thoughts · TV show

Deconstructing “The Romantic in Turkey”

credits from the Romantic’s Official website

I’ve been obsessing over TVN’s The Romantic in Turkey for more than a month now. (For a recap on the Finale, click here). So few people actually watch it and there’s not much information on it online, except in Korean —and my very little (and dwindling) knowledge of Korean doesn’t even get me past the first sentence. The plot of the show is simple: Set in Romantic Turkey, 10 “Romanticists” of 5 girls and 5 guys will pursue their own romance, and hopefully come home with love. At least that’s the idea. It’s basically a dating reality show and I know there are tons of shows like these proliferating our screens already. But something about this just feels different from the rest, and “at home” with me. One, the element of sexuality in this show is almost nil, unlike most Hollywood-ish reality shows like the Bachelor and the Bachelorette. The primary reason for this is stating the obvious, without stereotyping. Being Asians, our culture is more reserved and more conservative, and expressing physical intimacy (at least in dating and especially viewed on national TV) is limited. But even if it weren’t on TV, admittedly that is our culture, modesty and propriety —something that I think is regarded so little in this day and age. Two, the show is set for only 10 days —and one of my favorite characters in the show (Tae Hee) put the whole thing in context: Is it possible to find true love in such a short span of time? Three, the actual dating experience (preferential dates and shuffles) was very interesting and entertaining. Except for the last date, everything was done on random. I loved how things turned out for most (including the bad ones) because it showed that there was no ‘controlling’ on the part of the producers, nothing forced. It basically rested on ‘luck’, ‘miracle’, ‘destiny’, what have you. And the conclusion of the show rests on the final decisions each of the Romanticists will make: to choose the person for them and wait on them to respond. The setting in Cappadocia was even more romantic and memorable. It’s a place I hope one day I get to visit.

Basically, the girls walk towards each of the guys. If any of them has chosen him, they would remain while the others walk away to where their heart is directed. If she stays and the guy has not chosen her, he gently rejects her with a warm hug. I know, painful, right? It doesn’t come easy on the guys, too. Because they see before them the girl they’ve chosen walk away. So the anticipation is built around who will remain and walk away in front of them –because who remains and walks away may not be the person they want to do so. And that’s exactly what happened to most of them, except for the last.

I watched the finale twice on replay today, and when it finally ended, I came to many realizations brought about by the show, which I think I’ve always known in my heart. Seeing it being experienced by people I hardly know made me feel their pain.

One is that I fear being the person left behind. Don’t we all? Two of the guys were left without a single girl staying for them. They basically watched the girls walk away and one of the characters who already expected this, had only this to say. “It still hurts seeing it happen before your very eyes.” I realized, in the deepest of all our hearts, that we fear rejection. We don’t want to be the one that’s rejected, the one that doesn’t get chosen. Whether guy or girl, even in just that short moment of rejection, the memory and the feelings hurt like acid in your heart. It’s etched in your mind —the walking away, the gentle hug which in that instance would only be adding salt to the wound.

I also realized that I don’t want to be the one that rejects. There were five particular characters here that had some sort of a complicated love triangle. All of them eventually didn’t end up with who they want; the last couple (Jennifer and Jun Ho who were my pick) just “settled”. And I blame the guy’s indecisiveness and double-mindedness on this. Watch it if you want. So going back, I realized it must also be hard on the person who walks away or hugs the person to do so because it’s hurting that other person whether they like it or not. I’ve been there many times —been the one that rejected guys. Again, Tae Hee sums this for me.

“I don’t think there’s a reason for attraction. Sometimes you just can’t help who you’re attracted to.”

That said, sometimes when you’re not attracted to a person, you really can’t force yourself to go the opposite direction, and inevitably you hurt that person by not liking him back. What gives?

Last of all, I realized that feelings and the flutters of the heart are only good for the moment they’re there. The show was set for 10 short days —and you don’t have that many opportunities to date who you want. You basically have those 10 days to decide and in real life, you’re allowed much longer time to think and consider and not decide out of pressure. But because it’s a show, that’s what they have to work with. That said, I do think how a person decides in such a situation is very telling of their real character outside TV. If you’re seen as a one-woman man in the show, it’s safe to say you really are. Jun Ho, the guy I liked, was changing his mind too often. He can be perceived as a player or everyone’s man. And in the end I don’t think he and Jennifer got serious after returning to Korea.

In the long run, you don’t decide based on who causes your heart to jump or how long —because feelings don’t last and are bound to change. There’s got to be more than feelings to base your decision on, and eventually these shallow feelings will give way to the deeper needs of the person. I saw this in the show. Jennifer, the girl 4 out of 5 guys chose, was constantly battling with her heart and her mind. Her mind says go for the guy who was singly devoted to her; her heart was bent on the other guy who was also interested in her —but with many reservations. In defense of him, he does like her. It just didn’t seem like he was in it for the long haul.

So I go back to Tae Hee’s initial thoughts upon entering this reality show. Is it possible to find true love in such a short span of time? Sure. But you just can’t decide on it on a whim. When all the feelings have settled and when you’ve sifted through the emotions of your heart, you must also give voice to what reason is telling you. I’m a romantic at heart. I love the simple gestures, the little details, even the showy affections. But looking back on my past relationships, a big chunk of why my heart was broken was because I failed to listen to the voice of reason and just went with what my deceitful heart felt. Romance is good; but it’s not everything in a relationship.

Our judgments most of the time are clouded when we let our feelings get in the way. The motto, “Follow your heart”, is dangerous, because out of all things our heart is the most deceitful. In matters of the heart, wise counsels from parents, friends, and above all God, are my decision-makers. At least, I hope to start there.

For more thoughts on the finale (and here I pour out my sentiments) click here.

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