Hormones, Thailand's Answer to Skins, Incites Controversy and Praise


Hormones is a drama of daily life set in a Bangkok high school. It has the same basic structure as the UK (and now, sigh, the U.S.)’s sexy teen melodrama Skins — it follows 9 teenagers as they go about their everyday lives. As such, it covers a variety of scandalous teen-related topics, including premarital sex, sexual orientation, drugs, bullying, and contraception/abortion.

The program has become exceptionally popular in the 10-19 age bracket — and also, perhaps surprisingly, among viewers between the ages of 40-49, who see it as “eye-opening.” However, Thai officials aren’t so enthusiastic — according to the Bangkok Post, some members of the National Broadcast and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) have alleged that the show puts “indecent thoughts and images into the minds of the audience, violating article 37 of the Thai Public Broadcasting Act.” Specifically targeted by the NBTC as obscene were scenes involving students purchasing birth control pills, as well as depictions of the high school students immediately before and after sex.

While free speech is guaranteed in Thailand’s constitution, there’s a provision in place to protect “the security of the State or maintaining public order or good morals.” As a result, nudity, drinking, smoking, and weapons are often blurred out on Thai television broadcasts.

Those in favor or Hormones argue that it’s helpful to have a public forum for discussing sexuality, drugs, and violence; as the Guardian notes, sex ed in Thailand tends to have a heavy focus on abstinence, and it often fails to touch on essential issues — such how to practice safe sex. In the first episode (which is available on Youtube with English subtitles, THANK GODDESS), Hormones tackles this issue head-on:

In one episode, the self-aware, sexually advanced Sprite storms off after a boy refuses to produce a condom during a classroom-based rendezvous, while later, the mollycoddled, naive Dow is forced to visit an illegal abortion clinic after losing her virginity.

According to the series’ director, Songyos Sugmakanan, “The abortion rate here is so high — the teenage figure is around 100,000 ever year. It’s impossible not to talk about safe sex.” The issues presented in Hormones, he argues, are not obscene because they represent the reality of life in Thailand. The show serves a didactic purpose on top of its value as a source of entertainment.

In the words of Unsumalin Sirasakpatharamaetha, who plays the class president in the series: “The aim is to provoke the audience to think, and because it acts like a mirror for teens, they know what can happen with each path they might take, and from that learn what to do. Censorship is really only to protect those who can’t think for themselves.”

It seems that the Thai public agrees with that sentiment: despite being a satellite program, Hormones is currently the third most popular show in its Saturday night time slot, and it’s already been picked up for a second season.

“Thailand’s answer to Skins shocks some, thrills others” [The Guardian]

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