Two new summer romances have dropped in the last few weeks written by women who both were former head writers of the extraordinarily popular romantic comedy series Erkenci Kus. Ayse Uner Kutlu wrote episodes 1 – 17, 39 – 47 and Asli Zengin was at the helm of episodes 18 – 38. While the average viewer is unaware of the reasons for these changes in the writers, we could discern a definite shift in the tone of the show, illustrating a very different take on the romantic comedy genre by the authors. While one seems stronger on building the romance aspect, the other seems stronger in creating comedic elements.
Judging by her work in Erkenci Kus and now in Sen Cal Kapimi, Ayse focuses more on building the romance, sexual tension and chemistry between the romantic pairing. She uses historical and mythical archetypes, figures and references. As an example, Sanem, the female protagonist of Erkenci Kus, tells the mythological story of Artemis and Orion which mirrors the story of her and her lover Can Divit. Ayse creates a language between her two lovers by having them experience and learn things together. She makes ample use of symbolism for an attentive audience, who can find deeper meanings behind conversations or tableaus. She brings literature, poetry, visual imagery, and more to her stories to enrich the never tiresome, but not necessarily original, romance tropes of romantic comedies. We see the recreation of a similar magic in Sen Cal Kapimi, which posted the best ratings of the summer rom coms at the end of their respective first episodes.
In contrast, Asli tends to have more literal interpretations of circumstances, often depicted through a comic humor that can be laugh out loud funny. Her characters, usually the female characters, often find themselves in extraordinary situations and there is a fair amount of physical comedy to be enacted by them. The main character in Bay Yanlis, Ezgi, opens the show by being dumped by her boyfriend of three years, then finds herself fired, homeless, and caught in a rainstorm all in one day. She gets drunk and annoys the male protagonist, gets hit by a car and is saved by her other possible suitor, and is generally portrayed as someone who is still struggling to find order in her life. This provides some very funny scenes and endears us to the character as many of us can relate to the dramatized klutziness, but in so doing, the script is yet to create a sense of heated yearning between the two protagonists. Theirs is a more understated love story.
Given the shared history with Erkenci Kus, and now as head writers in two competing summer rom coms, it is interesting to compare and contrast the two writing styles as both women have their new shows out on Fox. As of writing, Bay Yanlis has aired four episodes and Sen Cal Kapimi has two, limiting the points of reference between the two shows, but using the Erkenci Kus experience as the framework, one can begin to draw some parallels.
This is written by Asli Zengin who has several writing credits including romcoms such as No: 309, Çilek Kokusu and Kiraz Mevsimi. It stars actors Can Yaman and Ozge Gurel, who worked together previously in the popular series Dolunay. It benefits Bay Yanlis that the two actors have worked together before as it creates a ready-made comfort between them which is obvious onscreen.
The female lead, Ezgi, played by Ozge Gurel, is unsuccessful in love but desperately wants to be married within a year and, after a string of mishaps, she enlists the help of her womanizing next-door-neighbor, Ozgur, to help her land the doctor that she has her eye on marrying. He agrees to help her if she pretends to be his girlfriend for a few days at his sister’s wedding so he can please his mother and get her to stop worrying about him. This is a cute and relatively predictable set-up and means that the characters are forced to spend a fair amount of time together.
If I were to define romance as a sensual experience, for me the relationship shown so far isn’t particularly romantic. She sees him as an insensitive philanderer, and he sees her as someone who is treated callously because of her self-sacrificing and clingy ways. He berates her for caring too much about her partners and smothering them, a notion that gets reinforced by Soner, the most recent man to break up with her. Conversely, she does not take Ozgur seriously other than his prowess with the women, where his vast experience is obvious from the rotating set of girls in his apartment. The two characters engage in constant banter, trading jibes with glee, reaching a level of comfort with each other as best friends might. This is done through great comic timing for both, but there is no obvious attraction nor palpable sexual tension between them yet, no yearning in their gaze for each other. And this is where I find the challenge in seeing these two characters fall desperately in love, even though their growing friendship is evident. They are in a constant war of words, and there isn’t the ‘I hate to love you, I love to hate you’ dynamic in the enemies to lovers trope present here; these two people just seem to annoy each other in comical ways and spend a fair amount of time taunting the other.
