I am ashamed! I have become hooked on Korean TV. Korean TV has this way of getting you addicted. It’s like a bag of salted chips. Have one and you have to have another, and another until they are all gone. You know full well its gonna make you fat. It’s bad for your heart, but you finish the pack nonetheless. It is like a Mills and Boon novel. It’s trash, its corny and written terribly. But still you turn each page until you get to the end. In short, it is a guilty pleasure.
And the English translations are terrible. Every cry of excitement is “GOSH”. Where Koreans might say “Fuck it” the translation is always “Darn it.” It’s quite often hilarious!
To be fair Korean writers are fantastic story tellers. They develop really engaging characters too. I tell you, when a Korean actor cries, no one does it better. It’s so real!! At the moment I am hooked on Extraordinary Attorney Woo and Good Doctor. Both of them about Autistic people doing good in the world. Woo is probably better, but both are cringeworthy. I don’t care, I love them.
Good Doctor is the worst of the two. Si On is our hero. He is autistic and described as a savant genius. The problem is he shuffles around like he is the Hunch Back of Notre Dame. I don’t know why they chose to portray him like that but It is incredibly annoying. But still I loved it.
Woo and Si On have romantic interests in their stories. Their romantic interests have doubts. They are hesitant. They resist their feelings for our autistic heroes. Partly because they are worried that they are mistaking pity for love. Partly because they fear the reaction from their friends and colleagues. But what is most interesting is the reactions of Woo and Si On.
They doubt themselves, you see. They cannot believe that anyone would be interested in them. They hide their feelings because they fear rejection. They are awkward in the presence of the person they love. The fear and the stress of that moment when they have to express their feelings is on show for all to see.
The hesitant, halting and ultimately unsatisfactory first kiss. “Why do you hold my hand like that Si On?” asks the object of his affection. ” Because when I was young, that’s how they held my hand. It was to stop me running away.” Cue a close up of his new beau, tears streaming down her face. Mind numbing but un-turn-offable. And here is me wiping a little tear from the corner of my eye. FOR FUCK SAKE, what’s wrong with me?!
Indeed, what is wrong with me? It’s twaddle, it’s patronising and it’s stereotypical. But still I watch and I OOOH and I AHHHH as I cheer the lovers on. BUT WHY? And then it hit me. Woo and Si On are experiencing everything that I did in my adolescence. For all of the poppycock and literal license on display in these two shows, the portrayal of disability and love is very close to my truth.
Yup! That’s what I used to think. I used to think that because I was deaf I was never gonna find a girlfriend. I used to think that no girl would have me. Ugly hearing aids, funny voice and the embarrassment of having deaf me tag along. Who would have me? I was convinced it was no one! Poor, and pathetic deaf me.
It is true, I could not ask a girl out. I loved this one girl called Robyn. She lived at a big house with a tennis court. After school each day I would walk Scruffy, my dog, up past her house. Across the road was a group of display houses. I would sit on the lawn out front of the display houses and stare longingly across the road.
Each day I would see her at school. She was lovely to me. She would sit and talk with me. I couldn’t say much beyond a couple of grunts. I hated myself, I was paralysed and couldn’t say anything remotely intelligent. My mates insisted that she was into me and I should just ask her out. No! I was convinced she only spoke to me because she pitied me.
Then one day as I was walking the dog she came out and invited me into her house. She introduced me to her sister. Gave me an ice-lolly and we watched some TV. I swear I said not a word. She probably did like me, but still I did not ask her out.
I wish there was a happy ending to this story, but there is not. One day, don’t ask me why, I managed to get her phone number. Being the deaf git that I was, I rang her. As I rang all I could hear was the dial tone, then feint ringing on the other end and finally an obvious pick up. I could hear a voice but not understand a word. What the fuck was I doing??? I imagine at the other end they are wondering who this idiot was who was breathing deeply and noisily at the other end – And then I spoke ..
“Roses are Red
And violets are Blue
You’re a prune”
And I hung up. What an idiot! Suffice to say, Robyn never spoke to me again. So Robyn, if ever you read this, I am very sorry. And thank you for being so very kind to me. I’ll never know your intentions, I was too love struck and lacking in confidence to feel anything but extreme embarrassment.
So yes, I get Si On and I get Woo. I get how very hard it is to fit in when you know how different you are. I get how you fear the response of others. I get how, rather than get a response, you just withdraw. It’s tough, really tough! Not many non disabled people really get how traumatic it can be.
So that’s why I love the Good Doctor and Extraordinary Attorney Woo. It’s cos there is a little bit of me in there. I love these shows because I know that for many of us people with a disability the challenges of love and our own lack of belief in ourselves are very real challenges. It’s worse when growing up but if I am honest, it never really goes away.