Connect with us

Entertainment

Soap suds: A sidelong glance at Thai melodrama

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published 

 on 

Soap suds: A sidelong glance at Thai melodrama | Thaiger

PHUKET: Any “farang” who lives with a Thai partner will be familiar, possibly all too familiar, with the rarefied world of television soap opera. As I watch, I wonder what impact these soaps are having on the Thai psyche. That they are amazingly popular is beyond doubt. Viewing figures are massive; they are watched religiously in most households, and especially by women, every night. My partner would not miss an episode of her favorite soap for the world.

Certainly they do preach a doctrine that espouses the notion that good ultimately will triumph. But on the distaff side, it can also be argued that soaps do nothing to educate, or stimulate a critical appraisal, that people just want to identify and empathize unthinkingly with their heroines and heroes. Surface values such as beauty, glamor, wealth, self-assurance, even an element of deception, are applauded; there is no encouragement of Brechtian “alienation” where the spectator stands back from the action and thinks dispassionately about all these shenanigans. The use of violence, moreover, and especially of firearms sets an unhealthy example. After all, gun crime is a daily and deadly event in the bustling sois of Thailand.

It has even been proposed by one critic that Thai soaps may be in part responsible for the spate of recent political unrest in the kingdom, that the genre’s apparent disregard for responsible conduct, its glorification of outrageous behavior, has entered the national psyche. While this is an extreme position, the diagnosis may contain a germ of truth. Conversely, soaps may promote, at least in more politicized eyes, a growing sense of resentment that the classist status quo, foregrounded by such melodramas, needs to be changed – and dramatically.

The genre is of course a global phenomenon: everywhere it is driven by suspense, by an open narrative structure that poses an unspoken question at the end of each episode – what happens next? The Thai soap opera, like many aspects of the Kingdom’s culture, has developed its own very distinctive features. Occupying two hour, prime-time evening slots, the vast majority of TV serial dramas, known as lakorn, privilege Thailand’s high society, with opulent settings emphasizing the wealthy lifestyles of the characters.

The mise en scene thus owes more to American soaps such as “Dallas” than to any European tradition. Houses are invariably portico mansions with lavishly appointed furnishings and manicured gardens, outside settings are exotic, palm-fringed beaches or famous landmarks, cars are expensive Porches, Mercedes and BMWs, the clothes of the youthful leads are “haute couture”, of the older generation, expensive Thai silk. The actors, men as well as women, look like “Vogue” models, their glossy black locks straight from a shampoo commercial, their overstated make-up camouflaging every blemish. Not a hair or false eyelash out of place, even in situations of great emotional stress or life-threatening danger – of which there are plenty.

The plots are generally formulaic, even archetypal, with a pivotal emphasis on youthful romance, on the trials and tribulations that true love must endure before it finally wins through. While the putative hero and heroine are typically identified in the first episode, there are both innocents and serpents in paradise, each identified by recognizable signifiers: the good are usually the most beautiful and most elegant women, or the most debonair men; the scheming woman, sometimes a jilted lover, is likely to be the over-dressed one with vivid scarlet lips and a pouting demeanor, and the evil man, as in the Western versions, often the character with a thin mustache and shifty eyes.

The cast also includes older and supposedly wiser characters: one common stereotype is that of the powerfully assertive matriarch who exercises control from the wings – another, that of a taciturn father-in-law involved in shady business deals. If katoeys are part of the plot, then they usually have predictable roles, acting as a safety valve for the temporary relief of dynastic tension.

Music is another important signifier. As in international cinema, it is an atmospheric device, offering, for example, clues about a sudden hike in dramatic intensity or a shift in a character’s internal feelings. But though a soap may feature a motif in the form of a repeated song or melody, there is rarely a continuous, orchestrated or electronic “score”. Indeed, to foreign ears at least, this “synced” music is frequently intrusive and unsubtle – the harsh sawing of a single violin to indicate conflict, or the plaintive piping of a wind instrument to signify sadness. Flashbacks are common currency: for example, if the heroine is musing, or dreaming about past events, the scenes are generally shown in monochrome, a convention immediately understood by the audience.

In a typical scenario, the “femme fatale”, and there is sometimes more than one, is probably in love with the male lead and desperate to do anything to “get her man.” The laws of soap demand that she must fail, ultimately, but along the way there will be deception and manipulation, violence and even suicide and murder. In keeping with Thai superstitions about ghosts (pee), the dead, wild of hair and red of eye, sometimes return to haunt the living.

The machinations of the serial medium demand many twists and turns. In a recent episode of Eesaa, the “bad” character, her evil plotting exposed, first seeks forgiveness from her mother and then drowns herself, her tear-stained face sinking slowly beneath the moonlit waters. In a “camp” moment, the hysterical heroine then throws herself, weeping and distressed, on the shrouded corpse of her rival. All soaps have deathbed scenes aplenty, and moving incidents in hospital wards are de rigueur, a hushed environment where it is “touch and go” as to whether the victim will pull through. All grist to the melodramatic mill.

