[9/∞] The Producers – The real Cindy

Author: youcallitwinter (soompi) aka Zoe (dramabeans)

(I should have brought it here earlier but I was occupied with other things. I suppose now is still a good time – before ep 9 airs and before I lose track of her early posts on soompi.)

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I actually discussed this back in the day in the episode 4 thread on Dramabeans, when Cindy tried to sweet-talk Joon-mo into being nice to her on the 1N2D set and he told her to just be her real self. I had no idea that they would pick up that exact scene to discuss ” real ” for Cindy (although I was very glad that they did!) This is what I’d said then:

I LOVED the motif of “real” running through the episode. That Cindy doesn’t have any idea who the “real” Cindy is. It’s obvious that to her the “real” Cindy is the cold, rude one, and so she has to “pretend” to be nice, and playact at being the version of herself that she wants the audience to see. But it’s equally clear that the “real” Cindy is the girl who joins her own anti-fan cafe, who asks strangers on the internet to deconstruct if umbrella boy is interested in her, who eats fishcakes in secret, who smiles to herself and prolongs the anticipation when the boy she’s (totally, completely, utterly, REALLY has not) fallen for is looking for her. I love IU in this because she’s essentially playing three roles and doing a damn good job of it- Cindy as she thinks she is, Cindy as she thinks she should be, and Cindy as she actually is, and it’s so easy to see all the three and how they overlap and how difficult ‘reality’ is for someone like her who’s been playing a part so long that she thinks ‘reality’ is her playing herself as a part. Maybe that’s why it seems like IU’s acting is different in different scenes because it’s contingent on how Cindy’s acting, and I think that’s wonderful. And I love that as yet it’s only with Seung-chan that we’ve seen Cindy utterly fail at playing a role. I love that she’s acting like she has a grand plan, like she has this sorted, and that everything is going exactly how she wants it to, and that she’s going to make Seung-chan fall for her, while it couldn’t be more clear that she’s the one who’s already fallen. I love that there’s such a disjunct between what she says to people like her manager, and what her non-verbal cues and expressions reveal so obviously to anyone who bothers looking.

I think that’s what Seung-chan was saying this episode. That because Cindy is so convinced she’s not a good person, anytime she is portrayed as a good person on-screen- as someone who is happy, who has friends and people who love her, she feels the need to act. Because the only way she can see someone liking her or being her friend is if she’s not who she is, because she sees herself as a terrible person. What he essentially meant was not that she’s fake, but that there’s no reason for her to think she needs to be. I don’t think he meant it as her confession being insincere, but she took it that way, because that’s been on her mind all day, compounded by his indifference, so she takes his words to mean that he thinks she, and by extension, her feelings, are insincere. And since he doesn’t clarify when she misunderstands, it hurts her.

I think there’s a tendency in fandom to take Seung-chan as the touchstone for other characters, in that because of his lack of social graces he cuts past the social facades and bs and understands the people beneath them, people as they don’t want to be seen, so his viewpoint as regards them must necessarily be correct. But I don’t think that’s completely true- I don’t, for instance, think that he understands Cindy completely, and believe that his POV is limited to what she accidentally allows him to see- her past, her lack of friends, etc. But there are small moments that Seung-chan is not privy to, like her spending time on her anti-cafe, or endlessly waiting for his message, so he can’t factor that in in his assessment of her, which means that he doesn’t completely know the real Cindy either, and his POV on her isn’t the extent of her character, as it’s often taken to be. Her confession may have come out of the blue to him, but it’s not true for the audience, because we’ve been privy to the development and progression of her feelings, to every moment that her world paused or she found it hard to breathe because he was too close. So then, despite that, to judge Cindy by the meter that Seung-chan, who is after all not privy to her interiority, uses, is to not allow Cindy the full extent of her characterisation and growth. She’s not only the girl with a sad past and a sob story and the dead parents, she’s also the girl who joins her own anti-cafe and posts so much that she’s made administrator, and the girl who over-identifies with lines in books that resonated with the boy she likes. Cindy is more than just the sum of the parts that Baek Seung-chan has seen.

