No other Thai TV series in recent years managed to clear half the traffic off Bangkok’s main roads, as millions dashed home to eagerly await the latest episode in the top Thai TV program of 2012, Channel 3’s soap opera, ‘Raeng Ngao’ (Power of the Shadow).
As we all know, Thai soap operas, or Lakhorn Nam Nao as they say in Thai (directly translated into English as ‘insanely depressing tear-jerking drama’) have been the happy communal centre of family-friendly homes for donkey’s years. When the family’s favourite soap opera comes on the box, it’s time for everyone of any age to gather around; and that includes half the village too if you live in the middle of the countryside.
Raeng Ngao 2012, the fourth televised remake of this story, jumped on to our homely TV screens late in 2012 at peak hour times, twice a week. Perfect timing for grandmums, granddads and grandkids to soak up the sordid action. So, for you foreigners out there who would like to read the lowdown on Thailand’s top soap opera in recent memory, in English…. well, here it is..
First, there is Mr Jenpop, a high-ranking government officer. Even though Jenpop only receives a government salary of no more than $1,500US a month, he is somehow able to drive around in the latest state-of the-art imported Benzs and BMWs. And since Jenpop seems to have more money growing out his ears than hairs, he decides to spend some of his well-earned money on other women that are not his wife. After Jenpop gets bored of playing around with more women than Howard Hughes, Jenpop settles down with the lovely Miss Mutta, a true northern virginal beauty with skin whiter than a baby’s bottom. At first, the delightful Miss Mutta had played hard to get, but after Jenpop managed to have her in a short-time hotel against her wishes, Miss Mutta is love-stricken. The only problem is, is that Jenpop already has a wife, the powerfully-possessive Mrs Nopnapa.
Besides spending a million baht a month shopping at Siam Paragon, Mrs Nonnapa’s other hobby is spying on her husband via his secretary. Making sure her husband isn’t following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, Nopnapa has his secretary keep at look out for any naughty goings-on in his office between him and some sexy sales rep. And soon, the wicked-wife finds out about her husband and the now very seductive, Miss Mutta. The TV audience of now ten million plus is split, it’s Major Wife vs Minor Wife. Take your pick who you want to cheer.
Stomping into her husband’s workplace, like an elephant on methamphetamine, Nopnapa throws a frenzy when she sees Mutta at the top of the stairs. One slap, two slap, three slap, four slap………… Nopnapa’s footwork is amazing as she manages to smack and rip Mutta at every angle. Unsatisfied at seeing Mutta still standing, Nopnapa, from behind, pushes Mutta down 20 flights of stairs. “That was the best bitchy fight scene I seen in a long time; I hope Mutta steals a knife and gets her revenge” says Ajarn Achiraya a monk from a local temple. As for Somying, a seven year old schoolgirl, she reckoned, “Mrs Nopnapa is my idol. When I grow up if I any county-bumpkin tries to steal my husband, I’ll cut out her eyes and throw her to the crocodiles”.
The pitiful Miss Mutta, feeling such an idiot, gives up her job and goes back to her country home. And it is there that she meets up with her Twin sister, Miss Munin. Even though Munin is her twin sister, Mutta and Munin have totally different personalities. The hard-hearted wife-eater Munin is outraged when she hears the story of her once-virgin sister being deceived by a wicked womanizer and beaten senseless by some big-mouthed bully. As for Mutta, she decides that life is too cruel for her, and kills herself.
Absolutely furious, Munin decides it would be a wicked idea to dress-up as her sister and go hunt down Nopnapa and Jenpop. The nation’s TV soap opera fans are, by now, glued to Raeng Ngao and the action is about to begin. Even though, Raeng Ngao has an “Over 18yrs old” parental guidance warning, this gets completely ignored; and so it should, as Raeng Ngao is shown on-air at the prime-time of 8:30pm. Perfect timing for a family-friendly feast.
On the arrival of Mutta’s twin, Miss Munin in Bangkok, the temperature of the soap opera heats up to boiling point. Besides just womanizing, adultery, bitching, slapping, screaming and slander, Raeng Ngao now adds robbery, drink-driving, guns galore and gay-bashing to put more spice into this already fabulously fun show. After threatening to chop off Jenpop’s mojo and throw it to the ducks, Munin takes the soap opera a step further and kicks Nopnapa down fifty flights of stairs. Even though she lands head first, Nopnapa manages to survive the ordeal with her hair-do intact.
Just as the soap opera comes to an end, folks at the Ministry of Culture are flabbergasted at the lack of morals on a prime-time TV soap opera with a 20 million average audience. The ministry is also suspicious that persons under the age of 18 have been watching the show alongside grannies and mommies. And goodness-gracious-me, even nine year olds seem to be playing copy-cat. A leading Thai newspaper headlines “Nine year old schoolgirl punches and kicks her teacher and pushes her into swimming pool – Raeng Ngao Style!” The Cultural Ministry is furious that Thai society is portrayed so negatively, and decides that what Thai TV needs instead of Raeng Ngao, are programs on how proper Thai women actually behave in real life, that is…. keeping their virginity till the day of marriage, keeping their patience under control, praying to the monks everyday, and refraining from spreading gossip and talking nonsense.
And finally, Mrs Lappa a leading cultural crusader from the Ministry of Culture had this to say, “I have informed the censors to delete any unacceptable Thai-lady scene as hugging and kissing a man she is not married to. However, a woman can still be gang-raped on TV, so long as she deserves it.”