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Drama Diary 1-30-13: Guy #2

If you’re a fan of romance, you know the guy I mean. He’s the primary rival of the story’s cold, brooding, and/or unreliable romantic hero—the guy who is kinder, more understanding, and who offers significantly more emotional security than Guy #1. He is also undeniably, irretrievably doomed to lose the girl. He is Shin Woo in You’re Beautiful or (for manga fans) Takeuchi in We Were There. And though sometimes his story may be more nuanced (Nobu/NANA) or perhaps even genuinely satisfying (Yuki/Fruits Basket), Guy #2’s lack of potential as leading man material is predetermined from the start.

As romance tropes go, I have a sort of hate/slightly-more-hate relationship with the fate of Guy #2. For one thing, I’ve never personally gone for the cold, brooding, and/or unreliable type, and not even a lifetime of devotion to romantic fiction has succeeded in changing that fact. Kindness, understanding, and emotional security ftw! Yet, with rare exception (sorry, I still root for Duckie every single time), a good storyteller can win me over to Guy #1, slowly but surely, right alongside the story’s heroine.

Then came Fated to Love You.

I was introduced to the Taiwanese drama Fated to Love You by the incomparable Sara K., whose post on the series promised me a smart, irreverent romantic comedy with a genuinely moving story—and indeed it has delivered on those promises in every way. But I’ll admit that, ten episodes in, I’m having some real difficulty with the heroine’s obvious romantic trajectory.

Meet Guy #1:


Cun Xi is the wealthy, young director of Magic Cleaner Enterprises, a corporation that makes soap and other cleaning products. He’s also the company’s sole heir. He lives with his overbearing grandmother and wears shiny suits. Though Cun Xi has at times been both kind and tender towards our adorable, selfless heroine, Xin Yi, he has also spent much of the series’ first ten episodes whining, throwing tantrums, yelling at women, taking calls on his cell phone at inappropriate moments, threatening layoffs, and playing golf.

And yes, he has the ability to look both handsome and mature, but this expression is not as rare as one might hope.

Meet Guy #2:


Dylan is renowned expert in Chinese ceramics whose unassuming personality (and one wacky misunderstanding) initially leads Xin Yi to believe he is a priest. Despite his self-made fortune, he spends most of his free time caring for children at the orphanage that raised him and teaching them how to paint. He is insightful and soft-spoken, while also being a total badass. He was last seen (as of episode ten) urging our heroine to believe that she could actually be a strong, whole person, independent of a man. He’s the only person in the entire series who has demonstrated that he values Xin Yi for something other than her future as a mother, wife, or perpetual doormat. And seriously, you guys, HE TAKES CARE OF ORPHANS.

Guy #1 who??

Though it’s absolutely clear, even less than halfway through, that Xin Yi’s heart belongs to shiny-suited Cun Xi, it’s going to take a herculean effort on the storytellers’ part to get me there with her. And at the moment, all I wish for is that Xin Yi would cast off her attachment to Cun Xi’s emotional torture (it’s a long, spoilery story and his position is not unsympathetic, but man does he torture her) and run off to Shanghai with Dylan. (Please do not tell me if this actually happens.)

Oh, Guy #2, I’m on Team You. If only you had a chance. Who’s with me?

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  1. After You’re Beautiful and Coffee Prince I have learned the heartbreak of rooting for Guy #2 and I always vow not to do it anymore. It is so difficult though!

  2. Yeah, I’ve never been a Cun Xi fan (notice how little I mentioned him in my posts about Fated to Love you) … but he *is* a major improvement over Guchi (admittedly, that is a super-low standard.).

    However, Ji-Wang Zhenzhu (Cun Xi’s grandmother) is one of my favorite characters. Yes, she puts a lot of pressure on her grandson to get married and make babies. However, I think she also recognizes Xinyi’s value as a person, and she’s harshest on her grandson when she feels that he is failing Xinyi. Admittedly, this is clearer in later episodes, so I hope you will change your mind about Ji-Wang Zhenzhu. One of my favorite lines goes something like this (this is from memory, so it’s very approximate):

    Ji-Wang Zhenzhu: (to Xinyi) I’m very angry. I’m very angry at you. I’m angry because you didn’t take care of yourself. Why didn’t you tell me that [my grandson was putting you though so much torment]? Did you think I wouldn’t stand up for you?