Also, I feel like Seung-chan can’t really understand that feeling of making yourself vulnerable to someone and opening yourself to outright rejection, which makes his comments about sincerity ironic. Seung-chan, Ye-jin and Joon-mo are happier with status quo, and not putting themselves and their feelings out there so they can maintain the illusion of a possibility. Seung-chan did so much for Hae-joo without her knowing, left a bright legal career for her, cried when he found out she may be dating someone else, and yet he started and ended that love on his own, without so much as telling her that he liked her. And now he’s doing the same with Ye-jin, he’s trying to be close to her, invite her on dates she doesn’t know are dates, stop her from meeting potential matches, all the while not telling her that he likes her as much more than just his sunbae. He may have no feelings for Cindy, so if he doesn’t favourably reply, it’s understandable, but he does have feelings for Ye-jin and he still hasn’t made any attempts to actively tell her, except covertly by singing Seunggi’s Noona anthem or in the “Of course” game. And without taking that chance, that leap of faith, there’s no real possibility of forward momentum, as Ye-jin learned the hard way with Joon-mo. It’s possible to spend twenty years in stasis and comfort, and avoid uncomfortable truths, but it’s also giving up a part of yourself, it’s not being honest with yourself, let alone the world. It’s as much a performance.

Seung-chan has done incredibly excessive things like change careers for the woman he was attracted to, and other not excessive things like risk being hated by his team just because Ye-jin was cheering him on, but still hasn’t managed an actual confession. And I think it’s a brilliant showcase of how much courage a confession requires, to actually break status quo and step into the unknown, to not only give up on the reality of love, but also the possibility of love. To risk not something concrete, but hope itself, as Cindy did. Which is why I don’t think he understands her fully, because he has never made himself consciously vulnerable in love. He can understand self-preservation and not wanting to be vulnerable and hiding behind bluster to hide your true feelings as Ye-jin does, but he can’t understand actually wanting to be vulnerable, to open up to someone, even at the risk of getting rejected, as Cindy did. It’s such an interesting dynamic because of the different explorations of love for different people.

On the other hand, because Cindy has been the only one who is upfront about her feelings, we’ve explicitly seen what being in love has done for her- how she’s breaking away from her shell, from endless nightmares about the death of her parents, standing up to CEO Byun and her control, moving away from her public image and escaping from her narrow confines, questioning her static existence, wanting more from life, allowing people in. She has an actual narrative arc. But the most frustrating thing is that because the other three refuse to enter that danger-zone, we literally have no idea how love has shaped them. How is Seung-chan growing through his love for Ye-jin?  How is that love helping him navigate other aspects of his life, like being a PD? How is he different from when he first met her? How is Ye-jin different from when she started out, with Seung-chan’s love for her and her love for Joon-mo? She has someone else to lean on too, sure, but what about her character can be considered a growth arc? How has she moved on or attempted to? How has Joon-mo gained strength or courage through Ye-jin’s confession to start taking responsibility? Or even become a better PD? Or is willing to risk more because of Seung-chan’s affection for Ye-jin? Considering that lovelines are such a significant aspect of the show, and, by now, practically all that the show is about, I’m baffled by the fact that they make so little actual significant difference to the growth arc of these characters. I literally sometimes can’t even tell what the arcs are, apart from love itself as the end, rather than the beginning. It’s not that I believe that love should necessarily be life altering, but when there’s no other arc that the show is exploring except romance, that is the only catalyst for character movement, especially since the professional angle is pretty much dead and buried and a part of nobody’s arc as it could have been, especially since the show is called “Producers”. Which is why I love that Cindy, at least, is growing in love, even though unrequited, even through the heartbreak. It reminds me of a Toni Morrison quote: Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.

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