Paradoxically, however, and in accordance with the strict Thai laws of censorship, there is no nudity, no simulated sex, not even open-mouthed kissing. When the lovers finally get together, they gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes and maybe brush lips, but full physical (and still clothed) contact is reserved for attempts – always unsuccessful – at sexual harassment or rape.

Modesty must be preserved. True romance must triumph over horrid reality. In the world of the soap opera, it always does…

— Patrick Campbell

Keep in contact with Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following Thaiger.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

World

Is this the next big change in pop music? The winners of the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award, BTS

Thaiger

Published

on

By

Is this the next big change in pop music? The winners of the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award, BTS | Thaiger

2020 IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award. In the past 8 years the IFPI Global Recording Artist of the Year Award has been given to Ed Sheeran, Adele, One Direction, and Taylor Swift and Drake. BTS are backed up by ARMY, their huge fanbase.

The power of ARMY. The IFPI represents the recorded music industry worldwide. It’s not a Grammy or a popularity vote. The award is calculated according to an artist’s or group’s worldwide performance across digital and physical music formats during the past year. Everything from streams to vinyl, CDs and downloads…. and covers their entire body of work. The award was announced last week at the culmination of the IFPI Global Artist Chart, which counted down the top 10 best-selling artists of the past year.

And it’s certainly been a great year for music… not so much for going to live concerts but we’ve certainly had a lot more time to listen to our favourite artists and stream their clips on YouTube.

The group that won this year, based on their pure sales, actually came second in 2018 and 7th in 2019, so it isn’t some statistical blip on the music radar.

The win also represents somewhat of a quantum shift in world music… the sort of thing that only happens once in a generation. Rather than the popular cross-over style shift represented by the George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in 1924, the brith of rock with Bill Haley in 1955 or the rise of British pop in the 1960s, personified by The Beatles, this year’s IFPI signals another generational milestone in tastes, method, world reach and engagement with fans.

In all the right-hand turns of the popular music genre, there has usually been a technological breakthrough that has accompanied them, or at least been a key aspect of their success.

In the case of the the Great American Songbook, the foundations of the pop music genre, it was the recorded record and the start of radio-as-entertainment in the 1920s that provided a method to reach a huge audience with the new sounds and tunes for the first time.

Then it was the 7” single that made music cheaper and easier to play, that revolutionised the radio music formats of the 1960s and provided the perfect vehicle of the British pop revolution to spread around the world.

Keep in contact with Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following Thaiger.

Continue Reading

Tourism

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Thaiger

Published

on

By

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO | Thaiger

There was the original Covid-19 outbreak and lockdowns back in April and May in 2020, then again just before Christmas and New Year when the new clusters emerged in Samut Sakhon and the eastern coastal provinces, Patong’s nightlife was quiet enough, almost non-existent.

Now when the restrictions are lifted, Nimz will take you through Phuket’s famous nightlife spot Bangla Road, Patong Beach and Phuket Town. It’s quiet, but there are still clubs open and operating and ready to welcome you.

Keep in contact with Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following Thaiger.

Continue Reading

Bangkok

DUMBO the rooftop bar in Bangkok, a hidden gem | VIDEO

Thaiger

Published

on

By

DUMBO the rooftop bar in Bangkok, a hidden gem | VIDEO | Thaiger

Located in the heart of Bangkok City, Thailand. Just a few metres away from the Saphan Khwai BTS station, ‘DUMBO BKK’ offers a fine mixture of jazz, great food and original cocktails. Bringing you back to the urban tenors of the late 1940s – early 1950s, New York. Som, one of our new Thaiger Vloggers sneaks in, and brings us her impressions of the place. Let’s check it out!

Keep in contact with Thaiger by following our Facebook page.

Never miss out on future posts by following Thaiger.

Continue Reading
$85 to retrieve the dead after bloody Burmese military clash | Thaiger
Myanmar7 hours ago

$85 to retrieve the dead after bloody Burmese military clash

A Thailand Covid update that you won’t read in the news | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 hours ago

A Thailand Covid update that you won’t read in the news

Chiang Mai: Covid-19 cancels many Songkran events | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)8 hours ago

Chiang Mai: Covid-19 cancels many Songkran events

Thailand News Today | Covid surge continues, possible changes to 90 day reporting | April 12, 2021 | Thaiger
Thailand9 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Covid surge continues, possible changes to 90 day reporting | April 12, 2021

28,000 daily Covid-19 infections possible without “decisive action” | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)10 hours ago

28,000 daily Covid-19 infections possible without “decisive action”

Songkran safety campaign Day 2: 357 road accidents, 30 deaths | Thaiger
Road deaths11 hours ago

