“No, this trick won’t work… How on earth are you ever going to explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? ”
― Albert Einstein
When you come to look at the general plot of Baht Oyunu, the series propose a very simple question. What is first love? For some of us, it’s the first time we felt butterflies in our stomach on seeing someone. It’s having noticed we have feelings for someone regardless of them being reciprocated. For others it’s the first time we have experienced a loving relationship with someone, which means it’s our first love story with someone.
As we get to know the characters more (currently we have seen 7 episodes) we are left with another question. Who is Ada’s first love? Is it Rüzgar, as she thinks it is, or is it Bora as most of us think he is? This is a complicated subject, so let’s take a look at how far we have come in the series and if we can answer these questions while we explore first love as as a concept.
Is First Love Always Unrequited?
“Dear as remembered kisses after death,
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
On lips that are for others; deep as love,
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
O Death in Life, the days that are no more!”
Alfred Lord Tennyson — Tears Idle Tears
Stephen Fry, one of the smartest people I know, in an interview that was recorded and uploaded to Youtube, talks about first love. You can watch this lovely interview here. The title of this section is his proposition turned into a question. He pretty much won me over by his explanation so let me share it here so that you can evaluate if you agree with it. According to Mr. Fry all first love is unrequited because in his words, “It’s so huge, it’s such an act of giving, and it requires so much back that it can never be given back and you wouldn’t necessarily want it given back.”
I can’t help but agree with this wholeheartedly. First love is really grand and we really do have a lot to give. Because it’s our first attempt at love we feel bolder, stronger and we are more hopeful. There is never anything wrong with being that way but in time we lose some of that with heartbreak and disappointments. It is also true that we don’t expect much in return. We have a more giving nature when we are less experienced. I remember my first love and although it wasn’t completely unrequited the things I did for him I never did for anyone else. I also never regretted being in love with him. It always stayed with me as a lovely memory.
I think that positive outcome should be telling us if it really is our first love. Because first love is a magical and spiritual experience which doesn’t require our feelings to be reciprocated. I mean if they are it’s great but I feel that it’s kind of an individual and divine initiation process where we learn to love. The other person is important and valuable of course. However what makes first love so important is the magnitude with which we can love someone who isn’t a family member or just a friend.
In Baht Oyunu one of the things that drew me to the show was Ada’s and her family’s obsession with marrying your first love. That has so much emphasis that they believe if that can’t be achieved they are doomed for unhappiness for a lifetime. We tend to blame our unhappiness on different things. Some of us blame it on an unlucky start in life or a dysfunctional family, some blame it on their looks or their environment. We almost always forget that our unhappiness is also a result of our belief system. Don’t worry I’m not going to give you any self help crap here but if we focus on Ada and her family, the idea that she has to marry her first love is just a belief is it not?
I’m not sure how the show will handle that further down the line but so far Ada has already accepted that her dignity is more important than her happiness. This is why she stopped pursuing Rüzgar who didn’t show an interest in her anyway. What the show is making us question now is if Rüzgar is Ada’s first love or if that’s what Ada chose to believe so far.
Ada’s feelings for Rüzgar have not been reciprocated but at the same time Rüzgar has never clearly rejected Ada either. As the sleazeball he is he fed her infatuation with him by treating her nicely and by using her feelings to get what he wanted from her, financial support for his lifestyle. Of course he also used her to become a citizen so that he could keep living in Turkey. He didn’t try to seduce her physically which was a clear sign he didn’t see her that way, but Ada being the naive provincial girl she is didn’t understand that. She thought that they were working towards a more stable relationship.
We could say that Ada has been deceived by two people at the same time, herself and Rüzgar. For the past 3 years Ada chose to believe that she was going to live happily ever after with Rüzgar once his citizenship was approved by the government. She was so blinded by this plan that she never questioned her feelings for him which she thought was love. And she didn’t question his feelings for her either.
The Obsession With First Love
“The Romantic Comedy industry is sustained by the idea of there being ‘One’: the true love who perfectly completes you. Without this central idea, many romantic films — both comedy and drama — lose their stakes.” Kate Lancaster Ryan
There’s nothing wrong about expecting to find someone who completes you but the problem starts when we start to confuse fiction with real life. In fiction there are certain patterns and rules for the storytelling to be engaging. First love trope is usually used in similar ways. The hero or the heroine has never experienced true love but the minute he/she meets this person X she realizes she has never known what love is. Through her we as the audience also realize that what she thought was love is just infatuation or a desire to be with someone she fancied.
However in real life, the notion that there is only one person that can make us happy doesn’t make sense. When we go through a break up or a divorce we know and hope that we can and will meet someone else that we can love and that can love us back. The thing we also have to realize is that person doesn’t have to complete us and we don’t have to complete each others’ sentences the minute we meet. That’s something that can be built through spending time together and by spending time and effort on getting to know the other person.
