We only get rabbit ears broadcast TV in our apartment, which isn’t so bad if you like Soap Operas that redefine melodrama, Royal family/governmental propaganda, totally humorless game shows that more often than not feature men in drag, or infomercials for Buddhist amulets, beauty and exercise products, and miracle pills (many Thai women are terrified of being unlucky, ugly and old).
One saving grace is that public TV airs Attitude Era WWF pro wrestling, which is huge here and I’m pretty sure they don’t know is fake. It’s really refreshing to watch Thais consume the wrestling I watched with the same level of wonder in elementary school, believing every aspect of it is real. “Attitude Era” wrestling got a ton of bad publicity at the time for their (duh) attitudes towards authorities, women, etc. as well as the company’s rampant steroid use at the time, and this led to a severe toning down of the best in sports entertainment…but 10-12 years later in retrospect, the tone of the show isn’t that extreme. The other saving grace are nightly music videos—both Thai and Indian.
Thai music videos are refreshingly provincial compared to American ones—for me, it’s certainly a welcome cultural difference. As a country, Thailand’s constantly falling in and out of love…I don’t believe this is an exaggerated generalization. Western songs featuring lyrics of heartbreak, melancholy pining, and rumination over lost loves play in convenience stores, taxis, and eateries. If the music videos are any indications, all Thai girls are either impatiently waiting to be courted and proposed to, or else they’re severely and sometimes fatally heartbroken…and the men aren’t much different.
Themes include reminiscing over the early days of a relationship, boys swooning hard over a femme fatale, rescuing high-heeled ditsy women from a puddle-splash or other such public humiliation, and lots and lots of photographs at Thai historic and national landmarks. Especially popular are public transport romances (e.g. the one that got away in the Metro). Women snuggle up to their boyfriends as they speed through the city on a motorcycle, they fall into boys arms after being yanked away from a speeding car, etc.
Thai women are more (overtly) interested in knights and shining armor (although, come to think of it, the Twilight series is making a strong push back in this direction), and Thai men are more than happy enough to oblige—maybe it’s a fair trade for women (no matter their age) over here having to dress up like they’re going out clubbing for every situation; casual, professional, or otherwise. Outfits that would raise eyebrows at a Halloween party over in America are commonplace midday here…it’s like a big competition. Is that a kindergarten teacher or a pole dancer? It’s a toss-up.
Although it seems sappy, these videos refreshing break from the more materialistic, in-your-face American rap and hip hop videos that emphasize a more aggressive and physical pursuit of women as another commodity or trophy. At least with Thai videos, the women are the ultimate goal rather than a trophy representative of something else. Thai women also seem to be a jealous lot: with love triangles being a popular topic for music video and soap opera plots and stories of Thai women cutting off their boyfriend’s privates abound.
On the other hand, Indian music videos are massive productions–over-the-top colorful sexual and sensual spectacles, concerned with physical beauty, decadence, or a one-night pursuit of a woman, who is either leather-clad in a hyper-futuristic club or dripping in gold, draped in intricate and ornate vaguely-traditional Indian dress and rolling on a candled floor in some exotic slice of Indian history. Apparently, Indian men are extremely passionate. They feel emotions powerfully and not afraid to show it– dancing really expressively, crying, or even killing themselves if they can’t be with the woman they fall for. Still, the women in these videos are the goal rather than a prize to gloat about.
Anyways, good TV.