Key to a relationship (as told by dramas)?

So I’ve been watching these foreign Taiwan dramas on Netflix.  I’ve noticed an interesting pattern to the story lines.  They’re very formulaic that usually try to mimic  dating, heartbreak, communication faults and other “real world” experiences.  But there’s just one thing that I’m a little amazed that they usually do in almost every show.

That is that in these Taiwanese dramas, many of the characters do their best to hide negative information from the main female lead in order to minimize the female lead’s supposed ensuing heartache/sadness from hearing such information.  There is always one main story arc that dances around this negative information and is usually the critical piece of information that causes the conflicts.

Is there an underlying assumption that the female lead won’t be able to handle the information?  But then why are the writers making that assumption?  Why do the writers think that it’s OK to write a female character who is strong-willed, independent, and compassionate and yet won’t be able to think rationally through such negative information?  That confounds me… Is rational communication is ultimately one of the keys to a relationship?  If we take dramas as a sort of parable, then one of the lessons from these dramas is that effective communication must be key to successful relationship.

Love, Now  (真愛趁現在)

Watching these Netflix drama, I stumbled upon a suggested romantic/comedy(?) drama from Taiwan called Love, Now or 真愛趁現在.  But as I watched this drama, I inexplicably began to think of the different tropes these characters fall into as well as the contrived situations that parallel real life interactions.  Looking at the different character tropes, the writers seemed to have captured almost all the different types of people one could meet while dating.  I suppose characters that are relatable is what makes dramas popular.


Here are some thoughts about the different characters…

The 1st male lead Lan Shi-de (aka LSD) initially has a super strict, stoic persona where opinions and thoughts are viewed as black and white with zero tolerance for any gray. He absolutely hates being lied to as well.  His personality coupled with the narrow-mindedness doesn’t consider any update in his opinions once he’s made a decision.  This transforms him into a destructive, calculating person when exacting revenge on those that did him wrong.  After meeting the female lead, the writers show his change into what could be described as “the perfect husband” archetype — great with kids, compassionate, understanding, defends the wife, etc…

The 1st female lead Yang Yi-ru (aka YYR) has a “work is first”, no nonsense persona.  Although she also hates being lied to, she has the awareness to look at the bigger picture and to look for solutions to problems.  Her personality is described as warm, considerate, and generous.  The writers depicted this by having her look beyond the lie that created the first major conflict in the story with the male lead LSD.  After meeting and marrying LSD, the writers transform her into more of the nurturing “perfect wife” archetype.  Throughout the rest of the show, you see her play a prominent role in grounding LSD in reality.

The 2nd male lead Sun Qi-ming (aka SQM) is initially portrayed as the playboy/womanizer, not taking life or commitments seriously type of character.  But he is also fiercely loyal, kind and compassionate as well too.  He refers to many of the women he date as “fishes” (an homage plenty of fish dating quote).  As a later backstory shows, the writers use his mom to explain away many of the “playboy” commitment issues.  After being rejected by YYR, the writers evolve him into a “reformed” playboy with the help of the 3rd female lead.  However, he still maintains the charm and thoughtfulness of what could be described as another archetypal “perfect husband” variant.

The 2nd female lead Lan Shi-yun (aka LSY) is portrayed as the hopeless romantic.  Her idealized version of what love is makes it difficult for her to truly find love.  The irony here is she is a successful author on relationship, love and matters of the heart.  I don’t think the writers evolved her too much.  I didn’t get the impression that her viewpoints on love really changed.  Many of the conflicts surrounding her dealt with the type of suitors that were pursuing her.  You’ve got the obsessive stalker, the “don’t believe in marriage” suitor, the almost perfect suitor, and even the “too young” suitor.  Her conflicts mainly had to deal with resolving what her idealized notions of love  was with the ideas of the suitors.

The 3rd female He Cai-rong (aka HCR) lead was probably just a supporting actor that through her dialog became a favorite and subsequent female lead.  I felt she was written as the calm collected friend that gave insight to other people that they previously was unable to do so themselves.  You could tell that the moment HCR told LSD there could potentially be a reason why YYR did what she did was the turning point of the 1st major conflict.  She did this a few times later in the drama with the final one being able to resolve the issue between SQM and his mom.  It feels like she was written in as the perfect girl archetype… a doctor, compassionate, motherly, observant, coy, etc.  But at the same time, there’s a hidden wild side as well as mysteriousness to her that we get glimpses of.  We rarely got to see the other issues she faced unlike what we saw with YYR/LSY.

The 3rd male lead Zhang Yu-xiang (aka ZYX) was originally portrayed as the obsessive stalker gradually morphing into the too young suitor of LSY.  You could view it as a love gone wrong into the obsessive, jealous, spurned boyfriend archetype that gradually transforms into something authentic, unrequited love.  However, I find this type of transformation to be implausible.  He ends up later with LSY in the last episode because of his earnest reformed behavior.

A dominant female supporting actress Yang Yi-qing (aka YYQ) is YYR’s sister.  She is the female equivalent of SQM and also refers to her off-screen suitors as fishes too.  She was used mainly as swing characters usually to lighten the mood or give insight like HCR.


