Chungmuro/Film News
Point-counterpoint: Pursuing beauty in 200 Pound Beauty
by | April 9, 2009 | 170 Comments

In last week’s Open Thread, a back-and-forth developed between two commenters that caught my eye, because it dealt with a point that had been at the back of my mind for a while. Ever since I first saw the smash 2006 romantic comedy 200 Pound Beauty [미녀는 괴로워], in fact.

The comments dealt with 200 Pound Beauty‘s plastic-surgery themes, and echoed some of my own reservations with the movie. Don’t get me wrong; I totally enjoyed watching it — it was light, funny, nicely acted — but something just didn’t sit right with me at the end. And the conversation that emerged last week captured that debate very well, I thought.

So, I asked both Sere and Samsooki if they would be okay with furthering the discussion in a sort of point-counterpoint conversation (similar to how Dahee and I discussed a particular drama character previously). They’ve both graciously agreed to go with it, and here’s the result.

Hope you enjoy!

SONG OF THE DAY

200 Pound Beauty OST – “Beautiful Girl” by Kim Ah-joong. [ Download ]

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For those who are unfamiliar with the film, the gist is:

A good-hearted, overweight backup/ghost singer, Hanna (Kim Ah-joong), has a beautiful singing voice that goes underappreciated given her looks. She’s a sweet optimist despite the demeaning treatment she is subject to and dreams of being a singer (on her own) and has a crush on the producer for whom she works (Joo Jin-mo). When the cruelty goes overboard, however, Hanna decides to get full-body plastic surgery, and for the next year she goes “missing” — cutting off all ties to her former life — as she receives multiple surgeries. When she’s finally “ready” to be revealed in her new body, she’s a beautiful, slim, completely different-looking woman. With her new looks, she gets signed by her former producer and promoted as a “natural beauty,” and takes on the new identity as pop singer “Jenny.” Jenny becomes a smash success, but Hanna (as sweet-hearted as ever) finds it difficult to keep up the lie about her identity.

 

 

SAMSOOKI: I watched 200 Pound Beauty with my wife, and I have to say that I really enjoyed the movie… Kim Ah Joong… I didn’t really think the fat suit worked (didn’t look real at all), but who cares. Kim Ah Joong just blisters the screen. Just…. awesome. The songs, the movie, the scenes, the characters… really good.

 
SERE: I need to know: what’s so great about it?

 
SAMSOOKI: Well, I thought it was charming: it’s a fairy tale that every person wants to believe in — that we can all turn from ugly ducklings to beautiful swans. And in this case, the transformation was from an obese woman to an unbelievably beautiful girl. But in this case, rather than a magic wand, it was the hand of a plastic surgeon. And in addition to the fairy tale, the acting, the comedy factor and catchy songs sung by the main character, Kim Ah Joong….. hard to ask for more from a movie.

 
SERE: Personally, I *hated* it. I can’t even begin to list the reasons I feel that way because the sheer number of them frightens me. This is coming from a girl who’s (1) never been slim in her life and therefore can relate to what the main character felt and (2) been through plastic surgery several times (true, I hadn’t them done for the heck of it or to appear more beautiful, but cos it was necessary. I’m talking about reconstructive plastic surgery in my case… but whatever, SO not the point). I do not *get* it.

The premise of the movie feels wrong and the end message of the movie is nothing if not poisonous to girls and young women, imho. Plus, major plastic surgery not only sucks, but it hurts like you wouldn’t believe so anyone willing to put herself through a year of that kind of torture, again and again, is nuts. Of all the patients I met at the plastic surgery ward — and I met many — not one of them underwent an operation with a light heart and no one of them did it *just* to get someone’s heart. I know it’s only fiction, and that there’s some nice music and all, but I truly cannot see the appeal of this movie. So if you can let me know what you see in this, I’d be forever and ever grateful. I’m genuinely curious.

 

 
SAMSOOKI: Well, if the audience were to take the movie literally, then we might have problems because the promotion of radical surgery to make your dreams come true is… at the height of irresponsibility. Yet, even without this movie, those ideas are there anyway. And, I don’t think 200 Pound Beauty is trying to say that plastic surgery is the way to go to make your dreams come true. It is merely on a side item. Like, take the movie Terminator 2 with its violence and gun shot victims every minute, etc. Does this movie promote gun violence to achieve one’s goals, because the main characters utilize extreme violence to achieve theirs? The gun violence is not really the point and we accept it to advance the plot.

 
SERE: But see, that’s exactly the point. Even if you — and it’s a general you, not you Samsooki — don’t take the movie seriously or literally, there’ll always be a number of girls who might shake their head about the message and yet, on some level they’ll be exposed to it. The cat would be out of the bag, so to speak, and I do think that cat, even if it was intended to be mindless entertainment, may be more dangerous than the average one. You know?

You brought up movies such as Terminator…well, of course nobody thinks that it promotes violence, but it’s a sci-fi movie…people do realize it’s not to be taken seriously. With movies like 200 Pound Beauty, the lines are much, *much* more blurred cos it does tackle issues that are contemporary and… real. You said it yourself, beauty is important…we are exposed to it and to its clichés everyday: people get even discriminated because of their looks. That’s why I can only see a potentially dangerous message to this movie.

 
SAMSOOKI: Or for another example, take almost any romantic movie… Usually, it goes like this: boy meets girl, then take your pick — (fish out of water, mistaken / unknown identity, contract / fake relationship, forbidden love, competing love interests etc.), then boy and girl get together at the end. Does this accurately depict what happens in a relationship? Does anyone know ANY couple whose lives actually resemble Breakfast At Tiffany’s?

 
SERE: Of course not. But romantic movies usually do not have ulterior motives, so to speak, they just try to fulfill one of the most common fantasies of young women: find their Prince Charming and live happily after. Which is an element that is in 200 Pound Beauty as well: throw Prince Charming in the mix, and you’ve got an explosive plot that kids will find irresistible. Add a stellar cast, nice music and a little humor in and there’s no contest. I’m not saying I never cracked a smile during the whole movie or that I didn’t enjoy the songs — I did! — but the message it gives totally ruins it for me.

 
SAMSOOKI: And yet: we live in a world where beauty does matter. People discriminate based on looks almost as often as they breathe. And beauty as an “end” in and of itself is also a goal of almost every culture as well. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t matter to me either. 200 Pound Beauty is about how a woman, trapped in a world where she could not express herself because of her obese condition, ultimately finds happiness. The “moral” of the story is that her ability to obtain that happiness was predicated on her being able to live with herself, and so she had to be honest in the end. That’s the message. That, and Kim Ah Joong is pretty hot.

 

 
SERE: See, if Hanna (Kim Ah Joong) had done surgery, extreme and unrealistic may it have been, for herself or because she felt discriminated against and humiliated or cos she wanted to sing, then I may have frowned, but I would have understood. But no, mostly she did it for someone else, to appeal to her crush. Remember when she said — in the same sequence you mention — that when she was being sliced open on the operating table, she could go on because she only thought of him? So no, she didn’t do it to feel better and comfortable with her body or to “fight” for her rights against an unfair society. And besides, even if she went through a great deal of pain, physical and not, and even if she did realize that being true to yourself is important, the message that comes through, in the end, is, “Look, boys and girls, you may suffer, but in end, it might be worthy. You’ll be beautiful, rich and successful in love, too.” How’s that for a fair message? It is hopeful? Maybe I’m too cynical, but I’ve seen too many 16-year-olds *begging* their parents to get breast implants and I’ve heard *horror* stories about teenagers from my plastic surgeon…and honestly, I’m not making this up. It’s a reality… that’s why the premise bothers me so much.

 
SAMSOOKI: I appreciate your thoughtfulness, but I think you point at 200 Pound Beauty because the movie deals literally with the issue of cosmetic surgery as a viable means to achieve one’s goals, but you might be pointing your finger at too narrow a target.

 
JAVABEANS: I’m popping up there to say that I don’t think that’s exactly the problem that people have with the film. Or I’ll speak merely for myself and say that that my problem with the film is not merely that the movie deals with cosmetic surgery as a lifestyle choice. I have no problem with plastic surgery. It’s the flippancy with which the movie delivers its message that “You’re valuable even if you’re ugly or pretty! Hanna’s pretty on the inside, and that’s what counts!… so at the end of the day, you might as well be pretty!”

 
SERE: Exactly!

Do you remember what’s the last scene? It’s about the surgeon who’s bragging about his skills and a young woman who wants to get a complete makeover. It’s like even TPTB are saying, “It’s going to happen again anyway so why are you even trying to resist? A little surgery, what can it do? Do it, do it, and you’ll be just like Hanna and get everything.” It’s like the whole point of the movie was moot, IF it was really trying to say: stay true to yourself and accept yourself as you are. It failed in that, imho. Had it ended with, say, Hanna tearfully realizing what’s important in her life, I would’ve still frowned, but it would’ve been a lot better. So in conclusion, I have problems with the premise of 200 Pound Beauty *and* also the ending.