Songkran safety campaign Day 2: 357 road accidents, 30 deaths

2 emergency decrees provide businesses financial help | Thaiger
Economy13 hours ago

2 emergency decrees provide businesses financial help

The Thaiger joins forces with Masii to bring you hassle-free Thailand re-entry packages and much more | Thaiger
Business13 hours ago

The Thaiger joins forces with Masii to bring you hassle-free Thailand re-entry packages and much more

37 Thai provinces now imposing restrictions for travel from Bangkok and some surrounding provinces | Thaiger
Songkran13 hours ago

37 Thai provinces now imposing restrictions for travel from Bangkok and some surrounding provinces

Covid UPDATE: 985 new infections in Thailand, a small rise since yesterday | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)15 hours ago

Covid UPDATE: 985 new infections in Thailand, a small rise since yesterday

Proposals to get rid of 90 day reporting and ease investment rules in Thailand | Thaiger
Expats15 hours ago

Proposals to get rid of 90 day reporting and ease investment rules in Thailand

Understanding Covid-19 UK variant as it hits Thailand | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)17 hours ago

Understanding Covid-19 UK variant as it hits Thailand

Officials say no plan to change mandatory hospitalisation for Covid patients | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)17 hours ago

Officials say no plan to change mandatory hospitalisation for Covid patients

Top virologist warns of vaccine limitations against South African, Brazilian variants | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)17 hours ago

Top virologist warns of vaccine limitations against South African, Brazilian variants

Health officials outline estimated daily infections based on 5 different scenarios | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)18 hours ago

Health officials outline estimated daily infections based on 5 different scenarios

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half | Thaiger
Chiang Mai3 days ago

Tourism officials slash Songkran travel expectations by half

Condolences from Thailand to UK on Prince Philip’s death | Thaiger
Hot News2 days ago

Condolences from Thailand to UK on Prince Philip’s death

Thai Airways cuts another 4,250 staff, offering them early retirement | Thaiger
Transport3 days ago

Thai Airways cuts another 4,250 staff, offering them early retirement

UN special envoy in Thailand to meet Foreign Minister about Myanmar crisis | Thaiger
Thailand3 days ago

UN special envoy in Thailand to meet Foreign Minister about Myanmar crisis

Immigration police arrest Frenchman on drug charges, 3 other foreigners for overstay | Thaiger
Crime5 days ago

Immigration police arrest Frenchman on drug charges, 3 other foreigners for overstay

Police chief orders staff to work from home after 42 officers test positive | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)4 days ago

Police chief orders staff to work from home after 42 officers test positive

Aviation authority calling for 20,000 vaccine doses for crew, ground staff | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 days ago

Aviation authority calling for 20,000 vaccine doses for crew, ground staff

Weekend party event in Phuket reports positive Covid attendee | Thaiger
Events6 days ago

Weekend party event in Phuket reports positive Covid attendee

Labour union angry over changes to Thai Airways staff contracts under rehab plan | Thaiger
Business7 days ago

Labour union angry over changes to Thai Airways staff contracts under rehab plan

Nightlife shut down in 3 Bangkok districts following rise in Covid numbers | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 days ago

Nightlife shut down in 3 Bangkok districts following rise in Covid numbers

Leading Thai virologist warns of third wave, says herd immunity will take 2 years at current vaccination rate | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)6 days ago

Leading Thai virologist warns of third wave, says herd immunity will take 2 years at current vaccination rate

Bangkok prepares to open field hospital as officials warn of a rapid rise in infections | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 days ago

Bangkok prepares to open field hospital as officials warn of a rapid rise in infections

Thai Health Minister pictured without mask, sitting next to infected Transport Minister | Thaiger
Coronavirus (Covid-19)5 days ago

Thai Health Minister pictured without mask, sitting next to infected Transport Minister

UPDATE: Thai PM orders closure of bars and clubs in 41 provinces | Thaiger
Thailand4 days ago

UPDATE: Thai PM orders closure of bars and clubs in 41 provinces

New infections in Chiang Mai linked to Bangkok nightlife cluster | Thaiger
Chiang Mai7 days ago

New infections in Chiang Mai linked to Bangkok nightlife cluster

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4 | Thaiger
Thailand1 month ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO | Thaiger
Tourism1 month ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2 | Thaiger
Phuket1 month ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO | Thaiger
Tourism2 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23 | Thaiger
Thailand2 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO | Thaiger
Tourism2 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21 | Thaiger
Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19 | Thaiger
Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18 | Thaiger
Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15 | Thaiger
Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14 | Thaiger
Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13 | Thaiger
Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12 | Thaiger
Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11 | Thaiger
Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8 | Thaiger
Thailand3 months ago

Thailand News Today | Southern floods, Face mask fines, Thai Air Asia woes | January 8

Follow Thaiger by email:

Trending