    • I definitely understand your feelings about Grandma, and I think the only thing I really hold against her is the fact that her desire for an heir was probably the greatest factor in forcing Cun Xi and Xin Yi’s marriage in the first place—something neither of them wanted—which was ultimately the cause of a whole lot of pain for everyone. Despite my complaining about Cun Xi, I really do have sympathy for the fact that he was expected to abandon someone he was genuinely in love with in order to enter into a sham marriage with Xin Yi, which put him in a position to deeply resent her, and I can’t even blame him for that. I can blame him for his treatment of Xin Yi (we’re all responsible for our actions towards others, no matter how we feel), but not for wanting to be with Anna or feeling resentment over being forced into marrying Xin Yi. He can be bratty and immature, but these are very natural feelings! I’ve watched a few more episodes now (man do I want to say something spoilery here, but I shouldn’t!) and I do appreciate her obvious care for Xin Yi. But if she’d cared about either her grandson or Xin Yi as much as she cared about an heir in the first place, none of this tragedy needed to have happened.

      • Oooh, I am curious about your spoilery comment (if you don’t want to post it publicly, you can share it with me privately).

        [Warning: this comment has some spoilers for the first few episodes of Fated to Love You]

        Looking at things from Zhenzhu’s perspective, making them marry *was* showing care for them. She grew up in Republican China, where giving birth out of wedlock was a great shame to a woman. Actually, it was more than a great shame – it had a big impact on things like whether or not a woman had legal rights, had access to economic resources, etc. From this point of view, if she hadn’t ensured that Xinyi was legally married, she would have been wronging Xinyi. Furthermore, in traditional Chinese culture, ensuring an heir is one of the most important tasks in your life, and that if you fail, then you won’t be able to face your ancestors in your afterlife. This would not have just applied to Zhenzhu – it would have also applied to Cunxi when it came time for him to face his ancestors. I think Zhenzhu would be able to, with great reluctance, let not having an heir slide (this is based on stuff she says in late episodes), but I think that she could not have let an abortion proceed without feeling like she was wronging her husband, her son, and her grandson (again, he too eventually has to face his ancestors). No abortion = Xinyi will have a child = Cunxi must marry Xinyi, otherwise the Ji family would be wronging Xinyi.

        Now, I think those traditional Chinese values are very messed up, and I think nowadays many Taiwanese people would agree that they are messed up. You could hold it against her that she didn’t change her values, since many old people do in fact change their values. But given that she has those values, making them get married was the most caring course of action.

        • I can definitely see that this would be the truth from her perspective, and given her age and background it’s probably unfair of me to hold it against her. But when I think of the pain both of them went through… Especially Xin Yi… Being with someone who does not want to be with you is so, SO painful, and that’s the message she was getting every day. It’s hard for me to be fair here, I guess.

          Let’s see how much I can water down the spoilers, just ’cause it’s fun to talk here… Ummmm… SPOILER WARNING… Having now actually gotten what I asked for, I can see now that it will just be even more heartbreaking for me when the inevitable happens. Heh.

          • I think it’s a pretty good illustration of why those traditional values are messed up. It’s not just this story – I think much of modern Chinese language literature can be summed up as ‘traditional values are messed up, and this is why’. The fact that these stories are so prevalent shows just how much Chinese-speakers resent what these values do to their lives … on the other hand, it also shows how much power these values still have over people’s lives. When traditional values stop affecting people’s lives, they will stop telling stories about being messed up by traditional values. In short, storytelling is a tool of cultural transition.

            I have something I want to say about the Xinyi/Cunxi/Dylan love triangle, but I will hold back until you’ve finished watching the entire drama.

            • Well said. Well said, indeed.

              And I appreciate you not spoiling me. I realize I don’t know everything yet, but man they are doing an emotional number on me at the moment. :D

              • I’ve been thinking about this … and I think I finally realize why 1) I personally was (mildly) rooting for Cunxi and 2) why Guy #2 usually does not get into a long-term romantic relationship with the gal.

                Since these are fictional characters, I do not necessarily wish for their well-being. I wish for them to be entertaining … and fictional characters are often more entertaining when they don’t do what’s in their own best interests.

