This is where you can read the manhwa. https://www.lezhinus.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/
Now, it is time to focus on Black Heart and his famous tear. (chapter 76) Contrary to Baek Na-Kyum and Jihwa’s crying, the villain is shedding one single tear while laughing. It looks like he’s having fun and entertained. But if you replace the scene in the whole context, you’ll come to a different conclusion.
1. The context of Min’s tear
He is actually far from enjoying this “joke”. First, he had to witness before that he had been defeated by his rival Yoon Seungho. He couldn’t separate them. He was so annoyed and upset by the situation that he vomited. In other words, he was green of envy and simultaneously he was green (sickly)🤢🤮 due to his opium consumption. This signifies that he was definitely not in the best mood.
Then in the shed, he hears from Nameless that Jihwa had sex with the criminal behind his back. Though it looks like this secret puts him back in a good mood, I noticed two details:
- His eyes are always closed, especially when the tear comes out
- Secondly, his laugh is very short-lived.
2. The closed eyes and the tear
The manhwaphiles should wonder why the Joker has his eyes closed. It can’t be explained with the laughing, as his laugh comes to an quick end (only 2 HAHA), and he is already talking to Jihwa and the commoner. But observe that while mocking his puppet, he avoids eye contact. So why does he have closed eyes? In order to get an answer, I tried to compare it to the previous situations, when he laughed. That’s how I realized that Byeonduck never let the readers see his gaze, when he was laughing.
- chapter 19:
- Chapter 43
- Chapter 53:
- Chapter 54:
- Chapter 69:
The absence of his face (19, 43, 54, 69) and of his eyes (chapter 53) is an indication that he is actually wearing a mask. That’s why I deduce that the Joker is actually closing his eyes in front of the second leads, for he is attempting to hide his pain and vulnerability. After seeing how Baek Na-Kyum escaped from all his traps (the wine, the sex orgy, the murder, the kidnapping, the gangrape, the rape, the sex at the kisaeng house), he has to discover that he is also losing control over his puppet Jihwa. This can only increase his stress and bad mood. The manhwaphiles should remember how much Black Heart loves using his power and influence over Yoon Seungho’s childhood friend. That way, he feels powerful. This explicates why he punished him in chapter 67. He made sure to scare and humiliate him so that the latter would become obedient again: .
But during that night, he hears that Jihwa had even violated social norms. His disciple had sex with a commoner. Let’s not forget that the second lead had declared this in chapter 18:
Jihwa: “Yoon Seungho has fallen into sodomy that he is now reaching for a low-born”.
In my eyes, the red-haired aristocrat was just repeating what Min and the other nobles were advocating. This sexual encounter between the second leads could only infuriate Black Heart, as the latter in reality follows traditions blindly out of fear.
3. Fear and laugh
Here, I need to elaborate the signification of Min’s laugh. In truth, his laugh is not a signal for pleasure and excitement, but the opposite. It reveals his discomfort and anxieties. This means, his laugh is linked to negative emotions and nervousness, which the character tries to mask from the others. Why do I interpret it so? I could use the situation from chapter 53. He has just been punched by Yoon Seungho and he fell onto the ground. This was definitely painful. But notice that though he is laughing, he is hiding his mouth with his hand, a sign that he is masking his true thoughts and emotions. In this panel, the readers are seeing Min the clown as his best. The covered mouth and the absence of the eyes are strong indications that he is not honest at all here. Since he is laughing, we have to imagine, he is feeling the opposite: scared and hurt. But he has to grin and bear it. That’s his MO in my eyes. Furthermore, there exists this famous study organized by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram that revealed people often laughed nervously in uncomfortable situations. People in his study were asked to give electric shocks to a stranger, with the shocks becoming increasingly powerful (up to 450 volts). The higher the shocks, the more the participants were laughing in order to mask their embarrassment and fear. They did it to reassure themselves and give the impression to others that this was normal.
