By Anya Palm
This weekend’s big event in Bangkok was a concert with the colorful pop artist, Lady Gaga. The star is doing her “Born This Way Ball” 2012 tour in Asia, and while Lady Gaga is in the region purely to perform and entertain, her visit has stirred quite a bit of political attention.
Most notably, she may be banned from performing in Jakarta, Indonesia next month due to her revealing costumes, which according to the Indonesian police will “corrupt” young fans. She is currently in a dispute with Indonesian authorities on whether or not she will get a permit to perform there next month.
That was expected though. Indonesia, as well as disturbingly many other places, does have powerful religious hardliners with little understanding of modern pop culture. And Lady Gaga is no wallflower.
But in Bangkok, something a little more subtle – and in a way considerably more significant – happened.
Upon arriving to Bangkok the night before her show, Lady Gaga tweeted to her 24 million fans on twitter:
“I just landed in Bangkok baby! Ready for 50,000 screaming Thai monsters. I wanna get lost in a lady market and buy fake Rolex.”
The comment offended her Thai fans. A lot.
“She came to our home, but instead of admiring us she insulted us”, said one commenter, while another sarcastically retorted: “I’m sure there are plenty of fake Gaga CDs, too.”
“We are more civilized than you think,” tweeted Surahit Siamwalla, a well-known Thai DJ. He declared that he, despite owning a ticket, would boycott her show.
Lady Gaga will probably survive that.
But the reaction is interesting – there ARE a lot of fake Rolexes floating around Bangkok, and the city IS famous for counterfeit products. This is no secret. Why can’t she say that out loud?
Not too long ago, it was Angelina Jolie that was the subject of the Thai wrath. She had gotten herself a tattoo in Thailand, a religious symbol, and the Thai authorities felt that the actress disrespected a sacred image by inking up. So they went ahead and banned tourists from getting “sacred images” as tattoos altogether. Before that, the Hollywood blockbuster “Hangover in Bangkok” was scorned for giving Thailand a bad reputation, because the movie revolves around a drunken night, set in Bangkok.
But the reputation that Thailand has – for being a counterfeit haven and for being a party-city with red-light districts a plenty – has nothing to do with Gaga, Hollywood or Jolie.
It has to do with a corrupt and useless police force. It has to do with an incompetent, nepotistic government. It has to do with a collective state of mind of “problems are never MY fault”.
Acting angry and insulted will not stop the sale of fake Rolexes in Bangkok, nor will it do any good to the country’s reputation.
What will then? Putting down the coffee mug and start dealing with problems so obvious that even a passing-through pop star mentions them will.