Ananda Everingham on Personality and ‘Hi So’ (High Society)

Ananda Everingham can be considered an outstanding Thai movie star, even though he is not Thai but of Australian-Lao descent. In addition, Ananda also seems to be a contradictory personality. You may already know all of this if you’re a devoted reader of this blog 😉

Hence, he calls himself a shy person who does not know how to entertain people well. What is more, in his youth he had troubles with the establishment but at the same time he was very much interested in classic world literature. However, nobody can deny that Ananda is a prominent and self-confident actor in many recent high-budget Thai films today, although he claims to suffer from stage-fright. Thus, one might be inclined to ask oneself how this all goes together and what it does reveal about his personality?

Ananda Everingham

Ananda Everingham in 'Hi So' (photo credit: theguardian.com)

Ananda Everingham in ‘Hi So’ (photo credit: theguardian.com)

It seems that the actor does not want to reveal to much of his actual personality. Hence, Ananda is very versatile in his roles and filmmaking thus avoiding to be stereotyped. He claims that he does not want “(…) to get stuck in a genre and I don’t want to be stereotyped. I don’t want to be seen as the action guy or the comedy actor or even the cool guy. I like it when my personality has nothing that associates with the characters I play”.*

Scene from 'Hi So' (photo credit: frontrowreviews.co.uk)

Scene from ‘Hi So’ (photo credit: frontrowreviews.co.uk)

Thus, we might call Ananda chameleon-like when choosing his roles. However, in this context, I think it’s also interesting to take a look at the independent art house movie ‘Hi So’ (High Society, 2010) because Ananda plays himself in this film and thus it is very personal and intimate to him. Thus, he claims ‘High Society’ “a very personal film because I’m playing myself, but it includes my director’s (Aditya Assarat) past and his story”.*

In short, we may say that the movie ‘Hi So’ is about the cultural confusion of a young Thai man who has become a movie star and who never fits in anywhere. Thus, there seem to be two opposing sides of the protagonist Ananda. On the one hand, he is privileged and grew up in overseas (Australian) influence. On the other hand, he has lost connection with his native country. However, abroad he is Thai and thus a foreigner. His life seems to be torn apart because he is unable to deal with and adapt to the different cultural demands. In addition, in the movie, Ananda left behind an Australian girlfriend and hooks up with a new Thai girlfriend. However, she feels alienated by his English-speaking friends and Western ways.

'High Society' (photo credit: huffingtonpost.co.uk))

Feeling the alienation, ‘High Society’ (photo credit: huffingtonpost.co.uk))

In fact, in real life Ananda also went through some troubles finding his identity. This was because he held Australian citizenship, mainly grew up in Thailand and started his acting career there. He felt very much Thai but had to struggle with work permits because he was not officially Thai. However, a few years ago he was granted Thai citizenship. Nevertheless, I don’t think the ‘real’ Ananda underwent any kind of cultural confusion, although being a half-child and ‘luk kreung’. He seems to be very much integrated in Thai society and popular culture. Whether as model or as an actor, he cuts quite a figure 🙂

In a nutshell, we may say that Ananda Everingham prefers to be a chameleon when acting and choosing roles. Even though we might find that there is always a lot of Ananda in every character that he embodies, we will not be able to fathom his true dynamic personality.

Yours, Sirinya

(*Quotes from Bangkok Post, Ananda Everingham on Movies)

Thainess, ‘Luk kreung’ & The Siam Renaissance

The Siam Renaissance (Thawiphop, dir. Surapong Pinijkhar, 2004) is a movie about a young Thai woman named Manee/Maneechan (Florence Vanida Faivre). She is from the early 21st century and educated in France but with the help of a mirror she is able to travel back and forth in time.

Hence, she visits Siam’s early modern past and then goes back to the present. The movie is adapted from the historical Thai novel “Tawipob” (Two Worlds) by Tamayanti which is also a love story. Thus, the movie can be classified as historical and romantic film because apart from time travelling, Manee finds valuable lessons in life and love along the way with soldier Dhep (Rangsiroj Panpeng).

The Siam Renaissance

The Siam Renaissance (photo credit: viki.com)

Scene from The Siam Renaissance, Manee & Dhep (photo credit: viki.com)

Being in 19th century Thailand at the court of King Mongkut (r. 1851-1868), Manee criticizes the Western influences in modern Thailand. When asked by two nobles at the court, she generally presents the ‘farang‘ (Westeners) and tawan-tok (the West) as a threat to Siamese cultural identity. Thus, it seems that her point of view is in accordance with Thai nationalist discourses.

