I’d started on My I.D. Is Gangnam Beauty last year because I’d seen a lot of favorable comments on the drama, but only watched the first episode. Why did I stop? I was shallow, that’s why.
For some reason, I just couldn’t connect with either of the two lead characters. Their frozen-faced stares (his of the burning almost sullen type, hers of the deer in the headlights variety) frustrated me, but especially her inability to speak up for herself in situations that were potentially dangerous to her safety. The especially shallow side of me could not associate the looks of the actress with someone who is considered a campus beauty (thanks to her character’s complete plastic surgery overhaul) as actually being beautiful. I’ve seen photos of the actress (Im Soo-hyang) and know that she can appear more attractive than she does here, but her hairstyle and wardrobe do her no favors. Cha Eun-woo, one of the group Astro, is definitely good-looking, but initially he’s so wooden (and sullen) that he could be out-acted by a cardboard cut-out.
But… I thought I’d give it a second chance when it popped up on my screen last night, and I have to say, even though I’m still not finding either lead all that physically appealing, the plot and the situations and message of this drama grew on me with every subsequent episode. (And yes, I like to have both my male and female leads appeal to me, not because I swing both ways, but visually I want to feel that the couple “fits” together — call it gratification by proxy.)
Half-way through now, I am very interested in the characters (if not-so-much the actors) because of the situations they find themselves in and how the writer is challenging male chauvinism and looks-ism in unfolding the plot. In case you’re curious as well, the female lead, Mi-rae, is someone who was very homely and suffered bullying as a result, but after a traumatic breakdown her mother decides that whatever it takes she’ll pay for her daughter’s plastic surgery. She enters college with a new face but still many of the insecurities of her homely days, and now faces a whole different type of unwanted attention. The male lead, Kyung-seok, knew her in her homely days and recognizes aspects of her personality but can’t immediately match it with the new face. He’s of the tsundere mold (and some girl even calls him out for this in a little meta moment), with issues concerning an image-hungry politician father and a mother who ‘abandoned’ him and his sister when they were younger children. What rounds out the plot is the character of a girl, Soo-ah, who is considered the number one beauty (again, not-so-much IMO) in their department. She’s had a much longer time learning how to manipulate people and her actions are fairly complex and sneaky. She’s very skillful in finding little ways to bring hurt to Mi-rae indirectly, at the hands or words of other people, but Kyung-seok is very astute and frequently lets her know that he’s wise to her actions. Her motivations are yet to be fully revealed, but it’s a very subtle characterization — as a villainess, she’s pretty low-key.
Kwak Dong-yeon is the second lead male, the TA for the chemistry department (where the Mi-rae, Kyung-seok, and Mi-rae are students), and a very upright, decent kind of guy — the kind of sonbae who actually looks out for the hoobaes who have been harassed by some sonbaes with the chauvinistic and sexist ways of thinking and acting. He’s like a model man for all, as if to say, “Guys, this is how you’re supposed to act!”
While the plot with Kyung-seok’s divorced parents seeming somewhat typical of dramas, it’s not yet predictable which way that will take the story, but it’s the least challenging so far. I’m more invested in the sonbaes getting their smackdowns at the hands of the ladies of the chemistry department. With all that, I can live without falling under the spell of the physical charms of the main couple — and who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind! After all, beauty is only skin deep; it’s what’s inside that counts!