Ugly Duckling Series–Perfect Match: episode one

I don’t know what has gotten in to me this year, but for some reason, I’ve gravitated toward simple cute shows or dramas surrounding damaged teenagers, just as much as my normal fair. It’s been fun to say the least and reminiscent of the stories I loved growing up. Right now, the first installment in GMM25‘s The Ugly Duckling Series, Perfect Match is the sugary treat I inhale every Sunday and I can say I’m absolutely obsessed. It’s got everything you need to learn the value of people and friends, with tons of learning to truly love and appreciate yourself.

*for more gifs and pics click the hyperlink in post or here

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Prologue

Once upon a time, a loving mother duck was hatching her eggs patiently waiting for the day they’d born into the world. When that day finally came, she said proudly “I’m positive my babies are going to be so beautiful!” But as all the ducks hatched, one was ugly and it angered her so much she kicked it out her paddle, leaving it alone,brokenhearted and crying…

Episode One

Junita “Junior” Worachotingkanan (Mook Worranit) has everything; a pretty face, a fit body, lauds from a wealthy family, and has a rich attentive boyfriend. So when her nanny Aoi shares for the trillionth time the story of the ugly duckling becoming a swan and recites the moral— “Everyone is different,  having their own beauty, whether outer or inner” — she quips the duckling should have been shunned. Then jokes that without plastic surgery an ugly duck could never become a swan. When Aoi asks what she believes the moral of the story is, she adds, it’s best not to be stupid enough to accidentally hatch someone else’s eggs. But she wonders what’s the need for sharing such stories any way— “I’m pretty, right?”

After taking a few selfies with Aoi, and a quick makeup refresh, Junior’s boyfriend Max shows up, lathering her with compliments about her how pretty she is but notes her beauty gets her too many admirers and he grimaces this makes him uneasy. Junior just grins but soaks in his words, pinching his cheeks giggling there’s nothing for him to worry about. Then they casually stop to take a selfie before heading out.

As usual, it’s  a casual get together with friends Junior describes as “knowing exactly what she wants.” There’s plenty of singing and smiles and Junior thinks to herself that perhaps she’s the  luckiest girl in the world.  However, in a voiceover, she confesses this doesn’t last long and  greediness can spell doom; that the end, it’s better to just be happy with what you have.

The next day, she wakes up to find her Instagram page littered with comments about her round face and freaks out wondering if she’s fat. Max calls but as soon as he refers to her as “Piggy” (their pet name) she shrieks believing he thinks she’s fat, fussing about the IG comments, upset he’s never warned her about her weight before.  And to make matters worse, Max confirms her cheeks are chubby but make her cute — “At your age it’s just baby fat.” He tries to soothe her with a dessert date but Junior squeals she must diet and hangs up, leaving Max on the other line, confused at how this all became his fault. But he quickly regroups and calls out another girl for honey toast instead.

Junior is determined to lose weight utilizing any nouveau method, from yoga to cardio and cleaning eating. But when Aoi is concerned about her limited food intake she explains that it’s those internet harpies that have her in a tizzy. She rattles off all the names they’ve compared her to from Chinese bun to bus wheel and Aoi still doesn’t get it, thinking all those things are pretty cute (Ha!). Her Mom saunters in wondering Junior should about what everyone else thinks being she clearly got all her gorgeousness from her. But once Junior mentions that if she were to be slimmer and prettier, they would be all the rage in their celeb socialite circles, Mom remembers she needs a few facial treatments before an upcoming charity event and encourages Junior to continue.

By their next meetup, Junior proudly shows off her two kilos lighter frame and Max quickly chirps she’s beautiful but sulks about their last conversation, until she snuggles up to him with apologies. They spend the day hand in hand, then stop for dessert and she reports being thinner, she’s received more comments she’s become prettier. Max agrees but thinks she’s cuter when she’s eating and flashes a picture he secretly snapped. She snatches his phone demanding deletion but it’s already posted and the response is brutal. Even her friends get in on the ragging, suggesting she go get her cheeks threaded. She’s hesitant initially, falling back on natural beauty being best but her friends convince her the procedure is quick and virtually painless and much better than chubby cheeked prettiness.

face

So it’s off to the clinic and that night Junior falls asleep feeling glad she did it, believing she’ll be more beautiful in the morning. But when she wakes up, her entire face is swollen and only worsens with more treatment. With another consultation with Dr. Joe, she’s informed she’s had a rare allergic reaction to the chemicals and tap water exacerbates and infects the scarring. A full recovery will span close to a year but even then, there’s no guarantee her skin will return to it’s original texture. When her mother hears the news, she wonders aloud where she can hide herself for a year, concerned about the questions and stigma, then thinks the best course of action is switching out their water filtration in hopes Junior recovers faster. Feeling down, Junior tries to round up her friends for a night out but they are reluctant to see her because her face is frightening. They make excuses about boys not approaching not them or strangers shunning them (if she’s around) and suggest they not meet for awhile.

