by Dr. Patti Feuereisen
HERCAI ~ A FOCUS ON SEASONS 1 & 2
Hercai offers an incredible study of psychology, brought to life through extraordinary acting and story. I am accustomed to the dizi format and I love them. The acting is stellar, while the chemistry of love is over the top. What draws me in are the women writers who allow their female characters more depth and complexity than I have seen anywhere, along with the hetero male characters who love and appreciate these women. Hercai has had 11 writers working on the scripts across three seasons. Currently it has 6 according to IMDB. 10 of the writers are female.
Clearly Sumeyye Koc, the young woman who authored the novel Hercai, published in 2017, understands about motherhood, love and pain, and the women screenwriters and actors provide us with intense depth of emotion throughout their diverse journeys. One example is in Miran’s grandmothers, who are polar opposites of each other. Both have lost their children, and gone through life’s trials and tribulations. Yet, one is an evil sociopath and the other is the embodiment of unconditional love and warmth with no strings attached.
We view these relationships primarily through the lenses of Miran and Reyyan as we enter a psychological study of attachment disorder caused by Stockholm syndrome.
LIFE AMONG THE RUINS
Hercai takes place in Midyat, the centuries old city among the ruins and ancient stone buildings and palaces in Eastern Turkey, far from the night lights and life in Istanbul. The families seem primitive in their patriarchal culture, including a tacit acceptance of physical abuse of the women, and the men carry guns as accessories. As a continuous backdrop is the breathtaking beauty of the jagged mountainside and the ancient Turkish ruins accompanied by magnificent orchestral music, all of which prove prominent to the story and characters.
REYYAN AND MIRAN
Early on we meet the center of the story in Reyyan and Miran. We see Reyyan sneak out of the compound to mount her horse who she clearly loves. As she rides, we can feel her sense of love and freedom; her demeanor exudes possibilities and wonder. We meet Miran getting dressed with his chiseled cheekbones, his perfect cufflinks on his starched shirt and everything about him seems fixed.
During their first encounter, Reyyan is a natural beauty in a loose dress on her horse with her hair thick and free, and Miran is impeccably polished in his suit while driving his car as they collide. He is cold and expressionless, and she is wild with emotion. Even from their very first interaction, we see a sliver of light forming between them.
Right before their collision, we see into both Miran’s and Reyyan’s thoughts – Reyyan dreams of being free and flying away like a bird from the mansion where she is always berated. And Miran is hearing his grandmother, Azize, with her sweet voice telling him as a young boy his night time story, conditioning him to take revenge when he grows up, on those who killed his parents. Hence, our first introduction to Miran and Reyyan is also our first introduction to Azize, an ever-present energy in Miran’s psyche.
As the story progresses, we are taken under the blanket of warmth and love between the two lead characters. We watch the melting of their hearts with awe as they bond with a deep soulful attraction that builds with their every moment together. We begin to embrace the changes in Miran and are thankful that his heart is opening.
He provides Reyyan with such safety and promise, as he shows he understands her dreams by building a beautiful swing on her favorite mountaintop. She trusts him as he pushes the swing over the vast emptiness of the sky, symbolizing that she will not fall when he is with her. We feel her joy as he teaches her to ride a bicycle and she tentatively allows him to hold her as they ride off together. He understands that Reyyan needs time to trust him and he builds that trust with such kindness.
Then we watch them fall in love, while the barriers of her shyness, his sharpness slowly break down with the physical fire between them, which is both intense and, yet, ever so gentle. We believe in them. Thus, after their wedding night in the morning when Miran breaks Reyyan’s heart and soul we are as shocked as she is. This is where the revenge truly begins and the unexpected cruelty provokes a study in Stockholm syndrome and narcissistic personality disorder.
ENMESHMENT – NO BOUNDARIES BETWEEN SELF & OTHER
The Turkish dizis almost always have a dark shadow, usually in the form of an overtly violent male character involving guns, hatred, and not so subtle violence, anger and revenge. The male sociopaths are often one dimensional in their affect and intention. Not so in Hercai. The female sociopath Azize is a rare breed, as usually females are not depicted as complexly vicious and violent. The effect she has on her main prey, her grandson, is an epic psychological study of reactive attachment disorder caused by Stockholm Syndrome. Bolby’s attachment theory (1958) is the lasting psychological connectedness beginning in infancy for the chance of survival.
