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Shrink Rant: Why I Can't with 'She Was Pretty'

April 8, 2018
image from: http://kdramabuzz.com/recommendation-pretty-warm-cup-life/

I'm sorry. I try to keep it to moderately acceptable writings on my blog. I don't write about stuff I don't know about, I try not to blindly criticize and I try not to be too judgmental. But I'm a little angry as I write this (and maybe I'm a little dehydrated as well, and it's also late). The best I can do is try to keep this post short!



This South Korean drama, She Was Pretty, aired in 2015 and was a big hit nationally, as well as internationally. It garnered two remakes in two different countries (one starring two of my favorite Chinese actors). Because of the really good ratings, I was super looking forward to watching it. Since I am recently getting into Asian dramas, I thought it would be good if this was one of the first I watched. 

Guys.

I can't.

As if we needed another reason to feel bad about our looks. This story is about a girl who used to be "pretty" but grew up "ugly", because now she has frizzy hair and a skin condition, and a boy who used to be "porky" (NOT my descriptor!) and wear glasses, and grew up to be thin and has contacts (or got lasik, who knows). He has a great job, she doesn't. I think we are meant to believe that she is unsuccessful at least in part because she's "unattractive", and that he is successful at least in part because he's "good looking" now. Who knows, I mean, we do know this happens in real life. Attractive people get more breaks. Unattractive people or moderately attractive people have to work harder. In this drama, the lead female is treated like crap, and the lead male was treated like crap when he was a kid.

image source: https://nekosdrama.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/she-was-pretty-first-impression/
Ji Sung Joon and Kim Hye Jin as kids. Image from nekosdrama.wordpress.com

I think we've made great strides as a society as a whole. There is an entire branch of psychology dedicated to studying attraction. We know that it isn't only the way we look, it's also how we behave. Do we act confident? Are we smooth talkers? Do we make people laugh? There are so many things that factor into attraction, that focusing on looks alone seems so basic, lazy, and backwards. I grew up watching movies where the female protagonist was depicted as needing a makeover, and after getting a different hairdo and removing her glasses she was "hot". I watched movies where the male protagonist was unpopular when he was short and overweight, but became popular when he lost weight and/or bulked up in muscle. And also lost the glasses. I watched parodies of these movies as well, because studios knew how ridiculous these depictions were. We've worked hard to redefine what beauty is.

That is why I'm really struggling with this drama. 

I really did enjoy most of the first episode, in which we are introduced to the main players and the plot. Kim Hye Jin is a young woman with unstable employment, looking for a better job, who is so focused on making ends meet that she neglects her looks. She lives with her best friend, who we are made to understand is hot and well off financially. Upon reconnecting via email with her childhood sweetheart, Ji Sung Joon, she decides to meet him in person. However, she falls into a panic when she realizes that he is expecting to meet up with a hot young woman, as she used to be pretty. She convinces her hot best friend to pretend to be her and meet with Sung Joon in person. The meeting goes as expected. But when Hye Jin gets hired at the same company that Sung Joon just got transferred to... well, we all see where it's going.

image source: http://www.dramabeans.com/2015/10/she-was-pretty-episode-8/
Kim Hye Jin as a "non-pretty" adult person. Image from dramabeans.com

As I said, I kind of got into the first episode. Mainly it was because the backstory is so genuinely sweet, and we see a glimpse into the trauma that led Sung Joon, as a child, to emotional eating (which is an educated guess on my part since I stopped watching). As a shrink, and also just as a person, I know how emotional eating can really be unhealthy, and cause not only weight gain, but other emotional problems, not the least of which is that it is used to avoid the emotional distress instead of deal with it. I'm guessing it's his solid friendship with Hye Jin that helped him decrease his emotional eating and pursue his passion in art. We also see the fundamental personality traits in Hye Jin, which include being an honest, good person with a heart of gold who doesn't judge others by their looks. When people treat her differently because of her looks, she responds with kindness and doesn't judge. She even expresses genuine understanding of their disappointment in her "ugliness." 

I couldn't stand that. My favorite moment was when her best friend tells off a guy, breaks up with him, and steps on his foot with her stiletto because he dares to make fun of Hye Jin's looks. Maybe it's my western American feminist viewpoints, or having grown up to know that some things are more important than the way we look -like, say, if you can't pay your student loan bills or buy groceries- or my good ego strength. Or maybe I'm old. I don't know. I can't stand superficial people.

One character I felt really stood out from the beginning was Motorcycle Guy. That's not his name, I can't remember his name (I get the irony, given what I just said about him standing out. Just bear with me here, ok?). He's a reporter who ends up working with Hye Jin and is the only human being, besides her best friend, who treats her with dignity, as one would another person. He seems like a fun guy, and I think I spot the signs of a second lead/alternate love interest. 

Motorcycle Guy. Image from aminoapps.com

Ugh. I don't know, it's probably a very sweet story. I'm pretty sure that if I keep watching, I will see why it had such high ratings. I'll probably see that the whole story is a big lesson about how it's the inner beauty that counts, which I will be surprised at since I have seen that they give Hye Jin a makeover later on (I cheat sometimes, give me a break), with hair relaxing and makeup and everything. And maybe, if I keep watching, I'll understand that it's also a story of how important it is to take care of ourselves, be honest with ourselves and others, and not be ashamed of ourselves no matter what we look like. Maybe the message is that once we are at peace within ourselves, our inner beauty shines through. Because beauty is on the inside. Just as long as we lose weight, straighten our hair, get lasik, and put makeup on. 

I know. Two episodes and I dare to make a snap judgment? How dare I? Maybe I just really need to give it a chance because it had really good ratings and I might actually like it? SIGH, I actually might, if only for Motorcycle Guy. 

/rant. 
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