To be honest with all of you, after I had posted up the last entry – I was not very happy with it. There was something missing in the entry, that even after I read it over, it felt dishonest and untrue. I was very grumpy after I posted the entry and the more I thought about it, the grumpier I got. I stormed upstairs and though I promised Eizwan that we can catch up on Supernatural – what I really intended to do was to sit in bed while he watched and grump to myself while admiring pictures of Kim Myung Min.
And these are the days when I am grateful for Eizwan’s presence.
Even though this episode is a Castiel friendly episode, it was not enough to entice me. In between surfing more pictures of Kim Myung Min, I was mulling why did I not like that entry. What was I trying to hide? Eizwan had switched on the TV and was ready to put Supernatural on the PS3. A lesser husband would not take time to notice his wife’s distress and would have just continued on watching.
But this is Eizwan. This is why I married him. He could see I was not happy. He asked me to talk through about why I was not happy about that entry. And then we spent hours dissecting what went wrong with the last entry.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the King of Dramas. I am inspired by the show. But why I am inspired by the show was probably not quite the honest part. I had written several drafts before the last entry, correcting it over and over and yet, I could not get to where I wanted. Usually when I struggle to write something, rather than writer’s block – it’s usually because I’m being dishonest with myself.
Eizwan hit it right on the nail when he asked me about my last blog entry. Sure it is inspiring, someone who would do anything to get what he wants. But that isn’t the only reason why the drama affected me so much. He pointed out the points that I kept talking about the past few days. My favourite part of the show is Anthony Kim’s character. There are plenty of arrogant, cocky and hyper-capable characters out there like House and the current Sherlock Holmes from Sherlock. But very few of them are like Anthony, who is arrogant, cocky and hyper-capable but prone to constantly breaking down into tears. Unlike House and Sherlock, who are barely aware about how flawed they are, Anthony is fully aware of his flaws. He wears power suits despite being completely and utterly broke. He teeters in between the realization that he was not who he once was and the delusion that he is still the powerful CEO of Empire Productions that produced the best Korean dramas of all time.
It is this strange balance of these two extremes that really caught my eye, to be able to write such a finely crafted character. With most cocky characters on screen, rarely would the characters acknowledge their thirst and desperation to succeed – they are always so sure of themselves. With Anthony, you are privy to see his desperation to go back to what he once was despite his outward self-confidence. The internal battle is played with very little melodrama (or the occasions when it is played with melodrama – it is taken to the extreme for laughs). I admire a writer for being able to create a character so nuanced and balanced and yet unbelievably cool.
As it is a satire, the King of Dramas use plenty of rom-com clichés to move the story forward. But what I did not expect was that every cliché was turned on its head so that more than half the time, I had no clue how the story was going to progress. When the writer, Go-Eun wakes up from a clichéd coma with amnesia, I did not expect it to be a prank that she plays on Anthony. Anthony’s response was a classic, over-the-top soap response: he pulls her close to him and declares desperately: ‘If you can’t remember me, at least remember me with hatred from what I did to you’…only to find he’d been punked by Go-Eun.
Or in another frequent K-Drama cliché, when Anthony gets the large sum of money from the Watanabe group for his drama, I half expected the storyline to go by the way of Anthony falling for say, the daughter of a respected CEO and thereby creating a love triangle between Anthony and the writer, Go-Eun as it would have played out in most Korean dramas. What I did not expect was for the Watanabe Group to actually be a front for the Yakuza which inevitably, raised the mundane stakes of getting a drama onto the tv screen, to truly a matter of life and death.
It is this delicate balance of playing around with tried and tested drama tropes and cliches, and then turning them on its head every single time that won me over. It is hard to be over-the-top without being too silly or falling into the Wayan Brothers category. The King of Dramas was too smart for all of that – it’s aware that they are being over-the-top and yet, it is played with so much sincerity that despite being chased by gangsters and a constantly vengeful Chairman bent on destroying our hero – it is believable.
And as I watched, I was exhilarated. I could not predict each sequence like I usually do when I watch movies (one of the reasons why I found Skyfall deathly boring) and I became more invested in the characters. None of the characters developed ‘normally’ per se and more than once, when the actor Kang Hyung Min’s conscience is pricked and we see a spark of humanity in his soul, it’s immediately extinguished by his love of money. In some characters, there are no redemptions, they may be good in their own way but they’re not going to change as they do, in a grand Hollywood style. If they’re petty, chances are they’re going to remain petty despite the occasional glimpse of a conscience, throughout the drama.
