New K-Drama Alert: She Was Pretty


Am I the only one who has been longing for a new drama cycle? I'm in love with Twenty Again, but every other show on the air right now is making me roll my eyes and yawn at the same time.

I just watched the web series Noble, My Love out of sheer desperation for something fun and mindless (because that's what web series do best). It was both of those things, but it also took every single sexist trope that has ever bothered me in a K-drama male lead and put them into one (admittedly handsome) character. Dear Sung Hoon, if you flatly refuse to wear a shirt, I will happily use it to strangle your domineering character. But I digress.

Speaking of terrible male leads, let's talk about the first entry in the upcoming drama cycle — She Was Pretty.

Premise: Kim Hye Jin (Hwang Jung Eum) was pretty and poised as a child, but loss of fortune and some unkind puberty turn her into an unattractive (read: frizzy hair and too much blush) and noisy mess. Ji Sung Joon (Park Seo Joon) was Hye Jin's first love, an overweight, awkward child who grows up to be a handsome, accomplished magazine editor. A series of events (aka FATE) leads them to work in the same office, but Sung Joon no longer recognizes Hye Jin.

Episodes watched so far: 4

Thoughts so far: Ummmmmm I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are some major red flags in the first few episodes.

Neither am I, Sung Joon. Neither am I.
Let me start by saying that I found Park Seo Joon enchanting in Witch's Romance, so I really hoped to love him in this role.

Too bad his character is the pits.

I know, I know. He's a K-drama male lead, so what did I expect? Of course he's going to be coldhearted and cruel for the first few episodes, and then we'll find out that something terrible happened to him in America and that's why he goes around telling presumable strangers that they are too ugly and awkward to deserve the same name as his first love.

The problem isn't the type of character so much as the handling of that character so far. As Oh My Ghostess so recently illustrated, it's possible to have a jerk boss character who is also empathetic and multifaceted from episode one. I don't feel that way about Sung Joon, however. Instead of seeing a softer side to him in his sweet scenes with Ha Ri, I mostly just find those scenes annoying. How dare you treat everyone with contempt and then turn around and pretend to be sweet and charming to the girl you assume is your first love? It comes off as fake, and it kind of makes me not care about hearing his inevitable sob story.

Unfortunately, Hwang Jung Eum's character isn't exactly a shining beacon of character depth. I find it interesting that she called herself a supporting character because that's is exactly how she has been written so far. A caricature is okay as a secretary, but it's not ideal to carry a show. Hwang Jung Eum needs a director who can tone down her over-the-top histrionics, but it feels like, if anything, the writer and director are encouraging her to dial up the crazy even more.

Sorry, but if I were her boss, I would definitely fire her for trying to pull down my pants on the second day of work.

It's not all doom and gloom on the show, however! I'm pretty sure the amount of time it took me to catch a massive case of Second Lead Syndrome for Siwon's goofy reporter (and probably chaebol in disguise) must be some kind of record. Yeah, his character is a little zany too, but his brand of zany actually makes me like Hye Jin more when they're together.

The same can be said for Go Joon Hee as Ha Ri, Hye Jin's best friend. Even if she isn't Sung Joon's actual first love, that pairing has much more chemistry than our OTP does so far. I also love having a second female who isn't a terrible person, giving us one of the better female friendships I've seen on a drama in a while.

I know that the entire premise of this series revolves around First Love That Must Be Fate, but this is a rare case where I feel that the show could really benefit from carrying the B pairings to the end. Siwon's Shin Hyuk sees Hye Jin in a way that Sung Joon doesn't. He doesn't need the inevitable makeover or the fateful pull of first love to make him appreciate her for who she is. Similarly, Sung Joon and Ha Ri genuinely seem to enjoy being together right now, in the present. Why not just go for something different and give us the pairings that already work?

Why do I love you so much, Siwon? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

I'm still hopeful that I'll end up eating my words and that the show can turn things around, but for now, I'm bracing myself to sob over Siwon's sad dimples until the end of time.

Where to watch:
DramaFever (premiering 9/30 with a 2-week delay)