One might argue that in episode 43, Black Heart had no reason to feel discomfort. He was truly making fun of Jihwa’s hypocritical behavior. But even so, this truly outlines that while he was truly mocking Jihwa in episode 43, the new version of this scene (chapter 76) has to be different. Why? It is because this time, Jihwa didn’t act, like Min had anticipated. In chapter 36, The Joker had made sure that the second lead wouldn’t stick to his promise. He had manipulated him to visit Yoon Seungho’s mansion. In chapter 76, Min has to discover that nothing he had planed worked out. The assassination didn’t take place immediately, then he never involved Min like requested. Finally, Jihwa had even sex with the criminal. That’s why this comparison even reinforced my interpretation that Min’s laugh is more often a sign of stress, anxieties and negative emotions than real pleasure and enjoyment. Consequently I believe that the tear and the laugh are in truth a sign of discomfort, pain and stress.
4. The tear and Black Heart’s comment
But there’s another clue why I believe that his tear is the result of negative emotions.
What caught my attention is the presence of an oxymoron: a comedy of errors. While comedy stands for fun and lightness, error embodies gravity and seriousness. The contradiction indicates the presence of emotions, the noble is definitely torn apart by this revelation. Besides, notice the idiom “you found yourself in” which portrays Jihwa as weak and rather stupid. The words imply that the disciple is a puppet. According to Min, he had sex, because Nameless convinced his disciple to this. He was a victim of circumstances in Min’s eyes. That’s why his words truly exposes a huge reproach. Black Heart’s words reflect that he is very serious in that moment, he is even talking about money.
If I had to rephrase his true thoughts, this would be the result: “How could he let himself be so manipulated to make such a mistake? Is this a joke?” That’s why I believe that Min is not shedding a tear out of joy or out of laughing, rather because he is frustrated and pained. That’s the reason why in the same scene he will lose his temper in front of Nameless, and shows his true face: nasty, violent and arrogant. And note the contrast of the mouth. The lips are positioned in the opposite way than when he smiles. And now, you understand why Min had his eyes closed. He was hiding his true emotions from the others, as the eyes are the mirror of the soul. Yet during that night he could no longer keep his mask as the Joker.
5. The signification of the tear
Another huge divergence is that unlike all the other characters weeping, he only sheds one tear which is quite significant. This shows that Min’s heart has been wounded, yet due to his true personality, he can’t cry buckets. Let’s not forget that I had already diagnosed him as someone suffering from ASPD (Antisocial Personality Disorder). His lack of empathy is the explanation of his lack of tears.
One might say that this is just a crocodile tear.
- Crocodile tears: “display false, insincere, hypocritical sadness or remorse” quoted from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/crocodile+tears%2c+crying%2fto+cry
This is definitely correct in the sense that the lord fakes his happiness and pleasure, while in my opinion he is masking his hurt, frustration and stress. In that panel, he is definitely a hypocrite, nonetheless I doubt that his emotions are insincere. It is just that he is a crocodile himself, therefore he has never shed a tear before.
As you can perceive, the appearance of the tear is important in my eyes. We have to imagine that until the appearance of the painter Min felt bored to death or better said bored to tears.
“bored to death/bored to tears”: extremely bored to the point of distraction, frustration or irritation. quoted from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/bore+to+death%2ftears%2c+to
That’s why he kept looking for fun and entertainment. (chapter 66) Striking is that when the lord found Baek Na-Kyum in a terrible situation, he looked excited. In my opinion, the situation was pleasing to his eyes for two reasons. Min could see how Yoon Seungho had mistreated the painter, therefore he sensed that he could have an opportunity to approach the artist. Since Yoon Seungho was not willing to share his lover to others,. Min had only one possibility left: separate the couple. That’s why he found it entertaining. He imagined that his chances to taste the low-born had increased. This explicates why he takes pleasure in the misery of others. He is able to profit from the suffering of others. In other words, he never had to put a lot of effort. Everything was always delivered to him on a silver plate.