But as I sat down to write all of this, none of this came up. Instead, I wrote the entire cliché on why I loved the drama. I could not tell any of the reasons why I truly loved the drama. As I went to bed last night, with the first draft ready to put up – I thought, perhaps I did not want to bore any of you reading an in-depth analysis about The King of Dramas. Or perhaps, I did not want to come out as a Korean Drama fan-girl as though it was some form of low entertainment that I did not want to be associated with.
After I had posted, I was aware that I was very angry. And Eizwan asked me why don’t I write about it, about why I cared for the drama. I made up excuses – it’s boring, who cares? I can’t find a way to write about this as interestingly as possible. But I was becoming more aware on why I can’t. If I am staring at the screen for ages, it is because I know it’s too raw for me to deal with it, too difficult. It is not that I don’t want to deal with it but that I am so used to packing up emotions in a tidy little box and shoving it as deeply as possible to the recesses of my mind that I am unaware it exists.
Which is funny. As a writer, I would think I would be more used to mulling about how I feel about things. I spend a lot of time analyzing myself and people around me, to understand how I feel. But I have always known, and it pains me to say this, is that my greatest weakness is my inability to be completely honest with myself.
During the Director’s course I took part in London, one of the things I had to do was act as though I was in love with a housemate of mine but it was in secret and I was fully aware that it was an unrequited emotion. I failed at the task miserably because I could easily hide feelings like that. The task was intended to teach aspiring directors on how to get actors to feel the role.
A piece of plank displayed more emotions than I did on that day. Our teacher watched my classmates try miserably for 10 minutes to get some emotion out of me when she announced to the class that, ‘Adlina by nature, closes her feelings up. She doesn’t let them show and so it’s hard for her to be openly angry for instance, because it’s not the way she does it.’
She did not mean it unkindly. That is who I am, as a person. I think I am good when it comes to frustration and happiness. But when it comes to disappointment, to fears and regrets – it is not that I do not let it show. Rather, I don’t even acknowledge their existence; they’ve been shoved in that box, deep in the back of my mind. Sometimes, I don’t even know why I’m sad – I just know that I am sad and frustrated and I keep it in.
Harry was an actor turned director. She pulled me aside then and asked me to think about a situation, a moment where I loved someone but the love was unrequited. And to bring it up to the front, to let the feelings through. ‘And then I want you to act it out.’
Before any of the previous male companions could claim that they were the ones that came to my mind – surprisingly, the first words that came to me was the SC. It brought forth a torrent of anger, disappointment and rejection that I knew existed but had hidden away and it all came out at once.
Harry was pleased. And she asked me to hide this emotion but keep it at the forefront of my mind as I acted.
The result was just pure electric.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about that day, about how been given permission to allow myself to feel, everything came out all at once. At that time, it made me a better actor and I knew that if I were to be honest with myself with my own fears and doubts, I would be a better writer. If I was not so afraid to admit to myself my own weaknesses and my own failings – despite how vulnerable I would feel, my writing would be better.
Each time I struggled with a piece of writing – I know a part of my brain had decided to hide the truth. After much soul-searching, I knew why I couldn’t write any of that. A part of me is really afraid that I can’t write. I’m afraid that at the end of the day, for all my criticisms of cliches and tropes – that is exactly what I depend on when I write, because when I come to the crossroads, I take the path more commonly taken. Because it is much easier – or because I believe it makes me look good. I’m scared of writing something so different because of how it will be received. Heck, when I watch The King of Dramas, I’m not even sure I have the wit to come up with half the stuff they wrote.
I’m really sorry that The King of Dramas never got the ratings or the ending it deserved. I wish I had that kind of skill and talent to write the way they had, to create characters that I could love so deeply – to take all the cliches that I’m so used to and throw it back at myself. I wish I could take a path less commonly taken and not be so scared to do so. I wish I could see that I was taking the most commonly used path as opposed to patting myself on the back and saying ‘I’m certainly taking the road less taken’.
And the true reason why it was so hard to admit why I’m crazy in love with the show? I really, really wish, that for all it’s unpolished writing, the horrible ending it had, the strange inconsistencies the King of Dramas had, I could write half as well as the writers of The King of Dramas had.