Miran & Azize
At age 5, Miran loses both his parents to death. He is totally dependent on his grandmother for his survival. Cognitively, children at age 5 are still in magical thinking. This is where empathy develops and normative separation – individuation begins on a deeper level where the child begins to trust himself on his own while his mother is in the next room. He knows she is there yet he does not have to be next to her at all times to feel her presence. He becomes proud of his independence while experiencing the unconditional love provided by his mother. Miran’s separation individuation is put on a cognitive and emotional path of destruction.
Miran holds onto the fantasy that his grandmother is the only one who loves him and she is also his only truth teller. To be loyal and love with his lifeline means to believe her truth. His observing ego (Freud 1923) is arrested and she becomes his id (root of his instincts) and observing ego. His only salvation is to bond with his grandmother. He never develops an observing ego or, as Jung would say, a shadow self (unconscious part of the brain). No super ego separates him from his mother figure Azize, no healthy rapprochement (Mahler 1974). He cannot feel his grandmother in the next room; he needs her next to him at all times in order to believe she is with him. He is stuck in his need for survival and the grandmother becomes his super ego as she uses this power at every turn. If he falls and skins his knee, she is gentle. She tells him constantly…”you are my lion, you are powerful and the only one to avenge the injustice to your mother; take revenge on the rapist and killer of your mother”.
Miran’s only truth is that his grandmother is his savior and he must obey and take revenge to receive her conditional love. They are enmeshed and he believes what she believes. This enmeshment, this revenge for his mother, his parents, is what he has been groomed for over 27 years. This is what he understands of love, and without this mission, without her emotional support, he would not exist. This is Miran’s only experience of love.
Miran & Reyyan
This impenetrable belief system becomes penetrated by the energy Reyyan brings to his heart. After he takes the revenge out on Reyyan by abandoning her after their courtship, wedding and intimacy on their wedding night, he walks out the next morning telling her it was all a lie. We see him crying with his back to her as she sobs screaming his name, groveling on the ground in the dirt in shock, pleading for him to come back. He is crying and muttering to himself over and over “don’t you dare turn around… don’t you dare turn around”. We can almost hear Azize’s voice instead of his saying those words. Although he does not turn around and abandons her, he is no longer able to keep to the cruelty fed by Azize. The next day the curtain comes down and the emotional prisoner is released. He cannot bear the evil he has done because he has taken the stone off of his heart, and for the first time since age 5 he uncovers his id and as the observing ego emerges, his pain is unbearable.
Always closely watching Miran’s emotional moods and shifts, Azize senses his heart has opened and she goes into her control buttons to keep him hypnotized. The narcissistic manipulation is brilliant at just the right time as she pushes just the right button… “you can fool yourself but you can’t fool me.” She repeats that if he goes after Reyyan he is a bad person. “You did not turn out to be a good son for your mother and father, you left their blood on the ground”. Her goal is to keep him convinced that in order to be good Miran must avenge his parents’ deaths with vigor, not have any second thoughts and not question that he has just emotionally harmed the woman he now realizes he is completely in love with. Azize tells him that his trouble has started because he is weak and has bowed down to his enemy, the daughter of the man who raped and killed his mother. Panicked that she is possibly losing him, her abuse becomes overt and she screams at him with hatred and disappointment, yet as she looks into his eyes, she continues her hypnotism with her words.
AZIZE: THE ABUSER
Azize’s external attire is so brilliantly portrayed. She is always regally caped in her hijab, with her hands behind her back always fiddling with her prayer beads. She wears flat black boots and long draped skirts. Her black eye makeup like charcoal makes it difficult to see around her eyes. Yet, there is no mistaking her expressions, captured through her glaring eyes and the corners of her lips. There is nothing warm and soft and feminine about her energy, except the times she puts on a softer voice with her poisonous words… “you are weakening, disappointing me, you know you want revenge, it is the only path to honoring your mother”.