pmaxblogMax shows up and she’s so excited to see him she runs to greet him but he backs up, lengthening the distance between them, clearly afraid to be too close. He tells her they can’t see one another anymore because he’s going to be busy preparing to study abroad (WHAT?!) and thinks they should take a break, for you know… a year. He promises not to date anyone else and encourages her to get prettier again and he’ll see her in twelve months. Junior immediately understands what he’s not saying and nods that she gets it. Then, he pats her on the head and heads out, as she cries in Aoi arms that no one sincerely loves her.

That night she shares a woeful Facebook status: If i’m not beautiful, I’m meaningless. I’m the unluckiest girl in the world. I want to die— And cries. Soon after, she gets a retort that not being pretty isn’t something to cry or die over and sends her a link to the Ugly Duckling Quack Club. Junior surfs over to the site and lights up seeing girls as “ugly” as she is and joins instantly. She shares her story and the other girls advise her to visit a skin care clinic out in Pitsanulok. Her mother is against the idea, however, being it’s so far away but Junior pleads that she’s got no one now— including Mom, who’s lying the masses that Junior’s contracted a severe illness, plus, even she won’t touch her. This way, she can get proper treatment comfortably and Mom can tell everyone she’s studying abroad. It’s win-win 😉

Mom still thinks they can just fly her back and forth (’cause they’re rich and all) but Junior wants to stay and study, believing she shouldn’t waste her time away. (Though Aoi does take this opportunity to point out she’s never cared about studying before…hmmm). MomblogJunior adds that she wants to learn about tourism and she thinks it’ll be fun to take this chance to travel. She leans over to face her mother and practically scares Mom into  agreement, but on the condition Aoi tags along and with that green light Junior is over the moon. After getting advice from the Quack Club, she’s decided to live a normal [read:poor] life as Junita Yuphueak (Aoi’s surname) and believes the entire experience will be fun. She later tells Aoi that perhaps her face is a blessing in disguise that will open the door for her to develop some real friendships.

meetsuea01But once on campus, Aoi’s suspicions are deepened that Junior won’t be able to hack the harsh conditions (no AC) but Junior, draped in a scarf covering her face, assures her she can do it. She wanders around lost, until there’s a tapped on the back by an older student (Push Puttichai). When Junior turns around to face him, she’s speechless by how attractive he is and smiles (though he can’t see it) but forgets to answer.meetsuea02 He asks where she’s going, thinking correctly she may be a freshman, and when she doesn’t respond, he wonders if she’s deaf or mute, then jests perhaps a she’s a psycho, instead, being she’s dressed so funny. But when he tries to lower her scarf, she snaps from her daze and tells him her major and he takes her to register. Turns out they’re in the same program and when they locate her name of the registry the rest of the tourism seniors break out into a chant of her name as a “welcome.” Hot Senior teases that her surname is odd and wonders if she lives up to it’s meaning  (nosy).

She gives him her nickname and he scribbles it on a bus shaped name card and drops it around her neck. But when Junior looks down, Juu panics, for he’s written the character for “juu” (a term that means short or little but used often to refer to a penis) not her shortened name Ju and begs him to change it. He refuses, asserting this name fits her strangeness— “People will remember you easier too, like me, Suea (tiger). ” And right then, Junior notes she’d never thought animal names were cool before— well not until this guy.
beeintroblog

Later, Junior makes a fast friend in Ying (feminine) Bee (Korawit Boonsri), who compliments her name and breaks into song and dance, talking about his namesake idol from Star Idol. Orientation starts with the leader introductions. Hot Senior is vice president to Cheer Club president Tui (Hugmao) and Bee coos that Suea is dreamy, when the latter catches his eye and smiles. The Club has a huge opening ceremony planned later, including an introduction dance battle but in order to get everyone prepared and ready, the Presidents have decided to do a demonstration first. Suea immediately calls up Bee and Juu; the drums crank up and they dance and dance and dance. And Juu realizes this is the first time since her breakout that she’s had any fun, believing perhaps she’s going to really enjoy being Junita Yuphueak.

It’s time to check into her dorm but Juu didn’t know she had to sign up in advance and she’s turned away until she can find three more people. This is good news to Aoi who doesn’t like the look of the old shanty building or the shabby man at the counter. But just when Juu was wondering how she’d find some roommates, three girls show looking for a fourth girl. They confirm they’re staying together and head to their room, which is a horrible mess but one girl (Proud Oranicha) takes the lead and assures this is just what to expect from campus life and believes everything will be fine once they clean.

