If you’ve loved, you’ve made yourself vulnerable and might have been in broken relationships. But should victimhood be the only narrative of our love lives?
Filmmaker JD Chua takes on a modern dating phenomenon – ghosting – and reintroduces it in the context of celestial heroes and heroines from Chinese folk tales, in the brand new Viddsee Originals comedy-drama series ‘Justice Liu – Curse of the Slow Fader’.
Over five episodes, he and co-writer Jasmine Tay built a universe for the newly-ghosted Guy (Kasimir Poh) and a heartbreak counsel led by Justice Liu (Johnny Ng) and other celestials to navigate the injustice of being ghosted.
From left – Jun Wen Chen (Swordsman), with Kasimir (Guy), Johnny Ng (Justice Liu), and JD Chua (Director)
We speak to JD to find out more about the production!
Broken Relationships Is A Tale As Old As Time (But So Is Healing)
JD sat on the story for ‘Justice Liu’ for about seven years. The original script began a boy’s journey into healing as he is visited by a spiritual figure called Death, originally meant to be shot in Thailand.
Keeping to the theme but not sacrificing his vision, JD readapted the story for this Viddsee Originals series, focusing on heartbreak, healing, ‘ghosting’ and ‘slow-fading’.
The Chinese language terms 淡出者 (slow fader) and 神隐者 (ghost) were coined by Johnny Ng (Justice Liu), and introduced into the script by co-writer Jasmine
JD is a lover of the wuxia genre and was already adapting the story of Hou Yi for film. Through more research, he arrived on the classics The Smiling, Proud Wanderer and the Butterfly Lovers, and consulted actor Johnny Ng (who plays Justice Liu) for advice.
“I have always liked using a figure of authority to tell broken people that ‘they will be okay’. We are like that in real life. Whenever we are down, we turn to our close friends, teachers, family, or even therapists, people who has been there before, and they tell us that everything is going to be all right.
We Seek Affirmation From Figures Of Authority
“I figured what better way to do that for this story is to have someone from the classics. They are all relatable; they are classics for a reason.”
The classical texts may not be top references on romantic advice; we turn to pop culture and media for cues on what’s acceptable to navigate our emotional lives.
JD wanted to address this in the production by layering and littering meta-references to the production and the artificiality of the protagonist’s reality. This is to challenge viewers to question the very form, medium, and delivery of the story’s message and values.
The Writer (Natasha Low) appears as one of the Creators in this constructed universe about broken relationships and healing
Love Is Nothing Like In The Movies; Ha-ha.
Peppered with a healthy dose of comedy and self-awareness, JD and his team highlight how indulging in sadcore playlists with Adele’s mournful ‘Someone Like You’ could become an unhealthy to our sense of self-worth. Guy is told that he deserves better and that if anything, he should not repeat his mistakes by dating just someone like his ex.
JD intended to highlight how our sense of self can be shaped by media consumption, but our emotional lives are nothing like in the movies or music.
“Sadcore music (can be enjoyed in small doses), but too much of it is actually dangerous. It is also very overbearing to commit to grand gestures just when someone is about to check out of the relationship or when the dynamics are off-balance. It doesn’t work that way in real life, even if movies tell us otherwise.”
By adding in Director, Producer and Writer characters into the script, as well as the off-screen powers in Viddsee Studio, JD and his team introduce self-aware directional cues to viewers for them to join in the fun.
Opera consultant Sally Low (right) was key in fitting and imaging, and gave crash courses to production makeup artists
“I wanted a heightened intellectual level of humour; a humour that is self-aware and requires audiences to participate. It was important for me to poke fun at ourselves as filmmakers.”
Love Was Before A Many-Splendored Thing, Post-Modern Love Is Today A Minefield/ Mindfield
We are introduced to ghosting and slow-fading in the series, but more modern-day dating lexicon exists. For the generation who has all the feels, there’s love-bombing, bread-cruming, benching, and more, all new terms for existing bad behaviours and toxic and broken relationships.
“Ghosting is the pain of a breakup, prolonged. Everybody will experience heartbreak. But not everybody will treat the experience with dignity. We may kick and scream, beg and cry, and that is when we are absolutely clear that our relationship with our special one is over.”
Heartbreak is a necessary part of life, but in this post-modern online dating world, being thrown into limbo is an existential crisis of self-worth. Without closure or feedback, its easier to just lay blame solely on the other party for bad behaviour and poor communication skills.
“Recognise this as a character flaw. Never rob them the agency to learn what is right or wrong themselves, it is not our job to do so. Never put up with disrespect. Learn to walk away. Learn to love yourselves and move on from bad people. Relationships are hard. So treat yourself right.”
Move On, But Acknowledge And Celebrate The Pain
Kasimir’s character, Guy, goes through an emotional roller coaster we’re all familiar with, including the demon called Self-Doubt.
We may try to seek justice for being wronged, but the only way to do ourselves right is to move on. Closure, as Justice Liu says, exists only in the movies. No one owes us closure.
Another empowering note JD ends on is one that’s celebratory, even in the pain of being ghosted. “Don’t waste time on people who do not respect you. Celebrate that you have got rid of them from your lives.
“Admittedly, I have committed a fair share of ghosting. And since, I have reached out and apologised. I made it a point to make it right now. I too, have been ghosted.
“I shake my head at those who think they you’re an idiot, forming feeble excuses to disappear (yes I have done this too). I have learned to see that it is the fault of theirs for their lack of social skills to confront problems or to solve issues together, and it is no fault of mine.
“Giving them space and distance may be the hardest thing to do, but if you truly have loved them, give them what is difficult for you.”