Not a big fan of love triangles, but this kdrama has an intriguing premise about a girl becoming a beauty overnight. True Beauty (2020) is based on a webtoon and stars Moon Ga Young (Find Me in Your Memory), Cha Eun Woo (Rookie Historian Goo Hae Ryung) and Hwang In Yeob (18 Again). This romantic comedy airs on tvN on Dec 9, and should be English subbed.
Synopsis: It is a romantic comedy about a high school girl Im Ju Gyeong, who rises to pretty girl fame after she masters the art of make-up from YouTube. She turns into a goddess because of her makeup skills, but would rather die than reveal her bare face to anyone. It tells her love story with the only boy that saw her without makeup, Lee Su Ho. Lee is an attractive and handsome boy who appears cold because of his dark past but is actually very caring. They grow when they meet each other sharing their secrets and finding love with each other, but can Su Ho make Ju Gyeong find her true beauty? (Source: Wikipedia) ~~ Adapted from the webtoon “Yeoshingangrim” by Yaongyi.
True Beauty (2020) has a similar premise to kdrama My ID is Gangnam Beauty (2018), which oddly enough also featured Cha Eun Woo as the male lead 🤔. Lee Shi Eun, who also wrote Top Star Yoo Baek, is the screenwriter here and the director is Kim Sang Hyub (Extraordinary You), so a pretty good team here. The webcomic is still airing, so whom the female lead ends up with remains in the air, but regardless, this is one I’ll check out.
I debated whether to talk about this or not, as I’m no expert on the political situation in Thailand and/or their history. However, I have been following closely the protests in the USA this year, and what is happening in Thailand now seems soooo familiar, I feel I can speak from that perspective. The other thing that made me want to talk about it is that a number of Thailand celebrities have started talking about it using the phrase “Violence is not the solution,” so I figured that yes in some way, it is related to lakorns, which is supposed to be the main theme of this website.
In Thailand, there are a lot of protests going on against the government right now. Protests have been happening for a while, but recently the protests have garnered more attention recently as protestors have been met with more force from the police and the number of protestors have risen.
A Brief Summary of Thailand’s History
Let me take it a few steps back as before we even talk about the protests going on now, we have to have some idea of the history of the protests. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy (the constitutional part being fairly recent, say 1932) and they have a king, King Vajiralongkorn, as well as a prime minister, General Prayut Chan-o-cha. Thailand had a democratically elected National Assembly, but in 2014, there was a coup and overthrow of the government by military forces, the leader of whom, Prayut Chan-o-cha, took power and then held onto as he was elected the prime minster due to the disputed 2019 elections. It seems as if power has shifted from military leadership to democracy at various times in Thailand’s history, with the monarchy only serving as a figurehead for much of the 20th century.
After the coup in 2014, of course there was protests, but in 2019 there finally were elections, and while these were problematic, apparently the protests really flared up again with the dissolution by Thailand’s Constitution Court of a political party Future Forward Party (FFP) in Thailand, which had placed 3rd in the 2019 elections and was very popular with students. The dissolution was supposed to be about campaign donations fraud, but as the FFP was an anti-military group and as such was often targeted by the military, this seems to be suspect at best.
The dissolution of the FFP set off protests primarily in schools in February 2020, but COVID soon came along and shut most of the schools (and protests) down, Then in July 2020, again under youth leadership, protests started again with the three demands as stated up above. Protests grew and the response to the protests grew as well, as many people saw the government taking oftentimes violent action against peaceful protesters.
On October 16, police used a water cannon with tear gas, as well as batons and shields against protestors, and the growing violence has led some people to ask celebrities like actors/actresses to step up and speak about these issues.
The protests have also seen an increasingly negative view of the monarchy rise and calls for an end to lese majeste laws, where criticism of the monarchy is strictly forbidden. There have been demands made by protesters from 3 to 10 demands, most of them revolving around government reforms and demanding more civil liberties.
