The Land of Smiles is well known for its tourism, mangos, and most recently, the large exploitation of their “Lady Boys”. In this Thai IKEA commercial, producers attempt to utilize the popularity of these male-to-female transsexuals in order to sell pillows, yet end up paying a larger price for their demeaning message.
This commercial is a prime example of how, like Tsai states, trans women are “sensationalized for shocking effect and entertainment value”. The trans woman in the commercial sees the sale price for pillows and naturally drops her voice in excitement, resulting in the horrification and disgust of her male partner. In the last scene, when the woman picks up the pillows to check out, the man tries to secretly run away, implying that she is something to fear and detest.
In addition, the concept of hyper-femininity is also exemplified in this commercial. In the beginning of the video, the dress, elegance, and movement of the trans woman have very feminine characteristics, thereby creating a more theatrical effect with the “surprise transgender-themed twist”—a common subject that is used widely in all aspects of media. By dramatically revealing the “true” gender of the trans woman with a suddenly large decrease in pitch and the male partner’s ludicrous reaction, the producers imply that the trans woman’s “femininity…is artificial and inauthentic,” as if she is trying to trick us for her own benefits (Tsai).
Although intended to sell pillows, the producer’s effort of gaining entertainment value by trivializing trans women not only have negative consequences on the Thai culture, but also the queer community.
Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai. “Assimilating the Queers: Representations of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Mainstream Advertising.” Advertising & Society Review 11, no. 1 (2010) http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed July 31, 2012).