Azize is always alone and we watch her private machinations as she talks to herself… ” he will not succumb to this love… he will continue to take revenge… we will see how far he gets without me… there will be bloodshed…his freewill is misfortune and pain”. Her poison seeps through Miran to such an extent that although he gets Reyyan to take him back after exhaustive, deliberate efforts, he still believes his grandmother over Reyyan, who repeatedly says that it is impossible for her father to be a rapist and killer. Even with increasing proof to the contrary, he still believes his grandmother’s lies. A particularly difficult scene is when Azize feels ill and all of Miran’s strength is drained from him as he sits at his grandmother’s feet, crying and begging her not to die. Once again, she infiltrates his id and he becomes locked again in her observing ego regarding revenge.
Even when Miran is led to the many truths about his grandmother’s lies, and he chooses love over hatred, he still remains paralyzed because of the Stockholm Syndrome. He still believes his captor. He still hears her evil lullabies and cannot accept that he is nothing more than a tool for her hatred, and that she does not care about him at all, she only cares about her narcissistic needs. Because he continues to be enmeshed with his grandmother, we understand that for him believing in anything other than her love is to accept that he, Miran, and his whole life is a lie.
What continues to break through his haze is Reyyan’s steadfast, gentle but strong love. She remains tenacious in bringing the truth to Miran. She brings Miran to his maternal biological grandmother, who is the opposite of Azize. This grandmother knows immediately this is her grandson, who she has waited for years to come through her door. She instantly loves him. He opens his heart to his maternal grandmother as he feels the connection to his mother in her childhood home. He sits in his mother’s room, goes through her notebooks, and we experience his heartache from the absence of a mother’s love and nurturing. As his heart opens wider, it increases his connection to Reyyan. His observing ego bonds with the reality of his mother, not just an image, and thus bonds even deeper with Reyyan who led him through the doorway of his grandmother and mother’s home. Through each discovery, we love watching Miran begin to believe the truth that Reyyan’s father is a good man, and that Azize is evil and a liar.
Azize is furious that he is choosing love over hatred, Reyyan and his maternal grandmother over her. She viciously tells him “you are a slave and toy to your enemy”, and he replies as he looks her right in her eyes, “I am only your slave, but I created true love out of a revenge full of lies”. Miran is transformed as he pushes out the poison.
We watch him struggle and let go of his past persona of the angry hostile volatile warrior of revenge. The more he bonds with Reyyan, the more he lets go of Azize. Essentially, Miran develops his observing ego without the fog of all the subliminal and direct messages from his abusive grandmother. By emotionally separating from Azize, his abuser, and connecting to Reyyan, his loving partner, he begins to trust this new reality and the comfort that comes with it. As he finally accepts the unconditional love of Reyyan and his maternal grandmother, we have experienced a successful separation from an abuser to those who provide love and acceptance. And through this separation we see the poison drain out providing Miran with deep healing and giving way to the development of the separate self.
With the emotional transformation, we watch Miran’s shoulders slide down and the tightness in his jaw relax, his eyes become clear with earnest expressions. We can imagine him as an innocent boy yearning to play, to laugh. We can imagine him in an alternate reality as we look into his beautiful green eyes filled with love and hope. We see this beautiful, lost little boy finally find his way.
The successful transition into a separate self allows Miran to open his heart spiritually, with the love and hope which has always been blocked by his grandmother’s narcissistic obsession. This healing enables him to let go of the lies he has been fed his whole life from Azize, to let go of his belief that he only exists if he is driven by revenge. His open heart could lead him to embrace Reyyan’s father, not as the killer he has been brainwashed to believe he is, but as a loving gentle soul that has helped his beloved become who she is. As the story continues with Miran’s successful gestalt of separation – individuation, he will have the capacity to take others into his heart. We watch in awe as we experience the deep healing of his letting go of layers of psychological bondage and a new emotional hopeful journey opens for Miran.
Article copyright (c) North America TEN & Dr. Patti Feuereisen
All video clips and photos belong to their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended. Please ask for permission before reprints.
Dr. Patti Feuereisen is a psychologist in Brooklyn, New York. Author of Invisible Girls: Speaking The Truth About Sexual Abuse and founder of the non-profit Girlthrive. Presently working with her publisher to have Invisible Girls translated into Turkish. She is obsessed with dizis as they continue to get her through the pandemic.