This is where you can read the manhwas. https://www.lezhin.com/en/comic/unintentional https://www.lezhin.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays, here is the link to the table of contents: https://bebebisous33analyses.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/table-of-contents-painter-of-the-night/
Announcement: I updated the essay “The heart and the mind” (number 98)
On the surface, this title is very similar to the essay which I have just reviewed. Nevertheless, there’s a huge difference, because in this analysis, I am focusing on the struggle between the heart and the mind, and more precisely on Baek Na-Kyum’s inner conflict. The latter stood more in the center at the end of the season 2. This was very perceptible in chapter 68, 70, 71, 74, 75 and 76. Yet, as the readers have already noticed it, I am including another manhwa called Unintentional Love Story written by PIBI. While reading this contemporary story, I couldn’t help myself smirking due to certain parallels between these two manhwas. Both Jung are portrayed as well-mannered, smiling and caring, whereas in truth they are just using the protagonist’s innocence and gentleness for their own interest. (chapter 1: Ji Wonyoung is standing in front of Jung) Or both main leads come from a rich family and are called Yoon (in Unintentional Love Story, it’s Yoon Taejun). However, the real reason for bringing up this modern Yaoi is the resemblance of Ji Wonyoung’s personality with Baek Na-Kyum’s. Both are selfless, naive, social, kind but more importantly cheerful. They are easily affected. Yet one might argue that the painter is different, as he knew about his sexual orientation very early on, whereas the pure and cheerful Ji Wonyoung is presented as straight. However, an important detail caught my attention. The uke only dated women who would confess to him. He never initiated anything. This signifies that the main lead started dating these women, because he felt grateful and touched. That’s why all his ex-girlfriends had nothing in common. In other words, he was never really in love with these women, therefore we could say that he was straight out of convenience. This explicates why he gets more confused, when he starts falling for Yoon Taejun. He goes so far to ask a friend how to recognize love. The latter replies with the following description: – He would think about the person all the time, the body is reacting with heart pounding , blushing , finally he would ramble things and make a fool of himself. I included these pictures from Painter Of the Night for a reason. They expose how the painter is definitely in love with the main lead. And this clearly reveals that Baek Na-Kyum was never in love with the scholar in the end. Hence you comprehend why I am presenting Ji Wonyoung from Unintentional Love Story. It helps to grasp why the painter was in denial for so long. He couldn’t understand his emotions, as he had never felt like this before. Moreover, unlike to our modern protagonist, the artist had no one to confide, not even to his noona. When he saw his lover kissing another man, he was bothered, but he couldn’t admit it entirely. He wondered about his emotions. When he finally met Heena, it was already too late.
But let’s return our attention to the modern main lead. Imagine how he reacted, when he noticed that he was behaving exactly like his friend had portrayed it. He got really confused . Thus he started denying his feelings for Yoon Taejun. First, he reduced it to admiration and tried to find excuses for his reaction: As you can detect, his mind tried to reason his behavior and emotions. More striking is that the character Ko Hotae is the one who pointed out to him that he was just using too much his mind and he shouldn’t ignore his heart. As the manhwaphiles can detect, Ji Wonyoung was struggling to admit his feelings for the potter Yoon Taejun. Nonetheless, this has nothing to do with fear of stigma or loss of reputation, because the moment Wonyoung started dating the main lead, he had no problem to kiss his partner outside. At no moment, he shows real concern or fear that people might discover his relationship with Yoon Taejun. Sure, he is careful due to the special status Yoon Taejun has as a famous potter. And all these observations led me to the following conclusion: Ji Wonyoung had never fallen in love with anyone before and as such, he had never truly paid attention to his true sexual orientation. He was neither a homosexual nor a straight person per se. He just dated girls, because he felt “attached and obliged” as a gentleman. However, all his partners could sense in the long term that their affection was not truly returned. Striking is that in this story, Ji Wonyoung had a similar attitude than Baek Na-Kyum. The low-born would always use his brain and mind to diminish his emotions. (chapter 56), even his unconscious was telling him that he longed for the lord’s affection. Both characters were struggling the same way, yet for different reasons.