Celebrities and Police Response to Protests
As it stands now, public gathering of groups of more than five people have been banned in Thailand, censorship has lead to crackdowns with news programs like the BBC being blocked. Celebrities such as singers/actors Ice Sarunyu and Nickhun have started talking about the protests and some people are looking for more celebrities to do the same.
Right now, there are many protests going on around the world. At the core, most of these protests resolve around one simple matter: dissatisfaction with the government. It’s true of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US (which are still continuing by the way). The protests that erupted in Beirut, climate change protests and the protests in Thailand, even the anti mask/anti covid-19 restrictions protests (which I don’t agree) are really all based on dissatisfaction with the government. (Plus a lot of misinformation in the case of anti-maskers.)
And the usual government response to these protests? Well, they usually respond by clamping down on protesters with pepper spray, tear gas, you name it. This results in an ever-escalating violence oftentimes by the police forward protesters, who the most cases are just exercising their civic duty. The very actions of the police in fact, often exacerbate the situation and make it very clear why people are protesting in the first place.
Please note: My knowledge of Thailand is very shallow, I’m merely sharing what I’ve learned so far, in the hope of encouraging readers to continue furthering their knowledge by clicking on the links and to lay the background as I examine the situation from my perspective as a USA citizen who has been closely following the protests in my country. But this piece seems too long as it is, so I’ll be giving my perspective/comparison/contrast in another post.
So I guess I took a week off the blog, (I actually had posts scheduled in advance cuz I knew I’d be busy this week, but it turned out I had the wrong dates scheduled, 😅 OOPS.). I did manage to watch the six episodes out of So Wayree (2020), and oh boy, where to begin? The very first episode is soo problematic, I continued watching hoping there was a twist or something that would redeem the show. Was there? Eh, not really. MASSIVE SPOILERS for first 6 episodes ofSo Wayree (2020) ahead. And yes, I will be talking about rape, so trigger warning for those who may be troubled by it.
Myth: Rape and sexual assault are about sexual attraction and gratification.
Fact: Rape and sexual assault are all about control and domination.
Synopsis: Two hotel moguls, once family friends since the grandparents generation now sworn enemies, are fighting over who will reign supreme. Prinoot never thought that he would be part of the hatred. Although his father is the son in law of Sirimontra, his mom was only a mistress who was abandoned in America. Growing up he never knew what having a father was like. Pramida is the only heiress to the famous Emporium real estate mogul. She was pulled into this warring game after being drugged and sent to Prinoot as ransom. 4 years later, she came back with a set of twins but she told everyone that those were her siblings. Prinoot and Pramida meet again but standing on opposite sides of the line as sworn enemies. Although they have the twins, not as chains of love but chains of enemies that tied them together unwillingly. (Source: asianfuse.net)
Summary of Episodes 1-6
Myth: Rape happens only to “certain” types of women.
Fact: Any person of any gender, age, race, class, religion, occupation, physical ability, sexual identity, or appearance can be raped. The perpetrator does not choose the victim because they are young, pretty, or provocatively dressed; the perpetrator chooses the victim who is vulnerable.
So let’s begin with the story in episode 1. We see the heroine Mitra (played by Mookda Narinrak) is having a graduation party with her close friends, they’re taking pictures and I guess later they go to a bar in her father’s hotel where they drink nonalcoholic drinks. Meanwhile, it seems like the “hero” Parin (Kem Hussawee) is watching her from afar. One of Mitra’s so-called friends, Naphasiri, drugs Mitra’s drink and then we see Mitra being carried/dragged by Naphasiri (Kochakorn Songsangterm) to a hotel room, and Parin takes over. There is also money exchanged and words between Naphasiri and Parin. There are some bed scenes and Mitra wakes up with Parin next to her and she has no idea what happened. She leaves as quickly as possible and goes away to cry. So basically what happened was Parin paid Naphasiri as a pimp for Mitra’s services, never mind the fact that it’s obvious Mitra is drunk and has no clue what is happening. This is rape by any definition. I hoped I was wrong about this interpretation of what happened, but so far, nope, I’m not.
