One of the very few releases of January 2021, “She Would Never Know” aka “Sunbae, Don’t Put on That Lipstick” has aired its first and second episode this week to modest ratings.
The newly released JTBC drama is about a young man who falls for his senior at work and how their lives get entangled.
Now I’m gonna go on a whim here and say I am one of the few people who’ll classify it as such… this is a classic example of the toxic hopeless romantic ‘nice’ guy and its only begging to be criticized, it’s astonishing.
“She Would Never Know” is based on a popular novel that sold well. I am surprised it did because thus far, I can’t tell what’s that special about it, in any capacity.
Of course I know, a premiere of any kdrama isn’t enough of an indication of whether it’s great or downright terrible, but I must say, the premiere was utterly ridiculous, not in its premise but in its characters. Lets discuss why.
Note: this will be a spoiler review of the said episodes in the title. This is a subjective review.
The core idea
So it’s about an older woman and a younger man, the young man Hyun Seung falls for his sunbae Song Ah from the moment he sees her and ends up choosing to work at a company because of her.
He thinks she’s single but it turns out she’s dating their team leader, and guess what, he’s set to marry their company’s director sister, who is apparently a sociopath, but we’ll get into that later.
I honestly expected their age gaps to have been bigger. In the first episode, Song A says he’s only one year younger, which is pretty surprising considering just how much the marketing focused on the age aspect and seniority, she’s also not that advanced in her work ahead of him, she’s only been working for two years at that company, so already, a part of what would’ve made it appealing has vanished in my opinion.
In real life, the lead actors are 5 years apart. I believe if they had played it differently by widening their age gap and their seniority level, I would’ve been more enticed to see it, but they didn’t which is surprising. It would’ve made for more dramatics because of their difference in a lot of things, one or two years aren’t that big of a deal.
Aside from the typical plot and the awful male lead characterization which I’ll discuss in details later, I found the premiere to be average. It’s the standard kdrama premiere and seeing the previews and the teaser posters, I was anticipating a lot more, I thought it was going to be not more dramatic per se, but more exciting, more thought provoking or something slightly out of the box, but turns out I had set my expectations a bit too high.
Some areas in the drama have good potential but it could go south pretty fast. It’d be interesting to see how it plays out.
Now onto our dear toxic male lead, Hyun Seung
The toxic hopeless romantic
Before I begin discussing the character and since some kpop fans read my reviews as well because of their idols, let me make it abundantly clear that I am in no way dissing Rowoon or his acting skills, he’s a good actor, what I’ll discuss below is the character itself and my issues with it from a writing stand-point. It won’t change my opinion whether it was Rowoon or any other Korean actor, with such character my opinion will still be the same.
Now that I made myself clear, lets discuss the hopeless romantic.
Hyun Seung plays into the toxic male leads to a te, he’s self-absorbed and thinks the world revolves around his feelings for a woman. He thinks because he likes someone, he gets to dictate how they should react or feel about his behavior.
The first episode was somewhat a grey area but the second one really took the cake.
First things first, he confronts Song A in a terrible manner after she’s had a conversation with her boyfriend, he rudely ‘orders’ her to meet him after their work is done because he has ‘something’ to show her. He ends their encounter with his hands touching her lips and wiping her lipstick telling her ‘it doesn’t suit her,’ sue that man! I was flourished, I was just simply astound by his behavior and the way it played out.
Now I know what some of you will say, my issue isn’t that he said or did those things, my issue is the way they it played out, how on earth is this considered ‘romantic’? Just because a man likes you doesn’t give him the right to 1) speak to you like this, 2) touch your face like this, how on earth is it ever acceptable and for it to play the way it did? Perpetuating toxic behavior as ‘romantic,’ I had to laugh…
If it were me, or for that matter of fact any normal woman, he would’ve been slapped, this is classic sexual harassment at work place, just because he likes her and he’s handsome doesn’t make it ‘okay.’ She appears to be angry, but still, goes along with his shenanigans.
