Updated: Dec 21, 2020
A Tribute to the Production Team By the Fandon, For the Fandom, Of the Fandom
Part 2 of 2. Part 1 is here
(Warning: long read and SPOILERS)
It is difficult to capture more than 50 hours worth of good television into a summary that is short enough to capture the essence of the story but long enough to do justice to the many details that made the show such a visual pleasure for its fans. The production team for Her Yerde Sen embodied the rare, perfect combination of a strong script full of relevant characters and plots, coupled with a talented cast and directorial team that created a layered portrayal of human relationships presented through a visually stunning narrative. All the supporting characters portrayed different archetypes that many of us average mortal beings have in our own lives. From disengaged parents to loving ones; from compassionate friends to selfish ones; from toxic males to empowering ones; from hapless women to the ambitious ones; from wounded souls to healed ones – I felt the series touched on and gorgeously navigated many arcs that show us what can be. None of the characters were purely good or evil, falling somewhere within a wide spectrum of shades of gray. And as with anything, the beauty of the show lies in the eyes of the beholder.
Script: Atypical Themes
Helmed by female writers Esra Cetek Yilmazer and Deniz Yesilgun, and supported by a female executive producer Ummu Burhan (second executive producer is industry veteran Omer Ozguner), I found the script to be one of the strongest, internally consistent scripts I have seen in Turkish drama. The other two shows I have enjoyed as thoroughly are Icerde and Ask-i-Memnu (2008-2010 version). Even though all three are completely different genres, the unifying factor is that they are all adaptations of other original work (Her Yerde Sen is adapted from Taiwanese series Just You; Icerde from Hollywood’s The Departed; Ask-I-Memnu is based on a Turkish novel written in 1899). Each one also offered a tight, coherent script that adhered to a central plan of execution from the beginning. There are few, if not any, redundant sub-plots.
In Her Yerde Sen, if you chose to see it, under the veneer of comedy and dramatized plots, there are many underlying and important social themes such as:
love being the answer for positive growth in life, regardless of age or social status
developing the ability to fight for one’s love even when major obstacles come our way
learning to become emotionally aware instead of using external factors as a crutch for not making forward progress in a relationship
promoting healthy communication as a keystone of equitable relationships
recognizing that seeking counseling in a relationship is not a sign of weakness (Bunyamin Bey, played hilariously by Baris Yildiz, even though a disbarred psychotherapist, introduced some important introspective questions to help two people connect more deeply).
mutual respect and understanding as necessary ingredients for healthy relationships
minimizing male toxicity in male to male and male to female dynamics, promoting a mutually respectful dialogue that is equitable and fair
having an environmentally conscious approach to life, while being mindful of animal rights, and better eating habits
Other glaring risks taken by the writers were in the presentation of the following major themes:
In addition to showing self-sufficient, professional women who could be self-reliant or learned to be so, I loved how the writers use the male characters to break stereotypes about men. Portraying Demir to be such a mentally liberated male character, who came ready to accept Selin with all her stubbornness and imperfections, without claiming to be perfect himself, was a refreshing take on healthy relationship goals. If anything, he helped her become more confident in herself in areas where she needed growth. He was also used as a medium to question male practices of making it the woman’s fault when a man makes unwanted physical advances against a woman and he mentions multiple times that it is the men who need to change. The following collage by @scldem on twitter shows all the ways Demir was aware of how to truly respect and care for a woman.
Muharrem Bey, a burlesque man from a lower socio-economic status, was a self-proclaimed protector for all the girls and in Episode 4 he takes a young man to task for making unwanted advances on Selin. We see him reading from a book on manners to the hospitalized man, and he lectures him that when a woman says no, it means a no.
Even Burak, the weakest male character in the show whose moral compass was questionable, was shown to be supportive of women’s rights and enabling women to grow in the professional space.
I appreciated the mindfulness of these choices and risks Esra and Deniz took to create a show within a society where social values and gender roles remain pre-dominantly old-fashioned. Which is probably why the appeal of the show was most prevalent amongst the urban, young, educated and discerning minds because they could interpret many of the subliminal and positive messages in the show, as well as understand their implications in a progressive world.
