Contrarian Thoughts on “She Was Pretty” through Episode 13–Buckle your seat belts!

Another show I started while languishing in the heat at the Laundromat a few weeks ago was “She Was Pretty”. I usually don’t go for rom-com fluff–and this show appeared to have it by the bucketful. It looked like it would be a slightly funny take on the overemphasized concept of beauty that is seen in Kdramas today–undoubtedly a reflection of Korean society’s emphasis on physical beauty. But maybe, this time something might be different. I had a small flicker of hope that perhaps what I would end up watching was a slightly different version of “Modern Farmer”. This extremely goofy show from 2014 had the audacity to bring up more than a few societal woes, including interracial marriage, single motherhood, bullying, immigration, and city vs. rural stereotypes, all within a super cheesy plot and loads of slapstick comedy.

I defended that show numerous times, thinking I was the only one to see the social commentary between the fart and pee jokes. I was shocked when someone else saw it too–a brainy person as a matter of fact. (link). This makes me want to go to K-Con in LA next summer, so I can hear this kind of discussion first-hand. It’s good to know there’s someone else out there on my wavelength!

At first I thought this show should have been titled “He Is Pretty”. I’m talking about Park Seo Joon of course. He is definitely pretty to look at! I haven’t seen “Witch’s Romance” yet (it’s on my list) but I have seen this clip–no captions needed:

Yeah, that is smokin’ hot! Too bad she had to look at the birthdate on his ID…sigh! The fact that Ravel’s Bolero plays in the background slays me….great memories of sneaking into the theater when I was 14 to see the parentally forbidden movie “10“. Love that movie BTW–so funny! It cemented my love of classical music at a young age.

I could look at PSJ’s pretty face and rockin’ body for a long time. Dang, this guy doesn’t seem to have any hangups with taking his shirt off or dishing out some roaring hawt kisses. Perhaps this new show might have a few moments the shallow part of me would like–along with something my brain will enjoy. It’s a lot to ask, but hey, why not?

The first episode starts out okay, but I am quickly irritated by the fact that Hye Jin and her BFF Ha Ri deliberately set out to mislead Seong Joon as to the real identity of Hye Jin. This is no misunderstanding or a chance event. I’m not impressed–their integrity level is a lot lower than I would like to see. I understand that HJ’s feelings were hurt when he didn’t recognize her right away. But give SJ a break! He hasn’t seen her in probably 15 years…people change. He certainly did. Devoid of his curly hair, glasses, and chubby tummy, his physical appearance has changed drastically. How come she recognizes him so quickly?

The show runs downhill for me, as SJ is shown to be a bully and a blowhard at work, finding fault in the slightest mistake of his team. Even being under the kind of pressure he is does not excuse his bad behavior. He non-stop berates and belittles HJ, along with most of the rest of his coworkers. I wonder if HJ is thinking what I’m thinking–this guy must have had a personality transplant! She can’t possibly be attracted to him now, right? She’s seen him act like a total jerk. However, SJ acts like a Storybook Prince to Ha Ri, who he thinks is Hye Jin, and it occurs to me–this guy must be bipolar! How could he turn the jerky part of his personality on and off like a faucet? I start to wonder why I keep watching this ridiculousness (I blame the heat!) but I get the answer in Episode 5–and that is the character of Reporter Kim Shin Hyeok (Choi Si Won). Any ideas I had about dumping this show are gone faster than my roll of quarters at the laundromat!

I’ve heard of Second Lead Syndrome before. I admit to wondering more than once while watching a Kdrama how some girl can fall for a total controlling jerk when there’s this nice dude right next to her. (Watch “Boys over Flowers” for a sterling example of this syndrome) But I’m not sure this is SLS. SH doesn’t do typical SL things. In fact, he facilitates HJ going to SJ in Episode 13; and although he says stuff like “It’s not over until it’s over”, he seems respectful of HJ’s feelings. I absolutely loved SH’s scenes with SJ in Episodes 5 and 6. I nearly busted a gut laughing over SH letting himself into SJ’s pad, and “borrowing” his bathrobe and his underwear. That was funny enough, but when he gushes over SJ’s supposedly superior fitting American underwear (“Panties?” OMG.) I’m cooked! And then he keeps going on and on, embarrassing SJ at work, making it seem like they spent the night together! I could put that on a loop, watch it over and over and it would still be funny!

