Kyi Lay Kyi: A Romp With (Attempted) Rapists

I have just finished watching Kyi Lay Kyi at a theater, and for the first time since I returned to Yangon, I am scared of walking around the city alone. And for the first time since my return, I am viscerally disgusted by the Myanmar people around me. This movie is supposedly a comedy.

I will admit, the audience laughed quite a lot. I will also admit that I am an elitist snob who thinks physical comedy is trite and using a high frame rate looks disgusting. While that is a matter of personal preference, what should not be denied is the fact that this movie has serious PROBLEMS.

Boiled down to its core, this is a movie about thwarted attempted rape. The plot follows a group of villagers, focusing on two men, the corrupt village head and a miserly villager, and two women, an unemployed gossip and a spinster loanshark. The village head likes the gossip, and the miser likes the loan shark. Their feelings are not returned. Due to some hijinks, the men accidentally confess their feelings to the wrong women, and in a surprising turn of events, the women actually respond positively. Apparently, consent is not sexy, so the two men endeavor to fix the situation. They fail because the both of them combined possess the communication skills of a speck of dirt.

The men of the village gather to discuss how to deal with this problem of actively consenting women. The village head says something along the lines of, “If you can’t seduce the woman you actually want, just go up to her bedroom and hit her on the head. I’m the village head, and I’ll overlook whatever crime you commit.” The audience laughs at this. The group of men decides that this rape plan is too rapey, and settle on a slightly less rapey rape plan. The two men convince the women who actually like them to elope in the night with the plan to switch women in the dark. The “punchline” of the movie is that the two would-be rapists don’t succeed, due to a “hilarious” mix-up that occurred while they were literally attempting to kidnap, forcibly marry, and presumably rape the two women who had expressed nothing but disdain towards them for the last hour and forty-five minutes of the movie’s runtime. “Unfortunately”, they marry the women who actually consent to marry them and are sad for the rest of their lives. Hilarious.

All of this is without mentioning all the other problematic aspects of this movie. These include a subplot where a villager leaves her alcoholic husband for another man, who is GASP! darker-skinned. The “joke” is that dark skin is better than alcoholism, but only just barely. Speaking of the dark-skinned villager, he is the only one in this movie accused of sexual impropriety, reaffirming racialized stereotypes, because he takes the literal clothes off his back to give to the loan shark to borrow some money. The other reoccurring gag takes place at a restaurant where the owner has hired a staff of disabled workers. He is portrayed as noble if naive. Unfortunately, the actors portraying the disabled characters and the script do not allow for the characters to have even a shred of dignity. The man who can’t speak keeps ending up in situations where he is supposed to speak to the customers, but can’t. The blind man repeatedly faces the wrong direction to respond to someone who is speaking to him from less than a meter away. The partially deaf? man (I think that’s what the movie is trying to portray) is only deaf when it’s funny. The man with POLIO slurs his speech and lacks fine motor control, and that’s the joke! It’s funny because his life is hard.

This movie is trash.

But bad movies get made all the time. What really upset me, and I was literally shaking as I walked out of the theater, was how much everyone else around me enjoyed it. What I interpreted as hateful and violent was a feel-good rom-com to the rest of the audience. It was deeply alienating. Arguably the majority of the romantic comedies in the US also promote very problematic messages, but this seems to be on a whole other scale. My family members asked me if I found the movie funny as we were walking out of the theater, and I said no. They decided that it must be because I didn’t understand it, and they are right. I don’t understand this at all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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51 thoughts on “Kyi Lay Kyi: A Romp With (Attempted) Rapists”

  1. The majority of burmese movies are unbearable. I salute you for actually going to the cinema and putting yourself through it. I was “forced” to watch a movie last November on a highway coach. It was misogynistic to say the least with the point of the comedy being that burmese women brought up abroad are shameless sluts. I might be taking a personal offense with this but in any case, that industry is, in my head, pretty hopeless.

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    1. Don’t be too quick to commend me. I didn’t actually know what I was getting myself into and was just going along with my relatives who said they were going out to see a movie. I’ve been on very few highway coach buses in Myanmar, but on the occasions I that have, I usually just listen to music with my headphones and fall asleep. It sounds like I’ve been making the right decisions on that front. I’m sorry you had to suffer through that movie and its toxic messages. For my personal sanity, I will try to live with some hope and try to pretend criticisms and engagements like this will help the industry change in the long run, even if it only by the smallest amount.

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  2. Hello

    I represent Datshin, a facebook pave about films and we ocassionaly post reviews about Burmese Movies. I was wondering if we could translate this article and post it on our page. I think you addressed many important issues with Burmese movies in this article.

    We will be looking foward to your reply. You can contact us at our page on Facebook or to my email.

    Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s what I thought before, Burma was quite closed and we haven’t had a chance to flourish our creativity to flow and no enough budgets. It is not true, if you look at Eastern Europe, Middle East and look back Burma. If you want to create some art, yes you can wherever or however. In Myanmar, even some famous artists are creating arts pieces to chase their stardom, and same as theatre, greed is blocking their creativity.

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      2. Let me use your article in my class as a model of writing. I can teach them how the messages are conveyed through appropriate lexical choices. At the same time, I can give them a good message that something we enjoy could be the origin of the violences that we are facing in our community.
        Thanks in advance

        Liked by 1 person

      3. You are welcome to use it, however I don’t think that this is a very good piece of writing. I was quite emotional when I was writing it and did not mean for it to get this much attention.

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  3. Be careful, director ,producer , or writer might get butt hurt over your review, seeing as it is a common reaction to criticisms. Can’t wait for your review to go public! Maybe then will they realize the problems !

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Unfortunately, this movie is the epitome of the current stage of Myanmar film industry. These so-called “comedy” movies that make fun of gays, disabled persons, promote racisim and bigotry are instant blockbuster in Myanmar and almost every productions churn out those trashes one after another simply because they make easy money.
        It’s such a shame that Myanmar film industry had a long history, filled with artful products in its golden and silver ages. It’s like it got hit by retardation beam and degenarated into what you’ve witnessed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is a shame. Almost everything I’ve seen by Myanmar producers/directors/etc lately has been documentaries, so there are clearly some very talented people and thoughtful people out there making movies.

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  4. Well. I am 100 % Burmese & really Thank u for ur review. They are Hopeless, really hopeless. They think it is funny but I m really disgusting & shameful. Sometimes, the jokes they think funny are rapist words, useless & shameful that make fun of gays & other dirty jokes that u dun want to hear together with ur parents. Next time if u wanna watch Burmese film. Find a review first on Datshin & decide if it is worth to watch. Comedy films are worse than other categories. Some drama films are really good though but never watch a burmese films without review or u will swim in your nightmare 😁.

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  5. Can I post this article on my FB wall with translation ? MM movies need this kind of message to be delivered. Movies impact most of the people’s mind set.

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      1. Don’t you think you should say something on that “translation” particularly in the very first paragraph which translated as ျမန္မာလူမ်ိဳးေတြကို ရြံသြားမိတယ္stereotyping all Burmese thereby causing negative impression on your review?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There seem to be a couple different translations now, so I am not sure which translation you are referring to. A couple people asked permission to translate and share it, and I gave it to them. Though I am Burmese, I did not grow up here and cannot read or write well. I assume that the translations have been done with စေတနာ, but I have not read them.
        I don’t know if I am misreading the sentence you quote, but I interpret it as saying “I felt disgust towards Myanmar people.” Unless I am reading it wrong, this is a description of my feelings and not a stereotype about Myanmar people. I am being honest about my feelings and if people want to have a negative impression about my review because I was honest, there is nothing I can do about that.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Honestly, most of the people enjoy this kind of movies and I also disappoint this fact. But most audience watch this movie as comedy show instead of movie. Some people are now talking seriously about standard of Myanmar movies but sadly still no result

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    1. I think we can also hold comedy shows to high standards of morality. I love comedy and laughing, and think there is nothing wrong with being vulgar and crass, but there is a difference between that and promoting legitimately scary and violent messages.

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      1. Because I haven’t watch that movie, it is hard to say. But promoting legitimately scary and violent messages is dangerous. And thank you for writing this review. The role of audience is also important in improving movie standard.

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  7. I’m burmese and I LOATHE the burmese movie industry. I totally support ur article and there are other educated people who do. We want more people to see this and realize that shitty movies like this are not funny.

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  8. Most honest and truthful review. You are not wrong, Our burmese entertaitment industries only think about money rather than quality. They deserve this review.

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  9. I got your point, but the audience is not taking seriously about the storyline (about so called attempted rapists). They just want to laugh, that’s all they want.

    I am not defending Myanmar movies, yes some of them (most of them, probably) are trash. However, talking about audience is a different story.

    Do you like 007 movies? I do like them, so many do. 007 is tall, dark and handsome and very seductive too.

    He slept with almost every woman he met including colleagues, his own boss, someone’s wife, girlfriend, even enemies for information sake, a lot of adulteries involved, abusing authority too.

    But people still like the movies, always top the most earning movie list, even broke the records and even still thinking 007 as a gentleman ^^. How wonderful.

    How about recently ended Game of Thrones? Insect, brutally sex, violence are the main things for that series. Millions of people still enjoy it, right.

    So, what I really want to say is – you are wondering how Myanmar movies like trash, no objection.