The girls settle in and introduce themselves, Joy, Nungning and Nui and the latter offers some snacks. Junior takes it but as she eats, her scarf falls and the others are slack-jawed at her face. Nungning breaks the silence asking, “What on earth happened?” then apologizes for speaking carelessly, assuming Juu must have an allergy. Juu confirms that she’s had a chemical reaction and awkwardly offers to leave if they are uncomfortable with her. Only, Nungning just smiles saying there’s nothing to worry about and pats Junior’s knee, which relaxes a bit. However, while she’s in the bathroom, Juu overhears Nui and Joy worrying that she might actually have a disease she’s lying about.

The next day, Bee jokes Juu must be starting a new  fashion trend in her shades and scarf. She’s encouraged to take them off, but she’s decided to wear them until her face clears. She wants to lay low and not scare anyone, which Bee remarks is having the opposite effect, when they are called out for not listening to their leaders and Juu is asked to stand up. Tui scolds her, believing covering her face is disrespectful to them all. She removes her shades but then another berates her demanding she take her scarf off too. Suea steps in and offers to speak with her and sternly suggests her, she should comply with her Seniors’ orders. But when she shakily pleads with him, he leans in—

Suea: You don’t have a disease, right?

Juu: I’m ugly.

Suea: You gonna wear a scarf until you graduate? Won’t that be uncomfortable? There’s nothing to be afraid of. I’m here.

And with that, she slides off her scarf and turn around but with one look at her face, the crowd waves into unkind whispers.

Reactions, Ramblings and Remarks

Whoa. I actually teared up there at the end. Did you see his face? Juu is issued the brunt but watching Suea register that look from her is just— Aw. You can see his heart sink. However, it is Juu that makes my chest ache. You’d think a drama about a girl being shunned for having “pimples” would be nothing but slapstick silly, and while this episode has plenty of anime moments, Juu is still very sympathetic as a character and her insecurities warranted— no matter how outlandish her circumstances may seem. For what Juu is moving toward, isn’t just a lesson on the pitfalls of vanity, though it does start out that way. When we first meet her, Junita is rather vapid and shallow and it’s upsetting to know that there is anyone in this day and age living in such a self-absorbed pool. She’s not unlikable, but her attitude was just plain distasteful. It’s true, she’s young and in many ways, it’s very easy to take for granted the things most people are taught from childhood. Much like the tale of The Ugly Duckling. That tale in particular has been read and passed on to teach lessons about how to treat people and how to view yourself. Unfortunately, a lesson can be heard but it’s learned with follow through and example, which is something Juu never had.

She’s clearly come from a nice family with decent people but if her mother is any indication, her world is made up of people that are all pretty superficial in their understanding and interpretation of what’s truly important in life. To them, everything is about image and someone else’s standard of what is acceptable, over being confident in oneself and choices. However, even with that, you can also  tell these mindsets are more ignorant and harmless, bearing no evil intent, yet that doesn’t negate hurt and pain, of rejection from individuals that place no real value in their attachments. That’s what made everyone’s (save Aoi’s) reaction to her face so detrimental to Juu, because like anyone, she felt she never needed to worry about abandonment. And while I don’t think she predicated that on any type of unconditional love, she was expecting something akin to the basic principle of genuine kindness.

When threading is suggested, Juu actually thinks twice about it, but succumbs to the pressure of acceptance, which makes you hopeful and disheartened in equal measure. For that gut feeling is present, but has nothing of substance to sustain it. That shred of hope shows up again when she begins to look forward to moving and starting over, thinking for the first time to look for something real. And like that optimism within her. There is a distinct shift in the atmosphere once she leaves Bangkok and enters school. Juu seems to take out a new lease on herself, relying on herself more and deeming to be open to new experiences and possibilities. I was initially concerned that her outlook was more like a vacation or an experiment but I’m happy to see that perhaps I was wrong. I find, sometimes Juu’s words don’t reflect her true meaning, in that, they come across snobbish, when the issue has more to do with tact.

Overall, I look forward to what she will learn in Pitsanulok. Will she establish some true long lasting relationships? (I certainly hope so, because I just love Bee!) Her introduction to Suea was adorable and he’s definitely so similar to many oppas and sunbaes I’ve met in my day. I just love that he seems so larger than life and her complete opposite— good-looking, tall, gregarious; playful and commanding but caring as well. For now, I can’t be entirely (if at all) upset with him for pushing her to remove her mask and confront her fears, I just hope it doesn’t hurt her too badly.

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