel.

And all because of a name, go figure.
난폭한 로맨스
(Wild Romance)

A GnG Production/유한회사 난폭한 로맨스 (Wild Romance SPC) Project
KBS2, Airing Wednesday and Thursday Night
Episodes 13~16 (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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