I May Destroy You: Letting go or making sense of it?

I May Destroy You: Letting go or making sense of it?

I May Destroy You: Letting go or making sense of it?

Arabella from I May Destroy You
Deepthi Suresh

27th May 2021

 
 

Chaotic, complicated, heart-wrenching, mesmerising. These were some words and thoughts that were running through my mind as I watched this mind-blowing twelve-episode series made for HBO and BBC One. Written and co-directed by the charismatic talent, Michaela Coel, who also plays the lead role of Arabella, I May Destroy You is one of the best performances I have seen in recent times. Millennial-life related shows may raise eyebrows at times as, more than once, various showrunners have only ventured into time-tested stereotyped life routines of the millennial. There has hardly been a fresh take on stories that one could easily relate to. Coel however, has championed the intrinsic issues we might face, through multiple layers of clever screenplay and direction. This show makes you think. This show makes you introspect. This show has my respect. 

 

Arabella is a free-spirited young East Londoner who owes her book agents a draft of her upcoming book. But the night longingly makes her abandon her laptop. She quickly slips into a late-night crew party as she drifts to a place called Ego Death Bar. There are shots going around. The night quickly blurs and disintegrates. The audience wonders why Arabella seems dizzy and clawing her way out of a door. But we are not given enough time to ponder, as the next scene cuts to Arabella at her writing desk. She has a minor injury on her forehead that needs cleaning up, but she manages to meet her deadline. Setting the tune of the show are the clouded scenes whizzing through Arabella’s mind, of a man sweating and panting with flared nostrils in a bathroom stall.  For those brief seconds, as the memory flashes through her mind, she is in shock. Arabella is a victim of date rape drug. 

 

Coel broke into TV at 28 through her BAFTA award-winning comedy Chewing Gum about a girl desperate to lose her virginity. While pulling an all-nighter drafting the second season of the show, Coel decided to take a break to meet up with her friend at a bar. Her drink was spiked, and she was sexually assaulted by two men. She finds herself returning to consciousness at the Fremantle Media production office, where she had been working earlier. Her phone was smashed, and she goes on to finish the episode that she has been writing and eventually realising what she had gone through in her drug induced state. She portrays her real-life horrific incident in the show with ease and courage.

 

“I May Destroy You takes the viewer through a journey of despair, blankness, and an attempt to understand what had happened and what might happen in her life going forward. The truth of this show does not lie in showing what happened but in how it felt…how it feels.”

I May Destroy You also bravely touches upon how a gay man encounters sexual assault and finds it excruciatingly embarrassing and uncomfortable to register a complaint, and how a woman visiting an exotic place gets played by charming locals into a threesome, leaving her with a feeling of being used. Is locking your friend in a room with their crush during a party at your home the right thing to do? Did your friend consent to it? Was it a harmless thing to do? The question of consent moves to varying degrees in all our lives depending on the circumstances or situation. One might be forced to ponder deep into its meaning during a harmless conversation with friends. The question of consent is a difficult subject but is in grave need of discussion in mainstream media and this show touches upon all the right notes for the audience to hopefully understand and engage with the topic a bit more. 

 

The art of letting go is probably the toughest motion a victim of trauma must adapt to. Nevertheless, it is a universally accepted coping mechanism. But the question is, how do you do it? What is the right way? The finale of I May Destroy You will bowl you over with its beautifully translated trials and errors through its top-notch screenplay to well, let go. The title, in all its vagueness, is what makes the show special. It is the vagueness of our own understanding of what does or does not happen to us, that shines through our lives as we try to go forward in the best way we can. 

 

I May Destroy You is a much watch. 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo by BBC Studios on Twitter

This article was supported by: STAND Programme Assistant Rachel

 

Do we need a Gossip Girl reboot?

Do we need a Gossip Girl reboot?

  ARTS + CULTURE
Do we need a Gossip Girl reboot?
Gossip Girl
Grace Donnellan
13th April 2021

 

When Gossip Girl first hit our screens in 2007, much of the world was still enthralled by the wealth, materialism, and hyper-capitalism of the economic boom. While some were predicting an imminent crash, they were largely ignored. Television shows like My Super Sweet Sixteen, The Hills and The Simple Life had all been large successes. And so, Gossip Girl, with its window into the lives of the Upper East Side’s uber wealthy, fitted neatly into the cultural context of the time.  

