Korean dramas hold sacred the magical powers of the makeover. In their world, fake eyelashes and a name-brand outfit are all it takes for an ugly duckling to be reborn as a swan. And these transformations are more than just skin deep—to Kdrama characters, they represent both new beginnings and opportunities to be seen in a different way by the world around them.
Here is a brief taxonomy of the principal makeover species that have been spotted in the Kdrama wild.
The Fairy Godfather
As seen in: Personal Taste and Boys over Flowers
Natural habitat: Tony salons and upscale department stores
Distinguishing characteristics: Everyday guys who just happen to have a crack team of hairstylists, cosmetologists, and fashion consultants on staff; girls who mistakenly think there may be things in life that could be more important than looking good; Lee Min Ho
A single human body isn’t a canvas large enough to express the glorious and refined sense of style prized by Korea’s enormous population of flawlessly groomed flower boys. Having attained bodily perfection themselves, these extreme metrosexuals have been seen to develop symbiotic relationships with girls who have bad fashion sense. The flower boys step in and—with a cheery exclamation of “Project!”—remake their less chic companions into the ideal woman. (And then fall in love with them.)
As seen in: Dream High and Prosecutor Princess
Natural habitat: Wherever food isn’t
Distinguishing characteristics: Cheap jokes about weight accompanied by even cheaper fat suits, a halo supporting characters obsessed with The Fat Girl’s BMI
No creature on planet earth loves an underdog as much as Human beingus spp. Kdramatis. This proclivity is most perfectly expressed in The Fat Girl makeover—whether by her own means or through the intervention of others, this female lead transforms from a lumpy, undateable caterpillar to a gorgeously slender butterfly, thereby rendering everything about her life completely and utterly perfect. This enviable transformation has not been substantiated outside of on-screen populations.
The Faustian Bargain
As seen in: What Happened in Bali and Que Sera Sera
Natural habitat: Matthew 4:1–11
Distinguishing characteristics: Girls who value brand name goods more than their souls; guys who are willing to buy love (or at least complacency)
Like a cat playing with a mouse, Kdrama males have been observed toying with their prey. They repeatedly offer their female counterparts expensive goods and services that would be otherwise unattainable, driving their quarry mad with desire. When her lust is at a true fever pitch and can no longer be contained, the male will begin the makeover process as a distraction. These dark Fairy Godfathers then consume the female, body and soul. Many researchers have philosophical objections to the study of the Faustian Bargain, as a lack of intervention in such destructive relationships is tantamount to approval of their horrific techniques.
The Suicide Blonde
As seen in: Scent of a Woman and Cheongdamdong Alice
Natural habitat: Where honeys are makin’ money
Most Korean drama females who undergo makeovers do so at the insistence of a male. There is, however, a small subset of solo makeovers, many with resulting plumage just as fabulous as that of their bisexual counterparts. Whether hoping to acquire a mate or simply free herself from the fetters of everyday life (often in response to a terminal prognosis), females known to perform The Suicide Blonde are generally regarded to be rebellious and suffer from devil-may-care attitudes.
As seen in: Boys over Flowers and Coffee Prince
Natural habitat: Glamour Shots at the mall
While Human beingus spp. Kdramatis is remarkably susceptible to makeovers, the results are sometimes less than aesthetically pleasing to outsiders. Balancing every stunning metamorphosis is an epic fail, complete with bad hair, ugly dresses, and wraps that look like mummified Muppets. The exact cause for these monstrous anomalies is unclear, although some scholars suspect ulterior motives on the part of the makeovers’ instigators.
As seen in: Coffee Prince and Sungkyunkwan Scandal
Natural habitat: Any school, business, or institution that does not allow women
There comes a time in the life of every Korean drama female when it would be more convenient to be a Korean drama male. Makeovers of this family are so common that—according to some estimates—more than 50 percent of all “males” in any gender-specific organization are actually females. Naturally, a thriving industry has grown up around breast binding materials and innocuous tampon disposal devices, so the gender switch is as easy as getting a haircut and putting on a pair of baggy pants.
As seen in: Ma Boy and I Do, I Do
Natural habitat: Daehan and environs
Sightings of this makeover—a male counterpart to The Viola—are extremely rare. It has been hypothesized that the limited benefits associated with femaleness (Outside Seoul 2012) discourage its proliferation. The Tootsie has recently been added to Korean drama’s critically endangered species list. With the increased protections that come with this designation, the scientific community is guardedly optimistic that Tootsie populations will experience a resurgence.
As seen in: Flower Boy Next Door and Coffee Prince
Natural habitat: The last ten minutes
Even the most dogged of observers have been stymied when attempting to obtain hard proof of this covert subset of the makeover genus. As the Time Lapse has never been replicated in a lab environment, skeptics have called into question its very existence. While the actual physical metamorphosis has not been witnessed, most open-minded researchers believe its results speak for themselves: After a long separation, Kdrama lovers are seen to have experienced significant physical changes. Hair color, clothing styles, and even personal attitudes all undergo revolutionary transfigurations.