A Bugatti Veyron can go from zero to sixty in 2.46 seconds, but people can go from rage to shame a lot faster than that. Late one evening I saw a guy clock his girl friend, a clean right cross, and she sprawled on the pavement out cold. Talk about helplessness! A crowd hadn’t gathered yet and he’s staring down at her, hands by his sides, thinking, “Now what?” The irony of it is that he wasn’t the one in a rage, she was.
They were performing the universal “You Get Physical and Hit Me, and I’ll Dodge Your Blows” game. Around the world many couples engage in this excercise, one of the defining memories of their relationships. But the girl was overstepping her role and was really trying to inflict damage on his face with her long fingernails. I could see it as I was approaching on my bicycle because their performance was just up ahead in the bicycle lane. She went after him twice, and he had to move quickly to avoid being hurt. I decided to ride up on the sidewalk. It was on her third attempt that he let her have it. Her rage, his shame.
Chinese couples love to make a display of themselves in public. Maybe they don’t want to fight in front of the kids, so they go outside. But it’s not just couples; the streets often bear witness to angry young boys, irate customers, pouting children, and a large assortment of others fuming and puffing.
But the strange thing is not that so many of the adult participants are completely irrational; the strange thing is that you have the eerie feeling that they’re actually making a movie. It all seems rehearsed. So many of the scenes and scripts, particularly of couples at odds with each other, are so repetitive, that you can almost imagine a director standing off-camera conducting screen tests. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any variety in the ways the scenes are played.
For example, one of my favorites is a less often produced episode (I’ve only seen one) in which a young woman playing the role of “the wronged woman,” slaps her male counterpart. On the first take only the tips of her fingers connected. No problem, she just kept shouting at him, cameras rolling, while she repositioned herself, and then pow! On target, and she storms off.
Tell me you haven’t seen this scene before.