 

The first season of Gossip Girl was hugely popular and earned accolades such as “the greatest teen drama of all time.” At this time many were feeling the benefits of economic growth and for those not yet benefitting wealth seemed like an achievable aspiration. We could laugh at the ridiculousness of the lives of Gossip Girl’s Upper East elite, while also using them as aspiration porn. The first season also utilised Brooklynite Dan Humphrey as a moralising force who granted us an outsider’s perspective. 

 

Then in 2008, the economic and cultural landscape changed utterly after the financial crisis. The excess portrayed in Gossip Girl became more jarring than aspirational. The showrunners were left with a choice whether they would alter the show to reflect the recession or whether they would lean into the ridiculousness as a form of escapism. They seemed to attempt to do both. As the seasons progressed, Gossip Girl still maintained the character’s glamorous lifestyles, but at the cost of their empathy and nuance. 

 

The protagonists in Gossip Girl, who we are supposed to root for, are Chuck and Blair. Chuck is a bad boy who personifies the worst elements of wealth and privilege. He sexually assaults numerous characters, including 14-year-old Jenny, and on one occasion gets violent with Blair. Blair is a bitter elitist. While in the first season we see a softer side of her character, in the post-recession seasons the writers double down on her classism and meanness. And yet Blair and Chuck get everything they want by the time the show finishes. We are supposed to adapt to their worldview and feel happy for them, despite neither character exhibiting real growth. The less affluent characters are not painted in as forgiving a light. In the court of Gossip Girl fans, Dan and Jenny are considered the worst characters. While Dan is pretentious and irritating at times, his behaviour pales in comparison to the Upper East Siders. In the finale, it is revealed that Dan has stooped to the manipulative, scheming level of his peers and only then, after a brief period of repentance, is he rewarded. The audience internalises the worldview that the behaviour the affluent characters used to get ahead is okay because they are rich and that the worst sin you can commit is to be moral or poor. 

 

Often reboots are made to tap into our nostalgia surrounding the original. But any nostalgia surrounding Gossip Girl does not exist anymore. The aspirational thinking promoted by the show died with the financial crash and would be even more incredulous now. Many young people who might have enjoyed the show felt the impacts of the recession in their homes as teenagers and have grown into socially conscious adults. It would be hard to argue that they would be interested in a show about vapid, wealthy elites. In any case, why should we even make such a show?

 

“In today’s world many of the heroes of Gossip Girl look more like villains, should we not be rooting for better characters?”

The only way a Gossip Girl reboot could work would be to totally subvert the themes of the original. This seems unlikely as Jordan Alexander, a reboot cast member, said that the reboot would be “staying true to the essence of Gossip Girl but with a completely different take on it.”  This essence is a world where wealthy characters manipulate and scheme for their personal gain and the less affluent characters are demonised or forced to assimilate.  

 

Another major issue regarding the original was the lack of diversity. The only main character of colour was Vanessa, who was not meant to be liked. The reboot features a heavily BIPOC cast which is a welcome change. However, it could be considered tokenistic to reboot a show that originally ignored race with a now diverse cast. Who is this reboot serving except for the consciences of the original show’s creators and the white people who enjoyed it without criticism? Would it not be better to platform stories by and about people of colour, as opposed to inserting them in a white hand me down? 

 

There is no denying that Gossip Girl is an entertaining show. It has retained relevance, to a certain extent, due to its ridiculousness. And while it can still be enjoyed with hindsight, is it the kind of television we should be making today? Arguably not. 

 

 

 

 

Featured photo created using Canva

 

Women in the MCU

Women in the MCU

 

ARTS + CULTURE

Women in the MCU
tampons
Darius Apetrei

5th April 2021

 

With the release and success of WandaVision, we can now see that when the MCU tries, they can create intriguing female characters that are more than just catalysts used to move the plot from one point to the other. Wanda’s experiences with grief and trauma from previous movies are built upon in this series and are brought to an apogee, providing the MCU with an incredibly humane and vulnerable side to a female superhero. Yet this does not drown out the super part of the Scarlet Witch as we are also shown how powerful Wanda can truly be, reminding us that even when dealing with loss and emotional duress, we are still looking at a superhero.  