You know, there’s a movie — Shallow Hal — with Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow that tackles the same issues, minus the surgery: beauty, love, how society discriminates, etc., and compared to 200 Pound Beauty, it is 100% better imho (still not my kind of movie, but that’s beside the point). Even if both movies wanted to give the same message, one managed to do it nicely even though it was slapstick for the most part and the other, the way I see it, did not and it may be potentially dangerous, that’s all I’m saying.

 

 
JAVABEANS: I have to say that the last scene was the part that ruined the movie for me. I was enjoying it, although I did feel a little uneasy at the message, until that last scene just undid all the goodwill the rest of the movie had built up. What’s worse is that the woman who asks for surgery at the end is Hanna’s friend — the backup singer friend who had been the “prettier” of the two, back when Hanna was “ugly,” and who was then relegated to being the uglier friend after Hanna’s transformation. She’d always seemed to be the example of a woman who was secure in herself and who would look down on cosmetic surgery as a way of conforming to societal pressure to be beautiful. In having her opt for surgery — full-body, head to toe, just like Hanna! — it sends the message (perhaps unintentional, but distasteful all the same) that after seeing the way Hanna’s life has transformed, she wants the same, and this surgery will achieve that for her. This brings out my STABBY HANDS.

 
SAMSOOKI: Let me see if I can’t distill the argument against the movie. 200 Pound Beauty promotes the message that “girls, if you want to be successful and happy, you must be 99 lbs and look like a supermodel — so do WHATEVER it takes to look like that.” And this message is wrong and extremely dangerous. Here’s my response to that.

Take a look at any Korean actress under 30 y/o that you find on dramabeans, and here’s what I found when I looked at six who had been recently featured – Kim So Eun (97 lbs, 5′4), Jung Ryeo Won (99 lbs, 5′6), Lee Yo Won (106 lbs, 5′7) Gu Hye Sun (92 lbs, 5′4), Im Yoon Ah (97 lbs, 5′5), and Kim Ha Neul (99 lbs, 5′6). What’s the hidden message that the k-dramas are sending out, when every actress hovers around 100 lbs and is between 5′4 and 5’6? But its all fantasy, isn’t it? These movies and dramas deal with impossibly beautiful people, with impossibly easy jobs, with impossibly unrealistic speed-check-ins at Incheon Airport, and have impossibly loyal friends who have no life other than to hang out with you. I think the audience understands they are dealing with fantasy. If they do not, then they have bigger issues to deal with.

And if you want to argue that 200 Pound Beauty sends the wrong message, it is not the movie that created the message — its the culture.. Every commercial, every music video, every movie, every TV show, the women are all the same — rail thin, elf round eyes, and paler than a surprised ghost that never goes outdoors. 200 Pound Beauty brings this issue up to the surface, but the message has always been there. Can we point our fingers at 200 Pound Beauty, and not also hit every single k-drama and every movie?

 
JAVABEANS: I don’t think a movie has to be entirely fantasy or entirely literal. That’s a little too black and white for me. There are motifs and themes in fantasy (Lord of the Rings? Harry Potter?) that apply in the real world, just as there are fantasy elements in much more “realistic” films and dramas.

The fact is, messages are important and people take away certain ideas from uber-popular movies like 200 Pound Beauty whether intentionally or not. It’s a bit like the Britney Spears argument, “But I never asked to be a role model!” Whether or not a poptart with tweenage fans wants to be a role model, whether or not a movie intends to convey a pernicious message, it has to deal with the responsibility of being a bearer of that message. And it’s up to the movie to treat it with thoughtfulness, or not.

I agree that 200 Pound Beauty is certainly not the only offender — as you point out, there are dramas and pop culture at large to point fingers at, too — but the debate isn’t whether those are also culpable, just whether this one is. And to me, it is.
 

 
SERE: I think you’re missing the point, Samsooki. True, most of the actresses out there — Korean and non-Korean — are skinny, more often than not even skeletal, but it’s not like the point of the drama/movie, the key storyline, is to say, “Look, they’re skinny and beautiful and therefore they’re good and successful and even got a boyfriend or a husband.” Is there a storyline like that? The only one I could think of when the weight of the main character is mentioned *at all* was My Name is Kim Sam Soon, but it was done in such a way that it wasn’t recklessly dealt with: it was very realistically and sensibly done.

Anyway, yes, many actresses are skinny, and they’re most likely chosen because of their looks (after all that’s how the system works, and we all know that), but whatever the reason, the message of the movie itself isn’t strictly linked to the weight of the actress. What I mean is, you’re one step ahead of me. There are 2 ultimate messages to movies/dramas, imho: (1) the one of the movie/drama itself which (a) revolves around the plot and the characters, (b) is the most direct and (c) is supposed to grab the attention of the viewer, not only entertain him/her; and (2) the one which you speak of, which is about the casting and society in general. But in my opinion, this message is quite obscure and most likely it wasn’t even meant to go through. Hm, I don’t know if I expressed myself clearly here.

Anyway, 200 Pound Beauty takes what are extremely serious issues — plastic surgery, weight problems, discriminations, perception of Self — and treats them *extremely* lightly. And *that* makes me uneasy. If you want to argue that it’s just fantasy, that a simple movie cannot be blamed for the cultural mishaps of an entire society, well, of course I can’t blame it for that… nobody can. But, even though I firmly believe that movies should be entertaining and fun, there’s also the tiny little problem that treating sensitive topics in such ways is always quite dangerous.

 
SAMSOOKI: Yes, the movie did treat plastic surgery lightly. But, it is merely a movie device used to move the plot along. Some stories use magic wands, others use a time machine, or a genie in a bottle, whatever. Now, again, I agree that the movie’s use of this device (“magic” plastic surgery) was problematic, but if so, then I really think that we are just treading on the edge of a much larger issue, which is the way that Korean culture overwhelming supports a singular notion of physical beauty.

 
SERE: But it’s not the plot device itself I have a problem with. It’s how and why that plot device is used. It’s used in an otherwise realistic — or as much as a rom com can be — “chick flick” aimed at, I assume, young women. And that might be confusing. BTW, that notion of physical beauty? So not only Korean!

 
SAMSOOKI: You have issues with how the plot device is used? So if the main character hadn’t used magic plastic surgery, but had gone through 8 months of severe diet and physical training (still not realistic, but again, we are dealing with fantasy), then would your problems with the movie disappear because plastic surgery was not used? To me, the issue would STILL be there, because the larger issue is how Korea (and other countries) champion the ideal of physical beauty.

 
SERE: My problems with the movie wouldn’t disappear entirely, but most of them? Yeah. Look, I could have even accepted the plastic surgery plot device, but IF and only if the character had gone through such a change for herself and herself alone (for her health, whether mental or physical, etc.) rather than to be pretty in order to be noticed by the guy she loved. You could argue that if that *ultimately* finding love is for her own benefit and yeah, I suppose, but do you have to completely forget who you are in the process? All I’m saying is that all the topics mentioned in this movie are rather complex, and using or abusing them in such a movie — and do we agree it was meant to be a “light and fun” rom com? Cos if we don’t, then this whole discussion is sort of pointless — can trigger all sorts of tricky problems and reactions. My main issue with 200 Pounds is that The Powers That Be treated serious problems in a light way, totally disregarding what the message they were sending was. Serious issues + light rom com = not a great combo, imho.

I do agree that there’s a much larger issue at hand (the ideal of physical beauty), but you can’t change society in a day, right? You can, however, start making small steps in that direction with, say, movies. But this is an entirely different problem, I think.

 

 
SAMSOOKI: By contrast, we can look at an American movie which also deals with issues of obesity, fat suits, beauty inside vs beauty outside, etc. — Shallow Hal. The message of Shallow Hal seems to be a good one: “Hey, everyone, beauty is more than skin deep.” If you haven’t seen the movie, the main character has a spell put on him where he sees women only through their “inner” beauty. So, if he sees a supermodel who is a bad person, then he’ll see that person as ugly, whereas this obese woman who has a heart of gold (played by fat-suited Paltrow), he sees her as the beautiful Gwenyth Paltrow without the fat suit.

I know that people will argue that it is only when you ARE good that you look beautiful, but the reality is that nobody can tell if you are good or bad from just your appearance. So the perverse result is that Shallow Hal’s the subliminal message is to associate beauty with “good” and ugly means “bad.” And that message is actually worse than the one in 200 Pound Beauty.

 
SERE: Premise: I’m not saying Shallow Hal is a work of art (on the contrary, I actually think it has lots and lots of flaws), but I also believe it dealt with the same issues 200 Pound Beauty tackled, but in a less horrifying way. What you said it is true: the clichés and stereotypes you mentioned are there, no doubt, but if you think about it, Hal’s prejudices, however shameful and wrong they are, are exactly the same of Society. So in the end, the movie actually mirrors what is, canonically, considered beautiful and what is not (FYI, I’m in no way saying that I agree with THAT message). I mean, Hal always thought beautiful people were only hot supermodels, he never even **considered** inner beauty, but then he changes his mind (I’ll never forget the scene with the girl whose face was burnt). And yeah, the clichés are awful, but the ultimate message of the movie is: everyone is beautiful no matter how they look. Period.

The ultimate message of 200 Pound Beauty is, on the other hand, slightly different: it’s more like, yeah, yeah, everyone is beautiful, but it doesn’t really matter because if you aren’t, you can fix that and yes, you might suffer, but you’ll get your happy ending in the end. Honestly, that last scene in 200 Pounds left me really, really bitter and quite speechless.

