Between subjugation and subversion: ideological ambiguity in the cinematic Mae Nak of Thailand

Hock Soon Ng

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    Abstract

    Deploying Jan Assman s notion of cultural memory, this article considers three adaptations of the Mae Nak myth in Thai cinema - Mae Nak Phra Khanong (1959) by Gomarchun, Winyan Rak Mae Nak Phra Khanong (1978) by Seney, and to a lesser extent Nang Nak (1999) by Nimibutr - as unofficial historical repositories that reflect the sociocultural and political shifts in Thailand during the last 50 years of the twentieth century. More specifically, I argue that the character of Nak, whose representation in Nimibutr s version has been restored to the singularly superlative position she occupied in myth, is more ambiguous as a signifier in the 1959 version that reinforces the twin institutions of Buddhism and patriarchy, while subtly undermining them at the same time. This narrative equivocation, however, is altogether absent in 1978 version, in which Nak?s representation has undergone substantial devaluation possibly as a textual attempt to distance a contemporary, capitalist-driven Thailand from a past that it deems no longer usable or compatible with its ideological agenda. (c) 2014 Intellect Ltd Article.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)171 - 182
    Number of pages12
    JournalHorror Studies
    Volume5
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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