 

 

WandaVision is an incredible direction for the MCU to move in, but even so, there is a definite air of confusion present questioning whether the MCU can integrate well-written female characters into their stories. Early on in their universe, they have shown that they can do so through the characters of Natasha Romanoff and Virginia “Pepper” Potts, whereas later, they released flops such as Captain Marvel. As well as some of the female characters are written, how frustratingly satisfying is it that most female representation in the MCU consists of side-characters or superheroes that are simply not strong enough to face any of the main villains? Romanoff is stuck fighting fodder most of the time she’s on-screen as she simply does not possess the power to go up against villains such as Ultron or Thanos. Pepper, on the other side of the spectrum, fills her role of a stay-at-home moral-support character that must constantly keep Iron Man in check and deal with his company for him to have the time to save the world. You look at these characters, as well written as they are, and wonder if they are the type of characters one looks up at and strives to become. 

 

 

I remember that as a young boy, the main appeal of superheroes was that they looked cool on-screen while taking down the bad guys. While I was young, it was enough that both Iron Man and I were male; I felt represented and empowered and that I could become just like him if I took the right steps in life. The problem now is that as time passed, the audience grew up while the superheroes remained mostly the same.

 

“The older I got, the more I realised that sharing gender with the superhero on screen was not enough, something had to be added onto it. Something deeper and more intricate had to connect us, something like emotion and experience that could create an attachment that expanded our connection beyond the mere similarity of gender.”

With all these criteria in mind, it is already difficult to find a male superhero that fits the bill, let alone a female one. When the MCU announced that they were releasing Captain Marvel, I thought that it would be the perfect moment for them to capitalise on making sure that women gain a significant foothold in superhero representation in the MCU. (Yes, before Captain Marvel there have been shows like Agent Carter that had a female lead, yet the fact that the show got cancelled due to a lack of viewership speaks for itself.) Unfortunately, Captain Marvel did not live up to expectations. The movie fails to properly portray who Carol Danvers really is. She is presented to us as this extremely powerful character that wants to do what is right, which does not distinguish her from any of the other superheroes in the MCU. Even now, I am not entirely sure whether the script is to be blamed or the poor chemistry between Brie Larson and the character she was supposed to depict. Even so, no matter what was at fault, at the end of the day, the character was so flat and dull that the whole plot-point of Danvers experiencing an existential crisis and trying to find out who she is, has no impact whatsoever. Comparing her to characters going through similar circumstances such as Natasha Romanoff and Wanda Maximoff, one begins to wonder what happened between the earlier movies and this one; it feels like Marvel completely forgot how to write female characters in-between. Both Natasha and Wanda are shown struggling with notions of morality that are tied to their actions whilst trying to find a place they belong to. Captain Marvel on the other hand simply has this existential crisis hanging over her head the entire movie yet she does not appear to be affected by it all that much. She becomes one of the most powerful beings in the MCU yet there is no real moment of introspection that can show us how she truly feels or what she stands for, unlike the brilliant struggle Natasha and Wanda are shown going through as they battle against their past actions in Captain America: Civil War, having multiple scenes dedicated to them attempting to undo their past wrongs by siding with what they believe is right. 

 

 

The MCU, I believe, also struggles with tokenism. Characters such as Pepper in the first Iron Man and Jane Foster in Thor and Thor: The Dark World were mere token female characters that were there simply to exist. In the case of Pepper, she at least evolves into a substantial role throughout the movies. The chemistry between her and Tony Stark forms naturally as he passes the burdens of running Stark Industries onto her to free up his space and become Iron Man. Jane, on the other hand, has none of that development. Spanning two movies, Jane Foster and Thor built no chemistry whatsoever, yet we are meant to believe that the two are in love with one another. In Thor: The Dark World, when she gets possessed by the Aether, she at least acts as a catalyst that moves the plot of the movie from one point to the other, yet even then, Marvel has Jane do absolutely nothing with that power. Even Hela in Thor: Ragnarok was a disappointment. She is presented as the Goddess of Death and Odin’s firstborn. With Odin’s death, her banishment is over, and she returns to take over Asgard. The problem stems from the fact that we are presented with these facts about her, and intrigue is formed, yet nothing of significance is built upon that intrigue which leaves us with yet another one-dimensional villain. 