Side Story: My oldest son has always had issues with clothing textures as part of his autism. He likes his clothing to be very soft; new clothes “smell funny”, and feel scratchy. Hand-me-downs and thrift store clothing work perfectly for him. About the time he was 11 or 12, a friend of mine gave me a bag of clothes her teen son had outgrown. In the bag were several packages of Calvin Klein boxer briefs in his size–unopened with the store tags still on them. I asked her if she wanted these back so she could return them, but she said she couldn’t be bothered! Before I gave them to my son, I washed them multiple times to soften them up. My son wore the CK undies until they were starting to get holes from being washed so many times. When I bought him some new Hanes boxer briefs at Wal-mart, he threw a fit! He proceeded to inform me that the “cotton weave” of the Hanes undies was not as soft as the CK undies, and for a guy his age–who was in his words “growing down there”–he needed the softest possible cotton material against his super sensitive package! I nearly died trying to not laugh in front of him, and I finally ended up having to buy him more CK boxer briefs. So I can totally sympathize with SH here–the fit and softness of underwear is very important to a guy!

SH wins me over quickly. He’d be the perfect guy for HJ–if she’d just open her eyes, live in the present and leave the past behind. He’s funny, he’s pulls all kinds of silly pranks to get her to smile, tells her she’s beautiful just as she is, and he is a good listener and as faithful a friend as Ha Ri. SH is observant too–he sees right through the ruse of who HJ is and he brings up her concept of “background characters” to use in the magazine, and gives her credit for it too. Total foreshadowing there IMHO! Once again, I am lured into a show by the ‘pretty’, only to stay for the ‘manly’. My poor ovaries, already in their death throes…and now this guy comes along! CSW is the hottest looking man I’ve seen in my entire life–and that’s a long time! I have some guilt (but not enough) over the fact that he is technically young enough to be my son. His comedy skills are spot-on, but especially when it’s a scene with him and PSJ. These guys are comedic gold together; I could watch 16 episodes of these guys teasing each other. Please DramaGods, make it happen! You have two years while CSW is in the military to get this show of my dreams written!

All those pranks he pulls–SH has to be hiding some kind of pain from his past. I can guess he’s rich, since he lives at the hotel, has a motorcyle (de rigeur for a Kdrama rebel!) and a red Mustang–yet he bums food off HJ and acts like he’s broke. Then he buys her an obviously pricey handbag. He dresses like a homeless guy at the hotel, and like a model for work. I note SJ is never crabby toward SH at work though, so he must be competent at his job for the magazine. I want need to know more about SH. I try to ignore all the other stuff that bothers me about this show–but I can’t. BTW, CSW’s English is soooo good, he sounds like any other local SoCal dude. That’s impressive.

I note that SJ sure doesn’t eat a lot…..in fact, he seems to live on morning coffee, and not much else. Unless HJ is around–then he eats like a normal dude. He can’t drink alcohol at all without passing out immediately. Ha! He’s worse than I am! SJ’s fridge at home contains only bottled water even though the door has a water/ice dispenser. What the heck is going on here? OMG, does he have an eating disorder? Would this show be gutsy enough to tackle the issue of a man who has an eating disorder? My son’s friend who lived with us for a while had one. I can tell you, not many people think it happens to guys too–and it is just as devastating. Did SJ starve himself so he too would be “pretty”? Now I gotta see how this pans out. I try and watch each episode for more clues. I’d be blown out of the water if that is the direction this show is going to take–but then that thread seems to get dropped.

The show’s use of The Carpenter’s “Close to You” song messes with my head. Karen Carpenter died from an eating disorder in the late ’80’s. I’ve talked with people who had first-hand knowledge of how effed-up that entire Carpenter family was. The Carpenters grew up about 10 miles from where my office is located. I can’t listen to a Carpenter’s song or drive by the University performing arts center without thinking about how sad that whole situation was.

I was also distressed by the way HJ handled her bestie Ha Ri falling for SJ. It just got swept under the rug–that’s some seriously cheap forgiveness if you ask me! No betrayal issues brought up, no discussion of trust. I was prepared for some high level anger between the two ladies…but nothing materialized. In fact, I almost thought HJ would give up SJ and let her bestie have him! WTH? Same with SJ–you’d think he would be pretty darn exasperated with the both of them for lying to him about HJ’s identity. But he blows it off too. I was waiting for him to let HJ have it–she should have had some faith in him that he still liked her no matter what. It’s all too sweet, too perfect. And that worries me.

