Primary Location: Oklahoma City
Story Idea 1: “Deli Dollars” or “KO-OK”
A middle-aged Korean woman talks her slightly younger sister into moving to Oklahoma City to takeover a deli business in the basement of an aging office tower complex amid semi-urban decay in the western part of the city. The business, against the odds, begins to succeed, drawing obese, conservative Oklahomans, particularly men, who love to eat and ogle the two attractive Asian women. The ladies have immense charm though they can be a bit ditzy, and innocent, in the ways of the midwestern, cowboy American world they inhabit. Their business succeeds to the point where they believe they can expand, and they start a food truck business called “Double Wide,” catering to the tastes of overeating Oklahomans. However, they begin to feel guilty about their food practices, making Oklahomans fatter than they already are, and they decide to serve healthier food they call KO-OK (Korean-Oklahoman). They also decide to start a running and cycling club, and recruit members, mainly Oklahoman obese men, but also women, who want to follow these charming heroines. Their “clients” start to slim down, and they begin to feel better about themselves. The two Korean heroines listen to the stories of their “clients,” and find out their tales of woe. They begin to give Eastern-styled Zen advice, helping their clients with their forlorn love lives. They teach lessons of the importance of respect, and honor. Teacher clients tell them stories about Oklahoma’s woefully underfunded education system. The two Korean ladies, who had proudly sent their kids to Ivy League schools with the proceeds from their business, are outraged (in their disarming way) and decide they want to do something about it. They organize a running and cycling biathlon whose goals are to encourage OKC residents to be more fit, and to raise money and awareness for better education. The two Korean ladies are feisty (the two “Korean hot peppers,” with its double entendre), and they start calling out Oklahoma political leaders in the capital city for their failures, and even go after “Big Oil” interests in OKC, for their failure to pay adequate taxes. The ladies begin to attract local TV, and eventually national press interest, for their cause, and the biathlon achieves wild success, attracting thousands of participants, and raises huge proceeds and matching corporate gifts. Eventually, one of the sisters runs for mayor of OKC, and wins, even though she speaks English with a heavy accent.
This is an “against the odds” story, a celebration of the success of female immigrants, in the most unlikely of places.
- One of the husbands is an American, and he had just arrived from a large eastern US city with his wife, who is the younger sister. He is appalled by OKC, and wants to leave immediately. Moreover, the Korean husband of the older sister is putting pressure on him to invest money in the business, because he has it, and this is the Korean way. In the end, OKC begins to grow on the American husband, and he and his wife agree that she will contribute “sweat equity” to help her older sister’s business grow instead of making a monetary investment.
- The two women encounter racism, and are typecast as stereotypical submissive Asian women. People poke fun at their broken English. However, the women are “hot peppers,” and stand up for themselves.
- Conflict between the two women and politicians and Big Oil over the education problem. However, an aging, legendary oilman (styled after T. Boone Pickens) comes in to defend the women, and says in a gruff cowboy accent, “We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.” He donates big money to the two ladies’ cause. The ladies call him “cowboy haraboji” (grandpa). The oilman dies near the end of the movie, with the two tearful ladies at his bedside. In his dying moments, he urges the older sister to run for mayor. He leaves his fortune to the ladies’ newly formed foundation, and a portion to a political campaign fund. The older sister feels an obligation therefore to run, so she does, and surprisingly wins in an upset.
Story Idea 2: Grapes of Wrath Revisited
The movie narrative will revisit the Grapes of Wrath, the classic film version of John Steinbeck’s Great Depression tome depicting the Joad family that lost everything due to the Dust Bowl in rural Oklahoma and encounters a different set of struggles as the family attempts to start anew in California, which it had perceived as a land of milk and honey. In this new, “modern” take on the story, we encounter a blue-collar Okie family struggling to make ends meet in Oklahoma City as the oil economy goes bust yet again. The area of town where they live is desolate, a place of broken streets and broken dreams. Pawn shops, loan stores, and vape shops abound, along with an abundance of fast food joints feeding a mostly obese population. There is hardly any green vegetation, there is a brownish tint to everything, and the strong prairie winds are omnipresent, as are apoplectic threats of hail and tornadoes. In a nod to the original story, the family’s name is Joad, and the main character is Tom Joad, just released from prison for killing a man, in self-defense, just like the original character. In reuniting with his family, he finds a haggard yet still hauntingly beautiful wife struggling to support the family as a beautician. Hoping for a better future for their kids, they are dismayed with Oklahoma’s abysmal education system, with underpaid teachers begging for supplies, and the school week reduced to four days, which is a problem for a family that cannot afford daycare. Meanwhile, rich kids, scions of OKC oil families, go to private schools with well-watered lawns. The family qualifies for Medicaid, but they cannot see overbooked health providers who accept it, and when they do finally get in, the health care quality is beyond pathetic, which is a problem for one of the kids who suffers from asthma, and another who has ADHD (who also suffers in the school system). Tom has trouble locating work, and the family, reluctantly, decides to move on, targeting Los Angeles, a big city where surely things are better – more jobs, the beach, sunshine, where the beautiful people are, “for every damn good reason,” declares Tom. Yet, despite all its problems, the Joads love Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma. Tom and his wife’s families have been there for generations, arriving not long after the land rush (but they missed the opportunity to claim free land). They love the sunsets on the prairie, the friendliness, the family barbecues, the country music, the pickup trucks, even the wind blowing over the flat landscape – it’s home, always has been. The Joads quickly find LA is a struggle. It’s expensive, and they live in a crowded apartment in Hollywood, nowhere near the beach, and its decay reminds them of western OKC, without the family. People poke fun at their Okie accents, even the way they dress. The kids are in (sort of) a better school, at least the teachers show up and are getting paid. But they’re just not fitting in. The Joads finally decide they’ve had enough of LA, and head back east to OKC, but they decide they’re not going to accept the things that prompted the move in the first place. They decide to organize, to rally against the politicians and Big Oil interests that they hold responsible for the mess OKC and the state are in. They organize friends, family, and as word spreads, sympathetic radio announcers urge others to join a Joad-lead march to the state capitol building. Native American tribes like the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Shawnee nations, historically at odds with white Okie settlers, decide to join in sympathy for the cry for better education and health. The Native American nations show for the march on horseback and in full tribal regalia. The Joad-led forces ultimately prevail, but not before an epic battle…
- Conflict between Tom and his wife, Betty, as he returns home. Things are not peachy as he tries to reintegrate into family life after being away in prison for four years. However, Tom and Betty rekindle their love and develop an even stronger appreciation of each other.
- Cultural conflict with Los Angelenos, as the Okies from a backwater city in a flyover state try to adapt (unsuccessfully) to the Southern California lifestyle. The Joads decide the LA lifestyle is not for them, and return to “down home” OKC.
- Conflict with politicians and Big Oil interests that are responsible for Oklahoma’s dismal public revenue situation. They are joined by gun evangelist right wingers who believe the Joads and their growing base of supporters are left wing radicals who threaten the Oklahoma way of life as they perceive it. They come armed to defend the capitol building and the politicians inside it, as the Joad-led allies rally outside it. The allies decide to storm the capitol building, and the right wingers open fire, killing a few people, including a Native American brave. Horrified and sympathetic police forces join the Joad forces, and they overwhelm the right wingers, and plant their flags and banners on the capitol grounds. They demand to meet the governor and legislative assembly leader, who finally acquiesce and agree to address the inequities in education and health through new legislation, and increased taxation of Big Oil interests.