First Impressions: Perfume

RUN! No, seriously. We usually try to give some positive side of a drama so that viewers with different tastes might have something to go on. This post will not contain any such information (okay, Shin Sung Rok is a tiny positive). Here are all the reasons we dropped this drama like a sack of steaming horse manure.

Body Shaming

Drama Geek: I was late to understanding the premise, but thought I’d give it a try only because Shin Sung Rok as the lead in a rom-com was hard to pass up. I’ll admit that I only made it thirty minutes into the drama, but as soon as I realized she was both padded and they intended on spraying her with perfume over and over to make her skinny again, I was OUT. I’ve heard that her transformation back to her bigger self is very hulk like, and that makes me die a little inside. Korea has never been good with handling this type of storyline, and they’ve never treated actresses that don’t fit into their narrow view of the perfect body, with respect. This may be one of the worst I’ve seen in years. I love this actress and think she is gorgeous, and in my eyes, prettier than the lead actress.

Kdrama Jen: I have gotten used to some of the cultural differences. In real life in Korea and on dramas, it is not uncommon for someone to comment about someone’s weight or size. I can overlook a little of that here and there, but this drama has really taken this to the extreme. I am not impressed.

Clkytta: I hate the fat to skinny and ugly to pretty trope with the fire of a thousand suns. I would like to point out that Ha Jae Suk is so padded that she is almost unrecognizable. For perspective, this is the same actress who is playing the manager on Absolute Boyfriend and she looks awesome and healthy in that role. I already had one foot out the door with this drama because they took a beautiful actress and padded her up to make her look horrible. It also makes me angry that this actress is forced to take these kinds of roles because she has curves.

Total Disrespect for Suicide

Drama Geek: I knew we’d be doing a first impression so I figured I’d push through the body shaming and see if the drama had anything else to offer. Then the murder/suicide attempt happened and I decided I was done. If you’ve ever been touched by this type of thing in real life, it can be a major trigger. I’ve gotten to where I can usually watch a drama if it is brief and doesn’t stress me out too much (like the scenario that happened in Angel’s Last Mission last week). In this they play her suicide attempt for laughs and used it to body shame her as well when she falls to the ground.

Kdrama Jen: Yeah. I’m out. Suicide is not a laughing matter. It is not a deal breaker for me if it is in a drama because I think it is a reality that needs to be talked about. When it is played for cheap laughs, though? Nope. If you listen to the podcast or have been a blog reader for a while, then you will know that the joke amongst the fangirls is that I never drop dramas. I might ghost them for a bit, but I never drop them…unless they have a deal breaker for me like treating something tragic as a joke. Yup. Dropped.

Clkytta: I was done when they went beyond the fat shaming and tried to make suicide funny. Suicide is NOT funny and should NEVER be portrayed as funny. And this is where I pretty much walked away from the drama.

Self-Harm Should Not Be Used as a Bargaining Tool

Drama Geek: As I’ve said, I didn’t stick around, but my fellow Fangirls informed me that she manipulates the lead into giving her a job by threatening to walk into a lake. HUGE TRIGGER. That is all I will say about that part.

Kdrama Jen: I only kept watching because I promised to share a first impression, and I wanted to be thorough. I had already decided to drop, but now I want to double drop!! What? Suicide for comedic purposes was one level, but now we are using the threat of suicide to convince someone to do our bidding? Oh HECK no!

Clkytta: Again, to echo my fellow fangirls, stop trivializing suicide. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh! Suicide is not a manipulation tool.

Totally Unlikeable Characters

Drama Geek: Her character plans to murder her husband then uses suicide to manipulate her future boss. Not really someone I’m going to like. From what I saw of her husband, he’s a total ass. Shin Sung Rok’s character seemed like the typical scared chaebol who needs a hug and stuff, but he rubbed me the wrong way as well.

Kdrama Jen: I don’t like any of them. I want to like Shin Sung Rok. I really wanted to love this drama just for him, but I just can’t. He might have potential as a CEO with a tragic backstory, but I just can’t stick around to see it through. Sorry!

Clkytta: I couldn’t like any of the characters. I was already irritated with the fat shaming and then they pull in the suicide crap and I was just done.

Final Thoughts:

Drama Geek: I try not to judge dramas by the first thirty minutes. There might be an arc or theme I’m missing that I haven’t given the writer the chance to establish. I took a break and then the comments on Twitter started rolling in, which were followed by my fellow Fangirls finishing the first two hours, and giving me their thoughts. I do believe I made the right choice and didn’t cause myself anymore annoyance or anguish.

Kdrama Jen: We have a four episode rule. I made it through two. I just can’t. I even wondered if we should give this show the dignity of a first impression post. We usually ask readers to let us know if a show we might be on the fence about gets better, but I honestly cannot see how I could go back to this drama under any circumstances. I think I will likely even avoid this writer in the future. There are just some things that should not be played for laughs. This show has it all: body shaming, comedic suicide attempt, suicide threats for coercion, using the Internet to broadcast suicide attempt… Yeah. I quadruple dropped this drama and I am not looking back. Shin Sung Rok, I am sorry, but please pick a better drama next time and I will be there for you!

