Everybody is celebrating badass characters. They are cool, strong, smart, handsome, beautiful... Of course they are. They are the heroes of the story! They represent the most wanted things in the world: feeling safe so no one can harm them, and being special so everyone will recognize and remember them.
In this article, I will show you two characters from the same era who suffer a lot. One of them becomes evil and one of them stays kind-hearted until the end. While you are reading this article, please ask yourself which of them is the most powerful, the strongest, and the most valuable person.
CAUTION: Spoilers for Rookie Agent Rough and Bridal Mask ahead.
During the Japanese occupation in Shanghai there is a secret resistance force. The drama Rookie Agent Rouge is about an outstanding young woman who becomes an amazing undercover agent. Her teacher and team leader is the very skilled Song Mian (Yuan Mickey) whom she has lingering feelings for. Almost everyone killed, tortured, tricked to survive or in order to get back to China but who is Lin Tia Mu?
She is the kindhearted wife of the team leader of the secret service team. She worked in an orphanage and the hospital, is lovable and calm. Tia Mu is the white-dressed woman in the background of the poster. At first sight, most watchers would consider her weak, but there are some points to consider.
She is smart. Tia Mu knows what happens. Maybe she is the best-informed woman in this drama. She knows about the plans of the secret agency, knows some inner information of the Japanese, and the feelings of her husband for another woman.
She makes her own decisions. As one of the few persons in this drama, Tia Mu doesn't care about the stigma of enemy or friend. She decides from person to person what is to do.
She is brave. She delivers secret messages and risks getting caught, tortured and executed. By hiding a person, she even decides what is to do instead of asking for permission. When the Japanese come to catch her, she just waits calmly and focuses on breathing.
She is loyal. Even if she does some things the communists or the secret service doesn't like, she will never betray a person close to her.
Besides physical strength, she has everything to be a hero. A blogger defined strength as an attitude that enables the person to overcome fear and rashness, so a person is not only strong if they fight back or defeat the cause of the fear. Being strong means to set individual priorities and be a self-determined person. Don't you think that is true? Isn't the person who lives according to their own rules stronger than a person who follows the system? Even if the own way of living means to withstand.
But she has even more than this. She has a really kind heart. Altruistically, she does everything to improve the life of at least a few persons during this awful time. Even when she gets tricked, she never loses faith in humanity. So isn't it harder to stay kind hearted and nice in a rough time when everyone becomes a selfish person with a poker face?
According to philosopher Khalil Gibran: "Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution."
The Swedish writer, doctor and professor Stephan Einhorn terms weak and stupid kindness as "false kindness." In contrast to this, he claims: "Wise kindness entails judiciously subjugating some of your self-interests sometimes in aid of others’ welfare while still having the courage to stand up for your values when necessary. Be kind when you can, and tough when you must."
But what happens when you are kindhearted but not tough enough to protect your kindness? Let's take a look at the counter example. A character I could never forget! He is the most righteous and lovable Japanese during the second world war: Kimura Shunji (Park Ki Woong) from The Bridal Mask.
During the Japanese occupation, one man named "Bridal Mask" resists and gives hope to the people. Lee Kang To (Joo Won) is an ambitious officer who doesn't care about his nation. He only wants to create a better life for him and his family. One day he crosses paths with the mysterious avenger and his life will drastically change, as well as the future of Korea. But who is Kimura Shunji?
He is the best friend of main character Lee Kang To. He is a benignant primary school teacher and the son of a Japanese General. Kimura Shunji is intelligent, strong-minded (in the beginning), friendly, and righteous. He could be the equivalent to Tia Mu BUT he also experienced dramatic things, his soul broke into pieces, and he becomes the most violent, cruel and insane Japanese officer the province ever saw. In some scenes, actor Park Ki Woong started to cry because playing this character was so hard to handle.
He is powerful. He is physically strong and in a position where he can catch random people, punish and torture them. No one can stop him.
He is irrational. Until the end, he justifies his actions with unrealistic necessity. Even if he finds the truth, he is insanely convinced that the truth has to be different. The saddest aspect is, until the end, he still believes that there is a way back to his kind old self.
He is controlled by his rage and loses his temper. Sometimes he seems to be fever delusional. He is shouting and torturing just because he is so desperate and enraged.
He is lost. The perfect example of a broken soul. He doesn't even want to be the way he is.
At first glimpse, Kimura Shunji is more powerful than Tia Mu... but is he really the stronger person?
There is a Chinese metaphor about the flower and the sword. It represents the balance between kindness and strength. A blog post explained the metaphor like this: "The flower is a symbol of kindness and compassion. However, when people try to take advantage of your kindness, that is to say when they try to crush the flower, wield the sword — a sign of protection and strength."
So don't you think it is harder to be strong enough to be kind than to be evil?
Do you think kindness should be more appreciated? Or do you think all of this is nonsense?