 
SAMSOOKI: Bottom line: I really enjoyed watching 200 Pound Beauty because it brought together everything I enjoy in a movie — compelling character brought out by great acting, comedy, romance, songs, etc. The story line may have problems from a “message” standpoint, if you take what is otherwise a minor plot device (really, no different than a magic wand, but nobody criticizes the use of magic to make limousines out of pumpkins) as the message, but if we point at this movie for pushing beauty as an end-all-be-all goal for women, then we can blame all of Korean pop culture for the same thing. And I don’t see anyone doing that.

 
SERE: I liked the songs and her singing, but I cannot help but thinking that maybe TPTB could have achieved the same success, still have filmed a nice rom com, but without the potentially nasty message thrown into the mix. I would’ve enjoyed it a lot more!

 
JAVABEANS: I have to thank you both for taking such time and effort into this discussion! This whole plastic surgery issue is so relevant in pop culture in particular and society at large, and you both have been wonderfully eloquent about expressing your thoughts on both sides. Already I’m eager to see what kind of comments and discussion this sparks below.

 
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170 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Orchid

    After reading the lengthy discussion, i feel really shallow. I watched the movie and enjoyed it for what it was – entertainment. Although i do not believe that one should subject oneself to plastic surgery just to gain another person’s approval, favour…or love.

    • 1.1 dbsklove

      OKAY THANK GOD. I thought I was the only one who watched the movie just for entertainment/enjoyment whatever you call it.
      HAHA plus joo jin mo <3

      • 1.1.1 YChase007

        Me too… lol – I thought the movie was excellent and it didnt make me want to go and chop off all my fat. I completely understand that was the main characters method… lol

        • 1.1.1.1 Nam

          Just read this thread in 2013 and I still agree with SAMSOOKI.

          I watched TPB because it was entertaining and not because I was looking for some movie to influence or change my life. I don’t get why people like bashing TPB because of its skewed message about beauty. It’s like were supposing that people are that weak willed to be easily swayed by a simple movie to just go to any plastic surgeon to change their appearance.

          Come on.

          Give the viewers some credit of having enough EQ and IQ to just watch the movie and take it as just a form of entertainment. It’s like the argument about the Harry Potter movies. The religious fanatics are bashing HP because it promotes witchcraft and blasphemy yada yada, but helloo… I think we’re not that dumb to actually believe everything we see on the big screen or on TV.

          Anyway, basically my point is that I don’t believe that a movie like TPB will turn women into raving plastic surgery addicts. It’s all about the viewers’ core values. If you’re a person who is confident about yourself and know where you stand when you see the movie then you’ll remain the same. If you’re a person who is not averse to having plastic surgery then you’ll remain the same. If you’re a person who loves plastic surgery then you’ll remain the same.

          Some may argue: What’s the use of watching the movie if it doesn’t affect the audience?

          My answer is simple:

          “Just take it as it is. Don’t be too serious. It IS a CHICK FLICK so don’t expect too much about the plot/message. And just appreciate it for its visual/
          artistic value. :D”

          • 1.1.1.1.1 Madilicious

            I think most of the concern over the message isn’t that women aren’t intelligent enough to stop themselves from turning into raving plastic surgery addicts. I think the concern about this film is the same concern many mothers, and other women have about the way popular media portrays women, and their bodies. While most of us understand they are an impossible ideal for most people, and that models and pop singers don’t represent a large part of the world population… The effect that media has on young women, especially teens, can be different. They often don’t have the maturity and hormonal stability to understand that this is NOT an expected ideal, and these body traits are not typical.

            Plastic surgery has become so common place in Korea, even with teen girls. This movie (which I enjoyed, really) presents the idea that if you’re fat, you’re not worth anything other than what other people can garner from you, and it blatantly puts out there that plastic surgery and becoming “beautiful” will make you worth more as a person, and be deserving of love and attention.

            So, I don’t think it’s just this particular movie people are upset about. It’s the message that popular media sends to young girls as a whole. And this film just puts it more blatantly.

  2. soysauce

    WOW, loooong discussion…will be back to read :D

  3. Soy

    I also thought the movie’s message was rather horrifying, but still enjoyed the movie for what it was nonetheless.
    Why I disapprove is that not every girl who watches the movie will be like us, who have their priorities and insecurities in order, and will inevitably take in the wrong message- which is basically saying that plastic surgery will make you pretty, you will go through a little hardship (physical and emotional), and then you will get what you want in the end.
    But I also saw the ending as somewhat truthful. Because in the end, no matter what people say, there will always be people who will want plastic surgery to solve their problems, and really, there’s nothing we can do to stop them. That’s life, and I guess we have to accept that fact too.

  4. Christinaaar

    wow…. such a great debate. you should have more arguments like this javabeans

  5. soshee

    When I was watching this movie, I wasn’t even thinking much about the plastic surgery message. I watched it as pure comedy, laughing and crying through much of the movie.

    Now that the topic of the movie’s (un)disturbing message has been brought up, I really think that the “go do plastic surgery to get the one you love” was not the MAIN message of this movie. In contrast, after watching this movie, I admired Hanna’s sacrifice (physically in the immense pain associated with multiple surgeries, as well as emotionally in the need to disappear from her past life and completely reestablish herself) for the man she loved.

    And I really do not have a problem with Hanna’s decision to go for plastic surgery to get a man, and actually, I don’t think that was the only reason she did that. She also had her own dreams and ambitions to be a solo singer, and more so, was just tired of all the jeering superficial “beautiful” people directed at her. As much as she was emotionally strong, enough is enough sometimes. But for the sake of argument, even if she did go under the knife for a man, what’s wrong with that? Why is it more horrendous when it’s for a man, as opposed to when it’s for personal satisfaction, growth, etc? When it’s for a man, it’s in essence for love, which I believe is more important than success (to me).

    Furthermore, I have no problem with plastic surgery, and so have no problem with the repercussions this movie’s “pro-plastic surgery” message has. However, I do have a problem with lying about plastic surgery and this movie nicely addressed that point. Hanna ended up confessing that she was not a natural beauty, and through that confession, experienced further success, personal growth, and ultimately success in love.

    And as for the final scene of the movie during which Hanna’s friend goes for plastic surgery… I viewed it as a comic scene, with no real significance.

    Oh… and I have more to say. Plastic surgery is the result of an individual’s physical and emotional pain and money. Who is to say that the result from plastic surgery doesn’t belong to them? (I’m quoting indirectly from Boys Over Flowers here… I just relate everything to BOF lol.) It’s the same as using money to buy designer clothing. Yes, plastic surgery is “fake” but in a society with such advanced technology, even beauty can be bought and synthesized, as is almost everything else. So, I find nothing disturbing in the movie’s concentration in plastic surgery and the benefits to be gained from it.

    • 5.1 Ron

      Good points. But have to disagree with you on the one about doing something because of someone. Much as the idea of doing something because of someone is ‘honourable’, it’s also pretty stupid. Especially in this situation. This MAJOR situation, which is a matter of changing your body. My friend got plastic surgery recently, I’m pretty okay with it, other than the fact that he did it because his mom kinda pushed him into it. I had a big problem with that. It’s your life, your body. It’s for you to decide what’s best for you, not for someone else. They have no right. So what if he/she COULD BE the love of your life?! Personally, my life, my body, my decision. I’m certainly not going to do it FOR anyone.

  6. Sere

    Sarah and Samsookie, thank you again for this. It was really interesting and challenging!

    I can’t wait to read all the comments of your readers, JB!

    PS: I’ll come back to read everything tomorrow. Again with the time zones. It’s past 4 am here. *headdesk*

  7. Tea

    Oh, man, I was so excited to read this!! I love intelligent conversation about movies (a few honors film classes having ruined me), and so I really looked forward to this, lengthy though it was. It has been awhile since I’ve seen the movie, though, so I feel ill-equipped to post my opinion (and if I watched it again, I might even have to rescind my comments).

    But honestly, for all my ambivalence about movies (it’s sometimes tricky to negotiate between feminism and hopeless romanticism), I think reading this point-counterpoint just exhausted me. I don’t really know where to comment or what to say. I think there were some excellent points brought up, and while I do agree more with Sere and you, Javabeans, I applaud Samsooki for arguing his points.

    Some key points that I liked: this movie is flawed, but it’s one of many in such a culture (same can be said in all cultures, though). I find it interesting, the micro-analysis of one movie in a sea of media that perpetuates the same message, though. I also definitely agree that the last scene was entirely offputting–in fact, I was actually liking where the movie was headed with its message until the last scene, which completely reversed the way I had read the movie. I understand it was for comedic value, but that tiny scene undermined what I had interpreted to be the message of the movie, for (even more) commercial appeal, perhaps.

    Perhaps it’s been too long since I’ve seen the movie, but I was under the impression that the plastic surgery failed to produce what Hanna wanted. Wasn’t that what the climactic scene was about: that she had lost her self along the way, and that it was the fat, ugly girl who was more important? Was I wrong in thinking that she hadn’t necessarily found love with Joo Jin Mo’s character?

