Sunday, March 7, 2010

Let's Go to the Movies!

Even before we moved here I had heard about the experience that is going to the movies in Thailand.  Some might consider it a bit shameful that it has taken us seven months to finally make it to see a movie here.  Friday night some friends invited us to go out, and so Mali and I finally made our long-awaited foray into a Thai movie theater.  I have to confess, I was less impressed than I had anticipated.  Now, we didn't go with the first-class movie, which consists of a full-blown meal in addition to the flick, which is apparently the gold-standard for movie-going experiences.  Rest assured we will do that at some point, just not this time.

First and foremost, our experience on Friday confirmed what others have told me--the Thais do not have a strong sense of what is appropriate for previews, and the Thais in general loves them the horror movies.  Our friends with more experience have said that when they take their kids to a movie they don't go inside until after the King's anthem.  And the previews were really, really LOUD.  Twenty-five minutes of very loud, often inappropriate previews.  Gives you plenty of time to get your popcorn and soda.

It also was a fascinating study in the Thai sense of propriety.  Thai movie theaters have assigned seating--ALL of the seats are assigned.  Mali and I purchased tickets for the love seats at the very back row of the theater, which was pretty cool.  About halfway through the film I had to take a phone call, and when I returned to our seats, much to my surprise, someone else was sitting there.  It seems that Mali and I had sat in the wrong love seat, and the people who purchased those tickets were demanding to sit in them.  Never mind the fact that, besides us and our friends, there were only SIX other people in the entire theater.  Never mind the fact that there were two other love seats completely vacant.  These folks brought in the usher to make sure that they got exactly the seats they paid for, even though they came one hour into the movie.  Blew my mind, especially considering these were probably the very same people who drive in the emergency lane, cut across four lanes of traffic to make an illegal right-hand turn, or honk their horn at you for not moving over when they are riding their motorcycle against traffic.  Yup, that's what we're talking about here.

This provides me the opportunity to ruminate on other observations of watching television here.  While watching TV here there's something that I personally find quite amusing.  They will blur out any weapon that is in close proximity to someone's head--okay, that itself isn't that amusing.  What is funny is that those weapons apparently also include cigarettes or any other type of smoked tobacco product.  They'll show the bloody after-affects of a dismemberment, decapitation, or evisceration, but heaven forbid they show someone smoking.  Drinking is okay to depict, as are other forms of drug use, but not smoking.  Even as a non-smoker, I find it amusing, especially in a place like this where it seems that an astounding number of people smoke like chimneys.

Movies on Thai television are also somewhat revealing about Thai attitudes towards cursing.  Basically, there are relatively few words that, by and of themselves, are considered swear-words in Thai.  There are, however, words that can be used in everyday situation without rousing a censor's suspicions which, in the proper context and combination, are considered extremely vulgar.  It's important for me to understand these things, of course, because with my willingness to open my mouth and try out new phrases, and I don't want to be saying inappropriate things if I can in any way help it.  Unless, of course, the situation requires it...but if my mother asks, you never read that.


  1. Aren't cultures interesting? I find very few movies I would want to see or would want those I love to see; however, your description of the previews and the graphics of TV would make me a definite abstainer. I loved your descriptions of the love seat seats. Shame on you for not thinking the other people could come in an hour late and not want "their" seats. Good grief! They would have lost them here fifteen minutes before the show began. Every one to his own and every country to its own. Love, Mother

    P.S. Your mother did read the last revealing sentence, but I tend to think it would have to be an extreme circumstance.

  2. If you received the first, change the last "love them" to "lost them!"

  3. Brent, it's just a testiment of your manhood. The truth is the couple came to the theater on time but they were terrified of confronting you. Heck, the usher even waited until you left. Don't ever leave Mali again. :-) Ha!