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When people read the manhwa Under The Green Light, they can detect in the pictures the predominance of 2 two colors, green and black. (chapter 11) It was, as if this world was monochrome. However, I started wondering why the author chose green monochrome pictures as process and as such why she selected such a title. As you can imagine, there are many possible answers, and it is up to the readers to give an answer. Thus I will try to give different explanations for the choice of JAXX. Naturally, this is my own interpretation.
1. The color green
I could use the different meanings of this color as a possible explanation. This pigment embodies greed, jealousy and materialism.
“being possessive and materialistic, indifferent and over-cautious, envious, selfish, greedy and miserly, devious with money, inconsiderate, inexperienced, a hypochondriac and a do-gooder.” quoted from https://www.empower-yourself-with-color-psychology.com/color-green.html
Many might be wondering why this color is associated to greed and selfishness. First, don’t forget that the dollar is green. (chapter 11) Observe that this panel lets transpire the director Oh’s cupidity and selfishness. It was, if the money was alive looking at the man’s face, as the bag opening has the form of the eye. In addition, green is often associated to the snake, which symbolizes temptation and sin. This single image reflects the darkness of this world. Money is ruling this country and city. Therefore it is not surprising that the story begins with this picture. (chapter 1) The skyscraper symbolizes not only money and power, but the ruthlessness and immorality of Shinhae. In my eyes, this is no coincidence that the drug is hidden in the ground of the estate where the new museum should be built. Notice that Shinhae and Bumyung construction corporation are both companies whose true business is actually drug dealing. Brandon Lee and Cheon Jahwa are in truth mafia bosses, but they use money earned through legal businesses to cover up their illegal activities.
The manhwaphiles can also detect the presence of jealousy. Matthew gets quite possessive and jealous, when he sees Jin with another man in a bar. Brandon, the ex-lover and former superior of Jin, is also bothered by the presence of the arts student in the director Jin’s life. He never imagined that the protagonist would come to hate him so much for the betrayal and abandonment. However, he is underestimating Matthew’s strength and power. Finally, we could also say that this color represents Matthew Rayner perfectly, for the main lead is definitely “green”, when it comes to sex and relationship. So far, he has always lived as a loner. To sum up, the green light could be a reference to the darkness of this world where there exist only ambition, selfishness, envy and covetousness. Simultaneously, this shade would represent the characters’ feelings and personality, which I will explain more in detail below.
2. Jin and the green light
What caught my attention is the presence of the green light in different scenes. First, it appears in Matthew Rayner’s studio. (chapter 5) This is connected to the sign “exit”. From my point of view, this panel could be an indication for the progression of the story. Why? It was, as if this atelier represented the whole world for Matthew, and Jin is the reason why Matthew Raynor decided to leave behind his solidary life for good. Through him, he is forced to interact with other people. Therefore he listens to the minions’ story. Notice that in the atelier, the artist can hide from people’s gaze, he can work in peace and even focus on Jin, his muse. However, for the thug, this panel has a different meaning. It forces him to recall his past, and as such to move on from this traumatizing past with Brandon Lee. Since Matthew’s studio is situated in the basement of the building, he can’t restrain himself thinking about his own past. That’s how the readers can discover that initially both protagonists have a common denominator. The thug would also live in the basement (chapter 5) and dreamed of escaping this “prison”. He imagined if he had money and power, his life and his minions’ could