    After reading the point-counterpoint, I feel like I didn’t understand the movie at all. I thought the movie sought to, in some way, bring to light the double standard of beauty and plastic surgery (so taboo, and yet the best plastic surgeons are in Korea). The movie is unquestionably flawed and has several issues, but that it was so commercially successful and popular seemed like a step forward, given that it even confronted the topic.

    Ultimately, for me, perhaps the most tragic offense is that even considering the movie, there was such an uproar over Kim Ah Joong’s own plastic surgery.

  8. Enkhee

    I’m completely with Sere. I hated the movie too. I might have enjoyed the first part, but the ending completely and utterly ruined the whole thing for me. If i ever have a kid, she’s not watching this movie. That is, if I can’t raise her any better than a senseless simpleton. I feel sad for the future.

  9. hahaha

    I would definitely agree with SERE. I’m not just jumping on the bandwagon and criticizing, but I did notice what SERE was saying when I first saw the movie a few years back. As much as I enjoyed the movie, I couldn’t help, but notice the extremely wrong and dangerous message of the movie. The music was nice and the characters were too, but at the end I wouldn’t say I liked the movie. I think the reason why I ultimately didn’t like the movie was the whole of idea of conforming to society’s standard of beauty, which was a total turn off for me.

  10. 10 Jane

    LOL, Orchid, I feel EXACTLY the same way. I watched the movie and I completely loved it and enjoyed it, and that last scene with Kim Ah-joong’s best friend didn’t disturb me at all either. I guess saying that just now makes me look a little dense or stupid, but I really just enjoyed the movie because it’s a piece of mindless entertainment! And, yeah, I agree that everything out there has messages and things attached to it and producers/directors have responsibilities in making sure that they’re conveyed responsibly, but really! I just watched it and loved it and enjoyed it as a movie, period.

    (Good job on the discussion though guys, I really enjoyed reading it! :])

  11. 11 DramaVampire

    “…I admired Hanna’s sacrifice (physically in the immense pain associated with multiple surgeries, as well as emotionally in the need to disappear from her past life and completely reestablish herself) for the man she loved.” ~soshee

    Well that’s a bit scary…It’s not like she was sacrificing through pain etc. for the good of the guy she loved or to save him from some horrible fate, she was doing it to conform to his own shallow ideals and the ideals of the world. To admire someone for losing themself and conforming so completely (and dangerously I might add) in order to gain the affections of some guy is not a passionate or amazing sacrifice, it’s disgusting self-deception (on Hanna’s part) IMO.

    Thanks javabeans for posting this and for all your hard work. I’ve been following this website for quite awhile but this is the first time I actually felt like posting.

  12. 12 Toya

    Actually, I have the same problem, I liked the movie, but not the message. The only reason I liked the ending is because she didn’t get with the Producer in the end and I thought that was great because he never liked her for who she was when she was fat, why should that change since she’s slim. The hypocrisy of his attention for Hanna post-surgery is what turned me off. She was the same sweet loving person before that and he suddenly likes her now that she’s a mantis.

    I’m chubby, and have been chubby most of my teenage to adult life, and have only considered plastic surgery because diabetes runs in my family and my mother keeps telling me to lose the belly but I have no way to get to a gym, and I work practically every day so I don’t get in enough exercise.

    I could never change my voluptuous self just for a man, because, honey let’s face it, if you don’t like a woman you can hold on to then you aren’t the man for me.

    My sister is chubby and she has guys lined up around the block (though now is engaged, <3 Brother-in-Law) so I know there are plenty of men that love a chubby woman so I have never really been insecure about my shape.

    My point to the personal info rant? I think if you are secure enough in your own image, you’ll be fine watching the movie. If you are not, your insecurities will get the best of you and you’ll be saying to yourself, “Maybe I should do that”. I mean, come on, there are women out there with mustaches with husbands and 2.3 kids, you can’t tell me there is no one for the chubby, well kept women.

    Ok that’s my two-cents. Night <3

  13. 13 javabeans

    “Wasn’t that what the climactic scene was about: that she had lost her self along the way, and that it was the fat, ugly girl who was more important?”

    @Tea, yes, you’re right. My issue with this point is actually that they ALMOST had it right… and then they ruined it. (If the movie had been totally off-base on all counts, I would have dismissed it entirely and not cared at all.) The movie definitely makes the argument that Hanna wasn’t fulfilled by the surgery alone… and yet it also kinda has the cheeky point that Hanna was better off after the surgery anyway. Like, AFTER she became pretty, she could say, “Inner beauty is all that matters!” Because while Skinny Hanna missed Fat Hanna, I don’t think she’d take back her former life — it’s essentially Hanna having her cake and eating it, too.

    • 13.1 scarecrowslady

      I think that’s my problem with the film. If she was a 200 lb beauty, she’d have stayed that way. I think even the naming of the film seems to be a misnomer, in the sense that she was a 200 lb beauty but ends up not being that at all. Perhaps they used that title to get attention?

      Anything that promotes changing yourself for other people however you do it – gets a thumbs-down from me. It pushes a sub-conscious idea that you aren’t beautiful if you don’t fit the ‘norm’. Note I put quotes around ‘norm’, b/c I do think that changes as time goes on…

      I don’t think that shows like these are fantasy at all – not if you go by the standard English Lit definition (Engl. B.A. speaking here) – and as such are very damaging for sensitive, low-confidence people. I live in China currently, I’ve seen enough K and J-Drama to know that Asians are as obssessed with weight as NAmericans are – and it can get out of hand… (remembers eye surgeries, a la “You’re Beautiful”)

  14. 14 Sere

    Ok, I can’t help it.

    @soshee
    DramaVampire beat me to it. I was gonna reply pretty much what she said. I think what Hanna did was losing herself *completely* just to get the guy. And that, in my humble opinion, is a bad thing. Also? It’s not like she didn’t know what she was going to happen: true, she might have not predicted everything, but a basic plan of what she was going to say and do was there.

    And another thing. If you really knew how unbelievably painful plastic surgery is, you wouldn’t admire her. You’d think she was somewhat stupid to have gone through such pains JUST for a man. No matter how great a guy is, if he doesn’t “see” you, he’s not worthy. Just my 2 cents

    @Sarah
    I recall you mentioning a sequel. Is it going to happen?

  15. 15 soshee

    “Well that’s a bit scary…It’s not like she was sacrificing through pain etc. for the good of the guy she loved or to save him from some horrible fate, she was doing it to conform to his own shallow ideals and the ideals of the world. To admire someone for losing themself and conforming so completely (and dangerously I might add) in order to gain the affections of some guy is not a passionate or amazing sacrifice, it’s disgusting self-deception (on Hanna’s part) IMO.”

    @dramavampire
    hahaha I didn’t mean to sound like a crazy delusional supporter of plastic surgery, but what was Hanna supposed to do when it seemed to her that the man she loved couldn’t see past her ugly exterior. She couldn’t make him, and she was also under so much pressure from other people who kept on making fun of her. What I meant to convey in my previous comment was that she went through hardships to get the beauty she ended up with. And in the end, I feel that the guy loved her partly for her inner beauty and not just because she became beautiful.

    Adding on, it’s not always deceiving to try and conform to the ideals of the man you love. It just shows how much she was willing to give up for him. And in the end, she didn’t completely lose herself, even if she did for a period of time.

  16. 16 julier

    It has been awhile since I watched the movie so I can’t fully join in the discussion. I wasn’t crazy about it. But, I do remember being bothered by the notion that her transformation was done through plastic surgery. Maybe surgery could give someone the start, but it would take a lot of hard work to get *that* great of a body. So I remember thinking it was very unrealistic, and it bugged me that the dr got all the credit. No way you can go under the knife and wake up like that. I too saw the plastic surgery as just the vehicle for the change and a side issue (again an unrealistic depiction of it too!). I think anyone going from being obese to thin and healthy is a transformation for the better. And, I think anyone going through a big change like that would deal with some identity issues…kind of like when Al Roker quickly dropped 100 lbs thanks to gastric bypass surgery and it was very controversial. People had trouble accepting him as thin. I admit- I am a big fan of the Biggest Loser and I love seeing people transforming their lives, but I can imagine there is a lot of emotional baggage that needs to be sorted out along the way.

    The plastic surgery that bothers me is the otherwise gorgeous healthy woman that nips and tucks her way to some sort of perceived perfection. Also, I agree that the super skinny is also a bit much. I’ve had several friends get surgery…eyes, boobs, tummy tuck (she had lost 100 lbs and really needed it tho!). Sometimes I do think it can get a bit crazy, but with each friend, I understood it. Who am I to say? Oh well, sorry I can’t comment more fully b/c it has been so long since I have seen the movie. Thanks javabeans for highlighting the discussion.

  17. 17 Jen

    I felt much the same way Sere did when I first saw this movie. It got to the point where I blogged about it and told people not to watch it because the message was awful. However, I admit that when I first saw it, I already had preconceived notions about the movie and its message. My thoughts were somewhere along the lines of, if this movie deals with a chick undergoing plastic surgery just to be loved, I will hate it. Even so, I gave the movie another try, and I found that it had another message: happiness is the ultimate goal.