But since he was using others to play his games, this means that Min never had to work either. I am quite certain, the readers remember this idiom:
“blood, sweat and tears”: a huge amount of effort, dedication and hard work. quoted from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/blood%2c+sweat%2c+and+tears
That’s another explanation why he couldn’t shed a tear. Note that during the first season, he made requests to Yoon Seungho (chapter 19, 33). The latter had to bring the painter to the bedchamber in order to show the pictures or to bring him to the sex orgy. Then he asked the same thing during the second season. The host had to fetch his artist. Then he incited Jihwa to hire Nameless and gave him the information about the criminal. Nonetheless he never went there himself. Striking is that the more he lusted after Baek Na-Kyum, the more he became proactive. In chapter 56, he visited his “student” on his own, and made the request to be involved: “Let me in on it”. Then he visited the protagonist’s mansion on his own in chapter 66, this signifies that he was more and more walking around. In chapter 69, we see him waiting at the kisaeng house. He hoped to meet the artist there, thinking that Baek Na-Kyum would want to run away from Yoon Seungho. The fact that Byeonduck portrayed Min walking in so different scenes (52, 56, 66, 76) is an indication that Min is becoming more and more active. In poetry and literature, the walk is often a metaphor for life. That’s why I come to the conclusion that the tear symbolizes Min’s revival. Hence this picture truly mirrors Min’s life before his meeting with Baek Na-Kyum. (quoted from https://9gag.com/gag/awXAwnW) This image is inspired by the song “Beautiful” written by Eminem, because the latter referred to the presence of a mask and act by singing “hide behind the tears of a clown”.
As you can observe, Black Heart is making a similar experience than Yoon Seungho. He is starting to live his true life and as such dropping his disguise: The Joker. And this picture truly mirrors Min’s life before his meeting with Baek Na-Kyum. But old habits are hard to die.
Min: “What if I said I could have you killed?” (chapter 76)
He threatened the criminal to have him eliminated. His words expose that Black Heart wouldn’t still do it himself, but he would use others. On the other hand, his remark displays a transformation, for Min is now taking responsibility for a person’s death. By becoming more active, he is no longer running away from accountability. This signifies that at some point, he will be responsible for his own actions and words and won’t be able to put the blame on others. Simultaneously, this situation forces him to show his true colors. However, there’s a huge difference between the wealthy main lead and Black Heart. Instead of transforming into a phoenix and shine, Black Heart will turn into a monster, a zombie. Since Min can now feel pain, this indicates that he is alive. I can’t help myself associating him to rotting flesh due to the opium and his nausea. Because of the connection between work and tears, I am expecting that Min will begin to show an interest in the officials and get in touch with Jung In-Hun.
6. The tear and the clown
To summarize, the Joker was always hiding his true self from others. He played The Joker in order to cover up his own anxieties, emotions and thoughts. Then he never had to make any effort. Finally, he always felt entitled due to his social status. Thereby I come to the conclusion that Black Heart was quite similar than Yoon Seungho in the end. He was also living like a ghost, yet he was different at the same time. Since he fears to break social norms, yet resents them deeply, he learned that he had to hide his true self behind a mask. Therefore he became a clown, a Joker who would use others as his puppets and as such toys. But as a clown, he couldn’t show his true emotions, for it was not his “function”.
tears of a clown: A phrase used to describe a person who appears joyful and chipper around people but is actually emotionally distraught. Usually this results from heartbreak or a severely stubbed toe. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tears%20of%20a%20clown
This expression corresponds totally to the image from chapter 76: , the clown was in really distressed and wounded, but he had to grin and bear it. He had to keep playing his role of the Joker, until his position as the puppet master got threatened by Nameless’ intervention. This explicates why The Joker had to stop Nameless from talking. The Joker realized that the commoner could have a huge influence over the second lead.
Min: “Such insolence from a filthy, lowly cutthroat…. How dare you, a worthless peasant, question your superior? You’d do well to bite your tongue and keep playing your tricks, jester.” (chapter 76)
He attempted to humiliate him through insults, but nothing worked on the commoner. In this scene, Min was defeated for the first time, though he managed to keep the red-haired noble by his side.
