By now most of us have seen the Thailand's Got Talent video of 23-year-old "performance artist" Duangjai Jansaunoi painting on a canvas with her bare chest. The video sent shockwaves through Thailand's online communities and Culture Minister Sukumol Kunplome demanded the show's producers explain why the segment was allowed to air.
But what's most puzzling is where the female judge, Pornchita "Benz" na Songkhla, really stands on all this. In the video, she seems outraged.
"I'm not saying this is not good, but it's not appropriate," said the panel's only female judge, actress Pornchita Na Songkhla. "Within the Thai cultural context, I don't support this." (AP)
Benz appears to be unhappy about how a performance like this gels with Thailand's cultural image. It's worth mentioning at this point that in 2008, Benz was one of three young actresses enlisted as deputy spokeswomen for the Ministry of Culture. The idea here was that young people would be more likely to listen to celebrities. Benz was put in charge of "family matters".
“Older people have more experience, but teenagers do love to hear what young celebrities have to say,” she said.
She believes she can promote better communication between the young and elderly.
Pornchita was quick to add didn’t want to become a politician even though she was working for the Ministry. (Daily Xpress)
Bangkok Pundit commented on the appointments at the time:
The Ministry of Culture is made up of "fundamental prudes" who travel the country telling people what to wear and how to act – see here, here and here. If I was dictator for a day, one of my jobs would be send Ladda and her fellow preservers of cultural identity to a deserted island or to some ivory tower and allow them to preach, but as long as they don't have power to control. Because of this, I just find the appointment of the 3 actresses as deputy spokeswomen as amusing.
So the shoe definitely fits. But not everyone is convinced. Some people have speculated that the whole fiasco is part of a scheme orchestrated by the producers, Work Point Entertainment, to gain publicity. They knew exactly what they were doing when they aired the footage because the segment is pre-taped. It could easily have been cut from the show.
If it was staged, was Benz in on it? Was she just acting up to grab a few headlines? Or was she still stuck in her role as deputy spokeswoman?
Have a look at this video, shared by a reader:
In the video, a young chap comes on stage looking a bit like Michael Jackson. He then does a rather awkward striptease until he is left wearing only a thong. What follows is a lot of gyrating and prancing around. Throughout the performance, Benz seems to be rather enjoying herself. She even cackles with laughter as one of the presenters grabs the dancer's crotch towards the end of the segment.
Does Benz just have a problem with female nudity? Not if these photos of her, however tasteful, are anything to go by (as pointed out by Bangkok Pundit). In one of them she appears to be covered in nothing but chocolate. Perhaps young Duangjai was simply having a pop at Miss Benz?
No doubt all will be revealed soon enough and the fact that people are even talking about this means that the producers got exactly what they wanted and we've all been sucked in.
EDIT: For more fun and frolics, read Kaewmala's blog post.