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Never Perfect 2007

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Regina Park
Directed by Regina Park
DVD, color, 65 min.

Jr. High - Adult
Popular Culture, Women's Studies

Date Entered: 05/23/2008

Reviewed by Gloria Maxwell, Reference Librarian, Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, MO

The director, Regina Park, is a second generation Korean American. Never Perfect looks at the startling rise in the frequency of cosmetic surgery among Asian-American women. From 2004 to 2006 the number of Asian-American women seeking such surgery has risen 55%. Raised with American fashion magazines, shopping centers, makeover shows and movies, Asian-American women frequently make the decision to have double eyelid surgery. Younger Asian females want larger eyes. They believe that the double eyelid surgery makes people think they are more open and have a stronger character.

This documentary considers the historical factors that may also be at play. U.S. military bases in Korea and Vietnam were accompanied by Red Light districts. Plastic surgeons in Korea did free work for prostitutes and war brides to make them appear more American with the double eyelid surgery. Second generation Asian Americans don’t know their parents’ culture. In striving to be perfect, they want to achieve the looks of the rich and powerful American women they see. Hollywood also plays a part in promoting the notion that traditional Asian appearance is either the dominatrix action hero (think of Kill Bill or other popular movies) or that of a Lotus Flower/China doll/Geisha image. Internet websites fuel pornographic images with exotic fantasies featuring Asian women with slanted eyes. The film follows a young Vietnamese-American woman, Mai-Anh, and her determination to have the double eyelid surgery despite her mother’s disapproval. This incredibly smart, savvy businesswoman/entrepreneur does not seem to need cosmetic alteration to be successful, but it is obvious that she believes she will be happier and become even more successful after she has the surgery.

Today, Asian American women want to emulate the women who have the power and they believe that having larger, rounder eyes will help them to achieve similar success. Unfortunately, having the double eyelid surgery usually leads to identifying other defects that they feel need to be addressed. Many believe that beauty is a currency and that attractive people have an easier life. The most common alterations are double eyelid surgery, nose reshaping, and breast augmentation.

Technical aspects are very good. Archival materials are used at appropriate points to supplement insight into the self esteem issues with which many Asian-American women struggle. Video and audio qualities are very good. An appropriate musical backdrop enhances the film.

This documentary would be suitable for women’s studies programs and Asian-American classes. It would be useful in discussing the perception of beauty and self esteem among young women, especially those with ethnic backgrounds.

Highly recommended.


  • Silver Remi Award, Houston WorldFest International Film Festival 2007