Clkytta: There is no way I’m watching more of this. I just can’t justify anything this drama stands for. I was also sad that Shin Sung Rok picked this drama and it’s horrible. I want to see him in a leading role, but not like this. Never like this.

If you or anyone you know are struggling with thoughts about suicide, please know that you are not alone and there are people who care. We are including the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255.

There Isn’t a Next Time With This One,

The Fangirls

Dramas With a Side of Kimchi

20 thoughts on “First Impressions: Perfume

  1. Thanks for writing this. I spent all last week dealing with a threats of suicide and self harm situation, and when I finally had some time to relax, I watched the first episode of this. It was pretty awful. I’m glad you guys wrote it so than anyone who might be harmed by watching it will know to avoid. (And so I know it gets worse instead of better! I love both the female actresses and was wondering if there was any possibility that the show would redeem itself)

    A few more links:

    The International Association for Suicide Prevention has info about resources on every continent:

    There’s an international list of telephone hotlines here:

    In Canada, the Kid’s Help Phone is available 24/7, completely confidential and can connect you to local help if that’s what you want. They will talk to you by phone, live chat, or text.

  2. I’ve never disagreed with you more on a drama assessment. Beneath the makjang promise of a romantic comedy is a dark vein of sadness and desperation to break out of a dead-end life.
    This woman’s life has been a living hell since she got pregnant. Joking about suicide? Look past the funny music and sound effects and you’ll see a woman who’s who’s given away her best years to a cruel and cheating b**terd with no sign of a light at the end of the tunnel. She’s fully prepared to die rather than continue.
    And then she’s given a miracle. A second chance at the life she desperately wanted.
    It’s fat-shaming,sure, but also the affects of fat-shaming through the eyes of the victim. As an overweight housewife, no matter the amount of training and skills she possesses, society won’t look past her waistline. This isn’t making fun of being overweight. This is a sharp jab at the cruel reality of society, regardless of where you live.
    Of course the drama’s life lesson will be – that life can be valuable and worth perusing, even if it isn’t’ the life you’d envisioned or even wanted.

    • I agree with Shaila’s points.

      It’s easy to dismiss this drama. But as of ep 8, it is proving to be more than just a drama about beauty and someone wanting to be beautiful. The suicide and murder plot did make me uncomfortable. But underneath, it was evident how rock bottom Jae Hee felt. It was not all shown in ep 1-2, but over a span of episodes. It is shared from her view and also her daughter’s view.

      Jae Hee returned to her peak time. Her 20’s that she lost. Her dreams that were never fulfilled. From the way I view it she was not regretful of her past choices. But she is grabbing it again now that she has a magical chance. She is totally aware if the limitations and possible consequences.

      I might have started this because of Shin Sung Rok. But man…Ha Jae Suk and Go Won Hee are awesome as Jae Hee/Yerin. They switch back and forth. It was awesome seeing Jae Hee stand up to her husband and also being more confident with her self. I’m rooting for JaeHee to be happy.

        • Update as of ep 12..Jae Hee is still part of the narrative. She (as Yerin) talked to Yi Do about taking sleeping pills to end it all, how at that time she couldn’t see any other path in her life..these were her words;
          ‘It’s strange, when I was struggling to live, my fate kept pushing me down while telling me to die, but once I gave up and tried to die, it told me not to die. It kept telling me not to die and pulled me up.’

          She has started dieting all thanks to a medical checkup and Yi Do’s sparta dieting enforcement. She feels happy with herself (in her own older body).

          I don’t know how this will end for Jaehee. But I have hope that it will be positive and I’m glad she is never out of the narrative. She always has screen time. I’ll provide more updates about her as the story progresses. For now..she is way happier than in the 1st episode.

          • Thanks for the update! It is nice to see that they seem to have a goal, though I always hate when losing weight is the answer to being happy. Keep us posted!

          • Oh…she doesn’t just feel happy for the little weight loss. The weight loss regime is forced by YiDo, he can’t stand her having abnormally high body fat percentage and suggests she eats healthy and excercise until her body fat % is normal. Which is a good thing, she can be healthier on top of being happier.

            She’s in general happier that she is doing something she loves which is modelling and also other stuff that she couldn’t do before. She couldn’t go back to modelling after giving birth because she never lost the weight she put on due to hormon problems. And she was not able to get a job because of people judging her for her looks. Now that’s shes back in her 20yo body she’s reliving her dream and securing jobs. She keeps in touch with her daughter, Jinkyung in both forms (Yerin – physically and JaeHee via phonecall). Her daughter is actually glad her mum ran away from home, she realized that she never appreciated her mum when she was around, so she wants to support mum by any means possible because she feels guilty.

