I know, I am behind. I was going to do a review but wow I am so far behind! I just googled it and this drama came out in 2018… I thought it was recent! *facepalm* So I’ll just talk about what I thought of the drama.
I’ve been watching kdramas on Netflix of late, watching all the ones I never got to watch when they came out like Suspicious Partner (which was a weird blend of light and dark that worked), Love Alarm (I didn’t like it, at all) and of course Gangnam Beauty.
So what did I think?
I liked the drama. They had a concept and a message they wanted to explore with the drama and they stuck to it. It was clear, concise and well written. From episode 1 to episode 16 it flowed well and I could have easily binged it (but I paced myself). It kept me gripped.
So the drama explores beauty standards in South Korea. It is no secret that they are the best at plastic surgery, or rather that is what is said, and plastic surgery is something that is accepted unlike in the West. However it is not as black and white as plastic surgery = good.
For one thing, from the issues explored in the drama, there appears to be a stigma against plastic surgery. It’s not a big one but the whole being called ‘Gangnam Beauty’ is seen as an insult instead of a compliment. It’s the equivalent of calling someone ‘plastic’ in the West.
I got that when the main character’s, Mi Rae’s, parents heard her being called ‘Gangnam Beauty’ and thought, “Oh wow what a nice compliment!” and they were so chuffed and happy for their daughter. But then when her mom called Kyungseok’s mom the same thing it was seen as an insult and that’s where the parents learned, oh it’s not a good thing.
Then there is the conflict between Mi Rae and Sua. Mi Rae got plastic surgery and Sua is a ‘natural beauty’. From the beginning Sua hates Mi Rae because she is taking her status all with artificial beauty. And it’s so sad that Sua sees Mi Rae that way because Mi Rae is such a nice person and they could have been good friends but Sua was so concerned with how she looked and how others saw her and her status as the ‘It’ girl.
Having said that Mi Rae was also concerned with how she looked otherwise she wouldn’t have gotten plastic surgery. It’s understandable, she was perceived as ugly and was bullied for it her whole life. Although, the drama never shows you what she looked like before. It remains a mystery and with good reason I think.
She probably looked normal but because of the strict beauty standards in South Korea she was not perceived as beautiful because she didn’t have certain features. On top of that she was also overweight as a child and was bullied for that too.
Oh I wanted to fight those kids for her. Children really can be cruel but you know what they repeat what they learn from adults around them… so I’d fight their parents instead.
And that guy she confessed to… he had an ugly soul. Imagine saying that to someone… I just can’t stand it.
Side note: it’s not just a South Korea thing either, every country has beauty standards and there will always be kids who don’t fit those standards who get bullied and it’s so sad.
So because of her childhood and teenage-hood she obviously is concerned with physical appearance. The world has taught her that, that is the most important thing for a woman.
Now men do have certain standards put on them too but I think it’s worse for women and so they don’t really explore the male side in the drama.
So Mi Rae goes on a journey where she learns that physical appearance isn’t everything. Kyungseok actually is the one to call her out on it and that triggers her journey. I guess because Kyungseok has seen first hand that beauty really only is skin deep. You need something more than that to be a good human being.
She also goes on a journey to increase her self-esteem. You can change your outward appearance but if your inside stays the same what is the point? She’s beautiful but then she’s insecure and kind of naïve because she’s never been social and has only ever had one friend. So she doesn’t know the tricks people can play or how to read people.
She learns though and with each challenge that she goes through she gets stronger until her self esteem is finally higher.
What really makes her take a look at herself is realising that the naturally beautiful Sua has just as many problems as she does. Being beautiful doesn’t mean your life will be easy. It’s lonely at the top and it’s hard to stay at the top.
The only friend Sua has at the university, Ji Hyo, is two faced and a fair-weather friend. Their friendship is superficial. Sua doesn’t know how to trust anyone and can’t be herself. She’s always acting and always scheming.
I have to say Jo Woo Ri, who plays Sua, is such a good actress. She delivered on that role! Her facial expressions, the subtle changes in mood that she conveyed, her strength that masked her vulnerability. The way she got me disliking her only to sympathise with her at the end. Wow, perfect performance. Everyone was good but she was the best in my eyes.
Sua’s backstory is interesting as well. Her beauty is her salvation. Her parents abandoned her and she was dirty and no one liked her. When she got clean and people started to like her, she thought, “If I stay beautiful no one will ever leave me again”. She learned that women should be beautiful but people don’t like it when you know you’re beautiful. Isn’t that a sad thing to learn as a child?
I like that they fleshed out her character. I like also that they had a character like Eun be a real friend to her. I thought when she found out her secrets that she was going to use them against Sua but no, she actually genuinely wanted to help. She was the real one.
So yeah, I loved how that main storyline played out. How Sua and Mi Rae were put against each other but learned that they don’t need to be rivals and that Sua actually got healing.
As for the men in the drama, they were trash. Honestly apart from the main two Kyungseok and Woo Young they weren’t great. The one guy I thought would be good turned out to be a spineless dick, yes, I am talking about Tae Young. I was so disappointed in him and how he treated Tae Hee.
And of course the most dangerous character in the drama ends up being a man, Dong Won as he was delusional and thought Sua liked him and ended up causing her the most trauma. It’s interesting that a guy she didn’t deliberately mess with ended up causing her the most harm.
Let’s talk positives about the men though. Kyungseok was a good character, a little stiff, but overall a good guy. Woo Young was a realistic guy. I thought it was weird that he had no flaws but luckily as we got to know him, we found some. Also Sung Woon was an ok character. Yoo Jin and Jung Ho had the most character development out of the men and I loved to see it.
Another thing I liked about the drama is that they didn’t just pair people together for the sake of it. People got rejected, people started off having crushes and ended up friends, it was a realistic portrayal of what happens in real life. Kdramas don’t always do that so I was happy to see it happen in this drama.
Now I’m wondering if all university dramas are similar because this one was so good.
The only thing that kind of fell flat was the romance. It was cute when Mi Rae and Kyungseok got together but it was also very vanilla. I know they’re both kind of new to dating but I expected more.
That is it for my thoughts. What did you think when you watched the drama? Are you like me and have only just now watched it on Netflix?