Beautiful Boxer is the most peaceful and warm transgender movie I have every watched. Iron Ladies which was put in full swing a few years ago, although funny, it is a sarcasm and mockery for transgender people, while our Beautiful Boxer really traces the most inner world of a transgender person. In a Bangkok clinic, $1,000 can turn a man into a woman. Some call that the price of freedom (Daffyd, 2008). Zach Hines said that “But while it’s a plainly successful international project, it Beautiful Boxer stops short of introspection into a collective Thai subtext”. On the contrary, I think that Beautiful Boxer cares more for the changes of inner world of transgender ones and of people around them even the attitude of the whole country and the world.
In the 1990s, the term took on a political dimension as an alliance covering all who have at some point not conformed to gender norms, and the term became used to question the validity of those norms or pursue equal rights and anti-discrimination legislation, leading to its widespread usage in the media, academic world and law. (Valentine, 2000)
Beautiful Boxer is a poignant action drama that punches straight into the heart and mind of a boy who fights like a man just in order to become a woman. It is based on the true story of Thailand’s famous transgender boxer, Nong Toom. Believing he’s a girl trapped in a boy’s body since childhood, Parinya Charoenphol sets out to master the most masculine and lethal sport of Thai boxing to earn a living and to achieve his ultimate goal of total femininity. Touching, funny and packed with breathtaking Thai kickboxing sequences, Beautiful Boxer traces Nong Toom’s childhood, teenage life as a traveling monk and grueling days in boxing camps.
The film is adapted based on the legend of Nong Toom, a champion of Thai fight. Prestigious and legendary, he is invincible and valiant in the ring. The irony is that, it is not reaping name which attracts him, but the financial support for transgender. Growing in a poor nomadic family, Nong Toom was around the home with his family during childhood, until finally settled in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He was often bullied for dressing up as female since very young. Nong Toom was fancied by a Thai Instructor in the occasional opportunity, and attended the training camp. He became a professional boxer at 12 and Shown off his boxing talent soon. One day, he walked onto the ring with a makeuped face, which naturally attracted ridicule and mockery but he shut all of them up with victory of his crisp in the end. His agent realized that it was a great gimmick, so encouraged him to continue to make-up boxing. Sweeping away almost all the obstacles, Nong won twenty times of twenty-two games which made him the most famous boxer in the country. Surprisingly, he chose to resolutely retire at the height of his official career and used the money earned hardly from boxing on gender changing operation. Many transsexuals believe that to be a true transsexual one needs to have a desire for surgery (Gaughan, 2006). After that operation, Nong participated in beauty pageants in Thailand four times. Thanks to the naturally model figure and a prominent profile, she won the prize of beauty queen in Thailand for 3 times, even named as the “hottest Queen”. She is now in Bangkok as an actor, model and Muay Thai instructor.
The Beautiful Boxer is the controversial 2003 biopic detailing the helter-skelter life of transgender (kathoey) Muay Thai fighter, Nong Thoom. The film, while winning awards and nominations in Europe, Asia and America raised temperatures in Thailand where censors felt aggrieved by the extreme frontal nudity which made the film popular elsewhere. Still the film did win several high profile Thai film awards in 2004 including awards for Best Actor and Best Makeup. Elsewhere the movie picked up awards in Torino’s Gay/Lesbian/Transgender movie festival and new director Ekachai Uekrongtham picked up a prestigious Outfest award for Outstanding Emerging Talent. Simply take the view of its achievement, Beautiful Boxer is a film should not be missed.
For those who succeed, there is the promised reward–before their battered bodies burn out around 25–of modest wealth and seeing their names on the marquees of Bangkok or Chiang Mai. In a country that loves the ancient sport of Muay Thai as Americans do baseball, this is the road to redemption and glory (David, 2010). Although some critics say putting pubescent boys into the ring to beat each other silly represents an exploitation of children, a dark side to a gentle, tolerant country that refers to itself as the Land of Smiles, Muay Thai is part of Thai’s culture, and these boys are protecting that tradition and getting opportunity at the same time. Although they’re not exactly ostracized, transsexuals live on the fringes of Thai society and struggle to be accepted as women. The movie ties transgender person together with boxing, which is contradiction itself.
At the beginning of the movie, director use the way of and comparing to show the controversy of the hero and the two elements of the film, boxing and transgender, Asanee Suwan. Muscle and nail polish, hemp rope and silk stocking, skirt and shorts, strong arms and earrings, the headband and necklace all occurred alternately. It is just a beginning, but it foreshadowed the conflicts of the whole story. The opening of the film was enough to strongly aroused people’s concern for the transgender.
There are many scenes that impressing me so much. One of them is the meetings of the little girl with a flower on her hair, maybe just a fantasy of Suwan. The first time they met, Suwan was attracted by her beauty and searched for her trace in the crowd, which lead him to a completely different world from previous days, the girls’ heaven. That maybe the first time Suwan was aware of he should be a beautiful girl, which changed his whole life. Our hero met his little girl again on the way of traveling monk. What a wishful expressions on his face! He began to realize that what he was doing then was far from what he wanted. The last time they met was on the mountain, while Suwan was trying to make him stronger for fighting. This time, girl left completely, suddenly and sparing no pains. If Suwan kept boxing life, his dreaming will disappear just like the girl. At the end of the movie, two Suwan were talking. Masculine one was going to leave. Feminine one was regret but satisfying. She did not hate the previous life, but enjoy instant life with a cherishing heart. In my opinion, this kind of mental status is the most perfect one for the transgender person. On the one hand, searching for his or her own way of life, on the other hand, cherishing all the favor granted by God.
