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20 Jun 2013

A gay tom romp

A new low-budget comedy continues the Thai film world's love affair with Tom lesbians, and non-lady-boy gay men. There is only one kathoey character in the film, reports Doug Sanders from Bangkok, a departure from the standard Thai queer comedies.

The new film, Gay Tom, opens with a young guy running down the beach. He is an apprentice lifeguard, but hasn’t yet learned how to swim. Someone else gets a drowning male to the beach. Our hero applies mouth to mouth resuscitation. The swimmer envisages his saviour as an angel, and the resuscitation as a kiss. It is the beginning of a hot romance between two quite equal young men.

The word used in the Thai dialogue and the English subtitles is “gay”. As in the earlier films, Bangkok Love Story and Love of Siam, we have essentially gender equal gay men as lead figures. Unlike those earlier films, both accept their gayness unproblematically.

But resuscitation number one is quickly followed by resuscitation number two. This time it is a Tom (short for tomboy which in Thai typically refers to a butch lesbian) who gets the treatment. When the Tom recovers she aggressively bashes our hero for what she takes to be a kiss.

The Tom then goes home to meet her established partner, a Dee (lady for femme lesbian). The Dee harps on and on about where her Tom has been and why she is being ignored. The Tom is apologetic – sorry – sorry – sorry. This is the beginning of a series of scenes in which Dee complains, then tells the Tom to shut up, while the cowed Tom mutters apologies. This is much like the Tom-Dee relationship in Yes or No 2 (reviewed earlier on Fridae.asia). Not fun.

The over-the-top mothers of the Gay and the Tom get together and plot that their children should get married to each other. Both children regard this as absurd. The mothers drug their drinking water, and dress up the two as bride and groom.

He as groom and she as bride simply does not work for the mothers. After two failed attempts at a credible couple, they dress up the Tom as the groom and the Gay as the bride. They are then photographed in their wedding clothes (both still unconscious from the drugs). Those images are used in the publicity poster for the film.

The plot thickens. The Gay and the Tom are stripped of their clothing and linked together by a five foot chain. They are locked in a bedroom, with the mothers watching on closed circuit television. The couple are to consummate a relationship.

When nothing happens, the mothers turn down the heat – because many animals mate in the winter. That doesn’t work. So the heat is turned up to a steamy high, to induce passion. That doesn’t work. So their drinking water is spiked with some drug that excels over Viagra. That doesn’t bring the couple together.

Finally the couple stage a (fake) violent fight and the mothers rush into the bedroom. The couple pull off a mad dash to freedom, grabbing clothes and the keys to the car. They are free and back at the beach.

Apparently they do not explain the details of their absence to their partners. This is never explained. Perhaps neither the Gay nor the Tom want to tell anyone about the bizarre behavior of their mothers. Family loyalty, in spite of everything.

The gay guy’s partner is let down because he wanted his friend to be at his graduation. But there was a no-show, without any warning or explanation. The bitchy Dee is as bitchy as ever. Both relationships break up.

The balance of the film is a letdown from the madcap scenes with the mothers and in the bedroom. The couples get back together. The Dee even says she will try to be less bitchy.

Thai gay comedies are usually packed with ridiculous kathoey characters. Here the hero is not a kathoey and not a lady-boy. The Tom is a Tom, but the kind of young, slim Tom with a good short haircut that we became used to in the Yes or No movies and Tom Act magazine. The one kathoey is a maid who appears in the scenes with the two over-the-top mothers. It is a minor role, overshadowed by the mothers.

All in all, rather fun. All in all, a bit of an improvement over the stereotypes in other comedies. Unlikely, however, to be seen in any LGBT film festivals.

Doug Sanders is a retired Canadian law professor living in Thailand. He can be contacted at sanders_gwb@yahoo.ca.


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