    For many of us, plastic surgery would be an extreme way of achieving that goal, but who’s to judge those that decide to undergo plastic surgery to feel happy? In the movie, Hana was at a point in her life where she was so unhappy that she wanted to kill herself. In a way, it was the plastic surgery that saved her. And, she might’ve done it because she wanted the love and attention, but she wanted love and attention so that she could be happy.

    Of course, she also discovered along the way that she risked a lot in getting the plastic surgery: her health, her ability to be touched (LOL), her father, her friendship, her career, etc. And, if this movie were all about how plastic surgery is the solution to unhappiness, then I don’t think the movie would’ve touched upon the negative consequences of Hana’s actions.

    Hana had problems even after her plastic surgery. She lived in constant fear of being revealed as a fake. And, even after it was revealed that she was not a natural beauty, she had antis saying and writing negative things about her. In addition, even her love interest was turned off at the idea of her having had plastic surgery.

    Eventually, Hana had to realize that everyone has problems — pretty or not. Beauty doesn’t always equal love. Beauty may garner attention, but the question of its sincerity will always be lingering. And, ultimately, it wasn’t because Hana was pretty that she became a hit sensation. It was because she was talented. She had an amazing voice that sold records.

    I still found the ending to be off-putting, but I think it’s because I wanted Hana’s friend to have seen her struggles and to realize that there’s more to a person than just looks. Even so, hey, if it makes her happy.

    • 17.1 scarecrowslady

      Ah… so if it makes you happy, then it’s ok? This is a great philosophical question, right…. And a slippery slope. Even if you approach it, like the Wiccan philosophy, “Do as you will as long as it doesn’t harm another”, you’ve got a problem because no man is an island. It is arguable that your actions to make yourself happy can result in harming another. Unfortunately, we all have circles of influence and in the movie, you could argue that a side victim is her friend at the end. Because something like plastic surgery for beauty’s sake/love’s sake only is self-perpetuating in a superficial society.

  18. 18 djes

    Interesting discussion.

    Like many others, I was watching this movie for fun, and more like drooling over Joo Jin Moo. And for a split second, I agreed why Hanna took the surgeries, for THAT man.

    But in real life, I really hate women who do everything, change their lives just to please their partners..especially when it comes to their physical appearances.
    Relationship is about take and give, and accept who you are, not how you look like.

    The discussion above, is more interesting because held between male and female, to show how we have different approach to a problem.
    I mean, the rate of men doing some kind of “sacrification” like Hanna did must be lower than women do.
    I would like to hear more opinions from male readers!

    In other note, I praised Kim Ah Joong for taking this role, since herself known for having plastic surgeries. And also Bada ( of SES ). the one who took this role for the musical, also did surgeries…and sorry to say, failed. She was beautiful before, and the surgeries…made her look weird.

    • 18.1 scarecrowslady

      Other than Michael Jackson? Well… you bring up an interesting point about men here.

      In nature, the male parts of the species almost always are “prettier” and have to do all the dancing/strutting to get the more dowdy female.
      Historically speaking, depending on the culture, men have had to go to great lengths to stay ‘handsome’ (think France and Italy between the 1300s-1600s).

      But I think somewhere in the pioneering stage, men have got this whole thing of “I’m a man, I’m buff, gruff, unshowered and hairy – and women love me for it.” And there are women who dig Aragorn and Wolverine. But… I do think it’s interesting that only lately has another kind of man come onto the scene (some could label it metro or something else), where one’s looks are as important to them as looks are supposed to be for a female. I welcome it.

      I’m very egalitarian when it comes to externals. If I shave, you shave. If I groom, you groom. In some cases, if I put on makeup, feel free to put on your own. If I have to nip/tuck to be beautiful, you need to as well. Just saying… guys need to stop taking the process girls take to be beautiful for granted.

  19. 19 annieeee

    to be honest, when i finished watching the film, i was disappointed too, for many of the same reasons sere and dramabeans pointed out. i anticipated the film dealing with the issue of plastic surgery seriously and thoughtfully, but that was obviously not what happened. so to me, the film was very much overrated. true, it was fun to watch. but besides the catchy tunes and beautiful actors, there was little substance behind it. and of course, the ending left a potentially misleading message for many young viewers. the ending seemed to imply that yes, being yourself is more important, but if you also happen to be really gorgeous, then everything’s gonna go well for you.

  20. 20 sophie

    SAMSOOKI, while reading the different standpoints, I wanted you to get the last words.

    I found 200 Pounds Beauty to be a lovely and happy movie. It’s a solid piece of entertainment.

  21. 21 soshee

    “I think what Hanna did was losing herself *completely* just to get the guy. And that, in my humble opinion, is a bad thing. Also? It’s not like she didn’t know what she was going to happen: true, she might have not predicted everything, but a basic plan of what she was going to say and do was there.
    And another thing. If you really knew how unbelievably painful plastic surgery is, you wouldn’t admire her. You’d think she was somewhat stupid to have gone through such pains JUST for a man. No matter how great a guy is, if he doesn’t “see” you, he’s not worthy.”

    @sere, again, I don’t think she COMPLETELY lost herself. She gained much of it back towards the end. And really, her acquired beauty was just that extra push to get the guy to “see” her. Even at the beginning of the drama, despite the fact that he seemed to be using Hanna, he really did care for her, but her ugly exterior was just a turnoff. He needed to get past that, and Hanna really didn’t give him a chance, and immediately went for plastic surgery. When she came back all beautiful, there was no more of that “ugly exterior” obstacle for him (what’s his name btw… loll) to overcome. In the end, of course he appreciated that she got prettier, but he still loved her for her inner beauty.

    And because I reread this post, I really don’t think that this movie will influence girls out there to get plastic surgery for the man they love. 1) this movie is not entirely realistic and people will be able to see that. 2) unless a girl is so head over heels over a guy (like Hanna was), she wouldn’t subject herself to the immense pain of plastic surgery. and 3) this movie has such a comedy feel (i didn’t even think of the plastic surgery message when I first watched it) that, truthfully, the majority of people will not be thinking of the message this movie is putting out.

    just my opinion. feel free to disagree~~ I love debates =))

  22. 22 Oatmeal

    I think as we grow older we become protective of the younger generations. Sometimes OVERprotective. Yes, i do agree that the movie’s message can be negative (plastic surgery will make your dreams come true) or that it can be positive (its the beauty that’s within). Whichever way you look at it, its your opinion and should be left at that.
    I do not really think the movie was bad, life can be cruel, life is not all sugar and cotton candy. We might condem the movie for portraying something that IS REAL in life, because it has a negative effect on the younger generations but GIVE SOME CREDIT to the younger generations. They are not all stupid.
    I do agree that there is a FACT that certain movies affect people so much that they actual role play or believe in the messages. But then there are FACTS that certain people do not take movies literally, and often see it just as entertaining. We live in a world where we like to point fingers, its the TV’s fault, its the schools fault, or its the environment. We can all continue and destroy bad movies, bomb cigarettes company, shut down bad internet sites ETC. but in the end its up to US who decide what we want to be in life.
    We have to let the younger generation see, learn, make mistakes, and grow. Lets not think so low of them. And if they are too young to understand, then slowly teach them to make good decisions. And if they do stupid things, its THEIR decisions, because they made the choice to smoke or have plastic surgery. Some people are more impressionable then others, so what do we do? continue to put those people in boxes and cross your fingers they grow up fine? (destroy 200 pund movie?) NAH!!

  23. 23 katyyyyygirl.

    i agree that it isnt the greatest message. i also agree that the korean pop culture seems to be pretty okay with plastic surgery (it seems like everyone does it) and that pop culture even promotes the sometimes frightening thinness with celebrities and stuff. i dont think that 200 Pound Beauty really covered the topic well. I’ve been huge all my life (srsly, at 17, im a fxcking WALRUS. true story.) and i dont think that i could get plastic surgery to look good for someone else and be okay with that. if i were to get plastic surgery (which i so could never afford, so more like, diet and exercise like mad for years or whatever) it would have to be for myself. because enduring that for someone else wouldnt make me feel any better. it wouldnt make any of my self image issues go away. it wouldnt make me like myself any more than i do now.

    i think, still, though, that the movie was popular because it was entertaining. a lot of people i know who have watched it (i dont want to assume everrryyyyyonneeee was like this) watched it light heartedly, and took it at face value, without looking too deeply into the ‘message’ that it sent or anything of that sort. they just took it as a romantic comedy type thing, and were like whatever about everything else.

    “What’s worse is that the woman who asks for surgery at the end is Hanna’s friend… [who] always seemed to be the example of a woman who was secure in herself and who would look down on cosmetic surgery as a way of conforming to societal pressure to be beautiful.”