So back to the real purpose of this post, you have the LSD type of guys where they have a different faults. You also have the playboy/womanizer SQMs and spurned jealous lovers in ZYX as well as the faithful “unrequited love” ZYX type of guys.  You also have the YYR type of girls where they have faults and the LSY girls with their idealized “perfect” love too.  HCR “angelic girls” are rare but I feel like the character wasn’t fully explored as YYR or LSY was and hence CHR remained as an “angel/perfect girl” archetype.  And then you also see the YYQ type of girls that potentially go around breaking guys hearts.

I actually liked HCR as a character mainly because of the insights she gave. The subtlety/mysteriousness of her character added much more variety to an otherwise pretty standard drama.

If there is one takeaway from this particular drama, it can be found in LSY’s story.  Her story is a microcosm of the macrocosm.  LSY’s concept of ideal love and despite her setbacks in earnest pursuit, she maintains that earnestness and eventually finds someone who shares the same values.  The ideal love is reflected differently in the characters.  And each character goes about their own way to find the person who also reflects the same love.


Netflix foreign dramas

Lately, I’ve been browsing through Netflix shows. Taking a deep dive, I’ve realized there’s a bunch of foreign drama shows.  Curious about the plethora of foreign dramas, this article has an interesting analysis.  But as expected, there are detractors too.

I’ve never been a foreign drama show watcher. But I’ve usually enjoyed comedies, romantic comedies and more lighthearted type of shows/movies in general.  I’ve watched quite a few and I’m pretty amazed at the variety of background music for some of these shows.  They range from classical to instrumental versions of pop music to cultural music.

Hyori’s B&B

I’ve been watching this Netflix show called Hyori’s Bed & Breakfast.  It’s a reality TV show that stars Lee Hyori (a popular Korean singer), Lee Sang-soon (her guitarist husband), and the hired staff Lee Ji-eun (also a very popular Kpop idol known as IU).  It’s a reality TV show but at the same time it doesn’t feel like a reality TV show.  There’s a sense of peacefulness that the B&B host and staff exude by living on Jeju Island.  Perhaps through the magic of TV editing, the first few guests that arrive all seem to have this desire to get away from that “city life” and explore Jeju Island.

After watching a few episodes, the guests that were chosen to stay at this B&B are are extremely lucky and fortunate because these guests literally get to interact with Ji-eun the hired staff and not IU the Kpop star.  I didn’t realize how amazingly lucky the guests were until after Googling IU.  She is very popular in Korea as a singer-songwriter, collaborator, actress and performance artist.  I looked her up on YouTube definitely I liked a few of her songs (You&I, Good Day).  Her music spans multiple genres from R&B to very pop rock.  Her vocal range is amazing as well with the ability to hit the high octaves in Good Day as a great example.  With all that IU star power,  the guests still treat her as if she’s an ordinary person.  It’s an experience of a lifetime for both IU and the guests.  You certainly won’t find that type of treatment in US.


***Edit 27JULY2018***

While watching the last episodes, I finally realized what the nagging feeling was that I couldn’t verbalize when I initially wrote this post.  Throughout the show, Hyori/Sangsoon/IU displayed this sense of humanity that is lacking in many reality TV shows (at least in the US).  Of course this could be a total TV edit job, which if so, that was very good editing.

But hear me out… Unlike the competitive nature commonly seen in US reality TV shows (think Survivor, Bachelor, Amazing Race, Big Brother, etc), Hyori’s B&B centered around the human element when random strangers meet other random strangers.  Throw in some background knowledge from Hyori chatting with the guests and you get a sense of a human connection.  You have the 3 siblings.  You have the young married couple/hairstylist.  You have the long distance couple.  You have the four male friends on vacation.  Every single interaction between these guests and Hyori/Sangsoon/IU reveals some aspect of the staff that normal TV wouldn’t see.

Throughout the show, you see Hyori showing an empathetic side that not many Kpop star would probably show.  I think she realizes that if she can just listen to the people who are distraught/hurting is in itself helping heal the person.  I saw it pretty clearly with the 3 siblings group when the eldest (who is in her 30s) asked Hyori for some advice.  And then you saw it again with the “musical duo” group when the two were just worried about their future.  I don’t remember the exact words Hyori said, but after reading the subtitles, I got the sense the Hyori wanted to let these two girls know that being yourself is the best type of person you can be.  It may seem that other people are judging you but in reality they have the same exact concerns that you have.  She knows because she herself went through this with the microscopic spotlight of being a Kpop star.

And finally, watching IU in this show, I got the sense that she just wanted to be treated as a normal everyday Korean girl.  I don’t know if the producers knew/planned for IU to work there and subsequently warned the guests ahead of time to not be star struck.  But you certainly saw the “wow” factor in many of the guests while all IU wanted was to just wash dishes.  In some ways, the show was her release from stardom.  I’m glad the guests treated her as a regular girl.  I’m pretty sure she has at least 39 life long fans.



The Break

Michelle Wolf (wiki) has a Netflix comedy show called The Break similar to Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.  However, her show is much more experimental, edgier and I think talks about random topics that she probably cares about.  And I also don’t think she cares what other people thinks about her topics considering how she roasted Huckabee-Sanders at the White House Correspondents dinner.