One of the choices by the writers I absolutely loved is the economic parity between Selin and Demir. Most romantic comedies that depict a boss - employee relationship, usually has the man as the boss, as someone who has a significant economic advantage over the girl. The disparity often leads to subliminal disparity in the power equation between the couple and it was nice to see relationships develop without that cliched dynamic. Selin and Demir, Ibo and Ayda, Merve and Bora/ Vedat were all working professionals and at par with each other. The one relationship that wasn't was between Leyla and Muharrem, and they had the atypical dynamic of the woman being significantly more polished and wealthier than the man. The relationship still worked in spite of that.
This particular scene was perfect as an illustration of this point, where Selin asks Demir to not worry about an impending bankruptcy because she would take care of him if he fell. Equally important is Demir's gracious acceptance of such an offer instead of the typical male ego rearing its ugly head with the dated notion that only men have the job of caring for their women.
Having grown up in a conservative culture, I am well aware of how repressed girls are often taught to be when it comes to exploring their sexuality.It is possible to teach girls to have a positive body image and an uninhibited perspective on their sexuality without violating the modest fabric of a given society. This was done very well in Her Yerde Sen. Set within the relatively conservative social values of broader Turkey, the culture in metropolitan cities like Istanbul has to straddle an interesting balance. Even though the local customs may be much more progressive than in other pockets of Turkey, the portrayal of sexual liberties on screen has to be presented to the dizi audience in tasteful ways. The main protagonists of a show will generally not consummate a relationship before marriage or promise of marriage. The women who are shown to do so tend to be supporting characters whose promiscuity is less harshly judged, almost as though it is expected behavior. Within this framework, it is not surprising that we do not see Demir and Selin consummate their relationship even though they lived in the same home. What we do see is a healthy dose of burning desire that both feel for each other and relatable passion when they do come together. But both Selin and Demir exercise restraint in taking the next step in their relationship. The following clip (@bir_hiral, twitter), though playful and suggestive, is still true to the passion a young couple should share but the depiction does not cross the line.
Demir was shown to have more experience than Selin, and he obviously wanted to take their relationship up a notch. His playful, amorous moves were rebuffed more often than not, but the respect he had for her boundaries were laudable and an important depiction of a man being understanding of a woman’s needs. (Following clip is by @seldemcanem, twitter)
In spite of many instances where Selin pulls away or pushes him away, there are still plenty of scenes that help to establish that Selin's mental block against progressing further is not because she’s inexperienced or does not desire Demir. It is out of respect for her parents and customs. Her desire for him is more muted but quite evident, and I loved that she understood the power she had over him. By the way she responds to him, we begin to understand how difficult it is for her to stay away and I thought it was the best of both worlds - insinuation of hot passion while being respectful of the social norms.
From a cinematic point of view, sometimes, wetting the imagination for how it can be is much more tasteful than creating explicit scenes for the audience anyway, and I thought it was beautifully done in several scenes. The following scene is the height of this fiery desire that they both have to resist from going any further. She almost gives in, but he is aware of her inner conflict and eventually chooses to walk away.
For a significant part of the show, there was focus on the idea of separation of heart and mind, especially in the workplace. When Demir enacted the ban on office relationships, he wanted his employee’s 100% commitment to the company without personal distractions in the office space. When Bora and Merve defied the rule and got married in secret anyway, Demir was the first to flag that if Bora could not fight for his love by stepping away and doing what was needed, then the relationship was questionable.
It might seem like Demir had double standards in pursuing Selin in spite of his own ban, but at the time he was falling in love, he was beginning to realize that love is inevitable whether there are rules or not. He would have modified the rules had it not coincided with his discovery of the depth of Selin’s many white lies. By the time Demir entered into a relationship with Selin, they were technically no longer working at the same entity, and it was not a conflict of interest. Nevertheless, it was ironic that Demir’s interest in Selin, and the consequent sense of loss felt by the deranged Alara, became a key reason for Yildirim’s destruction of Demir and Artemim. Burak’s many duplicities contributed as well. What both Yildirim and Burak underestimated is that Demir was never defined by his career. He knows that his innate strengths will allow him to rise again, especially if he has Selin by his side. This is a path Bora was unable to take, and many other lesser men will face the same predicament as Bora.