 

 

Another example of tokenism would be the famous scene in Avengers: Endgame where all the female characters get together to help Captain Marvel get the Infinity Gauntlet away from Thanos. Aside from the fact that there is no logical reason for this scene to exist, as Captain Marvel is strong enough to destroy Thanos and his entire army all by herself, the heroines that get together to help do not actually help. Each is shown fighting their own battles, but those battles do not contribute anything to Captain Marvel’s success in taking the gauntlet away from Thanos. In the time it takes the heroines to kill a couple of aliens, Captain Marvel flies through an entire armada without batting an eye. 

 

 

Thinking of this scene brings me back to my childhood years and to the glint in my eyes as I watched Iron Man save the world. Just the same, I cannot help but think of all the young girls sitting through this scene and finally getting to experience that glint for the first time, seeing, at long last, all these incredibly powerful women come together and kick ass, inspiring them, as Iron Man inspired me, to believe that if they are to follow the right steps, they too can one day be able to save the world. Truthfully, who I was and who I am are not the same. Young me was satisfied with Iron Man saving the world and I did not care much for the depth and meaning behind his actions and development as a character. Yet as I grew up, I began to care more and more about it, and, thankfully, there was something to fall back on and pick apart. For these girls, what is there to fall back on other than false promises and superficial scenes that are half-heartedly created to make a portion of the audience keep quiet? 

 

I see most of the MCU’s issues stemming from trying too hard. With Captain Marvel, the MCU tried too hard to make one movie that finally had a strong heroine as the main character. It felt as if the movie itself was concerned too much with achieving that goal, and focused way too little of its attention on creating relatable characters and a plot that made sense. This, inadvertently, made it so the MCU’s glaring issues were more exposed, rather than finally covered. That one scene in Avengers: Endgame also suffers from the same issue: they focused too hard on making a statement and too little on that statement making sense in the context that it was placed in. WandaVision, on the other hand, has its success come exactly from the opposite. The focus is placed on making Wanda’s character as easy to empathise with as possible. Her trauma and escapism are relatable—especially during this pandemic—that it is hard not to empathise with and be immersed in her world as she tries to find a safe space. 

 

 

I truly believe that when one creates a story, the focus must be on delivering the best version of that story, not on fulfilling an agenda, because if the story itself is good, the agenda will fill by itself. If the forefront of your focus is to force-tick certain social-boxes, the story will suffer, making the actions of the characters in the story appear shallow and unrealistic. Yes, the MCU clearly suffers from a lack of female representation, and sadly, even the low number of female characters that exist, are rather poorly written, but if WandaVision is to be taken as an example of what is to come, I am more than happy with waiting to see what more the MCU has to offer. 

 

 

Featured photo by Waldemar Brandt on Unsplash

 

Book review- A Wiser Girl

Book review- A Wiser Girl

 

ARTS + CULTURE

Book review- A Wiser Girl

bring back our girls protest in nyc
parisa

18th March 2021

 

A Wiser Girl. The title of Moya Roddy’s new novel does not betray any of the twists and turns in the adventures of its heroine, Jo, but it does hint at something important: that these twists and turns also serve as trials and tribulations that presumably will leave her A Wiser Girl.

I went to Charlie Byrne’s bookstore over the holidays and picked up A Wiser Girl after seeing Moya’s name, as Moya is my friend’s mom. The first thing I noticed was the cover: a picture of a girl’s flaming red hair resplendent in the light and shadows on a clear day, as the girl seems to be looking out at the waves. The image also reveals nothing about the adventures that lie between its covers.

The book tells the story of Jo, an Irish woman in her early 20s, as she journeys to Italy during the 1970s in hopes of becoming a painter. She harbors ideations of herself as an aspiring bohemian. In Italy, she runs into all sorts of trouble, ranging from the sexual attention of her boss, the father of the family for whom she works as an au pair, to inadvertently finding herself connected to dangerous communist groups who drag her into their political activities under the façade of working for animal rights. Jo, simultaneously naïve and unaware of her naiveté, is a prime target for the trickery of duplicitous men.