improve. Though back then, he was trapped in the dark and could barely see the light, it looks like his world hasn’t changed at all for him. He is still trapped in the blackness, although he could climb up the hierarchy in the gang. He had to pay a huge price for his success: losing his conscience and heart. Notice that in the last panel, the green seems even lighter than in this one. (chapter 1) In my eyes, Jin Cheong-Woo’s world view is even darker than before. The shade reflects Jin’s disillusionment. The main lead’s disenchantment is linked to Brandon’s betrayal and his self-hatred. Besides, the protagonist is still plagued by remorse, haunted by the death of people. Therefore he has some flashbacks (chapter 5) He swore to be faithful to Shinhae by having the scar on his back for this reason. The pain linked to the tattoo should be a reminder that Shinhae would never be his true family. If you pay attention to his interaction with Cheon Jahwa, you can sense that he has no admiration or deep feelings for her. He serves her, because she is Shinhae’s boss and that’s it. He hopes to inherit the company (chapter 26). Their relationship is based on power, ambition, reliance and Jin’s talent. For him, Shinhae is only a family in name. In fact, it is just a company. Since his minions are still following him and even show no anger after the beating, we can clearly sense that the director has always been a loyal and dedicated person. As you can see, I perceive that black embodies Jin. This is his color, therefore he is wearing a dark suit. His regret, guilt and disappointment led him to live a colorless life. This is not surprising that this panel represents Jin’s perception. (chapter 1) He feels nothing for this statue. People surrounding the sculpture remain anonymous, for he is not paying attention to them. Every seems to be blank and cold. For him, only money and power matter. However, Jin is in truth a very passionate and strong-willed person. This explicates why his vision changes, when he thinks about sex. (chapter 4) And now you comprehend why the author used a different color, red. Jin is still thirsty for love and warmth, but he is in denial. Therefore it is not surprising why he is using drugs to stop his longing. These serve him as a substitute. They create an illusion, the world looks more colorful. Due to Brandon’s treason, Jin learned a terrible lesson. He would never get attached to anyone. However, as you can imagine, through Matthew’s inexperience, Jin discovered sexuality under a new light. The student is linked to purity. Yet Matthew is exactly like him, he has a huge libido, a sign that both are in truth longing for a deep affection.
That’s why the studio is the place where the two protagonists got closer. No one could see them. If someone had opened the door, his presence would have been detected. What caught my attention is that Jin and Matthew also had sex in the parking lot close to the green light. (chapter 20) Consequently, I deduce that the green light “exit” is no coincidence. Observe the parallels with the first sex session and this new sex session: basement, a new sexual experience for Matthew and the presence of the green light. From my point of view, it shows that Matthew symbolizes the exit for Jin. Thanks to him, the director will be able to leave the darkness of his world. This is no surprise that the main lead is gradually changing his attitude towards the student. He has no idea that Matthew has always admired him. But it is the same for Matthew. Thanks to the director, the student’s life will become more colorful and bright. Therefore I perceive this picture full of symbolism. (chapter 1) Both are trapped in their own world, yet the moment Jin entered his world, therefore Matthew was able to leave his seclusion and could follow him.
3. Matthew and green
So another possible explanation would be the sculptor’s eyes. He has brilliant green eyes and in certain chapters, we discover his own thoughts. It was, as if the story was told from his perspective as well. (chapter 20) Notice that Matthew is fascined by Jin’s white skin and body. He never mentions the thug’s blush. Moreover, in this panel, the manhwaphiles can sense the absence of red.