Symbolically, when the poster announcing the ban on love is taken down by Demir, he sees Selin through the window, and he realizes that life is less about the rules by which to live but more about choosing to live. Where he had always believed that none of his employees would ever think of him as a friend, his straight-forward attitude and ability to stand by his men when and where needed led them all to express to him that even though they were not sure at first, how lucky and happy they were that he had graced their lives. One can be compassionate without being a friend, and that compassion can still buy loyalty and love, which in turn can improve the happiness index in a given environment.
Direction: Aesthetics + Parallelisms
Based on the strength of the script, the next layer of perfection came from the directorial team under Ender Mihlar. With incredibly aesthetic aerial shots to stunning compositions, the visual presentation of the show is nothing less than majestic. This following GIF by @Hailz12343 on twitter is one of my favorite shots in the series.
In addition to the visual onslaught of aesthetic shots, following are some parallelisms that I thought were portrayed in such a delicate way that some felt like a whisper one misses when not paying attention.
Past & Present
With so much focus on their home being a center of their love, the way some of the parallelisms from Demir’s past to the story he lived with Selin in the present were portrayed are memorable. This particular clip by @muzacgurl on twitter is illustrative of how happy moments are recreated in a home that has seen much sorrow. This was beautifully and evocatively captured.
Peter Pan & Wendy Darling
An implicit foundation of the #SelDem love story was Selin’s obsession with the pure and magical connection between Peter Pan & Wendy. There were several key moments where references to the fictional characters were woven into the dialogue and scene, and some creative fans were able to create some amazing visual assets to capture the similarities. There are many more than what I can share here, but these stole my heart! PC: @scldem, @mucizegibisin and @angelicbae
Here are also two clips/ GIFs (@queenpusat and @bir_hiral) which attest to the creativity of the production team, and of a very talented fandom who are able to capture the parallelisms. Given the similarities, there is no doubt that Ender studied the Peter Pan/ Wendy frames carefully to create his own.
Throw Troubles Into the Ocean
Another consistent theme was the times Selin and Demir spent by the ocean, sipping on coffee from their favorite coffee stand. The collage almost captures the progression of their relationship from adversaries to growing admiration to confession of love to working through their troubles to their final union.
The Turks often talk about throwing their troubles into the ocean and I loved how beautifully it was brought into the story multiple times. At the peaks of their troubled times, both Demir and Selin liked to be by the water, in introspective self-reflection, with the hopes of coming back to reality feeling lighter and more able to take the next best step.
The script remained consistent with the ways Demir had been influenced by the Eastern customs of Japan during his time there. His bedroom is minimalist with several concepts of Feng Shui incorporated into the décor. His obsession with coffee paraphernalia is also delicate and minimalist. His morning ritual of Kata was a solid indication of his self-awareness and self-discipline, which permeated throughout his interactions otherwise. I thought the scene with Demir and Selin practicing Kata together was one of the more sensual scenes of the show, and probably the pinnacle of a visual representation of how harmonious they could be together.
Keeping to the theme, one of the most delightful incorporation was the Red Thread of Fate in the last episode. In East Asian belief, the two people connected by the red thread are destined lovers, regardless of place, time, or circumstances. This photo edit gorgeously captures the stunning shot:
Use of Spaces
Vedat’s nursery was a beautiful, therapeutic space used to unravel some of the more male-centric conversations about relationships. Set in an organic environment, the conversations were just as organic and insightful from a male perspective. Vedat the Sage and his wisdom helped maintain a calm amongst the men in a novel way.
Most times, male bonding is shown through testosterone charged scenes, but the one fight scene they show in episode 17 is triggered by one such toxic male character who picks on Vedat for spending the whole evening discussing women. It was interesting that these men were summarily dismissed by Demir, who used the inner strength and flow of martial arts without expending much apparent effort. I thought it was a back-handed way to show a stereotypical circumstance where enlightened men can come out the winner.
Another effective use of space to tell the story of their relationship was Selin and Demir’s home, which was their sanctuary. This is where they were the happiest and we were shown that with the aesthetic eye they both had for design and building, they had created a space that was meant for comfortable living. Incorporating natural light into the home, and the outdoors into their veranda, a house that had witnessed so much pain in its past had been transformed into a space of serenity. I felt that the director made conscious choices about what spaces were used for what aspect of their relationship. Such as, the kitchen/ dining area was for their more amorous moments; the front of the zebra painting was for more playful but passionate moments; Demir’s bedroom for emotional and tender moments; Selin’s bedroom for the child-like and simple moments; and their garden and veranda was a space where we see their relationship evolve over time. They shared some of their most revelatory conversations in the garden, and this is also where they finally reached the peak of their relationship by agreeing to be together for the rest of time. This attention to detail is not co-incidental and certainly contributes to the overall experience of the show.
