Her Yerde Sen: An Emotionally Intelligent RomCom
Updated: Dec 21, 2020
The tragic romantic hero is an oft used archetype in the romance genre for books, movies and shows. We see the protagonist as a broken soul, unable to experience the wonders of love fully because of irreversible choices and actions from early childhood, or some other emotional trauma. Their deepest emotional wounds are often inflicted on them by those they love most, making it difficult for them to trust and be open in their adult lives.
I have wondered why it is usually the men who are shown to be much more justifiably flawed and fractured than the women. A rudimentary explanation is that since the primary audience for the stories are women, women like to see a strong woman of substance finally be the healer for the broken man, piecing him back together into a more fulfilling and human existence. These themes also allow mechanisms to show a more vulnerable, soulful side of a man, something that is often repressed in the alpha male stereotype society attempts to shape in real life. Both these rather typical male/ female characterizations are designed to appeal to the compassionate heart rooting for the transformative power of love.
This formulaic plotline is perhaps best captured in the classic fairytale story of Beauty and The Beast, written in the 1700s. The quintessential tragic hero, with the body and demeanor of a Beast, the protagonist is ultimately transformed by the love of the gutsy Beauty who doesn’t let her captivity diminish her inner soul, in the process teaching him about the strength of love.
The first time such a heroine was best characterized in popular fiction was in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Written in the 1800s, the more spirited than pretty Elizabeth Bennet as the unlikely love interest for the wealthiest catch who happened to visit their locality was just what the doctor had ordered for the handsome, brooding, introverted but honorable Mr. Darcy. The genius of Ms. Austen, who chose not to marry during her lifetime, was that she became a proponent of love as a basis of marriage in addition to economic and other prevalent causes for a union in those days, and used the theme repeatedly in her novels. Through her stories, she was able to capture a woman’s imagination for an ideal relationship. One where a woman is respected for her inner abilities, wit and charming personality as well as for her social status or external beauty, neither of which women had control over in those days. Largely, even after two hundred years, these themes persist in many cultures, keeping a hunger for the Austen characterizations of romance alive and thriving.
Romantic comedies or dramas tend not to veer too far from these tropes, and a success of a show resides in the chemistry between the actors, strength of acting, creative plot variations and the cinematography of the show, among few other minor points. After watching endless romantic comedies from various cultures, the two most recent points of comparisons come from the world of Turkish drama, where a common depiction of the unlikely love is between the successful male boss and the girl-next-door-but-quirky female employee.
Modern Romance, Turkish Style
In the summer of 2018, led by Can Yaman and Demet Ozdemir, Erkenci Kus burst onto the screens with a story of a spiritual love between Can Divit and Sanem Aydin, where Can was the flamboyant, successful head of the company Sanem enters as a lowly associate. Within the typical set up, what set the characters apart was that the emotionally wounded Can, abandoned at an early age by his mother, had adopted unusual coping mechanisms. He made an overt effort to look and act macho, an artistic flair in his attire and personality masking his emotional scars. He starts the journey of love with apparent and complete abandon, but it soon becomes obvious that due to his childhood issues, he had poor communication and comprehension skills when it came to understanding his partner and tolerating her fumbling, secretive ways as she matured into her first relationship. Amidst a lot of silly plots and sub-plots, the strength of the story remained in the recursive journey Can and Sanem took to eventually put aside their principles and learn to embrace love with all its flaws. For a more detailed review of the show, you can go here.
Another show that caught my attention is Her Yerde Sen, led by Furkan Andic and Aybuke Pusat. Inspired by the Taiwanese serial "Just You", the premise of the show, at first glance, would seem familiar: the rigid male boss who sets strict rules in the office, prohibiting workplace romance, ends up falling for the feisty and humorous female employee who keeps getting into various escapades. What sets the story apart is that the two are forced to share a home due to a fraudulent sale by the previous owners, and we get to witness their journey as they go through the friction of needing to share their lives and personal spaces, each learning about the other’s strength of character through some funny, cute plots, that make the evolution of their relationship seem a sweet, natural progression.
Whereas Aybuke’s Selin remains a steady, loving, considerate, independent and empowered character who falls deeply in love with Furkan’s Demir, he is shown a boy wounded since childhood, who carries the burden of knowing that due to a misinformed choice, he never got to see his mother again since he was six years old. Childhood scars are hard to overcome, and you can get more detailed reviews of the completed series here and here.
What is atypical in Her Yerde Sen is that, from the beginning, Demir's macho demeanor masks a feminist, who is unafraid to participate in the household chores, willing to call out men for their misogynistic views and willing to acknowledge Selin as an equal as opposed to one who has to bow to his will because he is a man or her boss. While he obsesses over the little details at home and work, appearing to be a control freak, in the broader scheme of life, his views are liberal and enabling. Selin bulldozes through all his carefully built defenses and he recognizes that he is vulnerable where she is concerned, as he has never been before. As they acknowledge and confess their feelings to each other, the love and affection he feels for her, the sense of home he has in her, are portrayed beautifully through the smallest of gestures and subtle expressions. The other atypical aspect of the show is how the humor does not seem contrived or forced. There is a layer of natural depth and emotional intelligence in the dialogue which is very relatable for the common folk, and a childlike playfulness to their relationship that is endearing.
Within the creative plot variations around the central love story lie several well-done, thematic exchanges that are guised under the playful bickering among the characters. The show does justice to important themes such as upending misogynistic stereo-types, healthy treatment of workplace harassment, healthy respect for parents even though some of their decisions may have been hurtful during younger years, healthy communication skills between a couple, the small and everyday interactions that slowly break down walls to unleash the child within, and many more. The dialogue and its delivery, from both Furkan and Aybuke, create a very believable picture of a cute, well-adjusted mature couple who are looking to work through their budding relationship to create a strong foundation for their future. Unlike many shows where comic relief is still sought through a bias towards a more sympathetic male hero, Her Yerde Sen takes a very balanced and sensitive approach in building both the characters.
And herein lies the appeal for Her Yerde Sen. It is a show that has been willing to use the framework of the typical romance story but go beyond it to create a love story that is modern, equitable, sensible and emotionally intelligent. Their feelings of mutual jealousy are natural, as is both their growing confidence that they are loved. Neither seem burdened by economic reasons to want to be together nor feel insecure about a financial disparity. Selin does not back away from telling Demir where her boundaries are, or accepting or poking fun at his rigidity. In contrast to many shows across the globe where strong women equate to mean women, Selin puts her stake in the ground in quietly firm but loving ways. And, in another refreshing twist, Selin is not the only alpha female of the show. There are other female characters as well who are shown to be the epitome of professionalism, holding important project management positions.
A shining star amongst the many positive elements that make this a pleasant and easy watch is the cinematography by director Ender Mihler. The aesthetics of the show are truly beautiful and I have to share one of the most exquisitely arranged scenes I have seen in any show anywhere. The colors, proportions, sense of perspective, overall composition are simply stellar.
Many stories start strong but dissolve over time into a narrative that seems incomplete. Her Yerde Sen remains a shining example in its script and overall production throughout its 23 episodes.
© mh / @entrespire, twitter
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