Fifty Shades Of…Why Are We Still Talking About This?!

It’s 2012, and we’re still having a world-wide conversation about women’s sexuality. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t get it either. So, allow me to throw my .02 cents in the ring with a resounding “What in the ever-loving HELL is going on around here?”

I wish I could tie this all up in a neat package and lay it at the feet of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey — blame/thank this trilogy for stirring up the hornet’s net after Lisbeth Salander kicked it. But as a former soap opera journalist and current editor at a romance novel magazine, I’m well aware that female-centric media and women’s desires have always come under fire. It doesn’t matter if you’re Anais Nin or SamDeanLuvr12 on Fanfiction.Net; it doesn’t matter if you’re watching General Hospital or Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon or Verbotene Liebe, someone’s going to judge you. And by “someone,” I mean men. Or, at least, the male-driven media machine and the societal voice that seems to come from a deeper register than the average female one.

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You Might Be Obsessed With IPKKND If…

Aakash and Payal

The Indian soap opera Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon? is becoming a global hit for Star Plus, and quite the fixation for yours truly. How do you know you’re getting a little too invested in your desi drama? Well, it’s pretty simple!

You might be obsessed with IPKKND if…

…you say “Hai re, Nanda Kishore!” when you’re frustrated.

…you start speaking Hindi like you’re from Lucknow.

…you start speaking Hindi like you’re NK.

…you start speaking Hindi in general, never having spoken it before!

…you start calling out for Hariprakash to do your household chores, even though you don’t have a manservant.

…you find yourself endlessly staring across the room at the object of your affection.

…you debate changing your ringtone to “Rabba Ve.”

…you have to fight the urge to add a “Hi, Bye-bye” every time someone says “Hello.”

…you expect a wind machine to punctuate all the dramatic scenes on your other TV shows.

…you expect a wind machine to punctuate all the dramatic scenes in your life.

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Separation Anxiety: How Far is Too Far in Fictional Love?

When crafting a love story, a certain amount of physical or emotional separation is germane to the narrative. Perhaps you want to build tension. Perhaps there is a task that must be completed — someone is off fighting a war or must slay a dragon. Maybe the characters just need to grow up, and grow into their love for each other. But, after a good amount of pages or season-long arcs, there comes a point where keeping your lovers apart is just separation for the sake of separation…needless dithering that does nothing to move the story forward. Indeed, in a lot of cases, it just traps the story in limbo.

Take a look at ABC’s Castle, which is so determined to keep from falling victim to what many TV aficionados call “the Moonlighting curse” that it is actually creating a trap of its own…a moat, if you will. The show spent x amount of years building Kate and Rick’s affection for each other from friendship to a slow-simmering love. Now, the characters actually know that a love exists between them. Rick said the words when Kate was shot, and she remembered it! Why are we spending the entire season after that climactic reveal pretending it didn’t happen? You cannot go back to a status quo after a game-changer. It’s a bad storytelling decision, because it insults your audience’s intelligence. You’re asking them, right along with the characters, to pretend they never saw the Cupid behind the curtain…and, sorry, but once you’ve pulled the trigger on the story point, you can’t un-fire that gun.

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The Unofficial IPKKND Drinking Game

Three sips!

As an obsessed fan of Star Plus’ Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon, who devours every detail and picks up on every quirk, I couldn’t help but invent an unofficial IPKKND drinking game. How could I resist, when “Peeke”(I’ve been drinking”) is in the abbreviation?

For your own good, don’t play this with actual booze. I don’t want to be responsible for you blacking out and being rushed to the hospital. So, pour yourself some soda or mango lassi and go to town!

One sip every time…
•Khushi and Arnav stare at each other in a room full of people.
Bua-ji says “Nanda Kisore.”
Mami-ji says, “Hello, hi, bye-bye.”
•Lavanya calls Arnav “ASR.”
•Arnav says, “What the—?!

Two sips every time…
•the wind machine is used.
•Arnav wears his maroon leather suit.
•Khushi has a heart-to-heart with “Devi Maya” (the goddess).
•Shyam calls Anjali “Rani Sahiba.”
•we see Hariprakash (the butler/manservant).
•Arnav grabs Khushi’s wrist and drags her off somewhere.

Three sips every time…
•Akash’s father shows up.
Mami-ji calls Payal “Khoon Bhari Tang.”
•Khushi refers to Arnav as “Lord Governor.” (Four sips if it’s to his face!)
•Arnav calls Khushi “Khushi Kumari Gupta.”
•Laxmi the goat makes an appearance.
•Arnav tells Khushi he never wants to see her/talk to her again.
•Khushi falls into Arnav’s arms.

Four sips every time…
•Khushi wears her hair down.
•Khushi stresses out and makes jalebi.
•either Khushi or Arnav are injured and one takes care of the other.
•Arnav actually apologizes for something.

Chug your drink in celebration if…
•Shyam gets hit by a lorry.
•Arnav and Khushi manage to tell each other how they feel.

Feel free to add your own rules in the comments!