Performance: Talented Cast
The last layer of the production that created this masterpiece is the performances by an incredibly talented cast.
Furkan Andic as Demir Erendil has managed to create an iconic, deeply loved, inspirational character, with many expressions and mannerisms that are unique to Demir. His enaction of “Petty Erendil” is so comical and believable as a reaction to someone as unpredictable as Selin or as annoying as Burak, that he had me in stitches at unexpected times. Having watched him in Meryem while Her Yerde Sen was on air, his perfect comic timing in Her Yerde Sen where it was needed is a testament to his acting range and his love for his craft. The spectrum he played as Demir, going from an uptight, repressed, pained individual who eventually learns to throw all his troubles into the ocean and embrace his love and life, with a ready, easy and genuine smile on his face, was masterfully done. It was interesting to observe his body language change over time, as he went from rigid to boyish with more fluid movements, and also the subtle changes in his demeanor between when he was with Selin versus not. His eyes speak volumes and given that he was hardly a motor mouth like Selin, his expressions of love, integrity, responsibility, loyalty and other conflicted feelings had to be emoted much more subtly. From a wounded soul to a healed one, Demir's journey and Furkan's portrayal was a joy to experience.
Aybuke Pusat as Selin had a Herculean task. Selin is a blend of grit, naivete, child-like mannerisms, and emotional maturity. She is every girl rolled into one, where she had to play sensual to toddler-like innocence, sometimes within seconds. Her character is a primary reason why I started watching the show as I seek strong female characters I can draw inspiration from in raising my own quirky, strong-willed daughter. For the most part, I found Aybuke’s portrayal to be excellent and she especially shone in Selin being the feisty, independent woman. She also embodied the confused woman whose brain seems to be wired a little funny as her process of logic progression sometimes even mystified other women. Her portrayal of cute and naïve most times worked well but on some rare occasion, it felt as though Aybuke could not relate to that part of Selin, and what came out seemed inconsistent with the rest of her characterization. All in all, her portrayal as someone who learns to truly love, and have confidence in that love without fear, was very well played, especially in the comic sequences in the latter episodes. Of all her personas, drunken Selin from Episode 14 has to be my favorite, because it genuinely made me laugh throughout the whole skit.
As individual characters, and together, the chemistry these two actors shared on screen felt so natural and perfect for the pure and innocent relationship they brought to life, that I never needed #AyFur to be a sensation for me to believe in the love of #SelDem.
In addition to the powerhouse performances from the leads, I found all the supporting characters to be perfectly cast for their roles, and everyone did an amazing job. One of my favorites has to be Ayfer Tokatli as Azmiye. She is so un-apologetically sensual in everything she does, but always with the purest of intentions, that one cannot think of her as anything less than a gem of a person. I saw her as an example of how if one looks below the surface, there is often much more than meets the eye.
The other female character I liked was that of Eylul by Beste Kokkdemir. She was so refreshingly real and not a caricature of a character bent on owning the man she abandoned. She had her own demons to contend with, and I liked that she was depicted as someone who still has ways to go before finding equilibrium in her life. Burak and Eylul will hardly be the love story of the century, but the way Beste depicted Eylul getting in touch with her inner child was well done.
Apart from Alara, who was a little too adept at being the conniving, self-serving, spoilt brat (great performance by Eylul Susapan), all the other female characters were women of strength and consistently played very well.
Amongst the male characters, the surprise actor and character was Aziz Caner Inan as Vedat. I loved how he played the role of the Oracle, setting the tone for a mature, emotionally intelligent MALE voice able to bring calm when the waters became rough for anyone. Just watching him amongst his plants made me feel serene. Not having watched his work before, I am unable to judge if it is because his acting is out of this world or if he naturally exudes such charm.