And in the next episodes, we see Mitra going overseas to live with her aunt, learning she is pregnant, having twins and putting them up for adoption, only to change her mind and have her aunt adopt them. She comes back to Thailand to help her dad run his company, which is in direct competition with Parin’s dad’s company. There she meets Parin again, and he chases after her, she tries to play him and keep him from finding out her secrets, while gathering admirers, and enemies.
Myth: If you wouldn’t have been drinking, you wouldn’t have been sexually assaulted.
Fact: Alcohol is a weapon that some perpetrators use to control their victim and render them helpless. As part of their plan, a perpetrator may encourage the victim to use alcohol, or identify an individual who is already incapacitated. Alcohol is not a cause of rape; it is only one of many tools that perpetrators use.
We also learn a lot about Parin in six episodes. Apparently, according to his friend, he has a reputation with the ladies. Parin thinks he’s in love with Mitra, whose name I’m not even sure he knows until a couple of episodes in, spends years pining over his lost love, 🙄 without any sort of realization apparently that what he did was rape her. So he is pleased when he sees her again, she not so much. Parin attempts to rationalize what he did by saying that she was asking for it, that he thought she was for sale and well she put herself in a position to be drunk and therefore whatever happened to her, happened. In the later episodes 5 and 6, we see Parin seem to realize that he was mistaken about her, she is a good person, not a slut like he thought and she wasn’t a drunk whore slept with anyone for money like her friend said. He starts to try to help her behind the scenes in episode 6, so on.
Rape in So Wayree
There are sooo many problems with this lakorn, I don’t even know where to begin.
Myth: Women shouldn’t go out alone at night as they are likely to get raped.
Fact: Only one in 10 of rapes are committed by ‘strangers’.
Being careless/making a mistake doesn’t excuse rape. First, there was a moment in the drama where Mitra’s father learns what happened and he says to Mitra, you were guilty because you were careless and Parin says something similar, that she put herself in a situation like that by being drunk. 🥵There’s so much wrong with that. Nobody can be careful all the time, we’re human, we’re going to make mistakes. So if by his metric, we happened to have a car break down in a bad neighborhood, or we overslept and got to work late and we had to stay late because of that and something happened to us, we were raped or hurt, that’s our fault? Those things happened to me, fortunately I was safe, but I guess I shouldn’t be since I wasn’t being careful enough. NOBODY is capable of being careful, proactive or mistake free 100% or even more than 60% of the time I would say. We’re only human. We’re not robots.
Not being a virgin doesn’t excuse rape. Parin is told by Naphasiri that Mitra has slept with lots of guys and I guess that gave him the green light to rape because he says or implies numerous times that he thought she is/was a slut (even though there was blood on the bed after the rape). Regardless, whether she or anyone is a virgin or not doesn’t and shouldn’t give anyone leeway to rape them. Lakorns are notorious for this really. Often times, we see the ‘bad girls’ in lakorns, like in Marn Bang Jai being raped and she is never saved by anyone. Many lakorns have the good virginal girl, the nang’ek in situations where there’s an attempted rape and she’s usually saved by the hero (aka Prom Pissawat). The main exception to this is if the hero tries and/or rapes the heroine himself (no saving nang’ek from that!) and most slap and kiss lakorns are like that, with the rape mostly resulting in a romantic relationship and a happy ending. (And yeah, that’s a whole another discussion I don’t have space to write about now).
Being drunk (or not) doesn’t excuse rape. Uh, do I even need to explain this? In fact, I would say being drunk means you can’t really give consent, so having sex with someone who’s drunk is a no-no. Mitra doesn’t know what happened, the lakorn makes it plain she and her friends were not drinking (though even if they were, that still wouldn’t excuse raping her), and her friend drugged her, but so far only the friend knows this and most assumed she was drunk, including Parin.
