Exploring Korean Drama: You’re Beautiful

you're beautiful

The whole way through the first couple episodes of You’re Beautiful, I couldn’t stop singing to myself: “How do you solve a problem like Go Mi Nyeo?  How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?”  Our protagonist is a young nun initiate who doesn’t quite fit in at the convent.  When she goes out into the world to join a top kpop group disguised as her twin brother, well, it’s not hard to guess she doesn’t quite fit in there either.

how do you solve a problem like mi nyeo?

I’d like to say a word in her behalf: Mi Nyeo makes me laugh.

Yes, You’re Beautiful is about a nun who impersonates her brother and joins a kpop group.  Yes, even by kdrama or romantic comedy standards that’s a ridiculous premise.  Yes, it works, and it’s adorable.  That’s due to the trademark zany Hong Sisters humor (the sister writing duo who first hooked me on kdramas with My Girl, and who would pen the fabulous My Girlfriend is a Gumiho the year after You’re Beautiful).

The Hong Sisters are able to pull off ridiculous stories and crazy characters because they simultaneously take their dramas very seriously and not very seriously at all.  They’re committed to what they’re doing and their dramas contain layers of meta and social commentary (in You’re Beautiful’s case my favorite are the scenes depicting A.N.JELL fan fiction, and the boys’ reaction to it).  But they can also go for wholehearted camp, and You’re Beautiful is no exception.

Go Mi Nyeo (who spends most of the drama being called Mi Nam, her twin brother’s name) and Tae Kyung shouldn’t be so likable because on paper they’re cardboard cutouts.  Tae Kyung is a grouchy and arrogant male lead.  Mi Nyeo, bless her, is dumb — sweet and well-meaning and even sassy at times, but dumb.  That should annoy me a lot more than it does, but it doesn’t because the actors sell it that well.

They do so by being so adorable I can’t stand it.  Either alone or together, I just want to pat them on the head all of the time, a common impulse I have with the main characters in Hong Sisters dramas.  Tae Kyung acts all aloof around others, but we get enough scenes of him revealing his candy-soft exterior when he’s alone that we can’t help but love him.  Whether he’s Frankensteining stuffed animals to make a custom one perfectly suited for Mi Nyeo, or using his anonymous role as a moderator of the A.N.JELL online fan club to suss out her feelings for him, he makes us melt.  His frequent scowls only make his rare smiles seem all the more like sunshine breaking through clouds.

working together

Tae Kyung: “When I’m with her I’m confused,
Out of focus and bemused. And I never know exactly where I am.”

As for Mi Nyeo, it’s hard not to like her when, despite some of her more obvious flaws, she’s just so selfless and giving, without being an annoying martyr about it.  She redirects her whole life to make sure that her twin doesn’t lose the opportunity of a lifetime, though it’s explained that she studied to become a nun because it’s all that she knew.  She keeps digging herself in deeper with A.N.JELL all out of sacrificial love for her brother, and later, out of the affection she has for the other members of the band.

Tae Kyung and Mi Nyeo work because, although they might seem like an odd couple on the surface, in reality they match one another.  Mi Nyeo might not bring a lot to the table brains-wise, but she’s overflowing with love, which is just what the affection-starved Tae Kyung needs.  It’s annoying that they fall into such stereotypes: the distant but brilliant man and the empathetic loving woman, but the humor carries it, and the Hong Sisters will play more with gender roles in their future dramas.

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