In the first season, the painter was denying his sexual orientation and even worse the existence of sexual desires. That’s why he kept hiding behind doors. The artist feared the gaze and judgement from others. This fright was linked to the scholar’s indoctrination: sexuality is dirty, especially copulating men were filthy. Nonetheless, Yoon Seungho was able to revive and liberate the artist’s body on two occasions: first during the sex marathon (chapter 31) and secondly during their sex session, when Yoon Seungho was behaving like a client at a brothel. (chapter 48) The artist was forced to admit that he felt pleasure while having sex with the main lead. However, this doesn’t mean that Baek Na-Kyum was truly emancipated. It was only a partial victory, because the low-born would still deny the existence of feelings. He wasn’t just refusing to acknowledge any attachment from his part, but also from the main lead’s. And we have to question the reason for this attitude. In my opinion, it is related to Heena noona. Why? It is because her words are still lingering in her brother’s mind, while the latter is on the verge to admit his affection for Yoon Seungho. In this panel, his face is literally glowing. Yoon Seungho’s words accompanied with a huge smile have already moved his heart, hence his mind reminds him of this: He is not allowed to love Yoon Seungho, his noona forbade it. That’s the reason why Baek Na-Kyum drinks in the tavern and blames the noble for his fickle nature. His mind is trying to refrain the heart, to rationalize why he shouldn’t fall for the noble. As you can see, his denial is strongly intertwined with the kisaeng. Then I suddenly remembered this panel from chapter 56. The artist always felt the urge to get hugged. As you can see, the artist longed to be embraced as well. Surprising is that in chapter 66, Baek Na-Kyum got hugged by his noona. However, this embrace didn’t give him the warmth he was truly seeking, explaining why he didn’t follow his sister. He preferred remaining by the lord’s side. And this observation made me realize that the artist had always desired to be embraced by his lover, but his wish could never get fulfilled with Heena or with Jung In-Hun. Why? It is, because the kisaeng and the scholar are both rejecting sex and sexuality. For Heena, it is more understandable, as it represents a part of her work and world. She is confronted with rich nobles who are often violent and misogynistic. That’s why I believe that while the scholar killed the painter’s body, the noona held her brother’s heart captive. It was enchained. There is no doubt that the kisaeng was well aware that the painter was longing for warmth and love, because she describes him as a sweet boy. That’s why I think, she knew that the artist was easily swayed, if someone was quite nice and gentle. Note that she hugs him a second time, after the painter has already confessed to her that he had developed some attachment with the main lead. In other words, he was similar to Ji Wonyoung from Unintentional Love Story, he would feel gratitude and become loyal, as long as the person would be caring and warm towards him. I believe that Heena knew that the painter had such a disposition. That’s why she says this “my poor, tenderhearted boy”. If a person showed some affection through caresses and hugs, he would become obedient, as he would be thankful. Yet, in chapter 68, the kisaeng failed twice with her attempts. She even tried to stop him from replying to her points by putting her hands on his cheeks. She imagined, the artist would react like in the past, when she sent him away. He listened to her words, although he was definitely wounded. Therefore I come to the conclusion that not only the scholar stands for social norms, but also the kisaeng. In my eyes, Heena has never accepted her brother’s homosexuality, she only tolerated it, as long as Jung In-Hun was his muse. She knew that the artist would never outlive his homosexuality, because she was well aware that the scholar was not interested in sex. She might have even realized that her brother was more admiring the scholar than truly loving him. Furthermore, what caught my attention is Heena’s reaction, when she heard that Yoon Seungho had confessed to her brother. She denied his feelings, saying that he was just confusing fear with love. He had no idea what love is. She tried to convince him in every possible way that his feelings were not real or in the last resort, he should not act on his emotions. As you can observe, Heena was talking to his mind. We could say that she embodies the mind, hence she was the cause for the inner struggle in chapter 75. For she symbolizes the conscious, she also advocates the social norms. If a man showed his love for another man, then this would be a real scandal. From my point of view, she can’t accept homosexuality for two reasons. First, it is related to the nobles’ hobbies. The latter were the ones who bought the artist’s publications, and Heena hates filthy rich aristocrats. But there’s more to it in my opinion. For her, homosexuality is a synonym for addiction or bad life, because love between two men can’t exist. Why do I think like that? It is connected to the image “man consumed by lust”. Note that till the end, the artist worries about this aspect. If the artist were to admit his love for the noble officially, then he would be perceived as a man consumed by lust. That’s why Heena is against this relationship. She knows that all the other nobles will never admit having sex with other men. They are able to maintain their respectability. Thus the kisaeng says this: However, let’s not forget that his relationship with the main lead was always full of pain and violence, hence when the artist confesses his love in front of his sister, the latter should have already realized that the artist didn’t develop such an affection out of convenience or gratitude. That’s why she presents it as the opposite: Yet, if you pay attention to her words, the situation is in truth similar, as there’s a certain expectation and pressure. However, despite all her reasoning, Heena failed, since his feelings were already too strong. His mind and heart were no longer receptive to her advices and points. Only her words lingered in his mind in chapter 75, when the artist was about to accept his feelings.
