Welcome to my long rant on True Beauty!!!
I have to start trigger warning right at the start of this one because I will be going deep into it guys. TW: Suicide, Bullying, Body dysmorphia, rape. Rather than review the drama again, I will write a detailed synopsis and then breakdown what I like and didn’t like about this drama, from the mental health representation to the OSTs.
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Let’s get into it…
Slice of life
Coming of age
Moon Ga Young
Cha Eun Woo
Hwang In Yeop
Park Yoo Na
Lim Ju-Kyung is a high school student who has an inferiority complex with regards to her appearance and has been constantly emotionally abused by her family and bullied by her peers in school. She learns how to use makeup after watching lots of make-up tutorials on social media. Just when she masters this craft, she transfers to a new school and her makeover was so good that her new classmates refer to her as a goddess. Despite her popularity in her new school, Ju Kyung still considers herself ugly and she fears that she will lose all her friends when they see her ‘real face’. Her fears seem to come true when she meets handsome Lee Su-ho who she had run into earlier with her bare face without realizing where she had met him. He recognizes her beyond her makeup (he only really realizes when she made a mistake). Su-ho is very popular in school but he really hates being the centre of attention. Su-ho also has his own fears and blames himself for the death of his best friend. Then there is Han Seo-jun who is the bad boy of the school (I mean the only thing is that he rides a bike), anyways he and Su-ho were best friends till the death of their friend that broke their friendship. All three soon forge an unlikely relationship as they unravel secrets, share their pains and grow together.
I will not give you a blown out review of the drama, you will have to make do with the Synopsis because it really is all you have to know before going into this drama. To review the main reasons why I really didn’t like this drama, I decided to list them out and talk about it.
Was she really Ugly? – While I would really like to ask ‘what really is ugly?’, I have decided to save my personal feelings about beauty, no need to get philosophical here. Was Lim Ju Kyung really ugly? Most of the issue with her body image stemmed from her family. Since she was a little child, all she heard even from her parents and her family was how ugly she was and how they think she was adopted. This really consolidated the way she felt about herself. So with her growing up and having acne, that seems to worsen her self-esteem. There is this huge misrepresentation in Asian drama or really dramas where they have this huge makeover moment. What makes them think wearing glasses make you ugly. Fuck, I wear glasses and I am hot as fuck!
Bullying – As someone who has not been the object of a bully, I cannot really fathom or speak for people who have been bullied. However, watching lots of dramas like Uncanny Counter where bullying almost lead to the death of the bullied. In this drama, Ju Kyung even for a second contemplated ending her life because of the way her classmates bullied her. All because she was ugly. Honestly, it was not even because she was ugly, it as because she was easy prey. Bullies go after people who have been isolated from a society (in this case, her school and classmate), this then leads to further isolation. The school system was just trash! Imagine a video of a girl from your school being bullied going around social media and not doing anything about it. The school should be sanctioned.
Mental health representation: Since I have ranted a lot about Ju Kyung and her dysmorphia issues, I think I should focus on Soo Jin and Su Ho. Soo Jin was an interesting character to me. I know lots of people hated her but she was a classic representation of someone who was tired of rejection and lashed out. When I saw her washing her hands often, I thought maybe she was raped and that was the way for her to feel clean but that was not why. It was more stress-related I think. Her high-pressure parents and their drive to make her first was driving the poor girl insane. When she was rejected by the guy who she thought she was in love with drove her over the edge. Not to excuse the evil she did, I just felt her angle should have been developed better. I don’t think her working for an NGO suddenly makes her a good person. Anyways on to Su Ho. Whilst he was one of the characters that were a typical representation of Asian-drama-highschool-brilliant-boy-stereotype, he had more depth. As someone who has watched a lot of Cha Eun Woo’s work, this drama actually ranks high for me. There was a specific scene that just broke my heart in Episode 11 when he finally confronted his father about what he was doing the night his mother died. Seeing his father having sex with another woman that night has stayed with him for years and to find out that his father had something to do with the death of his best friend just compounded and he had a psychotic break. He did well with that scene. I can really see how much he has grown as an actor. But the character he plays was just typical.
The Script, Cast, OSTs, and Unnoticeable Time Jumps: the drama was not exactly a fresh idea. I have not read the webtoon and do not think I would be reading it in the future. Unlike dramas like Itaewon Class in which the directors were willing to make time jumps necessary for story progression. This drama was unable to seamlessly do that, the time lapses were so confusing that the whole drama seemed to have taken place in one week! One of the truly wholesome things about this drama was the cast. The cast was fantastic and they played their roles really well, Hee Kyung, Ju Kyung’s older sister was simply hilarious and her relationship with the homeroom teacher Han-woo was just wholesome. It was nice to see some flexibility in gender roles when it comes to relationships. Then there is Seo Jun who everyone fell in love with, while the actor was honestly so hot, the character he played was the typical second male lead who was in love with her but respected her wishes. The second great thing about this drama was the soundtrack. I will keep listening to it till the end of time.
Finally the ‘Inner Beauty’ Trope: some people might really love this whole inner beauty thing but not me. Here is why. Usually, when people talk about how one needs to look at someone’s inner beauty and not our they look on the outside, it is usually in the context that the person does not meet the so-called standard of beauty.
Take the Korean drama Gangnam Beauty, for example, It follows a girl who had plastic surgery right before entering University because she felt ugly her whole life. Then when she got to university, she meets a guy who she knew from high school who could still recognize her because of her inner beauty (similar to True Beauty). Fuck off, if her inner beauty was so attractive, why not ask her out before. Why wait until she had cosmetic surgery before deciding to talk about inner beauty. Not for the male main lead to poignantly insinuate that the girl was the one with the problem. Honestly it all some bull. The male main character was played by a conventionally handsome Korean guy, Cha Eun Woo. Honestly, it is just subtle sieving, they would only use actors that are societally handsome in such roles. This is not Cha Eun Woo’s fault, at this point, I am beginning to think it is a disadvantage to him!
I have ranted long and hard with this drama. I know lots of people liked it and honestly I also really enjoyed it but upon reflection, all I remember are the subtle flaws, insinuations and how unoriginal the whole drama was. I read somewhere that it started out as a fanfiction of the author and Kim Seokjin of BTS. I found that funny. What is it with fanfiction being turned into movies. First, it was Fifty Shades, then it was After and now True Beauty. As someone who writes fanfiction, I am glad that the community is getting some exposure but please get an editor who is in touch with reality or else the movie industry would make a mockery of your hard work.
I gave this drama 7.8 out of 10 stars
Thanks so much for reading. What did you think of the drama?