As she finds herself out of a job after an inopportune display of intoxication at her boss’ dinner party, Jo lands another job working in a home for the elderly, which is operated by a woman with crude manners and even cruder fashion sense. Despite this, Jo manages to somehow make friends with a kind (and wealthy) English man, Rupert, whose family own a property in Italy. Unfortunately for him, her romantic interest waxes and wanes as her time in Italy progresses. However, soon romance sparks between her and Philip, a young American painter, who also receives attention from Rupert’s mother.

As the novel progresses, the themes of youth, vulnerability, and making life mistakes color the plot and give context to the situations in which Jo finds herself. Her decisions seem at times madcap and ad hoc, partially due to her lack of propriety and partially due to her inability to keep quiet when annoyed or upset.

 

“As the novel progresses, the themes of youth, vulnerability, and making life mistakes color the plot and give context to the situations in which Jo finds herself.”

 

A Wiser Girl depicts something that many women and girls today still face at every second of their lives, but many have not experienced: being controlled and having their wings broken by the men in their lives. In Jo’s case, the readers are aware that she leaves Ireland with a broken heart, in part to escape from her past with Eamon, someone who touched her profoundly. We are also aware her financial means are limited and that she comes from a working-class background, which has limited her educational options. Throughout the course of her experience in Italy, Jo constantly faces situations or decisions that illustrate how youthful and vulnerable she is, both as a foreigner and as a young woman in Italy in the 1970s.

The most poignant illustration of this, at least for me, is the scene in which Jo receives a letter from the Florence Art Academy inviting her back to model for the students. The previous semester, Rupert had found her a job there after she found herself out of the job at the home for the elderly. At the time of receiving the letter, she and Philip are ensconced in their own live-in relationship, and Philip flat-out forbids her from going back, without even giving her the chance to express her thoughts, and what is remarkable is that he feels comfortable doing so, without a doubt about whether it is his choice, or even his place to do so. Whether or not Philip made this choice out of jealousy over the fact that his girlfriend would be posing (her body visible) before other students, her artistic ambitions, or of her spending her time with other people on other things is unclear. But Philip makes the decision, and she goes along with it. As a result, she is left completely beholden to Philip, completely at his beck and call, and she is essentially completely reliant on him for her own physical, emotional, and financial well-being, a responsibility bestowed upon him that he does not deserve.

Philip uses Jo as a muse, but also as his emotional, social, and physical crutch and companion, at times as his unofficial housewife. He reminded me of what I imagine a narcissistic who sucks all the energy out of those around him would be like, of the way I imagine a sensitive, creative type in need of constant praise, stimulation, and attention, unable to internally bear what he perceived as her competition as a painter or as an independent partner.

Jo’s summer in Italy leads her into trouble, foibles, and adventures, and it proves to be a summer of self-discovery. In the end, hopefully she realizes who her real, true friends are and is on her way to realizing and manifesting her own self-worth and potential. May we please have a sequel?

 

Featured Photo from Conor Montague on Twitter

Documentary review: Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.

Documentary review: Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.

 

ARTS + CULTURE

Documentary review: Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.

fka twigs in concert
deepthi suresh stand news

10th March 2021

 

When Mathangi (Maya) Arulpragasam took out Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks in 1996, it had been 10 years since it was last borrowed from the London City Library. The book had been lying idle for a decade amidst a busy crowd of sleeping beauties. Black Skin, White Masks expresses the restlessness and the haunting trauma of the misconfiguration between the experiences and identity of the persecuted. Fanon demystifies the socially constructed realm of ideas driving our perception of oppression and exposes the need to awaken bystanders from their ignorance and overwhelming hubris. This is exactly what Maya, or M.I.A, has intended to do and art has been her medium.