Personal responsibility – a double standard. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use our brains that God gave us to protect ourselves, that’s just common sense of course. Yes, we should be careful where we are and what we do and educate ourselves, but this same argument is NEVER used for the rapist. Parin never seems to think about his own responsibility to like not rape someone, to make sure they are consenting to sex and oh, maybe actually use his brain at times. Instead, he and others rationalize their behavior so much it’s ridiculous. Parin’s father hears about the incident and basically claps him on the back and says good job, that Parin won’t be hurt at all from people knowing he is promiscuous. So Mitra should have been careful, but Parin did a good job, according to the views in this lakorn.
I want to make it clear that these views or myths about rape are widespread in every country to some degree and in many dramas besides lakorns (Koreans had to deal with a number of real life rape issues regarding a number of popular actors like Kang Ji Hwan recently), so this isn’t just a Thailand/lakorn problem, it’s much, much more pervasive than that. But this is a blog mostly based on lakorns, and So Wayree is a currently airing lakorn that features rape, so it seems like the ideal time to tackle this subject.
The lakorn tries to redeem Parin, he’s a great son, good at his job, likes kids, but all I can think is the dude paid someone to have sex, a drunk person at that. This doesn’t seem like my idea of a good person, or even a bad person. That seems pure evil. And yet, I liked Kawee and Sawan Biang (2008), so why does this bother me more? I’m not sure, maybe because it’s the first picture we get of Parin as a rapist. Or, quite frankly, while both Kem and Mookda are okay actors, neither of them are on the same level as Ken or Ann in Sawan Biang. Maybe also most rapes in lakorns are framed as being impulsive, spur of the moment fits of anger/jealousy or both and that’s what makes this cold blooded rape seem especially heinous.
Regardless, this lakorn really leaves me with a very bad taste in my mouth. There are some things to like here, kids are cute, Parin’s half brother Chanathip might be a lazy spoiled rich kid, but he’s also treats his girlfriend with respect, is horrified by Parin’s treatment of Mitra and seems an overall nice guy. And Mitra seems like she may become a stronger person or at least she’s trying to become one. I also like how Parin’s friend Gun tells him some home truths about his behavior.
But this lakorn embraces and justifies the many rape tropes and myths out there without trying to challenge them in any way. There’s these underlying assumptions that we’re supposed to be okay with and that’s not right. I really don’t know if I can keep watching it, as it doesn’t seem likely to change, but I see a number of people raving about this lakorn, so maybe I will watch more to write more about this lakorn. It is not okay.
Korean drama It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020) stars Kim Soo Hyun and Seo Ye Ji as the main couple, with other main leads Park Kyu Young and Oh Jung Se starts airing on June 20, 2020. Most of the romantic drama seems to revolve around the inmates and workers around and in a psychiatric ward. This is the type of drama I would like to see from Thailand, with characters who have mental illness (and yes, I realize most screaming nangrai’s and parents could qualify as such). They’re getting there, there was one lakorn I remember about Wai Sab Saraek Kad (2016) involving a female psychologist, but it’s not subbed unfortunately.
It’s Okay to Not Be Okay (2020) Synopsis: The story of a community health worker at a psychiatric ward who lives on 1.8 million won (approximately $1,520) a month and a storybook writer suffering from an antisocial personality disorder. A man who denies love and a woman who doesn’t know love defy fate and fall in love, finding their souls and identities in the process. Moon Kang Tae is a community health worker at a psychiatric ward. Moon Kang Tae is a man who was blessed with everything including a great body, smarts, ability to sympathize with others, patience, ability to react quickly, stamina, and more. Meanwhile, Ko Moon Young is a popular writer of children’s literature, but she is extremely selfish, arrogant, and rude. (Source: Soompi koreandrama.org)
Kim Soo Hyun (You Who Came from the Stars) is a very popular star and this is his first drama since he completed his mandatory military service. Seo Ye Ji (Save Me) is the female lead and we also have director Park Shin Woo, who is known for his kdramas such as Encounter and Trap. This tvN drama should be available on Netflix English subbed.
I have ideas on what I want to blog about, but little inspiration to fuel those ideas and give them shape until I watched Tawan Arb Dao, a new lakorn currently airing on Channel 7.
I’ve already written a first impressions post on it here, but decided one scene in particular needed my complete attention in terms of the class issues it portrayed.
