It is a common trope throughout storytelling: the ugly duckling becomes a beautiful swan. American movies in the 80s certainly used this approach a lot, geeky guy takes off his glasses and gets some new clothes and suddenly…hot, hot, hot. Overlooked girl gets her hair cut and styled and tosses her glasses (note the glasses theme here) and suddenly…instant popularity. My ID is Gangnam Beauty takes this idea, but instead of a simple makeover, a young girl completely transforms herself through plastic surgery. Reality creeps in, however, when it becomes clear that surgery cannot immediately transform a timid personality or erase the years of pain experienced. In fact, even beautiful people can get bullied. Read on to discover our first impressions and unfiltered thoughts about My ID is Gangnam Beauty.
Whoa…that is some serious surgery
Kdrama Jen: I have read about the prevalence of plastic surgery in Korea and I certainly saw all of the before and after pictures as I walked through Gangnam or even Incheon Airport. I was kind of fascinated, though, by the opening scene where the main character, Kang Mi Rae, has developed a point system and can tally the beauty score of anyone she encounters. She has clearly obsessed over ideal eyes, lips, and chins for a very long time. She was also adept at determining which features are natural and which ones were enhanced by surgery. It seemed like everywhere she looked there were beautiful people, and all she strived for was to be average.
Drama Geek: I’m with Kdrama Jen and I found her point system a great look into her mental state and perception of the world around her. The other part I found interesting is the idea that everyone gets surgery, yet no one wants at admit it. Take the lead actress for example. She’s clearly had some of the same work as her character, and yet when interviewed about the show, she compared it to playing a serial killer… so there is obviously very few people who want to confess they aren’t a natural beauty.
Uh oh. She has never learned to reject people nicely.
Kdrama Jen: After spending some time away to recover from her surgery, Mi Rae gets a fresh start at Korea University. She was a very good student, so she got into a top university to study chemistry. Now, however, she is suddenly the center of attention because she is considered beautiful. She keeps getting approached and asked out by all kinds of college guys, but since this is all new to her, she doesn’t know how to handle the attention. Her lack of experience translates into stammering and making excuses, and I am afraid that is going to lead to a number of hurt feelings.
Drama Geek: She was an extreme introvert and probably only interacted with her bff (Will this actress always be a side character?). Now she’s finding herself in situations she’s never been in before, and it’s all a bit too much. She’s also not that great at reading people. The really nice girl is able to insult her without blinking an eye and Mi Rae doesn’t realize that’s what is happening. She’s used to the more direct bullying. Side note: I would have failed miserably at college in SK because I can NOT drink like that. Yikes.
Yay! She can dance!
Kdrama Jen: There is a scene where all of the incoming freshmen are gathered for games and bonding. She gets nominated to represent the group (because she is pretty–because obviously being pretty is the same as being talented, but whatever). Anyway, she frets for a bit with her friend over the phone, and then comes in and wows everyone. Her dance moves catch the attention of the cool, handsome, and aloof new student. He seems to remember seeing that same kind of fancy footwork at the bus stop when he was in middle school. Uh-oh! It looks like he knew the middle school version of Kang Mi Rae!
Drama Geek: I wanted to roll my eyes at every person at that gathering. The amount of times they use the word pretty was vomit inducing, but I know this show is trying to portray a certain aspect of society. I actually cheered when it was obvious Astro boy knew her in middle school. This means she doesn’t have to worry that he’s only nice to her because of her perceived beauty. With everyone else it would feel fake.
Kdrama Jen: So, yes, the cool and aloof student everyone wants, but can’t have is from Astro. His acting is definitely in the idol-actor category, but so far all he has to do is act unapproachable and look handsome. He does that VERY well–especially in the rain. His character is slowly winning me over. He seems to see through the games being played and maybe even had an appreciation for Mi Rae before she was pretty. He also comes to her rescue a couple of times, and I am a sucker for a tsundere character with that hidden sincerity.
Drama Geek: Astro boy needs to do a little more to win me over, especially with Moonlight Drawn by Clouds cutie bodyguard waiting to act circles around him. (Which isn’t saying much because he mastered the art of unapproachable and handsome as Prince Bo Gum’s guard.) After complaining on Twitter, I was informed Astro boy is portraying the webtoon character accurately, so I will sit back and give him a chance. I may need to apologize for my robot method acting comment, though.
Wait. You didn’t tell Dad?
Kdrama Jen: Apparently all of this expensive surgery took place without her dad’s knowledge. He was against the idea because he clearly thought his daughter was beautiful. I am wondering about practical things like how they hid such a huge expense. I am also questioning the idea behind waiting until the entrance ceremony to spring his daughter’s new face on him. It is clearly very different since he did not recognize her!
Drama Geek: Poor Dad, he just loved his baby girl and didn’t want her to change. It was a bit cruel to wait until the ceremony. She could have at least met him at home earlier in the day, but maybe she was banking on the crowd keeping him from freaking out.
Ooh! It’s our favorite bodyguard!.
Kdrama Jen: I loved him in Moonlight Drawn by Clouds and he even drew my eye in Radio Romance. Glad to see him here!
Drama Geek: I’m happy he’s moving up from a side character to second lead and gaining experience. Hopefully, he’ll mature into a lead role soon. I can’t really comment on his character in this because he was only onscreen for a few moments, but he appears to be a teacher’s assistant and hopefully not her professor because, just no.
Kdrama Jen: They definitely said he is a teaching assistant, so we can squee all we want and not feel icky!
Don’t trust her! She is no angel!
Kdrama Jen: Mi Rae’s lack of social experience is a huge disadvantage when dealing with Hyun Soo, the natural beauty everyone is raving about.
Drama Geek: As I said earlier, Mi Rae lacks the ability to pick up on the subtler things that are going on in a situation. She doesn’t realize that Hyun Soo is the kind of girl who keeps her enemies close and then makes everyone believe she’s the victim.
Drama Geek: The biggest pull for me is how they aren’t shying away from talking about all the different aspects of beauty. How society puts such an emphasis on it, and the idea that even after becoming beautiful, it doesn’t solve all of Mi Rae’s problems. I remember one of the freshman boys who likes Hyun Soo replying, “you think that’s pretty?” when someone said Mi Rae was attractive. Which highlights her dilemma, bullied if you’re not pretty and judged if you choose to become pretty. I hope they will explore the idea that in many parts of society, that not having a “pretty face” is the reason people don’t get the job, and how that impacts people like Mi Rae. Most of all, I look forward to Mi Rae learning to love herself, and getting past the hurt she’s experienced in her life.
Kdrama Jen: I must admit that when I first heard about this show coming out, I was a little wary. Would this be another ugly duckling story? I must say, I am pleasantly surprised. I like that this is not painting the physical transformation as a perfect transition. There are emotional scars to be addressed and coming to terms with a new kind of bullying. I am glad they are taking it in this direction. I do agree with Drama Geek, I think the best love story for this drama will be one where Mi Rae learns to accept herself.
What are your thoughts on Gangnam Beauty?
Until Next Time,
Kdrama Jen & Drama Geek