7. The tear and Min’s obsession
Since I elaborated that Min and Yoon Seungho had so many similarities, the Joker’s tear is another indication that the main lead will also come to cry. Yet, contrary to Black Heart, I am expecting the lord crying a river. In addition, this means that the reason for the appearance of Min’s tear is caused by Baek Na-Kyum, though it happened in front of Lee Jihwa. On the other hand, the manhwaphiles shouldn’t forget that the latter is a different version of Baek Na-Kyum. Therefore we have to imagine that in the past Min became interested in the second lead due to his closeness to Yoon Seungho too. That’s the reason why Min chose to snatch Jihwa from Yoon Seungho. Remember the main lead’s words in chapter 55:
Yoon Seungho: “I brought you here as a new plaything, that’s all…” (chapter 55)
Because the main character and Min are similar, this image is in my eyes an evidence that Min considered Jihwa as his plaything too. First, the protagonist showed an interest in painting, so did Min. The former was close to his childhood friend, therefore Black Heart desired the same relationship between Jihwa and himself. And now, you comprehend why he is determined to taste the painter. Yoon Seungho’s gaze revealed that he was sexually attracted to the painter, and the latter had a similar reaction. Hence Min feels the need to lust after Baek Na-Kyum. But he is making a huge mistake: for he sensed sexual attraction in their gaze, he believes that this is the real foundation of the relationship between the two main leads. Yet, it becomes obvious that Black Heart has fallen in love with the painter, but unlike Yoon Seungho, the Joker is not willing to admit this. He fears the consequences: to be laughed.
But why is Min so obsessed with the main lead? It is, because he envies the protagonist for his way of life. On the one hand, he lives above social norms and doesn’t pay attention to rumors and traditions, hence he has a bad reputation. On the other hand, the nobles keep seeking his company despite everything. Yoon Seungho is attracting attention, therefore the clown can only judge Yoon Seungho as a rival. However, people are mocking him behind his back. That’s why Min can’t truly take the main lead’s place and can only copy him. In my opinion, Min is longing for freedom too, but in a more destructive way.
And now, you comprehend why Jihwa became his disciple. Min was able to earn his trust, which explains why Jihwa admires Min’s relationship with the noble with the mole in chapter 59.
Jihwa: “We have seen each other in the most wretched of states. Of course our relationship is not the same as yours.”
From my point of view, Min was motivated to take away Jihwa from Yoon Seungho and have the same influence over Jihwa than Yoon Seungho. But even here, Min failed in one aspect. The red-haired noble was always faithful to his childhood friend, therefore their relationship never turned into a sexual relationship. It is possible that first Min was aiming to have him as a sexual partner, until he realized that Jihwa only had eyes for Yoon Seungho. That’s why in the end, Black Heart played with the second lead’s naivety.
However, Min’s obsession over Yoon Seungho is slowly changing. I would say that he is now getting obsessed with Baek Na-Kyum. This would explicate why Min shed one tear in the shed after witnessing the embrace. He definitely felt agony in that moment, thereby he felt the need to vomit. But since Jihwa’s tears are famous, I can’t restrain myself thinking that Min’s tear was provoked by Jihwa’s betrayal. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. And this leads me to the following conclusion:
Min has now discovered that his influence over Jihwa is in danger, then this means that he has to pay more attention to his student. It is definitely possible that the “mentor” torments Jihwa more than before. But it could backfire on him. At the same time, his obsession for the painter is increasing, therefore I am expecting that Min will be forced to make a choice at the end: who is more important in his eyes? Jihwa or Baek Na-Kyum? And the moment Black Heart selects the painter, the second lead can only recognize Min’s hypocrisy and false preaching. One thing is sure: Min will shed more tears in the future… he will be more and more tormented which will be his karma.
As a conclusion, Min’s tear was a sign of his revival. The tear was triggered due to pain and stress. The puppet master experienced how little control he had over people. However, the master attempted to hide his heartache by masking with a laugh.
There will be a third part. 😉
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