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!
Tawan Arb Dao (2020) started airing on Channel 7 on March 26 and currently airs two days a week, Wednesday and Thursday.
Tawan Arb Dao (2020): Siwakorn disguises himself as Siwath, his twin brother in order to investigate his death. He tries to avoid sleeping with Chorprae who is Siwath’s lover and meets Daopradub, Chorprae’s daughter who was called out from abroad to help with the family’s company. (Source: MyDramaList)
Our main couple. Kem Hussawee who plays twins, Siwakorn, Siwath. Thisa Varitthisa plays Daopradub
The nang’ek Dao is sent by Chor (her boss and auntie) to handle workers who are protesting and demanding a wage. The main couple go there together and learn the workers want a 50 baht raise ($1.53). Yes, a $1.53 raise. 😱 Oh, the horror!!!! The unruly workers go after their bosses, who tells them they’ll call the cops.
Our heroes arrive at the construction site, with the nang’ek in a dress and high heels. The pra’ek Siwakorn/Siwath says they’ll discuss the raise at a meeting. To which the worker replies, you get hundreds of thousands and air conditioning, why do you need a meeting? And here’s what follows.
The site boss in his yellow jacket replies “If you guys did as much work as them, they would pay you a hundred thousand per month too.” And then, “You guys should go finish sixth grade first!”
Notice that the site boss says that. Not our hero or nang’ek or pra-ek. They can’t point that out because they’re of a different class from the workers, so a boss worker has to point that out to make it seem like a legitimate point. (Oh and by the way, I’ve not seen either pra’ek or nang’ek do a lick of work 😂 this whole time unless you count looking for trouble or talking a lot about non-work issues. That they do plenty of at the company).
The head of the striking workers retorts (quite reasonably), “Then go find someone with a bachelor’s degree to come do the work!” Then he goes, “If you’re gonna talk like that, there’s no need to negotiate!” “Destroy everything!”
I’m skipping some things, but basically at this point, the nang’ek steps in and tells them to stop. She’s ignored, rightfully so (why should they listen to her?) and it isn’t until she tells them her name that they stop.
They crowd the nang’ek with pleas of help, and things are going downhill until all of the sudden, a piece of wall is about to fall on a little girl (who’s at their work site?) and Dao saves the girl. I. KID. YOU. NOT. 🙃
The girl turns out to be the daughter of the leader of the striking workers and he’s suitably impressed. So impressed, he tells Dao, “that we won’t ask for a raise anymore. We will get back to work.”
Dao replies she’ll try to bring it up (ahhhh, how sweet) and the nang’ek is carted off to the hospital to be treated for her… skinned knee. There are so many things wrong with this I don’t know where to start. Maybe a list 😪.
First of all, notice that this inexperienced rich girl (think typical white savior trope) who we don’t know has ever worked a day in her life, saves the day.
Second, all those striking workers look upon her as their savior and even wish for salvation from her. Really?!
Third, why is the little girl sitting in the middle of what looks like a construction site? Why is she there at all? I blame this entirely on lazy parents who didn’t teach their kid to avoid stereotypes and lazy plotting so their kid grew up to write this stuff.
Fourth, look again how the nang’ek says she’ll try to bring it up. And they thank her. 🙄
Fifth, perhaps this is not a unionized group of workers. Who knows? But usually it takes more than one person to agree the strike is over and this guy immediately says without consulting everyone, and yet they all agree.
Sixth… I can’t go on. I don’t want to go on.
The bottom line is that the scene is incredibly lazy, riddled with tropes and stereotypes and to what purpose? To give the nang’ek moments with the pra’ek, to show her courage, intelligence or fortitude? It did none of that.
Striking workers are a common trope in many dramas, including Forget You Remember Love (2020), a Chinese remake of The Prince Who is a Frog, which is airing now. We can also see many other better and more nuanced portrayals of the working class in lakorns such as Rahut Rissaya or even Dum Khun. But it will always be problematic when the working class is there to show the merits of the rich, rather then the merits of the working class. To be continued…