                It is established very early on that Cunxi’s heart is in the right place. That makes a big difference. One of the problems I have with Boys over Flowers is that Domyoji crossed too many boundaries too far right at the beginning for me to forgive him and support his romance with Tsukasa. However, in Cunxi’s case, he actually is a decent person, he just … doesn’t get it. I can sympathize with a character who doesn’t get it.

                Dylan *does* get it … but that makes him more boring than Cunxi. Dylan doesn’t grow very much during the course of the story; Cunxi does. This is why I prefer stories about Guy #1 over stories about Guy#2. And when Cunxi gets his act together and finds his happiness, that is a lot more satisfying.

                I’m not sure if this got my point across or not.

                • I’ve reached episode 19 now, and by this point they have gotten me feeling better about Cun Xi, and though my heart is broken for Dylan, I’m grateful to Xin Yi for not stringing him along or staying with him just because she couldn’t bear to hurt him (the way the Cun Xi did with Anna) because that’s ultimately much more hurtful (as Anna is finding out now).

                  I think you made your point well, and it makes a lot of sense, too. I can absolutely understand why you’d feel that way. I can honestly say, though, that I never found Dylan boring, and there are probably a multitude of reasons for this—mainly personal. I think I’ve so craved people like him in my life over the years (emotional security is a really big deal for me), that I can’t help wanting that for the heroine, too, even though (or maybe because?) she’s fictional. He’s a particularly strong example, of course, because he really is more than just the average nice guy, with his career in the arts and his own tragic childhood—he’s got all the traits one would associate with the romantic hero, except that he’s had them from the beginning. If he’s grown less than Cun Xi over the run of the series (and of course he has), it’s because his growth was forced so early on in his life. A character like that is too attractive to me as a person to be boring. It helps, too, that Xin Yi has grown so much, which gives me a lot to be interested in all by itself.

                  But I do think that, unlike you, I really am invested in seeing the characters I like made happy, probably because the way I am able to best understand things in the world (including works of fiction) is to personalize them, so in a way, all those characters become me to me as I’m watching. I don’t know if that’s something that makes sense to anyone who doesn’t experience things the same way—and indeed it took me years to realize that this is how I connect with things (reading about Gregorc learning styles was the original light-bulb moment)—but those are the best words I have to describe it. On one hand, it grants me a wonderfully immersive experience with fiction. On the other, it often leaves me with a battered, broken heart. :) Ah well. Looks like Dylan is going to get something else he really wanted, so at least there’s that.

                  As usual, the storytellers are winning me over to Cun Xi, though, or at least making it easier for me to accept him as a real partner for Xin Yi. I always found him sympathetic, and I always thought he was a generally good guy (so many of his personal conflicts and mistakes have come out of wanting to do the right thing and not being sure what that is) but he’s finally becoming someone who seems worthy of Xin Yi. I’m sure by the end, I’ll be cheering them on. I’m starting to get there already.

                  Oh! (Edited to add) I should also say that, yes, I think your reasons are exactly why Guy #2 never gets the girl. I think you’re absolutely right about that. It doesn’t stop my heart from breaking, but it is the truth.

                  • Oh, I don’t think Dylan is boring, I just find Cunxi more interesting (in particular, Cunxi makes me laugh more).

                    I took a look at those Gregorian styles, and none of them make me think ‘that’s me’ (well, I’m sure that I’m not Concrete Sequential, but it seems the other three work as partial descriptions of me).

                    Yep, I relate to fiction differently. Even when I encounter a character who I think ‘that’s just like me’ the character is ‘like me’ not ‘me’. When fiction really engages me, I think of the characters as friends (or enemies), and I find myself talking to them in my head. They can, of course, hurt me – but they hurt me in the way that seeing a friend suffering hurts me, not in the way that being the direct recipient of suffering hurts me,

                    I also don’t feel a craving Guy #2, because the male who has by far had the biggest presence in my life (my father) fits the Guy #2 mold to a T. But I think my mother may have felt a strong craving for Guy #2. I know that her relationships with men prior to meeting my father were … well, I’ll just say that they sound like they had a distinct lack of emotional security (with the exception of her uncle-in-law, who she was very close to as a child). To get you an idea of the kind of men that my mother had in her life, my grandfather has a lot in common Shion in Boku-tama, so much so that I cannot think about Boku-tama without thinking about my grandfather (though, in his defense, my grandfather was less malicious than Shion). Having that kind of father … well, let’s just say that if Shion raised offspring, I suspect the offspring would crave a Guy #2.