We have not yet seen the ‘ah-ha’ moment in this pairing that signals that either of them have deeply passionate feelings or desire for the other. What we do see is their self-awareness about their feelings for the other in spite of themselves, through brief moments where we see Ozgur appreciate aspects of her personality or Ezgi is surprised by his sensitivity. In their preceonceptions, for her, romance is about finding a man she can marry and settle down with, and he obviously has never really been touched by the concept of romantic love as he fleets from one bed to the next. They both appreciate physical beauty as judged by the kinds of partners they gravitate towards, but that is not what is driving their closeness. Even though Ezgi is presented fairly regularly with a shirtless Ozgur, which is a beautiful sight, she never takes a moment to appreciate him physically. There is little outward sign of physical attraction between these two characters and though this seems a little detached, especially when the characters are meant to fall in love, it seems Asli is more focused on illustrating the compatibility of personalities rather than raw sexual tension.
I find that this strain lends to the earlier assertion that Asli builds her love story based on comical verbal interactions that get shaped by funny circumstances. This gives rise to a separate issue with character development. Asli has the tendency to fit a skit to the humor of the scene, which can compromise on the consistency of a character. Ezgi is sometimes very logical and sensitive and at other times unreasonably hysterical. Ozgur is sometimes impossible to take seriously, and at others has the wisdom of an old man. It is difficult to predict which side of them will surface as the scenarios are fluid and impulsive.
Despite the erratic nature of the flow of the story, it is a visually pleasing production with vibrant colors and happy music. Their dialogues and physical comedy are entertaining, with Can Yaman on display in all his glory. He is obviously enjoying this foray into the happy-go-lucky charmer that is his character Ozgur.
Sen Cal Kapimi
In contrast, we get several of these passion-filled moments in the two episodes we have seen of Sen Cal Kapimi so far. This series stars Hande Ercel and Kerem Bursin and the premise is that student Eda lost her scholarship in the last year of her studies and had to drop out of university. She blames the owner of the company that was providing the scholarship and hates him with a fiery passion. Due to a series of circumstances she ends up having to spend a few days in the company of this man she hates, Serkan.
Serkan offers to reinstate the scholarship but asks if she would pose as his girlfriend for a couple of months in return, when his ex-girlfriend is scheduled to be married. To clarify, he offers to reinstate the scholarship without this caveat at first but Eda refuses. She eventually says yes to help correct a grave mistake on her part, even though she remains wary of his strict and unyielding ways. For his part, he is seemingly aggravated and annoyed by her, and convinces her to sign a contract that lays out the rules of the game they will need to play.
Despite the contentious relationship, we have several scenes where the two are in close physical proximity to one another and we witness the obvious physical attraction between the two characters – in the car, in the stairwell, in the plane, on the beach and at the very end of both episodes. The chemistry between the characters and the actors are simply excellent.
In typical Ayse fashion, she weaves in some other endearing details for the audience that are poetic and enticing. As an astronomy enthusiast, we see Serkan scrutinizing Eda’s star tattoo; unbeknownst to him her last name is Yildiz which is ‘star’ in Turkish; they both witness a shooting star on the same night, while each are lost in their thoughts, and many more such references that are punctuated with an amazing soundtrack and cinematography. The first two episodes have already set up for the audience, without stating anything in the dialogue, that there is a physical attraction between them and the introduction of the ‘star’ theme can lead one into reading that these two characters have their destiny ‘written in the stars’.
Their characters are also well-defined – she the passionate, unapologetic, strong personality who does not cower to anyone, and he the rigid workaholic who holds his cards close to his chest. These underlying characteristics are consistent with how they interact with each other and those around them.
Show Vs Tell
This is the difference between the ‘show’ verses ‘tell’ style of storytelling. Ayse excels at the ‘show’ aspect of creating a story and she does it again in Sen Cal Kapimi. In Erkenci Kus, Sanem had a lifelong love of albatross birds, named the unseen man she fell in love with Albatross and we learn that Can has an albatross tattoo. It takes a while for Sanem to discover the Albatross’s true identity. In Sen Cal Kapimi, as mentioned earlier, Eda has a star tattoo, Serkan loves the stars and Eda’s last name is Yildiz (star). At the end of episode 1, Serkan still doesn’t know Eda’s name. These clues may not be subtle but they are effective ways of guiding the audience along the path of the story without having to spell it out for them in dialogue.
Asli, in contrast, focuses on the strength of the dialogue, its delivery and the physical comedy to build her story. Under her watch, Can Divit and Sanem seem to lose the undeniable physical attraction between them with more time spent on changing circumstances that shape their dialogue and personality growth.
Interestingly, both stories share the premise of “the fake girlfriend” concept though the circumstances are different. Both series boast popular actors and have had strong premieres, with good ratings and view counts on YouTube, signaling that they will likely continue on for hopefully the right amount of episodes. They are very different from one another in tone and in writing style but both are enjoyable. At the end, it will depend on whether you like a little comedy in your romance or a little romance in your comedy that will decide which series you like more.
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