    This bothered me (in the film, not in writing). That last scene really just did NOT bode well with me, at all. it really struck a chord with me, though. dont get me wrong; i dont mind plastic surgery much, unless a person becomes like, addicted to plastic surgery and is always having something or other done (in which case it DOES bother me and IS a huge problem). in this movie, though, it’s treated too…i dont know. it just seems to promote the idea that a fat girl can get plastic surgery, look pretty, and all her problems will be solved. it worries me that this film was such a hit, because no matter how you look at it, its a negative message to send to girls, especially teens and preteens, because girls our age are so impressionable. we may think we’re mature and grown up or whatever, but we really are more susceptible to media influence than we think we are.

    saying that the ideas were already present in korean pop culture doesn’t condone the message that this movie sends. although thats true, movies like this only fuel the fire, and add to the problem.

    eepies, i`m gonna get ranty if i go on anymore. i mean, i already am kind of ranty, so i`m sorry if my reasoning/arguments are circular, not solid, or not very argument-y at all….yeah okay i`m done :0)

  24. 24 Samsooki

    Okay, I think I need to jump in here.

    Many people seem to think there is a difference between doing something dangerous and extremely painful (with no guarantee of success) when you have a “good” reason as opposed to doing it for a “bad” (or no) reason. But I’m not sure that there is, at least, not in the way that people think.

    Here’s my contention. Hanna is an adult. If she wanted the plastic surgery, just because she wanted to wear a nice floppy hat once in a while, that’s her right to do so – as long as she understands the risks and the consequences. And I don’t think it is anyone’s business, really, to ask why she chose it or whether she should have done so at all.

    If Hanna was a minor, or if she were incapable of rational thought, then others would have to debate it for her, but honestly, if she wants surgery to get a guy, or to get a job, or to wear nice clothing, or to get out of speeding tickets, or whatever, that’s her right, no? As long as she is willing to live with the consequences and she understands the risks?

    ***

    THAT SAID, the reason I think that 200 lb Beauty might have been irresponsible is because it reinforces a cultural stigma against people who aren’t skinny and attractive. This forces people into making decisions they may or may not have otherwise made.

    So, Hanna’s decision may or may not have been made entirely by her free will – she might have been influenced by cultural stigmas (which this movie, 200 lb Beauty, btw, perpetuates) that exist in Korean society.

    ON THE OTHER HAND, in the movie itself, I saw no evidence that Hanna didn’t know what she was doing, and didn’t have it in herself to just say no. She decided to do it, and she could have said no, but she chose the plastic surgery.

    For me, that ends the discussion. Hanna is a grown woman, and she chose a potentially catastrophic full-body surgery that could have ended her life or severely compromised it forever, out of her own free will.

    ****

    BUT, that does not answer the question of why all of us, including all the readers of Drama Beans, shake our heads and tsk tsk against movies like 200 lb Beauty and STILL follow the cultural markers and STILL drool over all the Korean actors (who are like 6+ feet tall and weigh 155 lbs) and sigh over Korean actresses who are 5’6 and weigh 100 lbs….

    We all share in the hypocrisy.

    Let’s not wag our fingers and roll our eyes too much, else we might take away from our time ogling the latest photos of Gong Yoo, Yoon Eun Hye, and Yoon Kye Sang…. (btw, Yoon Kye Sang is 6 feet tall…and weighs 133 lbs).

    -Samsooki

  25. 25 Renee

    Great discussion–I also found the film too squicky to be enjoyable. What really got me, though, wasn’t that she changed herself for someone else (because in the end, that’s a selfish motive), but that that someone else was so unworthy. The horrible things he said about her pre-surgery disqualified him as a romantic lead for me–I couldn’t find him attractive after that, and lost respect for her for still liking him.

    Plus, by having him end up with her (rather than, say, pining for her while she finds someone nice), it’s like the filmmakers endorsed his attitude toward her pre-surgery. Which really ticks me off.

  26. 26 Anon

    Am I the only one who thought the movie was totally boring?? I got about 45 mins into it (which was a struggle in itself) and ended up turning it off. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………

  27. 27 soshee

    @samsooki, I complete agree. I think people are against this movie b/c it explicitly deals with this whole plastic surgery controversy. The fact that actors and actresses nowadays are super skinny, beautiful, and plastic-surgerized (for the most part) seems to be an indirect reference to the plastic surgery controversy. It seems more “idealistic” to reject this movie, making it seem as if one is morally opposed to this outright promotion of plastic surgery for disrespectful means (for love). However, the same people support actors and actresses who have gotten where they are through plastic surgery, which is in essence, supporting plastic surgery for disrespectful means (this time, to gain popularity, fame, etc, or to just feel good about themselves). So it just seems a bit hypocritical to me…

  28. 28 nycgrl

    I can’t say really liked the film but I’m one of the few who also didn’t like “pretty woman” much either. Also interestingly enough I find the message in Pretty Woman much more disturbing than 200 pound beauty. Julia Roberts makes being a prostitute seem down right glamorous and wholesome. I have problems with these types of films as I do with any Disney fairy tale film.

    I do understand why people would enjoy these types of films since it deals with fantasy of transformation and who doesn’t fantasize about transforming themselves but I have an issue when the complete happiness or solution to a protagonist’s problems is centered around the guy. I think I would have been more appreciative if Hana got the plastic surgery because she knew realistically that she wouldn’t make it as a singer with her current looks or if she wanted retribution against the producer or the star singer. To me it is creepy and pathetic when a female character defines herself based on a man and not on her own wants and aspirations.

    Even as a complete aside from the message of the movie, I found 200 Pound beauty to be rather cliched and I watched it with a threadbare amount of interest. I actually wished it pissed me off enough to get me all worked up and angry so I can violently disagree with it but it was one of the those movies whose storyline is overall well trodden and meant to cater to the masses and was just eh for me. I think the most interesting part of the movie was her job as a phone sex worker. I thought that was the most interesting part of the movie.

    • 28.1 scarecrowslady

      I agreed about “Pretty Woman” and Disney stuff. Apart from Mulan… maybe… I mean, like… “Little Mermaid” – you don’t need to say anything to be beautiful. You’re beautiful mute. I’m sure there are tons of beautiful mutes out there in the world – but if we are talking about regular women here, it’s sad that the guy is totally ok with falling in love with a girl who he doesn’t even TALK with. And then we wonder why divorce rates are so high.

  29. 29 fizzle

    Well, I could never enter into an argument like this because I am not one to take movies very seriously. I havent seen that many Korean movies but 200 Pound Beauty is probably my favorite so far. Though I was a little confused about what kind of message they were trying to convey, in the end it was a fun and enjoyable movie that made me laugh and that’s all that really matters to me.

    Interesting points from Sere and Samsooki, though! Great read.

  30. 30 :)

    haha i admit, i liked the movie but it always bothered me about the whole surgery thing. i personally think that if ur happy with how you are, you shouldnt get surgery just for approval. i would understand surgery for heath problems though.

    watch this like a couple of years ago but just that surgery thing always irked me a bit. haha

  31. 31 acems

    @Renee, I agree; my problem with the movie also stemmed from Joo Jin Moo’s character. It would’ve been better if he somehow showed guilt/remorse, changed his demeaning attitude in some way, but he didn’t do anything to redeem himself. All he has to say is ‘I’m sorry, I love you’, and she forgives him for everything? Messed up.

  32. 32 carpediem101

    oh 200 Pound Beauty. I remember when I watched this I had heard such good things and so was super excited. From just the poster, I thought it might be along the lines of Shallow Hal… which I thought had been a pretty cute movie. The beginning wasn’t so bad.. but then as the movie rapidly continued.. I remember cringing and thinking “what is this movie telling us about self-image here?!” and yes. the end KILLED it. KILLED ME. and then it KILLED ME AGAIN because while kim ah joong was wearing an oversized bodysuit, the friend.. was not. and she may not be stick skinny, but dare i say, she’s NORMAL??? what was so wrong in leaving the friend secure and happy within her own skin and snabbing a guy just as she is?? as if that can NEVER happen in real life. as if everyone has to look like kim ah joong to find happiness (which may or may not come in the form of romance and a guy all the time.. c’mon now kmovies/kdramas) i refused to watch it ever again just cuz i was so disappointed, frustrated, and pissed off at society after watching the film.

    and the fact that freaked me out the most? not the movie itself persay, but the fact that SO MANY PPL were applauding it! i get the acting and music was solid. but that could be said for so many other movies out there and they STILL don’t get the rave reviews that this movie got. did everyone just not see what I was seeing? hear what I had heard? did everyone else AGREE that going under the knife for an entire body transformation (or any for that matter) to appeal to a GUY (who imo was kind of an A$$ if I’m recalling correctly.. but this may be just because I was getting really angry and frustrated as the movie progressed). and frankly, if they really wanted to get through the message that INNER beauty was what really counted, they shouldn’t have focused on having to completely fixing the outside to conform to certain obvious set standards of external beauty.

    and this is so totally not fair to kim ah joong.. but i’ve never been a real fan since. :/ just because it’s such a negative association built in there. she’s a role model because she became big through this film… she became a role model promoting a film with this saddening and unfortunate message. grrr..

    i also think that i might have softened if her character had really really REALLY done this all for herself. because then, some more agency could be claimed in her decision. but it was mainly based on having to reconstruct herself to the ideal notions of what everyone else thinks to be beauty. and while one could claim there’s some agency in her choice to do so… it was influenced by so many wrong ulterior motives.

    overall… i’m glad i’m not the only who felt this way. there’s still hope! while i did completely attack the film, realize that i DO understand that it’s just that: a film. and films/media are meant for entertainment. i know. but they also have a tendency to reflect certain ideas/beliefs of our current culture and society, and this along with the seemingly warm and complete embrace of the film by mainstream korean society was what deeply disturbed and saddened me.

    thanks for posting this debate btw. awesome idea :D

    • 32.1 scarecrowslady

      “i’m glad i’m not the only who felt this way. there’s still hope! while i did completely attack the film, realize that i DO understand that it’s just that: a film. and films/media are meant for entertainment. i know. but they also have a tendency to reflect certain ideas/beliefs of our current culture and society, and this along with the seemingly warm and complete embrace of the film by mainstream korean society was what deeply disturbed and saddened me. ”

      Exactly. I don’t think we can blame the film – but we need to look behind it to a society that is incredibly looks focused – not just for women too. I remember vague Jang Geon-suk being called fat once… and I tutored 3-4 Korean families whilst living in Asia and they are very much about looking at externals. NA isn’t much better though.

