Universal Love

It is purely a coincidence that I’m writing so much about love nowadays, especially as Halloween draws near. In any case, have you noticed that cultures all over the world share many universal traits? Things like laws, social relations, facial expressions. Foremost among them is really their love for, well, love. Every culture celebrates love, marriage and family. I guess you’ve got to, in order to reproduce and ensure the culture thrives. Plus, love is a biological emotion, much like pleasure and fury. It leads us to such irrational delight that it becomes a pretty big thing.

And love draws our interest much better than anything else. As Leonardo diCaprio said in Inception, positive feelings and thoughts are stronger than negative ones. People are naturally attracted to love and quite repulsed against hatred, which is why love songs and soppy dramas sell. Of course, if you watch enough Hollywood shows you may argue that sex sells even better than love, but most of the time attraction occurs before the sex. You don’t see people applauding at men visiting brothels for sex, after all. Loveless sex isn’t as exciting, and not every love story has sex, of course. That’s why people like Tom Hanks are still famous.

What gets just a tad irritating, though, is when love comes in too strongly at places that don’t need it. For instance, I find certain Singaporean dramas annoying in that halfway through the show, everything in the plot gets sidelined in favour of romance. Police dramas stop the heart-pumping action of solving crimes and chasing down crooks, and instead switch in a slow plain-clothes scene of a policeman refusing to admit his feelings towards a policewoman. If a show is to be professional towards its source context, I feel that it should know when to tone down the love aspect.

And of course, it can get formulaic after a while. Korean dramas have a recurring motif of a love quadrangle. Basically, there is the male lead and female lead who will end up together, and there must be a supporting male and a supporting female who fall in love with the leads. The supporting male will be a very nice guy who may even be a better choice than the male lead, but the female lead rejects him anyway. The supporting female will be a vicious, money-hungry woman who might’ve been a friend of the female lead at first, but now spends her days in agony trying to thwart the romance, in vain. This plot sounds incredibly sexist, and it probably is, but that’s the lucrative formula they bring out time and again for their modern-day realistic flicks. Oh, and usually the male lead is rich and the female lead poor. There you go.

Does this sound a bit like a Mills & Boon book, minus the sex? I told you, didn’t I, that love is universal? The kinds of love that people like are also universal. This is why fairytales are so alike, and even these Korean dramas are a little like fairytales as well.


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