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Lakorn – Thai Soap Operas

Long story short: Lakorn is the Thai word for Soap Operas. Now let’s make that story a bit longer. Soap Operas in Thailand are not just TV shows, they are a way of life and probably the most popular TV genre in Thailand. In Thai it is called ละครโทรทัศน์ (in ‘karaoke’: lakhon thorathat, lit. “television play”) or ละคร (lakhon,pronounced [la.kʰɔːn], or lakorn). Normally they are shown during prime time and can last up to two hours. Usually those shows get a finished ending compared to typical cliffhangers in the west.  A better comparison would be Hispanic telenovelas. Some of the typical channels that run Lakorns are Channel 3, 5 and 7.

There also are less successful Lakorns that won’t run during prime time but rather from 5 to 6 pm. Nowadays such lakorns don’t run as long and adjust to international standards such as 1 hour, or 30-45 minutes.

 

What makes lakorns have mostly in common is that they have very over the top characters which are very distinctive and won’t leave their path once they set it up. I very often disagree with Wikipedia but it lists the following as typical Lakorn content and hits the nail on the head:

  • The series’ main goal is to achieve a perfect ending where the lead characters marry their soulmates, and live happily ever after.

  • The two main lovers are established at the beginning of the story. Viewers will have no difficulties at singling them out from the crowd. They tend to be the most popular soap opera stars at the moment. The male lead role is called Phra Ek (พระเอก), and the lead female role is called Nang Ek (นางเอก).

  • The presence of one “bad” female character, sometimes more, is commonplace. This person is completely in love with the male lead, and will do anything necessary to stop the two would-be lovers from fulfilling their fairy tale ending. She does everything in her power to become the main actor’s girlfriend, and continually attempts to get rid of main actress. She is often a stereotypical character who does not hesitate to do very bad things to the main actress, including trying to steal her boyfriend before the wedding. She is often a rich girl, comes from a good background, has a nasty behaviour, and is manipulative. Few of these characters are kind. She is usually a living person, but a few of these characters can be evil, dead women who come back as ghosts. The most popular ones arePoot Mae Nam Khong or the remake of Pob Pee Fa. Nang Rai or Nang Itcha (นางอิจฉา) is a famous name for Thai viewers.

  • “Katoei” (กะเทย – man dressed like a woman) are often used as comic relief. Sapai Look Tung is popular for this role.

  • In the end, all conflicts in the story must be resolved. Everyone forgives each other. The “bad” guys receive their punishments, and the “good” guys receive their rewards. However, some series end with unsolvable problems such as Poot Mae Nam Khong.

  • Thai soap operas are often melodramatic to the point of becoming camp. Most productions are written and produced with the assumption that the more melodramatic it is, the better. This is why situations are grossly exaggerated, actions are overly theatrical, and screams and shrieks (from the bad female) numerous.

Thai Lakorn influence modern society quite heavily, not always in a good way. But that’s more for another article that will follow soon. If you want to see a list of Lakorns that are available, you’ll find one over at http://www.thailakornvideos.com/lakorn-list/

Sascha Funk

Founder / Editor at My-Thai.org
Sascha is the publisher of my-thai.org and switched from an online marketing agency life in Europe to a teaching and education life in Thailand. He also writes about Teaching & Technology.

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  • Tan Supanit Phongsiripornchai

    The stereotypical drama of the bad girl trying to steal the main guy makes me stop watching Thai Lakorn. I kind of feel like this stereotype paints woman to look weak and very dependent on a man. However, women can work and earn a lot of money as much as men do nowadays. I just wish the stereotype would just stop (even on TV.)

  • Fully agree. Lakorns are full of those old-school stereotypes and do nothing to change it :-/

  • Mill Natnaree

    I stopped watching Thai lakorn for a long time since I thought that every lakorn always has the same plot. While I was watching, I can often guess what will happen next so I stop watching lakorn. Until now I still can’t find any good Thai lakorn to watch. Thai lakorn in the past were much better than in these days. :-(

  • I haven’t found any that i consider interesting ;-) But if you want to read my take on how to make a lakorn out of the news, check this article (not serious!) http://my-thai.org/thai-news-lakorn-style-passport-forgery-murder-gang/ :-)

  • Yad-Arun Komala

    Don’t get me wrong here, I still love to watch Thai lakorns (despite their shallow plots), but you should try watching Korean dramas! compared to Thai dramas, the Korean ones are more educational and systematic with rational plots.
    I ended up studying the whole dynasty and culture of Korean history one time after watching one of the the historical drama.

  • Lol, good on them for making you study ;-) I read that the Korean government once intervened when soap operas became too ‘drama’ and told producers to rather focus on more educational values and storylines. Seems to work.

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