                    • Yep, I relate to fiction differently. Even when I encounter a character who I think ‘that’s just like me’ the character is ‘like me’ not ‘me’. When fiction really engages me, I think of the characters as friends (or enemies), and I find myself talking to them in my head. They can, of course, hurt me – but they hurt me in the way that seeing a friend suffering hurts me, not in the way that being the direct recipient of suffering hurts me,

                      I’m going to talk about this more, just because it’s a topic I find really interesting. :) I love the fact that you think of characters as friends (or enemies) when you’re really engaged. I’d love to be a fly on the wall during your inner conversation with Cun Xi. Heh. I hope that there has been some yelling.

                      To be a little clearer about my own experience… it’s pretty rare that I think a character is “just like me” (there are a few who come close—like Hachi in NANA—but there are areas where even those characters and I are not alike at all), so it’s more… the way I connect with fiction and fictional characters (and, honestly, real people in my life) is to find the places where we overlap, even if they are very small. So there may be a character who seems to be the opposite of me, but the way I’ll begin to understand them is to find some small way in which we are alike, which eventually allows me (over time) to understand as much as possible even the things about them that are the most dissimilar to me. I think this is something I learned to do formally as an actor, but I realized then that it is also just my natural way of interacting with people (fictional or not), and that this is what I had always done. Because this can be difficult to accomplish with real people in real-world terms without inappropriately prying into their personal lives, fiction is often the greatest tool I have for connecting even with real people, because it’s the place where people feel most free to express their own ideas—the truths and thoughts lurking in their inner lives. If I find the places where our inner lives overlap, that’s when I can truly begin to understand another person (as much as one *can* understand another person). I think that’s why I’m so drawn to fiction and to talking about it in a public forum. For whatever reason, finding these connections with people is vital to me, and when I can’t do this, interactions with other people become very difficult (and even terrifying) for me.

                      So, to bring this back on-topic, while I might not think Xin Yi or Dylan or anyone is at all like me, as I become immersed in their stories and long to understand them, I’ll automatically seek out whatever pieces of me exist in them, until ultimately they are all in some way “me.” Obviously that *also* includes Cun Xi, which is why I really do find him very sympathetic, despite my heartbreak for Dylan.

                      Edited to add: By the way, this method of connecting with fictional characters can also really suck. Because even with the most horrible characters, I’ll automatically seek out the ways in which we are alike, which can be traumatizing when it’s a character I seriously dislike. Say, Light Yagami. That was not fun. Is there anything more awful than recognizing yourself in someone truly loathsome? If there is, it’s not coming to mind. But there’s really no way out of it, even when I’d like there to be. I’m also pretty sure this character trait is responsible for me crushing on awful characters like Morimoto Rockstar (Peepo Choo). Oh, life.

                    • I’m pretty sure I did yell at Cunxi (at least in my mind) the first time I saw Fated to Love You, but when I saw it again I was more slanted towards evil cackling.

                      By the way, there *is* a Taiwanese drama where the female lead, at the end, gets into a long-term, committed, romantic relationship with Guy #2 (Guy #1 is dead), but I’m not telling you which drama that is because I just spoiled the ending for you.

            • Also, just because I feel like I should be clear on this… I don’t favor Dylan so much that I would want Xin Yi to be with him if she doesn’t love him. That would be tragic for both of them. But since they’re fictional, I feel like it’s okay for me to wish that she did. :)

  3. Finished watching it two weeks ago and first…storywise find myself enjoying Taiwanese Dramas more no due to the actual character arc of guy# 1. It may not be as great but it definitely happens and in a way that makes more sense…not necessarily suddenly due to some freakish obssession which tends to be the case in kdramas. You SEE growth and why they change in this one…and i agree that Cun XI had a lot also working against him alongside his spoiled personality that made his reactions even more selfish…however he indicated in a great speech later on…about the truth of his fate with Anna based on the truth of decisions made by both from the start. That was when I could say that he grew up and could officially pursue Xin Yi.


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