On the other hand, she was able to stop the artist from confessing his affection to Yoon Seungho. Out of fear, the artist desired the noble to become responsible for him. This explicates why Baek Na-Kyum kept waiting for a signal from his lover. That way, the artist would have a better conscience. He wouldn’t be associated to the image “man consumed by lust”, as he was just following Yoon Seungho’s request. However, nothing happened, like Baek Na-Kyum had imagined. The protagonist was no longer willing to put his companion under pressure, he wanted him to make the decisions himself. He should follow his heart and mind, and the main character would listen to him.
And now, it is time to focus on the decisive moment, when his heart is no longer ruled by his mind. There’s a reason for that. For the first time, the artist is terrified. He gets so scared, when he meets the criminal by chance that his mind is no longer functioning properly. He can no longer rationalize his emotions or blame his lover. I could say, his mind is paralyzed, hence he embraces the noble by instincts. Only in his arms, he feels safe, warm and comfort. As you can sense, the low-born acts by instincts. That’s why he doesn’t pay attention to people. But more importantly, this situation makes him realize that this embrace has nothing to do with “man consumed by lust”. That’s why he actually enjoys being in the lord’s arms. He is definitely moved, as he blushes and feels more relaxed. At some point, he even closes his eyes, a sign that he is trusting his lover and enjoying this instant. Everyone can see that there’s only affection and even the merchant is quite nice. Therefore, I believe that for the first time, Baek Na-Kyum recognizes the real meaning of such an embrace. The lord had already done it before, yet the artist judged it as fake or he associated it to sex. And what the painter feared the most, the disapproving and judgmental gaze didn’t occur at all. Everyone acted, as if this embrace between a noble and a commoner was a normality. The mind representing society and its rules was defeated by the unconscious which stands for nature and instinct.
As a conclusion, Ji Wonyoung and Baek Na-Kyum had a similar conflict, their mind tried to deny their growing affection to the respective protagonist. However, the heart was always the winner in the inner conflict. Why? It’s because true values like love and friendship are more important than reputation or social norms, like I already mentioned it in “The heart and the mind”. If someone is not true to himself, he will never feel happy, Min is the best example for this situation. He hides his true nature behind his smiles and laughs, yet he is always dissatisfied and envious. The only huge difference between Painter Of The Night and Unintentional Love Story is that homosexuality was a real taboo in Joseon. Nowadays, it is still not entirely accepted, but the existence of this type of love is no longer denied and such people are no longer persecuted in Western societies. Consequently, imagine how much pressure the commoner is facing, when he admits his love for the main lead in front of people. Yoon Seungho can act so fearless, because he has money and power, but it is not the same for a low-born like Baek Na-Kyum. People could definitely say that he is doing it for privileges and favors, especially when the following rumor starts spreading: Yoon Seungho even bought such an expensive music box for his lover! Some jealous and ill-intended people will say that the low-born requested it… However, for the artist, it will no longer matter, because he has finally experienced what a real embrace is and what the lord was willing to do in order to protect and console him: he remained seated on the ground, until the painter had calmed down.
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