International Dramas: ‘My ID is Gangnam Beauty’ Review

Screenshot of (left) Cha Eunwoo and (right) Im Soohyang. Copyright goes to JTBC.

Hi! It’s Annie!

Here we go with the other K-Drama review that I promised! I have wanted to watch one of the two popular K-Dramas based off of web toons for a while, and when this popped up on Netflix I finally had the chance! I’ve heard nothing but good things about the separate web toons ‘My ID is Gangnam Beauty’ and ‘True Beauty’ as well as their respective dramas. And both of them star Cha Eunwoo of ‘Astro’! Though I’m not as familiar with his group, I did very much enjoy him in some of his other dramas, so either one that came to Netflix first was going to be a win for me. Or at least I hoped it would. I have to say, this had a lot of good and some not so great. I mostly came out of this drama liking it, but I did have some issues that I felt didn’t work so well. Despite those, I really want to talk about this drama because the messages in it and portrayals of the way women are often treated, are some of the best that I’ve seen. So, I’m just going to get right into it! WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

Synopsis: Mirae is just starting college having made a massive change in her life. After a childhood of being teased for her looks she made the decision to get extensive plastic surgery in order to look closer to general beauty standards. Her beauty automatically garners interest and now she must balance the new popularity and her handsome stoic classmate that she’s pretty sure knows her secret.

The Good:

Male Lead- It was really odd to see Eunwoo play a stoic character, this was definitely a first for me, and I am now convinced that he can definitely pull off any character type that he tries. But the best part of Kyungseok was by far the way he was so obviously written by a woman. Kyungseok is the type of a guy who will establish clear boundaries and not care about what someone looks like. The type of guy who tells off another guy for feeling like he deserves something from a girl. Every time one of the male characters expressed a very toxic masculine thought, he was the first one to bluntly tell them that they were being stupid. I also really liked how the messages for the show bounced off of his character. While many of the characters wanted beauty or used their beauty as a weapon, he purposely kept away from everyone else and also viewed beauty as what it was. Just another thing that people make often unfounded judgements about you for. He helps the main character realize that whether or not she is pretty, it will never be all she is. I always love a boyfriend willing to fight toxic masculinity at every turn.

Attacking Sexism- This show had several moments where they challenged sexism and behavior that is usually seen as normal. In one episode, the men in the department chose the prettiest women to work as waitresses for their school stand at the festival. In doing this they also decided on outfits for them to wear which were pretty scandalous all things considered. When all of these women are humiliated at the festival and leave, the men then try and convince the remaining women to take up waitressing instead while complaining about how they look far less superior to the women who had just left. This, understandably, causes all of the remaining women to leave in anger. The next day, all of the women in the department make a pact that none of them should help the men with the continuing school festival and, when asked by the boys what they could possibly do instead, buy all of the men t-shirts with fake abs. When the men then complain that most men don’t have bodies that look like that, a woman that many of the men tease for not being skinny enough, pointedly tells them that this is often how they make her and other women feel. Even better, when higher ups see the picture of the women in the outfits, the men in the department actually get punished for it. Which is more than what usually happens at most colleges. The fact that this drama tackles that as well as everything else was amazing.

Attacking Beauty Standards- This entire drama is about how beauty comes from the inside, and it demonstrates that in several ways. Such as the fact that the main character must accept what it’s like to be conventionally attractive and how that also warrants unwanted attention. Almost just as much as not being conventionally attractive does. The point is to not worry about what other people think or have to say about you. Mirae wonders why Kyungseok pushes people away and he reveals that his handsomeness makes people just as presumptive about him as she felt they were about her before her surgery. The show also tackles a society that makes, especially women, feel like they have to get surgery in order to fit in to begin with. And then that same society attacks them for having gotten the surgery. What I really liked was that this director never showed what Mirae looked like before. He only ever shows shots of the back of her head or major close ups on her eyes. Because what she looked like before isn’t the point; the point is that she was made to feel like she was ugly and that is enough. I thought this choice was pretty genius.

The Bad:

Female Lead- Once again. I always feel so bad putting female leads here, but this has become a staple of romance shows. The main female lead who is nothing except for relatable. Literally nothing. She has no personality traits, she’s mainly just a blank slate for the assumed woman watching to project onto. Except Mirae also spends more of her time stuttering than getting much of a sentence out because they were intent on making her seem as anxious as possible. There were a couple of great moments where she stood up for herself, but they were far too few and far between. I wish there was more I could say about her, but anxiety does not usually mean not being able to speak at all or show much of any emotion other than awkwardness. I hoped every episode that she would get better and become more confident, but unfortunately most of the time her standing up for herself was very short lived. Instead of character development, she kind of just reverts back to the moment before she said anything progressive for her character.

Side Characters- This show definitely didn’t focus on side characters. That was mostly for good reason. They were focusing more on the main characters and social issues. But that still didn’t mean that the other characters being fairly one dimensional wasn’t noticeable. I can’t remember the names of most of the side characters and it feels like many of them only had a few scenes dedicated to them. The best way to describe the male side characters is that they are all pretty awful human beings and the best way to describe the female side characters is that they’re characters you think are pretty cool. But not much beyond that.

Second Lead- I haven’t brought him up yet and I wish I could bring him up in the good. This actor was one of my favorite characters in ‘Vincenzo’! But this character felt inconsistent. He was nice, but there wasn’t much behind the niceness. It was proved that his outward nice appearance had no substance because he also had no substance. He told the main character that he only liked her for her looks, even though she expressed her discomfort with his answer and gave him about four times to amend what he said. All over the course of one conversation. I facepalmed so hard watching him. But he never was really shown to grow completely from that except for the possibility that he might like the main character’s best friend. Which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s improved.

Sua- The main antagonist; a master manipulator with the hopes of making sure that every man only has his eye on her. Eventually redeemed with no actual redeeming. And complete with me feeling like her storyline may have been needless. Once again, I think the social topics they were trying to tackle should have taken more screen time. I know with her they were trying to show that not every beautiful person is beautiful on the inside, but I think this was also covered in other instances. Such as the entire reason behind the main character learning to accept her new face but also learning that it didn’t affect what was most important; her personality. And at the end things got pretty convoluted with her. I was glad that the male lead never fell for her tricks, but I think the screen time could have been better used elsewhere.

I wish I had more good things to say here, but the things I loved about this series I really truly loved. The way this series tackled so many societal issues was amazing and I can absolutely see why it got so many awards. I just wish I had felt more connected with the characters. I’m going to say something similar to what I said about ‘Rookie Historian’. The antagonist storyline wasn’t needed; the society as an antagonist would have been enough for me. And it would have given some of the side characters and maybe even the main character more screen time to really explore who they were as people. But it was at least nice to see scenes that presented the female experience so realistically and a great boyfriend who automatically dismissed toxic masculinity in other men and didn’t put up with it. I think we often see men, much like the other men in this drama, feel like it’s too much to tell off their guy friends when they’re acting awfully towards women. The main male character in this absolutely shows that they have no excuse. Now, I have to continue to recover from the BTS concert in Seoul at two in the morning my time. Definitely, worth it! We will hopefully have a review up for both online streaming days soon, so look forward to that!

See you across the pond!

Sincerely, Annie

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