            In addition to that, JaeHee is viewing herself less harshly. Yi Do is good with words despite being loopy, he always encourages JaeHee and at times is a very good listener.

            I’m surprised the bad husband is affected by Yerin though. He is so affected by the appearance of his wife’s doppelganger. I don’t know what he’ll do next.

            This show is kinda exceeding my expectations as of ep 12. I hope it continues to do so. 😀

      • I second (third?) wanting to know after it’s over. I’m totally willing to concede that this drama could have a good overall effect; it was just the wrong drama for the moment for me!–And I think it’s the kind of thing people need a heads up for. I would have left it for another time if I’d known the subject matter before hand.

        I do see the potential in the first episode for the interpretation that you have Shaila Wise. I’m definitely interested to see if they follow through on the stuff that you’re picking up on, or if they chicken out and undermine their own message a la Oh My Venus’s epilog (where she’s fat again and they play it for laughs)

    • I think we all have certain topics that are harder to look past and see the good in the drama, and the first few episodes had several of those for us. It will be interesting how it all plays out, and we would love it if you came back and let us know after it ends.

    • I agree and I’d also like to add that it seems to me that the reason the show opted to pad actress Ha Jae-Suk to an almost unbelievable unhealthy size is because the commentary that (so far) they seem to making is that the actress’ own bodyweight is NOT horrible and not something that should be used against her any more than the color of someone’s skin should be so they did not leave the character as the actress’ true size. I’m only to Ep6 and they’ve removed some of the padding because she has been eating healthier. This has not miraculously shrunk her down to the size of a model which I don’t think (and I hope) is not where they’re going with this.

  3. Look, I don’t know about you, but I certainly have had times in my life (when I was dealing with my 2nd spouse the sociopath, for instance) where I felt EVERYTHING this woman feels. I wasn’t looking terrible on the outside, but I sure would have loved to find a perfume that gave me back my youthful dreams.
    HER youthful dreams were to be a FASHION model – and of course gaining a pound too much makes that unfeasible, let alone gaining weight after having a child, and not being able to lose it.
    Sorry but that’s not somehow fat-shaming – that’s reality. I right now am losing weight (again) for health reasons – and a perfume that right now turned me into my 35 year old self even would be heavenly.
    I actually found her fantasies about suicide as revenge normal and rather darkly humorous.
    I love her character. She’s realistic, and determined. She uses what she can to survive.

  4. Continue watching. This drama is solid. Only 2 episodes left. I will return to comment after the finale.

    But 14 hours in, the drama is so far from the comments on this page. All the issues that happened in ep 1 has been addressed within 28 episodes. Jae Hee’s struggle with depression, self confidence and self depreciation is the core of this drama.

    Perfume is going on a track I hoped but did not expect it will actually do. 

  5. I’ve watched the last two episodes of perfume and all I can say is this drama worth a second chance. I’m quite satisfied by how the drama ends.

    I was nervous and a bit worried that this drama will show another miracle that will transform Jae Hee as Ye Rin forever. Glad that’s not the case 🙂

    Seo E Do truly loves Min Jae Hee for who she is, and I’m glad that Jae Hee can finally overcome her issues and be confident in her own body after leaving her younger body behind. Seo E Do’s issues with his family members were solved nicely in the last episode.

    Just be a little careful if you’re going to watch the last episode because there’ll be a short throwback of Jae Hee’s suicide attempt (yes, the one from ep 1).

  6. Yes, the first couple of episodes were rough and may trigger some people. I agree the suicide, body shaming, etc. was hard to watch especially since I have similar issues as Jae Hee, but it did not put me off the show and I’m so glad I stuck it through to the end. As some commenters have said, they do address these issues throughout the series and frankly, the ending was better than what I’d expected. I’d say for those of you who dropped this drama, give it a second chance. It’s not perfect, it has flaws, yes, but it’s also deeply touching in many ways and both main characters have their respective growth arcs. I laughed a lot and cried a lot watching this, partly because I feel like Jae Hee most of the time. Overall, I’m happy I watched it and while it’s not my favourite Kdrama of all time, it left a deep impression and is on my list of top 10 favourite Kdramas. Worth a watch if you can look past the trigger-y stuff in the beginning.

  7. I feel like I need to circle back and let everyone know I DID give this drama a second chance. Once I got past the initial parts that just made me cringe, I was able to enjoy the drama and appreciate the final message. I am glad I came back to it. I shared this on a podcast, but not here.

  8. I recently finished Perfume and I must say, I love, love, love two things about this drama – first that Shin Shin ruk’s character hates the fact that he thinks he’s in love with two different women because he’s not a cheater and is determined to wait against all hope for his first love; and second, he looks at both versions of this woman with the same love in his eyes whether he’s looking at young skinny model version or middle-aged overweight version.

    His character also shows he doesn’t discriminate against other overweight people, not only his first love, and this is what makes her fall in love with him because up until she took the job as his housekeeper she really never gave a thought to the young boy who fell in one-sided love with her all those years ago.

Leave a Reply