Bangkok Breaking addresses real life issues
It’s been less than a week since Bangkok Breaking debuted on Netflix and the show’s already achieved household status.
Set in the most visited place in the world by tourists, the show explores the darker and more sinister sides of Thailand’s “City of Angels” a.k.a. Bangkok.
Here are a few hidden details we picked up for those looking to dig a little deeper into the story.
CW: The below writeup contains mentions of substances and violence.
More Thai Netflix content:
- Bangkok Breaking is a binge-worthy Netflix show
- Girl From Nowhere episodes fans say are based on real cases
- Thai horror shows like ‘I See Dead People’
1. Bangkok Breaking’s title in Thai
The first hidden detail is in the title itself – here’s an explanation of the clever play-on-words in the show’s name.
Image credit: Around Online
In Thai, มหานครเมืองหลวง translates to ‘Metropolitan Capital City’, which also happens to be the term used to describe Bangkok.
However, the series’ poster reads มหานครเมืองลวง; with one letter missing, the phrase’s tone and meaning totally changes. So, Bangkok Breaking‘s Thai title literally translates to “City of Deceit”. That’s some high-level word play, and pretty ominous foreshadowing right there.
2. Children selling flower garlands and adults conducting “autopsies”
Bangkok Breaking does a heartbreakingly good job at illustrating the extents to which people will go in order to alleviate themselves – and their families – from the misery of poverty.
It seems that the characters epitomised the saying, “Desperate times call for desperate measures”.
Viewers are also shown emaciated children selling flower garlands on the pavement. In Thailand, the act is associated with similar jobs taken on by youth in order to make ends meet.
As if that wasn’t enough, we’re also shown that rescue workers are doing “autopsies” to fish drugs out of dead people.
When confronted about the scheme in front of fellow rescue workers, it’s surprising that his colleagues empathise with him, even saying, “You know a rescue worker’s salary isn’t enough.”
Furthermore, the show’s producers aptly illustrated that there is very little room for social mobility.
3. Thida’s relationship with Mr. Wat – casual infidelity and being treated like property
While Wanchai and his other colleagues were forced to carry out labor in exchange for money, Thida, his late brother’s ex-girlfriend, undergoes an equally difficult undertaking for money.
If you need a refresher, Thida is Mr. Wat’s minor wife, or mistress. In Thailand, the issue of men taking on minor wives has always been debated as to whether it’s a practice that women have to accept.
Let’s clarify, Thida is free to do whatever she wants with her body. The issue arises when Mr. Wat treats her like his property and was willing to end people’s lives to ensure that everyone knew Thida was his and only his. *Slight hypocritical, but okay*
She also expresses tearfully that she wants to leave, but can’t – Thida makes it clear that this is her only option for having a “stable” livelihood.
4. Just a little too sabai-sabai when it comes to rules
Sabai sabai is an expression used to describe the laidback lifestyle and nature that Thais are believed to have. While it may be the very reason we’re called “The Land of Smiles”, there is such a thing as too sabai, and it seems like Bangkok Breaking wanted audiences to see that.
Throughout the show, viewers are shown the lax-nature of regulations within the story’s world. For example, Wanchai was able to don a firefighter outfit and run into a burning building without receiving any authorisation.
Image credit: The Standard
Audience members should also note the amount of times that the rescue service staff are seen drinking on the job.
While these two situations are entirely fictional, it’s unfortunately not completely outside the realm of possibility that it would happen IRL – especially the second one.
Another just-as-famous expression in the Southeast Asian nation is “This is Thailand” – a saying that sometimes refers to the lack of regulations and accountability in terms of rule enforcement.
Now that you’ve been armed with this hidden context, certain scenes in Bangkok Breaking will definitely hit different.
5. Censorship in the media?
Another underlying theme in Bangkok Breaking was the role of media in Thailand.
The female protagonist, Kat, pushes for an investigative piece from the show’s get-go. And from the very beginning, she’s encouraged by higher-ups to instead cover lifestyle and entertainment stories.
There has been a multitude of conversations regarding our media scene, and the level of freedom they truly have in Thailand.
In July 2021, a proposed ban on disseminating information that may “cause public fear” as part of an emergency decree was announced by the administration.
The order was met with backlash by the public, human rights organisations, as well as media companies who implored the government to refrain from curbing media freedom on the same day.
Bangkok Breaking’s exploratory probe into themes of media freedom is extremely timely and pertinent – allowing viewers to open a much-needed conversation on press freedom in a safe, fictional way.
6. Belongings going missing in the rescue services system
Considering the entire show revolves around Bangkok’s rescue services, it’s not exactly a hidden detail. However, it’s one worth noting.
I mean, really, what other country relies on volunteer emergency services just as much as they do official ambulances? While it’s a system that’s worked in Thailand for many years, it’s also one that could use some improvements *see point #3*.
Not even in the sense that all rescue services in Thailand are all money laundering fronts, but the fact that there have been cases of personal belongings going missing after they’ve undergone treatment from rescue services is very unfortunate.
One of the characters even notice that Mr. Wat’s wife is wearing the very same necklace they saw a victim wearing before being carried away by rescue services.
The fact that this is the first series to actually highlight – in bright, fluorescent yellow – that Thailand uses rescue services that aren’t technically part of hospitals is enough.
7. Projects perpetually “in-progress”
The shady actions done by Wattanakarn Company in Bangkok Breaking seems to allude to claims that certain sponsored projects are never done, but always “in-progress”.
Take the “Babylon” project, for example. In the beginning of the show, there’s a lot of hype built around Wattanakarn’s new “Smart City” and how it’s going to revolutionise the way Bangkok operates.
However, we don’t really hear about it for the next couple episodes.
Actually, it isn’t until Kat brings up that the project has vanished into thin air that we’re reminded of Babylon. Her colleague further comments, “Yeah, it’s normal. They just set it up to incentivise the government to invest in the project, and then they disappear.”
8. Traffic laws in Thailand
It seems that everyone in Thailand, including ourselves, is always complaining about traffic. While we always vent about the three-hour jam that kept us from being on time, the road collisions that usually cause the traffic are never really mentioned.
Based on data, Thailand’s roads are extremely dangerous. Thailand Development Research Institute even said they’re the “deadliest roads in Southeast Asia” in this report dated 11th November 2020.
Bangkok Breaking alluded to the subject in so many ways, each of them more heartbreaking than the last. Whether it was the first gut-wrenching accident that killed Jo, the fact that Watthanakarn has so much to address (but won’t), or the multiple other car crashes that even involved children – we got the message.
Bangkok Breaking breaks the Netflix mold by alluding to real life issues
Bangkok Breaking‘s visuals and storyline are strong enough to grip just about any viewer into watching the entire thing.
However, the show gets that much more interesting when you can see exactly what the directors are trying to address when they say Bangkok Breaking is based on real-life subjects.
We’re excited to see if you picked up anything else as well. So, let us know in the comments!
Cover image adapted from (Clockwise from Left): Netflix