Moreover, one detail caught my attention, the author is not just using green as procedure, she is also using points! (chapter 1) Her drawings are composed by a multitude of points. So why? I couldn’t help myself connecting these two elements (green and points) to the disease: color-blindness! I started wondering if Matthew was not suffering from daltonism, and as such from protanopia. This means that he can’t see red. First, this would explain why the café owner asked the student to be prudent on his way to the museum. (chapter 1) He has to pay attention to the position of the lights, why the coffee served by Jin doesn’t taste good (chapter 1) , why Matthew’s clothes look so plain and why he is wearing glasses in the end. (chapter 16) There exist glasses that help people to overcome this handicap. Besides, notice that when the minions were talking to Matthew and Alex, the café owner, JAXX used a lot of purple and yellow, which reminded me of the colors perceived by people suffering from protanopia. I know, there is no guarantee that this interpretation is correct. However, I really wondered why the author would use the points in the drawings and why she would create such a panel. The manhwalovers can recognize Jin’s tattoo and the smear could be perceived as an indication for blood. Yes, it was, as if the letter was bleeding. However, a person suffering from daltonism can not recognize blood as such. This means that Matthew won’t be scared by a blood trail. Observe that anyone seeing Jin’s minion and even Jin would recognize that he is connected to the mafia. Striking is that this never repulsed the protagonist. In fact, he even desired to join his side. He had been looking for him all this time. (chapter 1) Striking is that the author refused to let the readers see the character’s gaze. From my point of view, it is related to the other condition why in the artist’s world, there barely exists passion and as such red. If the manhwalovers had seen his gaze, they would have been surprised by the contrast between his words full of hope and warmth and the distant and indifferent gaze. It is already palpable by the absence of the protagonist’s smile. The character has definitely some problems. This is perceptible in the following panel: (chapter 16) The artist can not recognize people’s emotions. He needs a manual how to read them. That’s why some readers started wondering if the artist was not suffering from autism or was not a psychopath. Even Jin memorized his number on his cellphone as “psycho”. He even describes him as creepy. Moreover, the readers even imagined that he had killed the rabbit, for he was longing for its closeness. One of the reasons was that they were disturbed by the protagonist’s smile. (chapter 27) The latter appeared at the wrong time, when the cute rabbit had died. For an outsider, it really looked like the young boy was rejoicing about the animal’s death. However, I believe that there could be another explanation. He could feel relieved that his rabbit would never abandon him. But autism and psychopathy are not explaining why Matthew would barely express his own emotions. That’s how I come up with this new idea.
He could be suffering from alexithymia. So what is this?
“Alexithymia: Alexithymia is when a person has difficulty identifying and expressing emotions. It is not a mental health disorder. People with alexithymia may have problems maintaining relationships and taking part in social situations. They may have a co-occurring mental health condition, such as depression, or no diagnosable mental health conditions. Alexithymia also has links with autism“. Quoted from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326451
Now, I am quoting the signs and symptoms for this inability:
- difficulties identifying feelings and emotions
- problems distinguishing between emotions and bodily sensations that relate to those emotions
- limited ability to communicate feelings to others
- difficulties recognizing and responding to emotions in others, including tone of voice and facial expressions
- a lack of fantasies and imagination
- a logical and rigid thinking style that does not account for emotions
- poor coping skills when it comes to dealing with stress
- behaving less altruistically than others
- appearing distant, rigid, and humorless
- poor life satisfaction quoted from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326451#symptoms
People can recognize Matthew’s personality here. The scientists could detect three causes for Alexithymia: brain injury, genetics and social environment and as such traumatic events. This means that this kind of person will feel less empathy than an average person. On the other hand, the person is different from a patient suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASDP, which many often reduce to psychopathy). A person diagnosed with Alexithymia is often anxious, overcontrolled, submissive, boring, ethically consistent, and socially conforming, whereas the prototypical individual with psychopathy is anxiety-free, under-controlled, dominant, charming, deceitful, and nonconforming. And if you paid attention to Matthew’s behavior, you will realize that he is not manipulative. In fact, when he met Jin in the orphanage, he listened to him carefully and followed his advice. Notice that he starts distancing himself from the main lead, the moment the main lead starts acting like a real boyfriend. He buys him clothes and brings him to an expensive restaurant. For the artist, who has lived all his life as a loner, this relationship with Jin generated some uneasiness. He knew that Jin would never accept to be his boyfriend. Hence he was