Another attractive element in this film is dancing. From peeping at dancers’ making up to performing on the stage, Suwan realized a transition of felling on transgender from disgraced to proud. Before a very serious game, Suwan danced in the old Thai traditional style called Ram Muay which shown his respect to his teacher and bowed to Buddha to ask for protection for himself and his opponent and for an honorable fight. The kissing was also impressive. Audiences were exiting for his extraordinary behavior, while did not know that kissing means his sorry to them. “But in the ring, you have no choice” this monologue reflected how desperate was he. Boxing do not fit for Suwan, although he was valiant in physical, soft in mental.
The challenge tournament held in Japan with a woman was more like a Colosseum. People treated them as playthings, like all entertainment frolic. “That was the first time I won the womanâ€¦who I was or what I had become, a woman in a boxing body or an animal in the circle show”. Long Tang had just awaken to know that only when set out from the deep heart, can a person get the maximum pleasure in his life.
Beautiful Boxer cares a lot for people around the transgender. Around our hero, there are many great people who have helped him. The first one is a lady called Sister Ni, who is also a transgender. She was so kindhearted and warm, appeared in Suwan’s life as an angle, providing food, helping his mother leave prison. Sister Ni changed her sex to beg the love from a man. It makes my heart ache and angry to see such sacrifice. She changed sex for others instead of herself, which maybe the reason why she looks so lonely and painful.
The Coach and Sister Bo are also kind person to others. It is Coach Cai who led Suwan into the boxing world while we could say that it is Sister Bo who led Suwan into the female world. Cai was tough but full of love to those children in the training camp. He taught them how to be a strong man and how to defeat others. Sister Cai accompany Suwan to do girl’s things, such like cooking, knitting and making up. She taught him to be brave when facing on the deep desire of the heart and facing on others’ strange eyes. Days in training camp must be very happy although tough. Since there are those kind-hearted and lenient people, transgender person could face the deepest desire honest. These two person encouraged Suwan to box with a making up face, and his prowess won him a name of beautiful boxer. That made him known around the country, and then defeated Nat, the one he did not want to beat most.
Nat was also a student in camp, and a special one to Suwan. He never laughed at Suwan but shown friendly to him. I cannot tell that Suwan loved or just friendly like Net. But I am sure that Suwan developed a special emotion to him in training camp. But this kind of beautiful emotion was completely destroyed by Net’s cheat which punched heavily on Suwan’s heart. Here comes the point I would not appreciate of this film. Maybe it was a true story happened on Nong, but I do not think this plot do any function on the theme of this film.
Suwan’s mother was a great woman. I need not to emphasize her respect on son’s choice. The most impressing words from mother were that, I did not blame you behaving like a girl, but how can you allow others to bully yourself? I am not able to accompany you and protect you for your whole life. I think it is these words that impelled Suwan’s courage to Thai fight and take responsibility of supporting family cost in the later years. I have to say that I have misunderstood Suwan’s father as an arbitrary and severe man until he signed his name after making sure Suwan’s safety in the ending part of the film. That indeed shocked me strongly. What I see in the end is a father who loved his son so deeply. At that moment, I knew he loved Suwan all the time, but he just do not know how to express it to a son different from other boys.
At the ending part of the film, a boy danced on the ring imitating Suwan. Suwan walked though him and asked did he want to do it voluntarily. Little boy shook his head and peeped at his coach with fear. Suwan told him if wanted to be happy, he should do everything obeying the inner voice of himself. It remind me of the answer from Suwan on the question of what is the most difficult thing. He said that: “it is hard to be a man, difficult to be a woman, but the most difficult is trying not to forget who we really want to beâ€¦” This is the preaching of this film without any prevalent custom nor intentionally. Sex change is only an attitude towards life, not hypocritical speculation. Although the film makes transgender as the gimmick, human life and attitude as the proposition of Beautiful Boxer terminally leads the film to a true sense of the distillation.
Just like I said on the beginning of this paper, the Beautiful Boxer is indeed the most peaceful and warm one among transgender films. It tells the one who really want to change sex from others who have to do so.
“Nong Thoom continued to rise to fame as a successful lady-boy boxer at the prestigious Lumprini Boxing Stadium in Bangkok. At the epicenter of all things Muay Thai, the Beautiful Boxer went on to become a champion in mid 1998. Having revitalized the Muay Thai scene in Thailand (and across the globe), the Beautiful Boxer announced a shock retirement when she had enough money to release her parents from financial hardship and she finally underwent her reassignment operation in early 1999. Nong Thoom is now a model and actress based in Bangkok. She no longer has to hide in toilets to put on her makeupâ€¦