So I’ve been watching her show on and off.  But her Season 1 Episode 7: How Dare You? had a segment about pro-life supporters.  She goes on to comment that if a person was truly a pro-life supporter, then it would be logical to also assume they would also support healthcare, childcare, education, gun control and the environment.  The conclusion being that these other policies promote human life through a variety of different means.


Her bit starts below at the 35s mark.


It’s interesting to think about.

Sour Grapes Documentary

Here’s another Netflix documentary that is fascinating.  It’s a heartwarming story of an immigrant kid (Rudy Karniawan) coming to the US and making a name for himself in the wine industry.

With the wine industry commoditized as it is, old wine vintages are certainly disappearing by being opened and drunk or forever stored away in a vault somewhere.  Nonetheless, wines are increasingly being viewed not only as investment opportunities for investors but also as a much larger mutual funds investment.  This means there’s money to be made for vintage wines and even more for the rare hard to find ones.

The documentary details Rudy’s sudden appearance in the elite wine tasting circles and his fake wine operation.  At the heart of the operation is Rudy’s ability to recreate the taste of vintage French wines from a blend of new wines blended with old commercial “table” wines.  Similarly to today’s wine operations, some vineyards harvest more grapes and/or wine that end up being sold to 3rd party winemakers who will blend and relabel the wine.  As the documentary suggests, only the most trained wine connoisseur should be able to detect the differences between a real vintage and a “reconditioned” vintage.  But to many oenophiles, they might not be able to taste subtle differences between a real and reconditioned.  To add more authenticity to the reconditioned wine, Rudy’s operation also involved the authentic creation of labels, corks, wax guards and even aging of the wine bottle exterior to mimic what a real aged bottle could potentially look like.  And with the wine market as lucrative as it is, Rudy also started selling these reconditioned wine to other collectors.  Since winemakers in the 1920s to 1950s did not adequately take notes or had inventory lost to the world wars, the authenticity of the wine sometimes were never questioned.  This lead to investors and collectors to assume authenticity and subsequently bid up the wines.  Rudy’s operation eventually started to unravel when a French winemaker started to investigate why a particular vintage was being auctioned when in fact that vintage was never made until years later.

Watching this documentary reminds me of a Hidden Brain podcast about art forgeries.  The way Rudy approached wine is very similar to how the subject of the podcast committed his forgeries too.  However, after watching the documentary, I can’t help but wonder if a similar operation is currently running in Asia.  With China’s rising wine consumption and their potential desire to also obtain rare vintages, a black market supplying reconditioned wines is potentially lucrative in China.  Could Rudy’s operation help establish a Chinese operation for his relatives?

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Depending on who you ask, I think most people will generally view the 2008 global financial crisis as being caused by the Greedy Elite Bankers thinking only of higher profits at the expense of the everyday Joe and Jane Worker that started with subprime mortgages and housing bubble crash and ended in a government bailout of the “too big to fail” global financial institutions.  It should be noted that very few (if any) major C-suite executives from the bailed out financial institutions were charged with any crime.  The biggest “punishment” were fines paid by the banks.

Netflix suggested this documentary and it is absolutely amazing to watch.  It’s about Abacus, a small Chinese family-owned Chinatown bank in New York City, serving the unbanked Chinese clientele.  The bank was indicted for fraud in selling mortgages to Fannie Mae as well as falsifying loan documents.  It took the bank 5 years and 10 million dollars to be exonerated of all the charges.  Per the documentary, this bank was the only bank to have been charged for anything related to the 2008 financial crisis.  It’s extremely eye opening to see the human side of the defendants (the bank and the family), the lawyers, and also the jurors in the trial.  It’s definitely worth watching.

Watching this, a couple things stood out about this documentary.

Firstly, it’s a bit shocking though to hear how a juror recounted that another juror “wanted to punish the bank for the 2008 financial crisis” despite the fact that jurors should only be ruling on the merits of the case and not the broader background that the case might be related to.  Fortunately, they did their job and looked at only the merits of the case.

Secondly, and perhaps through the magic of TV editing, the conversations with the District Attorney displayed a sense of hubris.  From the conversations, it felt like the DA really believed that by catching one bad apple they were going to reel in the rest of the bad apples… almost like a mafia type of bust where one person exposes the mafia’s internal misdeeds.

Thirdly, the documentary showed this interesting scene of displaying charged employees were marching down a hallway all chained up to each other.  A journalist had remarked that this would never have been done if it were a black group of employees.  Former prosecutors also remarked that this usually never happened.  And the DA had stated that it wasn’t their decision to “chain them up” in that fashion and was an “unfortunate” event.  Clearly, it was meant to humiliate because the Chinese community would never speak out about such injustice and those in charge knew it. I found it horrific yet sad that Chinese people had to undergo this sort of humiliation.

Lastly, the interactions of the Sung family over dinner and over legal pow-wow phone calls reminds me hilariously of similar Chinese interactions that I’ve experienced too.   The shade the mom throws is hilarious.