He behaves like a high school student who is yet to be taught how to behave around women he likes. I just wish he was portrayed as an even younger individual because this is ridiculous.
Things get worse as episode 2 progresses.
He then shows her how her boyfriend is getting married to this other woman, people will have conflicting ideas about whether he should’ve told her or not, but if it were me, I’d prefer to be told, of course, respectfully, not that way and not by a co-worker.
The way they portrayed their relationship was ‘friendly,’ he wasn’t THAT close to her, or that comfortable around her. They didn’t exactly share a past and she clearly draws a line between them on multiple occasions so he won’t misunderstand. Personally, I think he should’ve kept his mouth shut and act like he didn’t know anything, because it ain’t his place, but damn it, this is what the novel is based so this is what we’re working with.
I don’t know if I’ll take it well had it been said from a co-worker, but to each their own. Its just awkward.
I don’t understand why he couldn’t have just showed her video footage or anything that wouldn’t include direct contact but of course, dramatics. After she’s about to lose her shit, he pesters her about how she should react as if he’s in any way or form has authority over her actions. I mean, what did you expect?
For some reason, towards the end of episode 2, she goes back to the man who confessed he likes her and asks him how she should handle it, as if he’s ever the type of person to be consulted in this, I mean, sis, the man likes you, what do you want him to say?
Some Women are attracted to toxic men, no issue with talking about it and exploring why it happens, but I lost my shit when after she asked him what to do, he proceeds to tell her to date him. I just flipped. Imagine Hyun Seung being average looking, not rich and try to apply the lines he just said again to the female lead, does it feel right?
If somebody approached you in a similar situation but he wasn’t as good looking as Rowoon’s character or as capable, but he likes you, would you have considered his actions anywhere near acceptable?
I mean reading the lines I wrote is sending me, this is just… baffling… I am astonished that this is ever considered romantic.
Regardless of whether he knew for how long they’d been dating, he is so selfish, what he sees is only how much he likes her, even if she breaks up with her boyfriend, don’t you think she needs some time off to … I don’t know, settle her feelings? get through her breakup? get her shit together?…. I can’t believe he says this with this romantic face as if it would resolve anything.
This my ladies, is the classic hopeless romantic male lead we’re so used to seeing in mainstream media, a toxic man who thinks his love for someone reciprocal or not is an excuse enough to treat a woman like she owes him something. I know so many won’t see it for what it is, but this character is just toxic.
What irks me isn’t that such characters appear on TV, but that their actions are ever considered ‘romantic,’ never portrayed for what it REALLY is in real life but rather for what it ‘suggests,’ that it is ever okay for someone to behave like this in real life because he likes someone. This is sad because I know some young women will see this and be convinced this is romantic, they say media doesn’t shape the way we think, but a lot of what we know about romance comes from them, its so sad what I just saw.
Won Jin A and Lee Hyun Wook look like bricks together, no chemistry at all and you can clearly tell they’re awkward around each other, forcing this romantic feeling because they have to portray this aura of having known each other as characters for two years.
In regards to her chemistry with Rowoon, I see more potential, it’s not fully there, but it could get better. It’s definitely not as bad as her chemistry with Lee Hyun Wook, granted she has to work harder to portray good chemistry with Rowoon, since he’s the end goal, not Lee Hyun Wook.
Overall, I was disappointed with “She Would Never Know” premiere, I have been trying to lower my expectations but there are some things you just can’t mentally prepare for.
The male lead is very difficult to like and makes me extremely uncomfortable. I don’t know if I’ll watch the rest but these are my thoughts on the premiere. Of course, it could get better and likely will as the female lead begins to have feelings for the male lead so it becomes a lot less awkward.
So these are my thoughts on “She Would Never Know”, so what about you guys? did you like the episodes? let me know what you thought in the comment section below.