I do love and adore the cliches about the lovers to look like they were created for each other but in reality a relationship is not built on luck or complete compatibility. Two people can also work through their differences and learn to love each other despite their contrasts. Having said that, I loved Baht Oyunu also because even though Ada and Bora have a lot in common, we have been shown that they are indeed also different. They have what is necessary to build a healthy relationship which is compassion and an eye for the needs of the other person. They have the capacity to live in harmony despite their clearly different ways for dealing with life and their problems.
At the end of the day, whether it’s first, second or third love, what makes it appealing to watch is the labor behind it. If it comes easily it doesn’t really give us the same satisfaction. That is why we as the audience usually love slow burn love stories more. I feel like Baht Oyunu, by concentrating on Ada’s obsession about first love, is also poking at our obsession of first love in romantic comedies.
Baht Oyunu is using the first love trope as a means to show us that love is hard work too and heroes and heroines are not super humans who do the right things all the times. They are imperfect just like us. Perhaps that makes it hard to watch sometimes and we want to reach through the screen and right their wrongs but it also uses fiction as a medium to guide us on the human condition.
Love Is Love
“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say.”
― Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
Until now we kept discussing Ada but now let’s take a look at Bora, the man who says he doesn’t believe in love. Should we believe him? Well you know what I said about beliefs above, so no. As Ada believes she was in love with Rüzgar, Bora believes there is no such thing as love. It has been mentioned a few times now by his cousin Ali, that his heart was broken by a woman called Aslı who was potentially Bora’s first love. The show presents us with the idea of first love, yet we are also presented with two people who are slowly finding love with each other on their second time.
I love the way this works because as much as I love first love and how it applies to many movies and series in the romance genre, I also know that many people don’t get to spend their lives with their first loves. We usually end up with the second, fourth or seventh whatever and that’s okay.
The reason Bora refuses to believe in love makes him even a better candidate to seduce with the idea of love. I find the signs of him falling in love with Ada even more endearing. Isn’t it always like that? The more a character denies something the more he/she gets himself stuck onto it. In Turkey we say, “fear the one who says they don’t want it” because we believe when you strongly resist something it will happen. When someone says they don’t want something it can be them fighting their desire for that thing.
So if first love burns like du Maurier says, what does the second one do? It goes without saying that the first one doesn’t just burn us. Essentially first love doesn’t leave us without teaching us how to love. But I feel like the ones that teach us how to be “loved” are the ones that come after. It’s interesting how in the third episode Ada dreams of going to Bora’s house late at night and he asks her a few times if she is sure that Rüzgar is her true love. I haven’t noticed that he said “true love” here and somehow thought he said “first love”. We can interpret Bora’s question in her dream as her consciousness telling her that Rüzgar is not her true love.
While we are waiting for the eighth episode Ada still doesn’t recognize she is in love with Bora. However Bora is kind of aware of his feelings and isn’t ashamed to show his adoration for her. He is afraid but also he is slowly coming to terms with his feelings. Unfortunately this time it’s Ada that’s making a run for it and she thinks that she can do that by quitting her job.
Coming to the questions I asked in the beginning, is Rüzgar Ada’s first love? He might as well be, but if first love is a means for us to learn to love someone, it is “true love” that will give us the real loving experience. So as my interpretation Baht Oyunu is going to tell us how true love teaches us to be our true selves without a disguise. Only true love has the potential to transform us into who we are supposed to be. Is first love the first time we are in love or is it our first relationship? I think it’s whatever you choose to go with. It can be both or either one.
If we are lucky, loves comes to our lives in all its glory to change us. As Einstein puts it, first love may be a biological phenomenon but true love is even more than that because it’s everlasting. That is why as much as we love watching first love on our screens or reading about it in romance novels, what we carry to the real world when the fiction artwork is over is our faith in love and its power on all of us. May we all feel it, see it, experience it with someone who deserves our love.
Dear reader, thank you for reading this far. This was a pleasure to write since at the moment Baht Oyunu is my favorite show on TV. Please let me know your thoughts about the show in general and especially about this piece. Tell me, do you remember your first love? Did this piece bring back some sweet or sad memories? I love to hear from you so find me on Twitter as @edsavaseri. Have a great day wherever you are in the world right now, I’m sending you love and light. Keep Turkey in your prayers as we are still fighting the flames on the 10th day of the forest fires. Thanks to all of you for your kind messages.
*Watch this video of different people on the street talking about their first love. Most of the inspiration about this video came from me watching this. ❤
*I previously wrote another piece on Baht Oyunu, “Why Some Stories Never Get Boring” have a read here.
*Watch Stephen Fry talk about first love here.