    You are wondering why Myanmar people like these kind of movies – It’s just natural like Americans/Westeners like 007 and Game of Thrones and such kinds.

    It’s not like Burmese enjoy violation and attampted rapists.

    Thanks and excuse my English.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think you do get my point. The laughter of the audience is evidence that they think some types of violation and attempted rape can be funny. If someone laughs because they see someone being beaten to death, I would also take that as evidence that they think some forms murder are funny.

      I don’t watch James Bond movies, but from what I understand all the women agree to sleep with him. He may lie to the women (which is a problem), but I have never heard of him forcing a woman through violence or putting her in a situation where she has no other choice. These movies are not comparable. Furthermore, the fact that other movies have unhealthy messages and audiences who still like them, does not mean that it is ok Myanmar movies and audiences to have unhealthy messages. And people do love Game of Throne, and there is a lot of rape in it, But unless you are watching with some really terrible people, no one laughs when the characters are raped. That is the difference you seem not to understand. These shows/movies are not comedies.

      Depicting or discussing rape is not the issue. The problem is framing it in a way that is funny. You have not proved your point.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree with u man. I also agree that most of myanmar movies are like a trash and so toxic. But yout point of view is so damn true.

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  10. Dammit ! I’ve never watched Burmese movies especially they called ‘Comedy’ since I was 13. They focus on budgets and most people laughed such kind of jokes. They made jokes over disable, gays etc. They don’t know how hard they try to live in their life. That was really disappointing for me. You are totally right about it. This is such a shame. Btw not all Burmese aren’t like that and I’m also 100% Burmese.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will always be mad about rape, racism, homophobia, and ableism. I am also sad for you that you have so little metta that you do not see a problem with movies like these. I hope that as you grow and learn, you develop compassion towards your fellow human beings.

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  11. Thank you for pointing the real facts.I am Myanmar and never watch myanmar comedian movies like this haha.I must say that it is your few faults going to watch myanmar movies because most of myanmar don’t watch Myanmar silly movies.Only some people from village or old fashioned type myanmar go and watch it.Movies are unqualified in my thoughts.I’m fare and justice person.That’s why I dare to say about this.Anyway,you should talk more about weakness of myanmar movies to let myanmar directors know about this.Coz local myanmar youth already pointed out how myanmar movies are tasteless but myanmar artists denied these weakness.I recommand you to watch Deception.It is worth to watch .

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    1. From what it sounds like, there are enough people watching these movies that the people making them are making money, so I think there must be more people watching than you think. Thank you for recommending Deception. A couple other people have recommended it, and I am hoping to watch it this weekend.

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  12. I’m glad you weighed in on this film, highlighting particularly its toxic characteristics that most Burmese film goers have come to accept as part of the country’s formulaic comedies. As an alternative, though, I’d also suggest watching some documentaries that came out of Burma by Burmese film makers — for example, those produced under the guidance of the Yangon Film School (http://yangonfilmschool.org/). They show talent, dignity, and craftsmanship that’s not usually found in mainstream Burmese films.

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  13. Yeah most Burmese comedy movies are shitty as hell with meaningless or wrong comedies. But the thing I want you to know is that NOT every Burmese supports these kind of movies. We know how they are going all the way wrong and that we will get nothing useful but shitty wrong concepts. ‘Cause most movies tend to focus on making money not the quality. I’m also Burmese but i’ve watched not even 10 Burmese movies in my life and my parents would never let me watch them. ‘Cause we know they are 100% trash.

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    1. I am very aware that not every Burmese person supports this. However, I am noticing a trend in these comments where, usually urban, better educated, and wealthier, people keep making the same arguments. They say paradoxically that no one really watched these movies and that these movies are only made because the people making them are greedy and want easy money. Yet, those can’t both be true at the same time. If these movies are making money, obviously people, and a lot of people at that, are watching them. So while it’s all well and good to choose not to watch or support these films, I think it is also important to loudly and actively point out the ways in which they are bad and encourage everyone in the country, no matter their location, education level, or wealth, to demand better movies.

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  14. Anyways, thanks for your review about this movie.
    I watched most of Myanmar movies when I was a child to got knowledge and information as well as relaxing.
    But I have not been watching Myanmar Movies since 1999 till today.
    I had been shaped or transformed how to live and love my parents through Old Myanmar movies , to be frank.
    I hope your review will make our movie-lovers to chang something.

    Honestly, it is not appropriate your saying that “Myanmar People” because there are lots of Myanmar people who do not like such movies.

    Thank you once again!

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    1. There are also lots of Myanmar people who like such movies. There are so many Myanmar people who like these kinds of movies that they keep getting made. So saying Myanmar people is appropriate because I did not say it was all Myanmar people.

      Like

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