Thailand thrives on controversy, so big thanks to Channel 3's "Thailand's Got Talent" for another heaping helping on Sunday, when a 23-year-old female contestant executed a painting using nothing but her bare breasts.
It might not have been a creative landmark, but it was a watershed in Thai television history.
Judge Pornchita “Benz” Na Songkhla was flabbergasted by the display and then flabbergasted again when her fellow judges – yes, both men – voted the “artist” on to the next round. Benz stormed off the set and quarrelled with the guys later.
Ask us whether there was any discussion about this on Twitter. You bet there was, with one outstanding comment being, “Talent and daring are two different things.” Video clips from the show went viral, naturally, and the Pantip.com chat rooms suffered a bad case of the shakes. Some expatriate wag at ThaiVisa.com headlined the video “Thailand’s got tits”. Foreign bloggers hailed the “rare bare breasts” on Thai TV.
Former Senator Rabiabrat Pongpanich, self-appointed guardian of Thai morality, said the lads at Workpoint Entertainment, the show’s producers, obviously care more about ratings than social niceties. The show is pre-recorded, she pointed out, so they could easily have snipped the boob act to protect the angelic eyes of young viewers.
The Culture Ministry calmly announced that it would invite the Workpoint people in for a talk about their concept of Sunday afternoon viewing. The ministry offered no comment on the quality of the mammary art itself, but National Artist chalermchai Kositpipat reckoned that at least the contestant has raised awareness in Thailand about body painting, a little-seen genre here.
That’s no consolation for Workpoint boss Panya Nirankul, who issued an apology over the incident. Whether it was a sincere apology or not became the subject of further debate.
Pundits said he’s just milking this issue, so to speak. Controversy is, of course, a proven method to jack up viewer ratings, and the bigger the uproar, the higher the ratings. Thailand’s definitely got talent for that.