After HJ gets fired from the magazine by SJ, she is later rehired and SJ apologizes to her. If it was me–I would have run away and never looked back. No job is worth that kind of verbal abuse. (I know someone she can talk to about that–watch for an upcoming review of “Awl”!) When she comes back to work–voila! A makeover! Drat. I thought we might get through this show without the requisite Kdrama makeover trope. However, I was mollified that the makeover HJ went through was as minimal as it could have been, and was not instigated by a male character. It was Hye Jin’s idea, funded with her money, and not coin from Ha Ri or Seong Joon or Shin Hyeok. I’m better with that idea. She now perceives herself as being valuable enough to spend a little money on herself, and her self esteem at work–and with SJ–goes up exponentially. She straightened her hair (something she did back in the pre-teenager days as well) bought makeup, new shoes, and some stylish clothes–perfect for a entry level worker at a fashion magazine. I was a little dismayed–but could understand–when SH was not thrilled with it. Although it was adorable that he called her freckles “sesame seeds” on her face, it felt like he was unhappy because maybe now she would seem more attractive to other guys (especially SJ) and that means more competition for him!

************

There are increasing signs to me that this show is about to go completely off-the-rails and right into Melo-Makjang land. My ovaries may be dying but I have a few working memory cells left in my brain–and I remember “My Love Eun Dong” from earlier this year pretty well! That awesome show had 14 amazing, epic, wonderful episodes before it detonated in a big way; a full crash-and-burn ending that left viewers (including me) emotionally devastated. Everything looked too good, too early, just like in SWP. First of all, we have the obvious OTP together in Episode 13. That’s kinda early in the Kdrama game. My Gawd, SJ has even proposed to HJ already! Yet his health is precarious at best. He’s collapsed from exhaustion. We’ve seen him have a full-blown panic attack several times; in the rain, at the fashion show, and at the park/beach when SJ was out of his sight for just a few moments. BTW, what in the world was that empty picture frame doing there?!? Thinking about the puzzle, the empty frame…is that some kind of weird foreshadowing?

We know SJ had psychologic/psychiatric care when he lived in the US. The doctor said for him to avoid stress and traumatic situations–and now I see why. More stress=more collapse issues and panic attacks. Of course, eating poorly (or not at all) is not gonna help either of those situations.

I don’t normally do predictions, but this show seems headed for a cliff. A big cliff. I think something is going to happen to SJ; he will get into an accident because he is preoccupied or having a panic attack, or as one blogger suggested, SJ will have a nervous breakdown. He could also throw a full-on ballistic level temper tantrum, blaming the staff at “The Most” for the inevitable failure of the magazine. This could give a jolt to HJ who finally wakes up to his current personality, which might just be rotten-at-the-core if his treatment of the staff of the magazine is an indication. HJ is going to have to seriously re-evaluate her love of the boy who Seong Joon was, versus the man who Seong Joon is right now. First Love is such an untouchable trope in DramaLand. Is this show going to upend that First Love trope and expose it for being something less than ideal when brought under the microscope of reality?

There has been some speculation on the Soompi forums (from another site) that something was going to happen to HJ, and that sent readers into a tizzy. I don’t think that will happen, but then again, we’re talking about Kdrama writer’s logic here, and we all know they’re from another planet. The writer of SWP is already known for a howlingly bad ending to a cute show (High Kick 2 aka High Kick through the Roof). I don’t think HJ will end up with SH either at the end of the show–although you can read another contrarian’s opinion at this link.

I am buckling in for an emotional finish to “She Was Pretty”. I fear that legions of fans who love this show are about to experience big-time heartbreak and there will be some electronic devices sacrificed in the aftermath. What a shame it will be if this happens. SWP has the potential to make some strong social commentary on eating disorders, the overemphasis of physical beauty and first love, as well as the true nature of friendship. SWP has not yet taken advantage of the platform it has been given. I can’t wait to see if this show can pull out the stops in the last 3 episodes to make itself over (pun intended!) into the first rate drama it could be–or if it will be relegated to that pile of shows we viewers can’t remember without thinking about how great the first 13 or so episodes were….and how awful the ending was in contrast. Like SH said via Yogi Berra: “It ain’t over till it’s over!”

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