02 November 2009

Bangkok Traffic Love Story | รถไฟฟ้า ... มาหานะเธอ

I have the feeling that if I say something negative about this film, I will be badly treated by my friends and my students. But after a period of long reflection, it's time I said something about Bangkok Traffic Love Story. A lot of Thai audience seems to love it, judging from the number of queries and comments appearing on the Pantip webboard. There's actually at least one group of people who went around Bangkok to search for real locations in the film. A lot of white collar workers in their 30s just love this film, as it somehow fills in the gap of contemporary Thai films, where either senseless (romantic) comedies or ghost films seem to be the only choices Thai viewers have.

Perhaps the other reason why this film is so popular is because it is so rooted in contemporary Thai urban scenes, with the leading appearance of BTS skytrains. An increasing number of Bangkok dwellers choose this channel to commute everyday as it is definitely faster. Besides, the trains themselves are also the "meat market" where people of similar class and ideology can meet -- the so-called new urban middle class. However, it remains to be seen whether real romantic encounters can actually happen when a lot of commuters just choose to listen to their MPs or stare at inane and loud TV commercials rather than to chat up with someone they like, but it can't be denied that what happens in the film is actually the fantasy of many people.

It is also obvious that the film is targeted for women viewers, as we see the character of Mei Li develops in a significant way at the expense of Lung, starring Ken Theeradej, whose personality is reduced to a life-size cardboard able to flash a killer's smile whenever needed. We see how Mei Li develops from an independent career woman to a dependent girl in desperate love with Lung. However, the ending starts to see some light when Mei Li is able to jettison Lung's love as he's leaving for Germany. However, my dream of her strength and independence is shattered once Lung is back and surprises her with his god-like trick of making the skytrain stop halfway and turning everyone on board into a mobile phone freak.

Of course, one can easily say that the film is in league with patriarchal codes, with women always in search for their dream men. But this one is slightly better, as it shows Mei Li's attempt to put herself in the man's life quite actively. We learn that women finally are able to fight back to get what they want. But writing along this line, I start to wonder: but isn't it still "a man" they're fighting for. Maybe this is still patriarchy in another guise. And somehow we just don't question this anymore.

1 comment:

Noah said...

interesting blog. I found it through the entry on Anusorn Tipayanon, but found a lot more to read that's helpful to my own research. But yeah, you're right about the strange melodramatic allure of the male hero in this one. I think most girls would say "you went away, you can't come back", like in the Jesus and Mary Chain song "Sometimes Always". But then again, he did date a movie star.