Monday, May 02, 2011

You'd Think I Would Run Out of Tears

So after almost three years of separation, my wife finally wants to make things official and file divorce paperwork. And while I know intellectually that things can never go back to what they were, and that we can never be the kind of people we were for each other, it was still a blow. I sometimes buy lottery tickets, and when I idly think about what I would do with the money, one of the things I want to do is take my daughter to Disney World. But I can't imagine just the two of us going, and there isn't anyone I would rather take with us than my wife, and I know it would end up being more uncomfortable than fun, because the entire time, I would be hoping for some kind of affection that is just not there anymore. So I guess it's a good thing I haven't won any jackpots.

But in addition to the loss, there's the shame of having to do a full financial disclosure and let her see exactly what a hole I've dug myself into. And of course, in order to do the disclosure, I have to actually look at the figures myself, something I've avoided to keep from depressing myself even further.

And in the midst of this, my favorite shows have been on hiatus, so I decided the other day to try out a Korean drama on Hulu. I have been idly considering the idea for a while now, given that a writer's group friend of mine has been watching them enthusiastically, and I have spent a couple of years in Korea and know a little bit of the language.

So I tried watching this action show titled A Man Called God, but it was so awful that I couldn't even finish the first episode. But I got bored a couple of days later and decided to give another show a try. I picked My Girlfriend Is a Kumiho (Nine-Tailed Fox), which looked like it would be funny. And the first episode was okay, kind of a live-action version of a standard magical girl anime, like Video Girl Ai or something. It had some good scenes, and the girl was cute, so I watched the second episode the next day.

And got totally sucked in. Because although the scripting and acting and production values aren't always up to American standards, the plotting is brilliant, and relentless in the way they tighten the screws on the characters, making their situation more tragic and desperate. In the entire second half of the series, it seems as if all of the main characters are either crying or on the verge of tears. It's exhausting, but also addictive.

And maybe it is just my own fragile emotional state, but I ended up being a total sucker for the tear-jerking. Not just because of recent events, but because I've wanted to cry pretty much every day for the past, I don't know, three or four years? I'll be walking through the store, looking for the right spot to shelve an item, and my throat will close and my eyes will start to well up, and I have to stop to take a breath and reorient. Sometimes just for a single random moment, but it's Every. Single. Day. Usually several times.

The Hulu page for a particular show will recommend similar shows, so after I finished Kumiho, I tried another show called Secret Garden. And though at first I didn't like it as much, I did end up watching all twenty hours in three or four days, missing out on a lot of sleep and writing.

And it was surprising how similar the two shows were, not just in the ways they use the plot and characters to tighten the emotional screws and put me in tears episode after episode, but also in surprisingly specific ways. Both shows, for instance, use the story of the Little Mermaid to develop the theme of the doomed romance. Both shows feature main characters who work on action films, so major plot elements revolve around casting and filming and stunts gone wrong. And both use comedy relief involving elevators (I like both scenes a lot) in the first episode to set up major plotlines later.

Secret Garden is subtler and better scripted, I think, but though it's cruder, Kumiho is more tightly plotted and more relentless about tightening the screws and investing the audience in the outcome. In fact, one of my biggest problems with the series was that it tightened the screws a little too far to allow for a satisfying resolution (an idea I might explore in more detail in a later post).

Overall, though, I really liked both series a lot, though I liked Kumiho a little more, if only because it stars the awesome Shin Min-A, who is super-cute. I mean, weapons-grade cute. If the point of a romance is to get you to fall in love (at least temporarily) with the main character, she totally did that for me.

But imagine, if you will, the kind of emotional and intellectual roller-coaster ride it was watching these shows. On the one hand, I'm totally sucked into the plot and the characters, laughing and crying right along with them. And all the while, I'm also relating the tribulations of the main characters and their seemingly doomed romance to my own failed marriage and impending divorce, so I'm crying even harder. And while I'm doing that, I'm also kind of embarrassed that I'm a 48-year-old man falling so hard for such a nakedly melodramatic soap opera of a show. And on top of that, I'm also analyzing the writing and story structure, even through the tears, thinking, "I totally need to remember how to do this so I can use it myself."

My heart and my mind are both broken, it seems.


Anonymous said...

sounds like maybe all the crying will be good for you, and since you can still analyze plot structure and all that through your tears, your probably gonna be ok in the end.

Anonymous said...

I have been known to do that myself. Sometimes, as Men, we need an excuse to dry, to let stuff out. I have used sad stories and schmaltzy romances to jerk my tear ducts and allow me much-needed relief. It's like sadness porn.

This will all be better in the long-term.

DarKScoRpioN said...

Shin Min Ah absolutely rocks. She is one of the best actress in the industry. Certainly hope to see her more often on TV. Check out some of her beautiful scans.