IPKKND Sends Love Letters To This Lifelong Soap Fan

Soaps may be reaching their golden years here in the United States, but, overseas, the genre is experiencing a veritable silver jubilee! India, which many Nonresident Indians remember as having only networks like DD1 and DD2, has dozens of soap operas — or “serials” — currently on the air, on various cable and satellite channels throughout the world. And, for those of us without a satellite dish, there’s streaming video available on many of the network web sites! My new personal favorite serial is StarPlus’ Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon (What Do We Name This Love?), which hooked me last Friday while I was visiting relatives.

IPKKND debuted in June and has already run for 100 episodes. The Hindi sudser centers around the lives of rich, arrogant, Mr. Darcy-esque Arnav Singh Raizada (Barun Sobti), adorkable working class Khushi (Sanaya Irani) and their loved ones. Much like U.S. soaps, there are common themes of family, business, romance, forbidden love and even bigamy! Indicative of the modern direction of Indian soaps (and the society they reflect) the premise of IPKKND is that Arnav’s former employee, Khushi, has been brought in to “train” his live-in girlfriend Lavanya to be more traditional. Of course, in the process of Khushi guiding and championing Lavanya, she and Arnav have developed quite the attraction. While they try to stifle the sparks, they constantly clash over his cynical view of the world and her passion for standing up for what you believe in.

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These are the gays of our lives…

It has been a jam-packed weekend of gay-themed soap events. Gays of our Lives brought together stars from Verbotene Liebe, Alles Was Zahlt, Queer As Folk, Greek/Dante’s Cove, Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten and One Life to Live for meet-and-greets with the fans and passionate panel discussions about playing gay roles on television and the challenges therein. But, for me, I think the most compelling and touching part is the fellowship.

There’s always something about getting together with a bunch of people who all love the same thing that’s energizing. Throw in that you’re literally uniting people from across the pond to do something like this, and it’s really mind-blowing. It was great to see the work all the organizers put into this weekend pay off in such a big way. And I met a ton of people who were just awesome — especially the folks who became my companions for the weekend. Anyone who reads this blog probably realizes I’m more than a tad neurotic, so it was great to be welcomed that way! Otherwise, I would’ve been standing in a corner like I was at an 8th grade dance!

Jo Weil and I

Jo and I outside the Stonewall Inn


I finally got to meet Jo Weil (Oliver, VL), Thore Scholermann (Christian, VL), Dennis Grabosch (Roman, AWZ) and Igor Dolgatschew (Deniz, AWZ), after interviewing them for the magazine via e-mail. (Can you imagine the logistics of doing international phoners? Yikes!) And it was so organic and natural, it was like we’d met in person time and time again before this. Felix Isenbugel (Carsten, GZSZ) was the only actor I was unfamiliar with and he, too, was as nice as could be. I also reconnected with AWZ head writer (and former VL head writer) Tom Chroust and briefly met Andreas Jancke, who played VL’s Gregor. Would you believe I didn’t get home till almost 1 this morning? Yes, me, the person who is always in bed by 10 and moaning about how tired she is. The mind boggles!

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Soap characters and taking sides

I don’t know if this means I’m perversely ornery or what, but when a canon tells me that a character is root-worthy, to the point of slanting stories to show how sympathetic or wonderful or favored they are, I inevitably run screaming in the opposite direction. And sometimes, I even start rooting for whoever their enemy is. That’s not to say that any time a TV show has a fair-haired boy I’m against them…it’s just when the character is being insufferably painted as perfect and right. Nobody is perfect, not even if canon deems it so!

Case in point, Alles Was Zahlt‘s Stella Coretti. I just think she’s such a pompous snot. Sure, Jenny schemed against her and pushed Lars off the wagon, but there’s something infinitely more human about Jenny, because for all her scheming, not only does she have faults but she’s allowed to acknowledge them. Stella, who is now keeping a secret of her own (that she has diabetes), still acts like she can sit in judgment of everyone. (Okay, more specifically Marian, whom I adore.) Then there’s One Life to Live‘s Gigi and Rex, whom the show positioned as a root-for couple: soulmates, brought together again after years and years apart, blah bliddy blah. But good lord they’re prigs. And to have to say that about Rex is especially disturbing. Remember when he was interesting? When he was as dirty as they come? I’ve started cheering for Kim, Stacy and, by extension Schuyler, to take them down! Of course, that ultimately means sticking poor Sky with Gigi and I don’t know that he deserves that. (Rex, however, totally has the karmic payback of being stuck with Stacy coming to him.)

Probably the most significant case of me vs. whoever the show wants me to side with is General Hospital‘s Sonny and Jason. No, they’re not good and pure and right…but they’re good and pure and right mobsters — which, in and of itself, is ridiculous. They supposedly don’t traffic in drugs or hookers. What it is they actually do (how does the money they launder get so darn filthy?) has never been clarified. But darn it, they’re the heroes of Port Charles, keeping it safe from…from…uh, other criminals. Yeah, it’s kind of insane. So you know what? I loved Faith, I loved Jerry, and I love whoever the heck James Franco is playing, just on the principle that their raison d’etre is to make trouble for Team Sason.

A little demented? Sure. But much like Jenny or Kim or Faith Rosco, I’ve never claimed to be anything else!