Although we know that Thailand has never been colonized, there have nevertheless been strong Western influences. Hence, the movie also raises the question what Thainess is or rather what remains of it considering these influences. In addition, it also deals with the question of Thai national and cultural identities and points out ambiguities implied in a modern construction of Thainess which is devoid of Western contamination.

Here is a trailer to the movie. By the way, you may also watch the full movie with English subs here.

Florence V. Faivre in the part of Manee is interesting in the context of this film, since she is luk kreung (Thai-French), considering the fact that Thainess in brought into question by the threat of the farang Other. That is to say, it might appear weird that a half-Thai (who is herself partly farang) expresses nationalistic thoughts. However, we must also note that in the movie the protagonist Manee is supposed to be a full-Thai woman. Nonetheless, since the film dwells very much on her beauty and often focusses on her body and facial features, we may assume that she, Florence Faivre, as a luk kreung, represents the Thai beauty ideal of the day.

Focussing on Manee's beauty (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

Focussing on Manee’s beauty (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

Nonetheless, the half-Thai actress might also reiterate the message for the Thai need to accommodate and to move with the times but above all the movie is about a young woman’s quest for her identity.

Manee's transformation (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

Manee’s transformation (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

This is emphasized in the scene when Manee/Faivre is transformed from a traditionally dressed lady of the Siamese court to a kind of ‘farangized’ guest at the French diplomat’s residence. The film pays very much attention to Manee’s transformation. Thus, she is shown rotating behind a screen until her naked form is revealed. She is then bathed and massaged in a traditional and aestheticized Thai manner. Finally, she is dressed in a Victorian garb.

Manee farangized (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com

Manee is farangized (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com

However, despite her outer appearance, the protagonist Manee is and remains essentially Thai at heart. The point is that she may look and seem to be half-Thai and hence, all the prettier for being so in contemporary Thai viewers eyes. Nevertheless, her core and heart are completely Thai through her performance of the protagonist Manee. For this reason, we might be justified in claiming that the movie is not so much about the ‘farangization‘ of Thainess than it is about the ‘Thai-ization’ of the farang.

The Thai-ization of the farang (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

The Thai-ization of the farang (photo credit: 2g.pantip.com)

In other words, we may argue that the Siam Renaissance shows how the concept of the powerful West is stripped of its foreignness in order to become part of modern Thai selves. This might seem a controversial topic. What do you think about it?

Yours, Sirinya

(Reference: Rachel V. Harrison & Peter Jackson eds. The Ambiguous Allure of the West. Traces of the Colonial in Thailand, 2010)

Why are ‘Luk kreung’ successful in Thai Media? Half-Asian Advantages…?

“The signs of beauty are the signs of health” (R. Elisabeth Cornwell, psychologist)

The topic I want to address today concerns the increasing success and dominance of ‘luk kreung’, half-Thai people, in Thai entertainment industry since the 1990s. I’ve already brought up this subject in my recent article about ‘Luk kreung’ and concepts of mixed race in Thailand arguing that half-Thais are preferred because of their Western appearance and adherence to the current Thai beauty ideal of fair skin, tall statue and large eyes.

This seems to be a lucid but also a superficial explanation. However, I’ve asked myself if there might also be a scientific interpretation for this phenomenon? Are we maybe justified in saying that half-Asian people possess genetic advantages? I know this sounds controversial but might not there be some truth in it?

Mario and Mai Davika on Volume magazine 180 VOLUME WONDER 9 Cr. Volume Magazine

Half-Asian advantages? Mario Maurer and Mai Davika in Volume magazine 180 VOLUME WONDER 9 (Credit: Volume Magazine)

Taking the example of the lovely ‘couple’ Nadech and Yaya, they have their good looks in common and they are both half-Thai. The same is true of half-Thai actors Mario and Mai Davika whom we know from the comedy ghost movie ‘Phi Mak Phra Khanong’. There are numerous other examples that show ‘luk kreung’ have become a kind of ‘elite’ in Thai entertainment industry. An interesting case is also the luk-kreung actress Florence Faivre in the movie ‘The Siam Renaissance’ (2004). What’s more, Thai youth culture also seems to have incorporated and favoured the presence of half-Thai entertainers in Thai media. Thus, some years ago, the Thai-British actress Paula Taylor said that ‘everyone in the entertainment industry is luk kreung nowadays’ and she seems to be right.

