200 Pounds Beauty: Plastic Surgery in the Name of Love

“I’m not cut out for love and diet.”

That’s just one of the gems I found in the Korean romantic comedy 200 Pounds Beauty, the first of three films in AASA’s Freshman Movie Series.

The film, which was screened in JE theater on Thursday January 28, centers around an morbidly overweight girl named Hanna whose problems in life, as the quote alludes to, are seriously hampered by her image, especially her self-image. She has a beautiful voice that she allows a record company to use to promote a more attractive girl’s singing career.  Her love life consists of phone sex with married men and dating men who merely use her to sell diet pills. When she is unsuccessful in losing weight, they dump her.  To complicate matters, Hanna is secretly in love with Sang-Jun, the handsome man whose family heads the record company.  One day, she cannot stand the ridicule anymore and decides to completely transform herself with plastic surgery.

One year and several silicone injections later, Hanna is a beautiful girl who literally stops traffic.  She quickly becomes obsessed with her appearance and insensitive to her now less attractive friend and institutionalized father.  Too ashamed to admit to Sang-Jun that she got plastic surgery, she disguises herself as a natural beauty named Jenny.  “Jenny” eventually becomes the record label’s star and achieves her dream of singing in the spotlight.  Her world falls apart when Sang-Jun finds out that she used to be Hanna — she realizes that she has forgotten who she was and mistreated those who loved her before the operation, who loved her for Hanna and not Jenny. The movie ends with her public confession that she was “the fat and ugly girl who sung in the back” and her supposedly embracing the beauty of her 200-pound self and winning Sang-Jun’s heart.

The film’s message about plastic surgery and inner beauty is what I want to focus on. In the film, Hanna asks Sang-Jun what he thinks of plastic surgery, and to her disappointment, he believes only girls without confidence get plastic surgery. Later, he changes his opinion to “It’s okay as long as it’s not my girl.” This coming from a guy who, as un-superficial as he is compared to the other men in the film, allowed Hanna to sing in the back in the first place and who only ever made a move on her post-surgery.  The movie obviously wanted to convey something to the extent of “beauty is only skin-deep” but this message is convoluted by the fact that Hanna only achieves her happy ending by getting plastic surgery.  Ironically, the message the movie gives off – that beauty, even artificially obtained, is a means of achieving self-confidence –more accurately reflect the values of Asian society, and maybe even American values.*

The movie, far from really condemning cosmetic enhancements, simply highlights a more disturbing reality: that outer beauty does matter, that beautiful people often are better treated in life, and that cosmetic surgery can boost confidence.

So what should we do? Should we continue to condemn plastic surgery while acknowledging the perks of being pretty? Should we encourage people of all sizes, features, and ethnicities to be content with who they are even as outer appearance continues to play a role in one’s success in life?

I think there is a compromise between the two. We do not have to ignore that attractiveness can be an advantage nor do we have to accept that people are going to extreme and dangerous measures to be and feel beautiful. Rather, we could emphasize first that there are ways to improve outer and inner appearance by making healthier lifestyle choices that will naturally result in better physical shape and more importantly, mental health (eating healthfully and regular exercise has been shown to enhance mood and intelligence).  Secondly, we need to promote different forms of beauty: the beauty of someone who speaks with conviction and open-mindedness; the beauty of someone who makes people laugh; the beauty of someone who is sweating from laboring all day; the beauty of someone who writes brilliant music for others to sing.

As Sang-Jun says in the end, he loves Hanna not because she is pretty but because she is innocent.  Although most people might not make very much of this line, I take it to mean that Hanna has retained a sense of pure beauty, one that transcends a small waistline, big boobs, and perfect nose.

*Recently, Heidi Montag, who starred in Laguna Beach and frequently appears in gossip tabloids, gained media attention for the 10 cosmetic procedures she had gotten in the past few months.  Click http://www.tabloidprodigy.com/?p=9637″ target=”_blank to see the spread in People magazine.

This entry was posted in Asia and tagged , by Catherine Dinh. Bookmark the permalink.

About Catherine Dinh

My name is Catherine Dinh. I'm a freshman in Pierson. I'm from Fremont, which is in the Bay Area, California. I am considering majoring in English or Psychology. I enjoy reading, writing, watching movies with friends, shopping, graphic design, taking walks, eating, imagining, and learning new things. I'm a member of ViSA and TAS, but I joined the APA blog because I wanted to reach out to more of the Asian American community here at Yale. In short, I hope this blog will be a huge success and am looking forward to seeing it grow.

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