Friday, 24 May 2013

Louis Theroux and the Thai Marriage Bureau

Once again it's not exactly journalism just an opportunity for Louis Theroux to lure the hapless into providing unintended entertainment. Theroux arrives in Bangkok trying to find out why western men seek love in Thailand and why local women seem anxious to help them out. The star of the show is Ronny, the marriage bureau owner whose dress sense and overall demeanour seems to be inspired by the fictional Bertie Wooster. Lake Palmer offers valiant support as the man who is desperate for love but might easily be an axe murderer if it were not for a steady stream of prescription medication.
This is the kind of TV you have to watch through your fingers, I was barely able to believe that either man thought an offer to appear alongside Louis Theroux could end well.
Some genuinely amusing moments but it's impossible to watch this without feeling sympathy for everyone on both sides of this particular form of match making.

Take a look - Thai brides    

The film tells you what happens to Ronny's latest conquest - if you want to find out what happens to Lake you need to take a look at this link - Lake's fate

The picture quality may be patchy in places.

Jeremy Kyle show - Thai Lady takes the lie detector test.

I doubt that even Jeremy Kyle claims that his show has any journalistic ambitions - so I can't really complain that this clip fails to meet the standards one might expect. It is, however, a fascinating insight into what might happen when a 48 year old man marries a girl he met on the internet, who was raised half way across the world.

You can see the clip here - Kyle show

The husband thinks his wife is selling sex and generally screwing around, she denies that she has ever cheated on him. Phil seems like a nice guy who would love to make it work, Anchana is full of righteous indignation.

Did she pass the detector test? Watch the clip and see.

My only comment is that Kyle judges the outcome through the eyes of a westerner whose model for marriage is the union of white anglo-saxons with broadly similar upbringings, values and culture. When Phil logged onto the internet to find a bride and chose someone from half way across the world, he stepped way outside that model. When Thai women marry older western men, for many there is affection, even love but for a huge number it is a trade. They do what they have to do to take care of their families.  To judge their subsequent behaviour through the same lens that you would use to examine the conduct of the girl or boy you met in school is unjust. 

Stacey Dooley blows the lid off the dark side of tourism in Thailand

This film has a worthy objective. Viewers will learn about the low wages paid to hotel workers in a famous Thai beach resort, about the plight of sea gypsies who may lose their homes as more hotels are built and the impact on a tiny island of the influx of drunken western party goers. You can watch it here: - Stacey Dooley

These are important issues and the film is beautifully photographed. The problem is the vacuous if undeniably pretty presenter. When Stacey Dooley is happy she says "Wow" and "Lovely", apparently inserting extra syllables into each word to emphasise that she really means it. When she disapproves we are treated to "It's crazy innit" or "It's not on."

There are a few sensible observations, such as the suggestion that visitors who tip the locals are actually making a massive difference to them financially. We are repeatedly invited to marvel at how anyone can work for £4.50 per day, truly shocking by western standards, and we are told that tourism is driving the locals out.  Stacey is unable to make the connection that the people she is interviewing are not locals, but are from the poor north east of Thailand and on that meagre salary they are able to support an extended family. There is no doubt that pay is poor and workers live in very low quality housing but the report is typical one dimensional, shock horror stuff.

The coverage of the infamous Full Moon parties is just an excuse to show people getting drunk, the issue she is getting at is not really articulated and no solution is offered. It's just cheap voyeurism and an excuse for Stacey to treat us to another "It's not on."

The coverage of the Sea Gypsies case was interesting but if Miss Dooley or her producers believe that she had any impact on the case she is delusional. Transporting a leader of the community to Bangkok with a promise that he was going to meet the Prime Minister was a ridiculous piece of self promotion on the part of the presenter. Nobody who knows anything about Thailand would have been surprised when she was brushed off with a thirty second audience with a junior official. She was ecstatic as a result of the man's assurance that the gypsies would be looked after, but here was no way he was ever going to say anything else. The closing credits proudly announced that the Thai PM had intervened, claiming it to be a direct consequence of the documentary. Unsurprisingly, there was no confirmation that the gypsies had got the result they were looking for.

This was a potentially fascinating documentary, ruined by the choice of presenter. Miss Dooley just doesn't have the intellect to carry it off.