Nadech & Yaya (photo credit Amat Nimitpark via asianfuse.net)

Do ‘luk kreung’ have advantages? Nadech Kugimiya & Yaya Urassaya (photo credit: Amat Nimitpark via asianfuse.net)

Half-Asian advantages

In popular culture, people with mixed racial origins are generally referred to as ‘hapa’ which stems from the Hawaiian Pidgin word for “part” or “mixed”.

As far as ‘luk kreung’ are concerned, there are so many popular half-Thai people in Thai media today. Hence, it only seems natural if society would also go for and embrace a mixed look. Nonetheless, media exposure alone does not completely explain the perception of half-Asian, and in particular half-Thai beauty in this context.

We may assume that half-Asian people possess genetic advantages that let them appear more attractive. For instance, as Psychology Today (1/2006) claims it is a fact that Eurasian faces are generally considered to be more appealing and pleasant than European or Asian faces. One reason for this perception is that Eurasians and other ‘hapa’ people seem to be of good genetic health which makes them attractive. Like R. Elisabeth Cornwell, a psychologist at the University of Colorado, argues: “The signs of beauty are the signs of health”.

Markers of beauty = Markers of health? (photo credit: thebrightnessproject.com))

Markers of beauty = Markers of health? (photo credit: thebrightnessproject.com)

Consequently, we must assume that people who are beautiful must necessarily be more productive and more fit for survival than others…this is a controversial topic, I know and what is beauty anyway? We may define ‘beauty’ as a matter of symmetry concerning features and body statue. What is more, it is also a matter of subjective perception, preference and culture…

In fact, studies have shown that half-Asians seem healthier because of their diverse genetic ancestry which generally lower the chances of particular genetic diseases. Some studies in this field have also revealed that the perception of attractiveness is mainly connected to the appearance of a person’s skin. I’m aware of the fact that this subject is disputable but on the whole I guess the argumentation is right and plausible – diverse genetic ancestry seems to be beneficial to a person’s health 🙂

Nevertheless, it remains controversial if Eurasian features are generally the most attractive. There are also studies that claim the opposite. Well, I think this is primarily a matter of subjective and cultural perception. Considering the case of successful ‘luk kreung’ in Thai media, I think it might be their mix of being at home in different cultures that makes them particularly interesting and desirable.

Hugo Chakrabongse - example of a distinctively mixed heritage (img.kapook.com)

Hugo Chakrabongse Levy – example of a distinctively mixed heritage (img.kapook.com)

A very prominent example of a distinctively mixed heritage with Thai royal origins is Hugo Chakrabongse Levy whose grandfather Prince Chula Chakrabongse (1908-1963) was already a half-Thai. Hugo can be considered a good example of a person who seems to be both comfortable with Thai and Western culture even though he is only 1/8 of Thai origin (amazing!).

In a nutshell, we may certainly be justified in saying that there are half-Asian advantages, considering the fact that people of mixed heritage come inevitably into contact with different cultures generally. Nonetheless, this topic is broad and there remains a lot more to say about advantages and disadvantages that hapa people generally face in different contexts and cultures…this may be a subject for further posts concerning ‘luk kreung’ 🙂

Yours, Sirinya

‘Luk kreung’ and Concepts of Mixed Race in Thailand

Recently I’ve written a post about Thai beauty ideals and the desire for ‘fair skin’ pointing out that in Thailand, Western beauty concepts prevail even though the country has never been colonized by a European nation. In this context, it is interesting to note that there is nowadays a considerable number of part-Thai people who are successful and prominent in Thai popular culture. We might be justified in speaking of a rise of the so-called ‘luk kreung’ in Thailand’s entertainment industry.

Concepts of Mixed Race

Hugo & Palmy (photo credit: music.mthai.com)

Hugo & Palmy, successful Luk kreung, mixed race people (photo credit: music.mthai.com)

In fact, in the time of the Vietnam War, during the 1960s and 70s, a large number of mixed race children were born from Thai women and American soldiers. Literally translated the Thai colloquial term ‘Lukkreung’ (ลูกครึ่ง) means ‘half-child’. It is used to refer to people who are of mixed Thai and European origin. Nevertheless, according to the official dictionary of Thai words, the term describes “a person whose parents are of different races, also called khrueng chat (ครึ่งชาติ)”. That is to say a ‘half-child’ does not necessarily have to be Eurasian.

