Is it possible for a lakorn to paint a realistic picture of a rocky marriage? “Padiwarada’s” subtle yet major deviations from the usual soap fare shed a new light on Thai women and marriages.
“Padiwarada” (ปดิวรัดา) aired from January through February 2016 on Channel 3, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 20:20-22:50. This soap opera adaptation is the first of a novel originally published in 1968 by a writer with the pen name of “Saranchit.”
Now it’s easy to criticize lakorn, especially if it’s the ninth remake of the same story or if it overtly pushes the views of its writer. Especially from a Western perspective, or from someone who watches primarily US or UK-produced series, it’s easy to scoff and dismiss Third World soaps as lacking in polish or straying from global cultural norms. However, Cuban director Julio Garcia Espinosa has described Third World cinema by another name—”imperfect cinema,” where the goal of the piece is not to compete with First-World TV’s state-of-the-art camerawork and special effects, but instead to relate to local audiences and provoke thought. Think what you like about Thai soaps, but it’s hard to argue against their sheer power as a vehicle of mass communication.
While at first glance “Padiwarada” is easy to overlook for its familiar format and content resembling other primetime soaps, this first-time remake of an anonymous paperback romance written in the late sixties contains subtle yet important differences from the soaps we normally see, portraying a couple’s rocky first year of marriage instead of a love-at-first-sight fairytale.
Rin, travelling to the South to meet her new husband, district deputy Saran
Value of Women's Work
NOT just the two of us
While Western understandings of the self may be based upon an independent, autonomous individual, other societies, like Thai, are based on interdependence where each person realizes that their behavior affects and is affected by others’ feelings and actions (Marcus and Kitayama 1991). Indeed, interdependent duty as opposed to individual passion is one of the main themes of the soap. While run-of-the-mill lakorns may show a couple drawn to each other solely through emotions, “Padiwarada” more realistically shows Thai interdependency, and how a couple’s relationship affects much more than just the two of them.
The older characters often have didactic monologues. In this one at Rin’s wedding, her adoptive mother talks about how in her time, people did not marry for love but for duty, and with the determination to work on the marriage and its problems (Source)
Saran and Rin are brought together by a seemingly-outdated remnant of pre-modern Siamese society — an arranged marriage, which Baralee and Buranee shun, being modern city women. “Padiwarada” gives importance to following duty instead of emotion, which includes entering an arranged marriage to fulfill their parents’ wishes. “The heart is fickle, and feelings change all the time. However, one’s duty does not, so it is better in the long run to follow it,” says one of the parents to the young couple.
Again, Rin’s dedication to duty and not her passionate feelings, are lauded. “Padiwarada” means “a loyal and faithful wife,” not a loving one. On their wedding night as near-strangers, in order to deter him from touching her, she says “You’re no different from an animal if you follow base urges and passions. Humans have the choice to exhibit self-control and follow duty. It’s up to you.” (“Padiwarada,” happily, does not include rape!)
Passion and romance, the main focus in many lakorn, is shown to be overrated here. Duangsawat, who comes to try to get back her ex-lover Saran, is shown as selfish, since she is motivated by personal passion without regard for others’ wishes. “Passion” alone is not enough justification to ruin someone else’s marriage, says the soap, and neither is “love” enough to single-handedly sustain it.