Submitted on Fri, 22 Jan 2016 - 08:45 AM
Fictional military — Real life military (Source). A popular meme circulating on social networks
All year round, Thai TV channels air military-themed lakhon (soap operas), where cute actors dressed in military uniforms play silly pranks on their crushes. The silver screen isn’t exempt from this charade either: soldiers are one-sidedly portrayed as protectors in a film set in the Deep South’s ongoing conflict. This neutralizing formula of cuddly fictional soldiers tries to overwrite actual military men, who look—and act—much uglier. The latest farce, coming soon to you on True4U channel this March, is a three-part military action-drama, “Master of the Skies,” [Jao Weha, official English name - “Take Off”] which will focus on heavily armed, sexy commanding officers in order to more seriously popularize—and sexualize—the military.
While repeatedly-made lakhon such as My Super Lovely Captain [Phu Kong Yod Rak] present recruits as harmless clowns who flirt with their commanding officers, “Master of the Skies” will show military men as adept, virile commanders who have the firepower to gun down anyone the plot wants them to. It's like these military lakhon are progressing along the traditional “steps” of dating the Thai audience: step one was cracking jokes and pranks to let down our guard. Step two will be showing us how we can have a stable, committed relationship with them as our protectors. I don’t want to imagine what step three will be like.
The three instalments of “Master of the Skies” will feature a commanding officer in each branch of the military and their corresponding love interests.
“Master of the Skies,” produced by “Nat" Myria Benedetti,will have three instalments, each focusing on a young military man in the three branches of the armed forces: the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force. One only needs to see the trailer to get smacked in the face with its blatantly obvious messages delivered on a 150 million baht budget.
The first instalment, “From Shore to Sky,” focuses on Commander Navin (his name literally means “marine”) in the Royal Thai Navy SEAL Corps who “willingly risks his life to fight drug trafficking gangs” and will fall in love with an army doctor. The choice to feature a SEAL unit, or Underwater Demolition Assault Unit (UDAU) officer is provocative: real-life UDAU missions, while said to involve intelligence, anti-terrorism, and skirmishes, are largely top-secret. Plus, if Commander Navin has a scene in a submarine, then this sexier, cooler submarine memory may replace Prayut’s decision to purchase submarines for reasons of courtesy back in July 2015.
Navin will romance Chofa (Woranut Bhirombhakdi), an “idealistic” Princess Mother’s Medical Volunteer (PMMV), according to the character biographies. The successful romance of a “timeless Thai lady” will show that the traditional nang ek (leading lady), with her pure-white Buddhist morals, is more than compatible with an upright military man. I bet both have black-and-white visions of morality, too, so don’t expect to see any characters with “grey area” moral dilemmas or character growth.
The second instalment, “Conquering the Heart,” will focus on Royal Thai Army Air Division’s Armed Helicopter Commander Thongrob (“battleflag”), played by Andrew Gregson. The trailer specifies that he is “authoritative, brash, shouting, and pouty.” Remind you of any military man we know?
Wow, they’ve got the same eyes. (Source)
What’s more, Thongrob must pursue Mina (played by “Pancake” Khemani Jamikorn), a CEO who initially dislikes soldiers due to a personal grudge. When Pray—I mean, Thongrob—wins over this businesswoman, he also “conquers the heart” of practical, business-minded citizens who are wary of the military or even politics in general.
Oooh! Initial distrust or dislike is just the first chapter of a long and lasting fiery romance! Who cares if you didn’t like the junta at first; that was just the bickering phase of a budding love story!
Press photos from Jao Weha’s Facebook page
There is also the trailer’s pointed emphasis on Thongrob’s command over a fleet of Black Hawk armed helicopters. Trust in the Thai Army’s helicopter equipment was largely lost in the 2011 helicopter crashes, where 17 died due to outdated equipment, lack of maintenance, limited training for flying in jungle areas, and insufficient fuel. So having a half-German actor fly around in competent-looking choppers in a tighter-than-life military uniform and with a love interest is sure to boost army likability.
Finally, the third instalment, “Guardian Angel on the Horizon” will focus on Wing Commander Yothin (“soldier”) of the Royal Air Force, commander of an F-16 combat aircraft. Yothin, played by Tik Jesadaporn Pholdee, is a cheerful guy who “turns into a merciless hawk when hunting down those who sell the nation.” Get ready for aggressive bombing of “enemies of our land” that you’ll be forced to swoon at. Commander Yothin will woo Lieutenant Tubtim (Davika Hoorne), a military intelligence officer. You know, because air force and intelligence collaborating can only produce sexy results.
“For country, for love, for honour,” closes out the trailer. Interestingly, the clearly-specified divisions and aircraft the three men are in command of, the SEAL unit, Black Hawk helicopters, and F-16s, all have close ties with or are produced by the US, even though the Thai military purchases equipment from various countries. An imagined similarity with US military (the military radio message at the beginning of the trailer is even in English) may be an attempt to link “Master of the Skies” with Hollywood war films such as “Black Hawk Down” and the big equipment featured in such blockbusters.
From the “From Shore to Sky” trailer
The occupations and pairings of the leading commanding officers and their corresponding leading ladies in “Master of the Skies” have been hand-picked to maximize the emotional and sexual appeal of the military. Nevertheless, the military men on your TV screen aren’t going away any time soon, whether the handsome or ugly ones.