able to push away Jin. Matthew has long internalized to mistrust people. He had experienced to be judged as a monster. Why? First, he shows no emotions on his face, and he was suspected to have killed the rabbit. Besides, people were only interested in him for his money, as he had been left with a huge inheritance. And now, you comprehend why Matthew has also been living a colorless world all this time. He had learned very early on to be on his own, to never trust anyone, to keep his distance from others, for they showed no real attachment or trust in him. He used sculpture to fill the void. The objects would never reject or abandon him. This explicates why all his creations are cold and precise. The artist has problems to feel emotions, yet he could never forget Jin and his words. That’s why the moment he met him again, he changed. What caught my attention is that JAXX used red in the background: (chapter 1) For the first time, Matthew’s heart is racing, the readers can assist to the resurfacing of Matthew’s emotions which were also buried. Furthermore, the more he looked at his idol, the redder it became: (chapter 1) For me, the use of the red in the background reflects the character’s emotions, but the artist didn’t recognize his feelings here. He thought, it was more related to his work. This interpretation can be corroborated, when you include the scene where Matthew is doubting Jin’s affection for him. The dominant color is blue… A sign for his denial. So the moment Jin entered Matthew’s life, the latter started changing his way of life, he discovered emotions which were triggered by his sexuality. This explicates why the manhwaphiles can see more and more Matthew’s blushing. Jin stands for passion and emotions, yet behind him stands the blackness of the mafia. Since Matthew lacks a certain empathy, this is not surprising why Matthew won’t be scared by violence. Furthermore, if he can’t see blood, then he can’t get upset or scared by blood. From my point of view, Matthew could be the reason why Jin would change his life as well. Both are creating emotions and thoughts which were deeply repressed: huge abandonment issues. From my point of view, Jin is becoming more and more Matthew’s muse. And now, you comprehend why I picked up such a title: Their meeting brought light into their monochrome world. For the first time, they felt alive, since their life seems more colorful and intriguing. Since Matthew has always refused Jin’s support, the artist is showing to the gangster that money is not truly ruling this world. Power and money are no synonym for happiness. Matthew learned it at a very young age: he lost his parents who both committed suicide.
Matthew lived in isolation, because he had been betrayed and excluded by people. The starting point of his alexithymia is the suicide of his parents which left a huge scar on his heart and mind. He could sense people’s greed. They were more interested in his fortune and his background than in him. Their constant questioning bothered him so much that he wanted to be left alone. He could sense their selfishness and greed instinctively. When he was in the orphanage, the children and the personal showed no understanding for him, for the adoptive parents kept portraying him as creepy and terrible. Besides, I believe that silence could only reinforce this exclusion. From my point of view, no one ever attempted to understand him. He learned to live on his own. He knew that any kind of help was in fact a sign for deception and a trap. The adoptive parents were trying to “seduce” with their gifts (chapter 27) This explicates why later he is doubting Jin’s affection for him. When the latter offers him clothes, he can’t perceive it as sign of kindness and attachment. In truth, for him, gifts symbolize expectation and greed. Thus I come to the conclusion that the sculptor made the opposite experience from the gangster. Right from the start, he experiences the negative aspect of money and power, he could see people’s superficiality and hypocrisy. Thus he got disappointed and disenchanted, until he met Jin!! The latter was the only one who never tried to judge him and even show true concern for him. As the gangster, he only discovered the ugliness of this dark world too late. Even power and money couldn’t protect him from pain and torment.
Both protagonists led a colorless life due to traumas and pain, until destiny let them meet each other. While the one sought to bring light in his abyss by taking drugs, the other discovered in arts a way to cope with his loneliness. Since they have so many common denominators (abandonment issues, scar, the orphanage, greed), this is not surprising that they got close to each other. From my point of view, Jin is showing more and more interest in Matthew’s art. The green light “exit” will incite them to leave their own world and change their life for good. While Matthew will discover more and more emotions, the other will realize “attachment” and loyalty have not completely disappeared. From my point of view, this picture illustrates their relationship. Matthew is trapped, and can’t escape from Jin’s spell. This means that the student enters the world of the mafia because of the director. At the same time, this illustration could show the director’s terrible past. Notice that in the image the sculptor illustrates a murder scene. I detect a strong connection between the art and death. Don’t forget that the rabbit got killed, the moment the artist had finished his work. Consequently, I deduce that the end of their monochrome world is strongly intertwined with blood and death.
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