 

Even after years of periodically listening to M.I.A’s Paper Planes, the Grammy nominated song seemed to be nothing more than the latest pop hit produced by a band of robots. Not until I stumbled across the artist’s documentary, Matangi/Maya/MIA, did I realise the story being told. Maya, or M.I.A, is a Sri Lankan Tamil musician and filmmaker who moved as a refugee to South London at age 11. Her father was a high-profile figure of the Tamil independence movement and was engaged in the gruesome civil war which continued until 2009. Maya’s encounters with the injustice of the Sri Lankan violence were silenced by the fear and oppression which reigned over the nation for decades. Paper Planes is an anthem of protest against the scapegoating stereotypes which plague the immigrant communities of the world. Her artistic and creative productions are the means through which she fights for the truth and activation of social and political consciousness. Paper Planes is a testament to both the ills of immigrant oppression and the vitality of their movement, and this intermingling has brought about the development of a thriving urban culture.

 

Maya’s documentary is an ode to her artistic activism as she accounts for the years of war-torn struggles in Sri Lanka, while simultaneously highlighting her experience of the hypocrisy and censorship of western media. The film itself is eccentric in form but it is through this raw style that an unfiltered depiction of the evolution of M.I.A, a world-renowned artist and silenced victim of censorship, is revealed. During the violent years of Sri Lanka’s civil war, one could not speak up for fear of death. In the West, one can speak but cannot be heard. Maya was, and often still is, portrayed in the international sphere as a pseudo-political activist using her platform and fame to preach irrelevant claims of human rights violations and Tamil independence. If she was not dismissed by U.S talk show hosts, her indigestible exposure of Sri Lankan war crimes was simply edited out by media bureaucracies in the West. In the New York Times, she was politically delegitimised due to the singular fact that she ordered truffle flavoured chips at a restaurant. She is wealthy and famous; therefore, she has no right to complain about injustice. If she were poor and invisible, would anyone hear her complain? In an international television interview, the Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary claimed that she “should stick to what she is good at, and that is music.’’ Unlike her pop music, Maya’s experiences of war and injustice were simply too uncomfortable for the ears of the western media.

 

“She is wealthy and famous; therefore, she has no right to complain about injustice. If she were poor and invisible, would anyone hear her complain?”

 

Maya was sued by the NFL for £15 million because she stuck up her middle finger during her Superbowl performance with Madonna. Her music video for the song Born Free received infinite outbursts of negative attention due to its violent graphics and controversial messages involved. The video sets the scene of the genocide of ginger-haired civilians in London. The production was inspired by the leaked footage of Sri Lankan authorities executing Tamil civilians the same year. When Maya shared the real-life coverage of the Sri Lankan executions on her Twitter feed, the post fell on deaf ears. The Sri Lankan war crimes and suspected genocide continued to be silenced in the international press. When an electro-pop melody, fake blood and ginger-haired actors got involved, the world erupted in outrage and YouTube censored the video’s availability.

 

‘Art is either a poem or a piece of cheese’. If an artist does not dare to create outside the boundaries of censored societies and perceived taboos, what is being created is nothing more than an empty medium, a blank canvas. Not only do people like Maya have social and political platforms from which millions could potentially listen to what they have to say, but artists also possess a form of communication more powerful and unique than any political campaign. They possess the power of influence, of inciting understanding and most significantly, they have the power to change the velocity of a society.

 

Truth is, nonetheless, a taboo. This taboo continues to be silenced, prosecuted, and dismissed every day across the world no matter how large and wide the platform of communication may be. Many people, therefore, enjoy an idea of equality that does not exist in their society. Political censorship enables this to continue. Art, on the other hand, remains to be a fundamental means of expression within our interconnected world. Censorship and political dismissal of artists is therefore an undermined and alarming problem. “The condition of truth is to allow the suffering to speak.”

 

Featured Photo from miadocumentary.co.uk

Crashing into the heartening Korean Wave (Hallyu)

Crashing into the heartening Korean Wave (Hallyu)

 

ARTS + CULTURE

Crashing into the heartening Korean Wave (Hallyu)

children playing in rubble in Yemen
deepthi suresh stand news

2nd March 2021

 

Hallyu is a Chinese term that, when translated, literally means ‘Korean Wave’. It is a collective term used to refer to the phenomenal growth of Korean culture and popular culture overseas. The wave includes everything from music (K-pop), movies, online games, and Korean cuisine, to name a few. In 2012, President Obama, on his third visit to South Korea, even referred to the term in his speech at the Hankuk University, which struck a positive chord among the students on an otherwise policy laden speech. The rapid growth and spread of Hallyu has been a blessing for South Korea and helped to pave the way to develop its ‘soft power’.