  33. 33 Bonnie

    I know I’m in the minority here, but I just hated the movie, period. The message was awful, but the acting and writing was also completely mediocre. At first I was bored, and then I was embarrassed for the actors and cringing over the fat-suit. (I’m not saying I liked Pretty Woman, either- fairy tale TV or film is only good, I think, when there’s a positive message at the end).

    There are just hundreds of Korean films better than this one. I’m not criticizing anyone for liking it, just giving my opinion.

  34. 34 HyeIn

    This debate is a prime example of why I choose to read at Dramabeans over any other place. (ie. Soompi)

    It’s because I am a grammar and spelling freak. It disturbs me greatly when I see misspelled words.

    And, I feel that when I read all of these insights, I feel as if they’re giving me more wisdom.(Which I seem to lack greatly)

    Well, I enjoyed reading these comments. And I must say, that when I first watched the movie, I didn’t think of any of the issues that the others mentioned. I suppose that I’m just a tad naive. ;]

    Thanks as always Dramabeans, Samsooki, and SERE :D

    -HyeIn [btw. The song from your recap of ROI episode 14 is stuck in my head. “Quando quando quando”]

  35. 35 Anonymous

    #26, You are not alone. LOL.

    But unlike you, I was able to finish it. I just don’t understand the hype of this movie. I watched it a few years ago and all that I can remember was that I didn’t really like the movie. It was an okay movie but I don’t understand why people kept saying how great it is. I didn’t really like why the girl would still want to be beautiful just because of the producer. He’s a total jerk. And when she’s already beautiful, she still liked to hook up with the jerk producer. Tsktsk!

    I don’t have much fuss about surgery but I do think that it should be done for the right reason, not for a shallow one. There are different ways to feel beautiful, it is just a matter of choice by the person, whether to do it surgically, or to do it naturally, but I’d like to emphasize that the problem lies within. Even if you do surgeries or not, if you don’t have a peace of mind about these things, you’ll never be satisfied.

  36. 36 bengalifob

    now i know why i didn’t like the movie even more!

    Plus the Prince Charming really pissed me off for liking her NOT for her, but for how she looked to OTHERS!

  37. 37 biela

    wOw…what a discussion….yeah it is true that the society these days are typical…they do like discriminate n judge people based on their physical terms…and also those plastic surgery is really horrofying n terrifying…people would do anything to get other people attention including those extreme plastic surgery…i HATE PLASTIC SURGERY!!! it just like we are making changes on what GOD gave us…I JUST EXTREMELY HATE PLASTIC SURGERY & BOTOX!!

  38. 38 kimchii

    Really good topic and discussion (:

    I feel bad for not really thinking about the message of the movie.
    Like Orchid I just took the movie as entertainment.
    Which is what it is, but I didn’t dig deeper.
    Thanks for this post. Interesting read (:

  39. 39 hawaiianasian

    I watched the movie and enjoyed it for what it was for entertainment value. Cultures have different views as to what “beautiful” is. Korean entertainment promotes the “thinner is inner” point of view. I don’t make this statement next statement lightly – in the last year and a half to two years were any of the stars that committed suicide fat? no. Were they happy? Obviously not. So does skinny equal happy – NO. American entertainment was the same for many years thin, dangerously thin, was in…like Ally Mcbeal for example. As of late I see the tide turning and they are letting the big girls in to play like Queen Latifah and America Ferreira to name a few. I think American entertainment is starting to realize that we are a diverse nation and the old notion of “beautiul” is no longer the norm and to appeal to the masses the regular Joes or Janes are growing in value. Here in Hawaii it is a totally different concept. Hawaiians ( not transplants ) come from a rooted belief that the bigger the woman was the more beautiful she was. Queen Kaahumanu the wife of King Kamehameha #1 was a huge woman, close to 400 pounds and yet she was valued as beautiful and respected as a Queen (sorry for the history lesson – trying to make a point eventually ) . Here culture has changed a bit with times and since we are an equal mix of Asian, European, Latin, American – global influences beautiful could be the hula girl with full curves, or the “hapa” girl with caucasian features, asian eyes and a golden tan …here there really is no norm.

    I dont think cultural “norms” nor a MOVIE should influence a young woman who finds herself in a similar situation. I believe parents need to do a better job of raising “WOMEN”. They need to be teaching girls to have a sense of self respect, confidence and to love themselves. These are values that should not be taught by society…much less by a MOVIE. One must love themself before findng themselves love worthy and if one loves themselves first it won’t matter if a few kids in school called you fat….maybe they were ugly!!!

    I myself am fat and proud …my motto “don’t like it ….don’t look. I have as much right to take up space on this planet as any one else”. Everyone has flaws whether they are external or internal. Again love yourself first…then others….then enjoy a MOVIE for what is was made for ….ENTERTAINMENT :-) Aloha …..

  40. 40 Ender

    Wow, cool discussion. Although I wouldn’t say that the movie is sending a message, so much as is simply being a reflection of the reality of plastic surgery.

    The reality is: If an overweight and unattractive girl can transform into a lithe and attractive one, then the attractive version will have a better chance of being more ‘successful’ in life(at least career-wise…I’m not sure about spiritual/psychological issues) Simply put, attractiveness matters in both careers and in grabbing a potential mate. I believe this has been shown in multiple studies.

    And the movie reflects this reality: After her surgery, Kim Ah Joong moved from backup singer to a successful solo act, and even had a chance at getting Joo Jin Mo at the end.

    So no, I don’t think it’s a good message. But the movie only reflects what we encounter in our everyday lives.

  41. 41 emtee

    It’s been an age and a half since I’ve watched the movie, but this discussion intrigues. I fall in the camp of people that just didn’t see the appeal of the movie.

    I went in with high hopes for entertainment (not social commentary) value, after all, I like my movies fluffy and hopeful and full of prettiness. Usually, I suspend belief as needed, accept plot devices without a question. No problem. I endured all the crackpot seasons of Alias. I am familiar with waving and gesticulating madly at television screens. Oh, sidetrack. Sorry. Anyhow. Somewhere in the second half, in spite of my best efforts, the film completely lost my interest.

    I didn’t twitch at the fat suit — even though it offends on all levels and has never worked in any movie I’ve seen — as it was a means to a plot end. I didn’t frown at the plastic surgery — her body, her choice — though her motivations were sort of murky and vague to me. I didn’t even feel like kicking in Joo Jin Mo’s teeth because I think his character got dealt a bad hand — so he missed Hanna, but not so much that he thought twice about wanting to makeout with hotass Jenny? I digress.

    I lost the desire to watch because I couldn’t fully support Hanna, and that’s not supposed to happen, right? She’s the underdog, right? She endured the pain, the humiliation, the non-existent self-esteem….so she gets to deal out some comeuppance and some turnabout, yeah? But the composite of the character just didn’t add up.

    Perhaps I need to rewatch? I couldn’t get through My Sassy Girl the first time around, but loved it during the second and third watch. But somehow I doubt that a second watch of 200 Pound Beauty will make me grin stupidly like My Sassy Girl. Unfortunate.

  42. 42 Enkhee

    The people calling us hypocrites because we didn’t like the message, thus not liking the movie also, even though we drool over all the fantastically handsome actors and actresses should find their answers in all their own defenses. Korean movies are for pure entertainment. Most of the time. Not all girls dream of Lee Jung Jae to be their lawfully wedded husband, just as not all guys dream of Hyori to be their lawfully wedded wife. We don’t take all the ‘oh, the Stars’ that seriously. Although it seems like it, not all girls live just to look like a Hyori. Korean stars are not our role models. True, when they’re good, we love their movies, when they’re bad, we’re are a loyal fan base. True, we like them when they’re good looking. But most of the time, they’re just gossip. Tabloid news. Only the movies they make matter. So, we don’t like it when the movie comes out and says “If you’re fat, nobody will love you. Get plastic surgery! Everybody will love you! You’ll be happy forever!” Especially when the movie itself is a total hypocrisy. It tries to end on the “Inner beauty is what counts”, actually it didn’t try, I’m sure it was just trying to appear better than the waste that it was. I saw nothing but a shameless promotion of plastic surgery.

    • 42.1 scarecrowslady

      One of my favourite Japanese singers has a huge snozz, and some people might be like… “Get that fixed!” Thank God he’s intelligent and does his own thing.

