Bangkok Pundit, who now writes more blog posts in one day than I do in a week, has a really interesting post at the moment about the portrayal of rape on Thai TV. The issues raised stem from the Thai soap opera Dao Puan Din, which airs on Channel 7 Fridays to Sundays.
The show’s producers made the decision to punish one of the lead characters by having her gang-raped. The character, Rinlada, is a bad girl who regularly tries to “steal the boyfriends” of her nemesis, Uamdao. The rape of Rinlada is supposedly her just desserts for leading a bad life.
I had to take a minute to for this to sink in.
From an editorial in The Nation:
The argument from “sensitive” quarters is that “inappropriate” behavior by young women could increase the number of sexual assaults or rapes.
This is something I came across recently after the murder of the young Swedish tourist, Hanna Backlund, who was stabbed to death while sunbathing at Mai Khao Beach in Phuket. Thai authorities immediately suspected that the murder was a botched gang rape by up to four men. It has now transpired that there is only one suspect and the issue of rape remains unclear.
The police initially suggested that Hanna sunbathing topless was part of the reason why she was attacked. As a result, warnings were issued by Thai authorities that women should not sunbathe topless or else they might be prone to the same fate as Hanna.
It was never explicitly said that it was Hanna’s fault that she was murdered, but the idea was implied. I was unaware that this whole attitude to rape figured so prominently in Thai soap operas. It astounds me that rape is treated with such triviality in Thai society, when a movie such as Oliver Twist is censored so that people can’t watch the devious act of pipe smoking.
Also from The Nation:
According to Channel Seven, one way to decide on the issue is to take a vote. The public will have their say about whether they want to see the rape scene on television or have the script rewritten.
Notice that the vote is whether or not the rape “scene” should be shown and not whether or not the storyline is morally questionable. It’s incredible to think that minor issues are blown out of all proportion while rape is put in an indifferent light.
Compare this to storylines in UK soap operas, such as the rapes of Kathy Beale and Mo Morgan in Eastenders. Those were hard-hitting storylines that shocked millions of viewers. TV producers have a duty to treat such storylines with sensitivity so as to avoid social the propagation of attitudes that seemingly condone rape in certain situations.
I haven’t watched enough Thai TV to really get into this subject, so I’d love to hear some other opinions on the matter.