Amongst the supporting cast, the only person I had watched before is Ali Yagci, in his role as Osman in Erkenci Kus, which he left to join the team at Her Yerde Sen. From the saint-like, hapless lover to this depiction of a conflicted, self-serving, weak personality was quite a study of his acting range. Ali as Burak was an interesting addition, and brought to life the common contentions between desires and ambition, loyalty and self-preservation. His character closing the doors at Artemim for the final time while his future hung in the balance was his just dessert, but it was good to see that he accepted his predicament instead of planning his next slippery exit.
Ali Gozusirin as Ibo became quite popular and goes on to confirm that a well-meaning, non-sensical, quiet man-child could have a strong appeal as a leading man in a romantic comedy someday, as he embodies countless other clueless boyfriends who need to learn the ropes and grow in a relationship! The role of Ibo was very well played as the quiet force that guides the story in positive directions.
The entire cast looked like a tight knit team on and off the screen, and it translated beautifully into the work they presented.
It is disappointing that Fox Turkiye failed to comprehend the strength of what they had on their hands before the premature cancellation of the show. As a long-time strategic management professional with focus on customer acquisition and retention, I found Fox's move to be short-sighted and uneconomic if the sole reason for cancellation was a dip in the ratings, which picked back up even after the cancellation had been announced. This show attracted a young, fresh, urban crowd – the channel’s future paying consumers – and to ignore the demographic in such a flagrant way is a blow to the channel’s goodwill. Fox missed an opportunity to differentiate itself by becoming the channel that targets and nurtures this demographic because the long-term returns would have far out-weighed the short-term investment. Unfortunately, too many business units fall into the fallacy of looking at the operations of the unit as a profit center and the resulting penny-pinching behavior hurts the broader business in the long-run. Since there were no real explanations provided, and the cast and crew also maintained complete professionalism in their silence, it is difficult to know what other compelling event(s) triggered a cancellation for the show hours after it received the Best Romantic Comedy award from the Journalist’s Association. Paradoxically, Fox decided to cancel a dizi that showcased the best of Turkey in its social values, modern and traditional customs, that had a strong global following for a Turkish production, while many others remaining on air leave negative impressions about the social fabric in Turkey. As the fans felt as pained as Demir looks below, we eventually threw up our hands like Selin and said, "Some things are meant to remain a mystery."
Sometimes less is more and in spite of such an unceremonious dismissal, I loved that the production team had the attitude of: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade". They made the best of an undesirable outcome, and still managed to create a complete story out of Selin and Demir's journey, giving the fans a closure of sorts.
At the end, I leave you with a video (lovingly put together by @muzacgurl, twitter, with thumbnail design by @smoakfairchild, twitter), that captures the highlights of the show’s 23 episodes, using the weekly social media hashtags released by the production team. For those of us who watched it, let this be a wonderful reminder of the journey Selin and Demir took us on. For those of you who haven’t watched it, maybe this essay and this video will inspire you to watch the show and enjoy it as much as I did.
As I conclude this journey, I am awed by how many borders we transcended to converge on bringing this write up together (see acknowledgements below). As I said at the beginning, we wanted to create this as a time capsule for Her Yerde Sen, a tribute to the production team by the fandom, for the fandom, of the fandom. From my vantage point, we need more such stories that inspire so much kindness across its consumers, and maybe we use that energy to move the world towards a better existence for us and our future.
With this last tribute to a show I enjoyed thoroughly, I am going to move away from watching a live Turkish show for the time being, and hence do not plan to have on-going reviews of any current shows. I do have some plans to do series reviews for shows I have watched and enjoyed, but that will have to be another story, for another day. For those of you who have an interest in reading my posts, please subscribe to the blog; I will be delighted to remain connected with you through my reflections and musings.
For today, with this post, I bid adieu to the gorgeous story and fandom for our beloved Her Yerde Sen.
© mh/ @entrespire, twitter; concept, co-ordination, writer. USA
Acknowledgments to my co-conspirators from Twitter:
@smoakfairchild, Visual edits & my partner in crime. Belgium
@scldem, Video creation, visual content. France
@muzacgurl, Video creation, visual content. USA
@yaseldem, Content idea, sourcing. Morocco
@seldemstan, Visual content, sourcing. Turkey/ Canada
@vernisverna, Visual content, GIFs. Spain
@seldemcanem, Video editing, creation. UK
@FurkanAndicEng & @gankush1, Translations. Turkey & USA
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