      For me, I can’t get into actors and actresses as much, I think, because so often, the media defines their identity – I mean… It is rare for them to say what they believe in film. I can get behind and look beyond looks for singers because top quality ones write what is in their hearts, what they are thinking about… and a rare handful talk about deep things in life.

      I wonder why tho’ we are all so attracted to the beautiful?

  43. 43 Angela

    Honestly, I don’t remember much about this movie, other than the fact that I watched it and really loved the song Maria… but I do remember my dissatisfaction with the message and the romance. Sure, I realized it was for entertainment purposes, but I still thought it would have been a much better movie if the weight loss had been for a better reason. But overall, I still enjoyed it.

    My problem was that I couldn’t cheer for the romance. After that bathroom scene, I just did not feel like he was the right guy for her… so for her to go through all that pain and suffering for some unappreciative ***, really rubbed me the wrong way. I would have liked it better if she’d used the transformation for revenge (purely in an entertaining, comedic way) and that she’d find someone better in the process. I think the message would have been a lot better if SHE had chosen to love someone who wasn’t considered conventionally handsome. And if the guy she went through the plastic surgery for, realized what he lost.

  44. 44 hana

    ya i liked the movie but i really hated the message! that kinda ruined it for me but whatever.

  45. 45 Hannieoon

    Interesting debate.

    I just watched it for fun – purely for entertainment- and never thought twice about messages the movie conveyed. But why not comment on it. LoL. I agree with Samsooki, especially what was said in the comments section.

    Another thing…. this is a movie to TARGET the Korean audience. We have different cultural norms than in Korea so they probably don’t have such a big issue with it as we do. We’re going to think differently when watching dramas/movies and that’s because we don’t live there. For instance, I hate watching movies/dramas where the main female character is helpless and is dependent on a guy (example: Only You:: Hate that drama soo muchhhh) because I grew up knowing that I have the same ability as a man to succeed in life. But I also get reminded that most woman in Asian countries don’t really have a career after they get married. There’s a lot of marriages based on family background/ education background/ salary/etc…. not necessarily because of love. So we’re all going to have problems when watching dramas/movies, no?

    As for messages, yes, the last scene of the movie probably wasn’t the best to use. Hanna’s friend didn’t say anything about getting plastic surgery except when “Jenny” started to get on her nerves and acted like she was better. Her friend was disgusted by her personality change when she transformed into Jenny. And I think that the main point of the movie was that even with plastic surgery, no matter how beautiful you become, you can still be “ugly” by your personality. But it didn’t point out that plastic surgery is bad. Her friend wants to be happy. Her friend was suicidal because her boyfriend was trying to sell a product. If plastic surgery is a way to get a good boyfriend, then why not go for it?

    I also think it’s a bit of a satire as well but the cards weren’t played right in the movie (and with the last scene it’s not really one). Korean society is obsessed with looks/size/plastic surgery. Going back to the movie, an example that comes to mind is my cousin who lives in Korea and had issues growing up as a kid because she was constantly told that she was ugly (by neighbors/people who knew her family etc). Yes, she got plastic surgery but she still has issues with her face/appearance and puts people down to make her feel better. Within ten minutes of meeting her she called me fat and gave me back-handed compliments (which she continued to do throughout her stay -__-). Interesting though, her attacks were all based on appearance. She also attacked my sister (who is very pretty) a lot more. The sad thing is that my cousin was approaching her thirties and is about ten years older than I am. I think she’s a prime example of a person who gets plastic surgery but is still considered ugly because of her personality.

    Luckily, for Hanna she understands that she actually changed for the worst despite being beautiful on the outside. He reasons for getting plastic surgery may have been for the wrong reasons. But the main point is that she redeems herself at the end. She confesses about her past and people accept her. And she gains self confidence as well. She used to be bossed around by the guy she likes but the table are turned at the end. So instead of zeroing on the last scene, maybe we should be looking at the movie as a whole.

  46. 46 insearchofagooddrama

    This is one of my favorite movies. I’d have to say that I agree with Samsooki’s perspective. People make choices, and they are 110% entitled to do so. Of course I do not agree with the message that the movie conveys to the viewers on plastic surgery, but I think that this was all calculatively done with a much deeper meaning. Where’s the enjoyment in watching a movie that you can’t ponder over when it’s done?

    It’s no secret that Korea is huge on plastic surgery as a growing trend, and I think that the writer revolved the movie around something that people could relate to, and to an issue that those in opposition to may be curious about. I think that more than the idea of Hanna choosing plastic surgery, the movie dealt with the superficiality of society. Like the guy that was bleeding down his face and telling her it was okay when she rear-ended him, or the cop that was agreeing that it was the guy’s fault.

    Aside from her physical appearance, Hanna was a very beautiful woman. She had a beautiful voice, a kind heart, and a loving soul. She may have gotten plastic surgery in the hopes of winning the love of Sang-Jun, but the way I saw it was that he already had feelings for her even before she had any work done. One of my favorite scenes was the conversation that Sang-Jun and his partner had while “Jenny” was singing. His partner asked him if the reason he liked her was because she was pretty, and his response was that only bastards like you would say that. His partner then asked if it was because she was innocent, and his charming response was that only guys like me would say that. So, in other words, what he liked about “Jenny” was the same quality that attracted him to Hanna.

    This movie was very entertaining with the combination of the chemistry between the two leads, the music, and the message that I got in the end. Hanna was able to find herself through this life-changing process. She realized that in the end, being true to herself is what really brought her happiness, and I think that this is the general message of the movie as a whole. Sang-Jun also showed her that she needed to be happy for herself before she could make anyone else happy. He encouraged her to go on with the concert not for her fans or for anyone else, but for herself. Yes, the ending with her friend wanting to get plastic surgery just added fuel to the negative message on plastic surgery, but I think that bit was put in for sheer entertainment. It totally caught me off guard and I thought to myself, oh goodnesssss here we go again…

  47. 47 cranky

    I didn’t watch the movie for exactly the reasons stated by Sere. I read the synopsis and watched the trailer, then decided this wasn’t something that I wanted to spend two hours of my life for. Simply putting yourself into the pains of plastic surgery for a guy is so not a message I want to read/ watch anywhere.
    And I find it really disturbing that girls, young girls, are encouraged to get plastic surgery instead of being taught to embrace oneself.

  48. 48 Biscuit

    Yup, I remember at the end the guy says he fell in love for the real Hana and not her beauty…

    So after all the plastic surgery, it was the true Hana that everyone fell in love with. I think thats what the movie was portraying… while there are benefits in having beauty, in the end it’s a person’s inner beauty/character that mattered the most.

    I don’t believe the main purpose of the movie is siding with plastic surgery or not… rather, it’s more on the plot of inner beauty.

    That aside, it’s based after a Japanese manga. And considering plastic surgery popularity in Asia, it’s probably considered a heart-warming comedy where everyone could relate to and realize that plastic surgery has nothing to do with inner beauty.

  49. 49 ella

    Wow, that was some profound discussion. So who won?

    Hahah jk :] I thought both sides had interesting arguments. Overall, I think the movie tried to tackle contemporary issues of Korea (and perhaps other countries), and it tried to highlight some of the insecurities that many people have. The movie was made light and fluffy so as to not *scare* or offend people, but the message at the end was sacrificed – it could’ve been handled a lot better

    I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but when I think more about it, the movie’s message is a bit messed up. lol

  50. 50 jenjen

    Taking the perspective from an outside person looking in, I believe that based on one’s values, obviously we all have different views. For example, my friend had raved to me about how great 200 Pound Beauty was and that she highly recommended to me. Reading the summary before watching it, I decided maybe I’ll take the time to watch it. This was during our senior year of high school, I was not then into Korean movies and didn’t realize that they were quite different from American movies. I’ve watched many American movies and I’d say I critique them to no end. Similarly so, I give the movie a try and my reaction was mixed. I believe they dealt with the plastic surgery issue much lightly than I expected. First I was applaud with the action she was taking and after the first half of the movie, I decided to let go of my own judgements and just watch the movie as it was. Surprisingly, I found her surgery, not justified, but slightly reasonable. I am a person who is all about being natural and valuing what you were born with, however this movie made me accept that I cannot fully understand the lives of those who are different from me thus I cannot really judge them. Yes, the movie associates beauty with beneficial consequences, however, it does not , innitially to me encourage others to behave in that way. I think, logically, they expect the viewers to see it as extreme, and rarely would someone undergo such treatment. My opinion has changed however.
    Sadly, I’ve been noticing now that plastic surgery has been on the rise and several celebrities have them performed, thus the influences that it has on the fans/younger generation worries me.

    Fans these days are becoming very accepting, rather to the point of defending their stars when plastic issues come up. It is viewed almost as a norm on webs forums like soompi and what not and THAT is what I find disturbing. Although, we’d say a movie like 200 Pound may not have a great influence, we may be up for a surprise. People below the age of 20 especially I think are proned to these influences since they not only are oftened exposed to them by the movies and celebrities but also the social scenes.

    I’m not sure whether I make any sense, but back to the movie, although it was indeed entertaining, the damage the movie may cause is underestimated.

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