No sex on Netflix, please.
That’s the rallying cry of a small Thai political party that’s drawing plenty of heat from netizens after submitting a complaint yesterday to the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) regarding “illegal” activity by Netflix — namely, the airing of British TV Series “Sex Education.”
In a Facebook post outlining their complaint, the Ponlamuang Thai party — which you likely had never heard of before today (join the club) — said the streaming platform and its lack of censorship functions will corrupt Thai youth by encouraging them adopt the “Western lifestyle” and engage in sexual behavior that may lead them to become “burdens in society.”
“Sex Education” is dramedy that follows a socially awkward high school student who lives with his sex therapist mother. The boy teams up with a classmate to set up an underground sex therapy clinic at the school.
“The problem first caught our attention when one of our female members saw the billboard next to the expressway this Saturday… there are a bunch of them everywhere, and on so many street signs and train stations. So we all watched the show this weekend,” party spokesman Kanachat Sangpradap Thammachode told Coconuts Bangkok today.
“As soon as you start the show, you are confronted with obscene images,” he continued.
The scene Kanachat is referring to about comes about 30 seconds into the first episode and shows two presumed teenage characters engaged in intercourse.
The female actor’s breasts are exposed — which, yes, we will admit is racey but unlikely to phase any viewers who’s binged through Netflix shows like Orange is the New Black, Easy, Marco Polo or many, many others. (Editor: Let’s not even talk about Game of Thrones.)
“Though Netflix declares the show is for audiences 16 and older, there is no way to enforce this. Viewers can simply become members and watch any show. They don’t even have to pay since there’s a 30-day free trial,” Kanachat explained.
The spokesperson alleges that online platforms like Netflix operate in a legal gray area surrounding the 1930 Film Act, which states that theater owners and broadcasters must submit films that they plan to show to the Film Censorship Board for review.
The board consist of representatives from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of University Affairs, the military, the Department of Religious Affairs, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In the name of “protecting morals” and keeping public order and national security, the board has the authority to ban films or require cuts if censorship requirements are not met. This includes the prohibition of any depictions of Buddhist imagery “in any manner other than absolute reverence” as well as suggestions or depictions of prostitution or sexual promiscuity.
On television, scenes that show cleavage, weapons pointed at people, consumption of alcohol, cigarette smoking, and even the bottom of a shoe (since showing your heel in Thailand is considered rude) are all obscured.
“Netflix gets away without review because there isn’t regulations for online content yet. The NBTC must address this and strengthen the law,” said Kanachat.
While that’s technically true, that doesn’t mean online video-sharing platforms have never run into trouble in the past. YouTube, for example, has been blocked several times, including a nearly 5-month complete ban between April 4 and Aug. 31, 2007, over a video of the King that was deemed insulting and therefore a violation of the kingdom’s les majeste laws.
In less than 24 hours since announcing the filing of their complaint, Ponlamuang Thai’s post has received more than 3,000 comments and 5,000 shares — easily hundreds of times more attention than their Facebook posts usually get.
Many of those comments were from people criticizing the party’s “outdated” view.
“Do you even know what the show is about? Have you even finished the season? The show is trying to say that sexuality is normal, teach proper methods of contraception and show the consequences of not using protection… yes, there may be some vulgar jokes, but the series is genuinely trying to educate the youth,” wrote one commenter.
“You can’t even see the argument from both sides. I will never vote for a party like this,” wrote another.
Nevertheless, Kanachat urged citizens to watch the show and judge it for themselves.
“Watch and determine if it’s necessary to show genitals or intercourse. The society has to ask ourselves if it’s appropriate,” he said.