Nevertheless, ‘luk kreung’ were perceived sceptically and also paradoxically in the 1960s and 70s. On the one hand, they were regarded as the offspring of Thai prostitutes, ‘rented wives’ or ‘mail-order’ brides and American GIs, even though this was not always true, since some of the American soldiers formed lasting relationships with Thai women and settled down in Thailand. On the other hand, ‘half-children’ have been seen as desirable, modern and attractive racially mixed people.

On the whole, we may say that in the 1960s and 70s racially mixed children faced some discrimination but generally society in Thailand was accepting. However, today there are many racially mixed people who have attracted Thai public attention, with growing numbers of celebrities, television stars and actors of mixed origin. Some examples of these stars I’ve recently mentioned in my posts. Think of Hugo Chakrabongse Levy, the ‘royal rocker of Thailand’, Palmy, the popular Thai-Belgian singer, David Usher, Thai-Canadian singer and creativity expert, Thai movie star Ananda Everingham, actress and fashion model Florence V. Faivre , the lovely actress Mai Davika Hoorne, actor Mario Maurer, singer Chin Chinawut or the Thai-Danish entrepreneur Michael Corp Dyrendal who is the younger brother of the well-known half-Thai singer, model and actor Peter Corp Dyrendal. And think of the ‘Princess of Thai Entertainment’ Ann Thongprasom and popular Thai-British actress Paula Taylor. Indeed the list is long… 😉

David Usher, Thai-Canadian singer went from 90s rocker to today's creativity guru (photo credit: lametropole.com)

David Usher, Thai-Canadian singer went from 90s rocker to today’s creativity guru (photo credit: lametropole.com)

Thus, today the majority of ‘luk kreung’ people in Thailand are born of relationships and marriages when Europeans come to live and work in Thailand. Another possible case is when Thai people go abroad to study in Western or foreign countries and settle down and start a family there. Hence, in the last decades Thailand has become quite enamored with half-Thai people. That is to say that many mixed race, part-Thai people have ridden a wave of popularity in the Thai media and entertainment industry.

There are different reasons why ‘luk kreung’ people are successful in Thailand today. A very important factor is their Western features and often proficient English language skills. In fact, half or part-Thai persons also match the predominant Thai beauty ideal of a Western look (i.e. light skin colour, large eyes and a tall physique). These are features that are generally considered attractive and desirable in Thailand. An extremely prominent example of this popularity is the acting and pairing of Urassaya Sperbund (Yaya) and Nadech Kugimiya (Barry). They have captured so many fans in Thailand where the two are now the most popular ‘couple’ of this generation. Both Yaya and Barry are half-Thai people. Yaya Urassaya is Thai-Norwegian and Nadech Kugimiya is Thai-Austrian.

Nadech & Yaya (photo credit Amat Nimitpark via asianfuse.net)

Nadech & Yaya (photo credit: Amat Nimitpark via asianfuse.net)

Thus, today Thai youth and teenage culture is deep in love with the looks of the ‘luk kreung’. For this reason, it doesn’t seem surprising that part-Thai people are prominent in Thai popular culture and are thus also important in constructing Thainess.

Nonetheless, the prominence of half-Thai people in Thailand today does not only apply to those who are of Thai and European heritage. If we consider the example of the world famous golfer Tiger Woods, who is of Thai and Afro-American origin, we realize that he has become a symbol that linked success to Thai identity. In addition, he was portrayed as a cultural hybrid through his career and international golfing tournament success. Hence, this shows that although dark skin is generally less popular in Thailand than fair skin, people of racially mixed origin with non-European heritage can become acknowledged and grab Thailand’s public attention too.

Tiger Woods (photo credit: people.com)

Tiger Woods (photo credit: people.com)

Summing up, we may claim that today mixed race people with part-Thai origin are acknowledged and quite popular in Thailand. This is particularly true of Thai-European people matching the predominant Thai beauty ideal of a light complexion and a tall statue. What is more, there also seems to be proof that half-Asian people have general advantages

What do you think about the rise of ‘luk-kreung’ in Thai popular culture?

Yours, Sirinya