Mask Girl, which is based on the webtoon of the same name, is a K-drama that criticizes the strict standards of beauty in a different way than other K-dramas ever did. True Beauty, She Was Pretty, and My ID is Gangnam Beauty all tell a story about inner beauty where the female lead ends up with the lead male character. However, Mask Girl takes a darker turn with a murderous streak by the female protagonist. There are no two guys who are vying for attention, and instead, Mo-mi Kim (Nana), the protagonist, is on the run from the law. Instead of focusing on a romantic relationship, Mask Girl takes into consideration the mother’s role in their child’s life in shaping their self-esteem. Additionally, it ventures into the minds of almost all the characters to give the audience fleshed-out characters to explain their motivation for their actions. Mask Girl is overall an artistic and dark storyline that breathes fresh air not only into the genre but overall story-telling.
What also makes Mask Girl unique is that she is played by three different actresses as an adult which helps outline the different stages of her life. Lee Han-byeol plays the first version of “Mask Girl,” prior to her surgery, who hides behind literal masks for her online channel. Nana plays “Mask Girl” after her surgery. Ironically, this version of “Mask Girl” no longer hides her face and can perform as a singer like she always wanted. Simultaneously, she is also in hiding due to being a suspect in two murders.
Both women showcase “Mask Girl’s” love for music as well as “Mask Girl’s” overall spunky attitude. While the first two actresses share similarities in the personality they are portraying, it is Ko Hyun-jung who plays the emotionally motivated version of her character who is focused on saving her daughter. By having three different actresses, it may have been difficult to create a seamless character. However, each actress represents different stages of “Mask Girl’s” short life in which she has three different goals. In essence, they are all playing almost different character with each role which humanizes the protagonist.
A young Kim Mo-mi is also depicted in the K-drama in the beginning, and once again at the end. Showing a young Kim Mo-mi further helps to round out her character as the audience gets to see who she was before she became jaded. As a child, she is full of hope and enthusiasm thinking there is nothing that can deter her dreams. At the end of the K-drama, the audience sees, again, who she was before her tragedies. In doing so, the audience feels the tragedy of her life even more. She was simply a young girl who wanted to be a performer, and instead, was treated harshly by society. After competing in a contest, a young Mo-mi says,
“My dream is to become someone who’s loved by everyone!”
Another unique aspect of Mask Girl is that each episode focuses on different characters to give the audience everyone’s perspective. In doing so, while you may not agree with their actions, you can understand them. For instance, some may see Kim Kyung-ja (Yum Hye-ran) since she is out to kill Kim Mo-mi for the murder of Ju Oh-nam (Ahn Jae-hong). However, her story shows her raising her son as a single mother and feeling the guilt, afterward, that she put too much pressure on him to be a successful son. She has no idea that her son murdered someone, and assaulted “Mask Girl” so in her eyes, her son was purely a victim. Despite being hypocritical and vengeful, Kim Kyung-ja was driven both by her love for her child, and the guilt of not being able to protect him.
Unfortunately, the one character we did not get further information on is Sim Young-hee (Moon Sook), Kim Mo-mi’s mother. It would have benefited the story to see her reasoning for being so cold towards her daughter, as well as her perspective on raising her daughter’s child. While on the outside she was unaffectionate, she was willing to die for her granddaughter.
In general, the K-drama focused on the importance of a mother’s role in a child’s life. Through the episodes, the audience sees that some of the characters feel unloved or unwanted which shapes their own self-esteem. Kim Mo-mi did not have a mother that made her feel beautiful, and along with being bullied in school, generally did not feel loved. Ju Oh-nam felt immense pressure from his mother to become successful, and in response, became isolated. Lastly, Kim Mi-mo (Shin Ye-Seo) was raised reluctantly by her grandmother making her feel like she was always a nuisance. Additionally, she could only read about her actual mother in news articles and through the rumors of strangers. Kim Mi-mo had no idea her mother loved her until their brief and final moments together. In fact, Kim Mi-mo’s final moments on the screen are grim– her mother and grandmother are dead, and she is all alone. However, she did find out that she was greatly loved, though, which gives the audience hope that she will persevere.
Overall, Mask Girl, is a unique take on the beauty genre of K-dramas. It not only gives us a new and fresh story but depicts it in a distinctive way to give us the perspectives of different characters. Mask Girl is a tragedy all around, but the story ends with a glimpse of hope. It takes a look into not just the critical nature of society but also how a mother can exacerbate that by not being supportive of their child. If you look through the story, how different would it have been if the mothers were able to show more love towards their children in a different way rather than placing pressure on them based on cultural standards? Mask Girl is a drama that will definitely have a place in one of the best K-dramas of the year.
(Youtube. Images via Netflix.)