 

I ventured into watching K-Dramas thanks to the uncertain times all of us were forced to face since early last year. Amidst lockdown, while stuck at home with nobody around, streaming websites became a friendly place to escape. ‘Crash Landing on You,’ as the title suggests, was an unplanned accident. What caught my eye was the fact that the story was about South and North Korea. The hugely successful show is a pleasant adventure that allows you to savour precious, heartfelt moments of romance, family, friendship, and food!

 

So, what is the show about?

A South-Korean heiress/business executive crash lands in North Korea after her paraglider is caught in a freak tornado. She ends up falling out of a tree, straight into the arms of a North Korean army captain. The captain, instead of turning her in, agrees to keep her safe and help her return home. The popular series- whose writers include a defector from the North- has earned worthy praise for its nuanced portrayal of North Koreans who were often otherwise depicted as stereotyped drab caricatures. It is interesting to note that the North Korean writer in the writing team had until 2004 served with the Supreme Guard Command, the elite security force which protects North Korea’s ruling Kim family. He was even assigned to work overseas. On one such trip back to Pyongyang, he found out that one of his friends in Moscow had reported to their bosses in Pyongyang what he had said in a private conversation which would have got him into trouble. So, he decided to defect alone, leaving behind his wife and son in North Korea, explains BBC Korea’s Subin Kim. Kwak had spent time learning about filmmaking in the 1980s. The North Korean film industry was booming back then because of the then-leader Kim Jong Il’s well-known love of art. Kwak, having undergone part of his resettlement process in South Korea, had mentioned his skills in filmmaking and was soon referred to a famous filmmaker by South Korea’s spy agency, and the rest has been history.

 

“the writers have taken enough interest and care to showcase an eye-opening account of the village life involving a group of women who eventually prove to be loyal to each other hence succeeding in squashing the typical portrayal of North Korea as an emotionless place.”

 

There are numerous daily chores and habits we take for granted, like a hot shower in the winter months. But for a North Korean, bathing in winter meant hanging plastic sheets over a tub of hot water to create a steam bath. ‘Crash Landing on you’ brought back childhood memories of a North Korean defector Noel Kim who says, ‘ That’s how I took a bath my whole life, especially in winter when water is scarce’ in a YouTube video. Most defectors have said that the drama is 60 per cent accurate in portraying North Korea and has been thus garnering praises across Asia and the United States. The show carefully ensures to treat with respect the otherwise easy material for stereotyped comedy wherein a wealthy South Korean woman is forced to live in a North Korean village. Therefore, the writers have taken enough interest and care to showcase an eye-opening account of the village life involving a group of women who eventually prove to be loyal to each other hence succeeding in squashing the typical portrayal of North Korea as an emotionless place. Some of the scenes from the TV show depict the marvel and surprise North Korean defectors may experience. These scenes are not portrayed to show the materialistic life of Seoul but rightly points at something much more than that, which is sheer excitement. The elites of Pyongyang proudly modelling various European designer goods takes the viewer to a completely different side of North Korea. The rich-poor divide is a harsh reality, and it seems as though it is no different in North Korea as well.

 

Although this sensational drama got most defectors excited, some have accused ‘Crash Landing on You’ of glamorising North Korea. A common example cited is that the villagers in North Korea seem to have plenty of food but, food shortages have been a recurring problem. Characters of K-Dramas are often featured eating together and scenes are rarely edited allowing mundane real conversations to carry forward the narrative. Korean dramas are extremely slow-paced and often actors miss out on their breaks. Hence, ‘eating scenes’ are conveniently added to the screenplay which allows actors to eat scrumptious meals albeit on-screen. Despite, the occasional criticism, this show brings in a fresh take on the portrayal of North Korea and encourages the audience to understand the complex yet lovable and relatable people and is a must watch if you have the time!

 

Crash Landing on You is available on Netflix and you can watch the trailer here.

 

 

Featured Photo from Netflix