I went into this show believing it was an Off/Gun reunion in a BL with a set of identical twins doing an identity swap.
All of us got so much more than that.
The story is about social injustice: the haves vs. the have-nots, and how to make a difference for change. These are weighty themes to tackle in a BL, but GMMTV took the risk on this show, and it paid off handsomely. The performances are brilliant. It reminded me that no matter who we are or what we are born into, we can make a difference in our society. I am surprised they were able to produce and air a series that draws attention to the social inequities and injustices within Thai society today. But before we talk about the nuances of the message within the BL Not Me, let me speak about the acting.
—Edited by TheFNGee
Gun Attaphan Phunsawat – Black / White
Off Jumpol Adulkittiporn – Sean
Mond Tanutchai Wijitvongtong – Gram
First Kanaphan Puitrakul -Yok
Papang Phromphiriyam Thongputtaruk – Gumpa
Fluke Gawin Caskey – Dan/UNAR
Sing Harit Cheewagaroon – Tod
Film Rachanun Mahawan – Eugene
I have been a longtime fan of the pair Gun/Off, and a fan of both individually as actors.
Gun Attaphan is one of the best actors in Thailand. He can pull off so many complex characters in his shows, films, and series. The Gifted series showcased his ability to pull off someone with multiple personalities, so playing identical twins should be easy. Gun gives each character a distinct voice and personality, with White being softer in dress, manners, and tone and Black speaking with a deeper voice, with rough edges in his mannerisms and clothing choices.
Off is a talented actor as well. But this role, I think, might have been his most challenging. Sean, the streetwise and tough law student by day and vigilante by night, is a very different role from others that he’s played. He convinced me that he was Sean. Everything, the color schemes, the dirt and grease on his skin, even his manner of speaking, was completely different.
There are also standout performances from both First Kanaphan Puitrakul and Fluke Gawin Caskey, who wowed me with their ability to make me feel so many emotions. I loved them. They made me smile, laugh and cry. And when you get to the painting scene, you will too. It’s beautiful. The way First speaks about art is from an artist’s soul. Art is not all rainbows and sunshine. It’s sometimes raw and evocative. The point of art is to make you feel.
Thought-Provoking Social Commentary:
From the first episode, I realized this is not your light, fluffy Thai BL. This show is not Puppy Honey. The dialog is like the subtext, colors changing as White realizes the world of privilege he inhabits is not the same world as others. When his father introduces him to some influential businessmen, it is to assure his son that he knows at least one of the people who will interview him for the diplomat program at college. White is accustomed to this behavior. In Russia, he lived in a luxurious apartment with a gorgeous girlfriend. He spoke Russian with ease. White lived a comfortable life.
Everything changes when White arrives back in Thailand. As twins, White and Black shared a special connection. When one of them experienced an intense physical sensation, the other felt it as well. As children, when one got hurt his twin would also feel the pain. Ultimately, their parents decide after a close encounter with almost losing both children, to separate. White went with his father to Russia while Black stayed with his mother in Thailand. Proving that this connection between the twins had a physical limit, they lost touch with each other as well as the other parent.
When Black is beaten to near death, White feels the pain and passes out in a restaurant. When he awakens in the hospital with surprisingly nothing wrong, he gets a strange call from an old childhood friend, Todd, who tells him his brother is in a coma. Todd takes him to see Black. When he stares down at the damaged body of his twin brother, he remembers the childhood promise he made to the tougher Black, White would not be weak. Further, if anything happened to his brother, White would seek revenge. With Todd’s help, he decides to take on Black’s identity to infiltrate the gang that Black hangs with. He hopes to discover who put Black in the hospital and why. It should be a simple mission. However, it isn’t.
When he becomes Black, he learns that the world is not so simple. Doing what is right is not the same as maintaining the status quo. Black fights for equality the only way he feels he can, by taking the law into his own hands and striking out at those who are harming the everyday folk. To find his brother’s attacker, he must infiltrate the gang, adopting his brother’s mannerisms and beliefs. He must become Black to avenge him. But is it easy? Is this world they live in only Black and White? Or is everything just a different shade of gray? It’s these kinds of questions I love to dive into.
I am somewhat surprised that this series made it to being broadcast in Thailand. They go heavy on the social justice front, even calling out indemnity and its place in Thai society. Through the use of one corporation and its CEO, they tackle the role that indemnity plays in the lives of the Thai people. They keep others down while growing a business and power by contacts, money, bribes, and social standing.
Black and White grew up in luxury. The father is a diplomat, while the mother is a judge. Yet, they reject these people and the ideals they represent, choosing to forge their path to make a difference in the world. It’s not easy to give up comfort for hardship. But it’s a choice to stand out rather than tow the line and blend into the background.
These are some of the lines that struck me within this show.
The committee member to White:
“If UNESCO excluded Thailand from being nominated for a world heritage site due to human rights issues within the country, as a diplomat, how would you explain it to people?”
“I said, we must first admire that there are human rights violations are happening. Take the blame and quickly solve the problem. We may re-nominate later. Otherwise, being a world heritage site means nothing.”
“I want to address disability rights in our society. I don’t want them to be more priviledged that other people. I want them to have equal rights as us. They should have work opportunities, access to public transport and easy stuff like being treated like normal people.”
Guest Lecturer at College of Law Faculty:
“Indemnity. It’s the priviledge that absolutely breaches the rule of law principle. It has become an identity of the Thai legal system. This priviledge is exercised both indirectly and publicly. Indirect uses of this type of power include using connections or powerful people asking or ordering someone to do something for them secretly. And to use the priviledge publicly is to make any legal case disappear.”
Climate and Impact
To discuss the show appropriately, I need to give a bit of background information regarding past and current events happening in Thailand during the filming and airing of the show. This context gives you a clearer understanding of the layers of subtext woven into the plot for Not Me.
This show airs after protests in 2021 led to many unarmed civilian protestors being beaten and arrested. There were also at least 3 deaths recorded. Police used high-powered water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds of protestors, resulting in many injuries. People who spoke out about these injustices became the target of the government and police, leading to their arrest.
Depending on whom you ask, Thailand is either a constitutional monarchy or a military dictatorship, depending on the definitions used. Thailand has a King who is also the head of the military. There is also a Prime Minister who is a retired Royal Thai Army officer who seized power through a coupe in 2014. He is currently still the Prime Minister. The elections were not considered fair or just by many Thai people. Thai citizens were unhappy with the current version of the constitution. The government was slow to respond to the Covid outbreaks, leading to many infections and deaths related to Covid. People were stressed, worried, and overwhelmed by shutdowns and quarantine lockdowns that interfered with their ability to earn enough wages to feed their families.
All of this is to say that during the time of filming, saying anything negative about those in positions of authority was a bold and risky move for GMMTV. Though in the show it was a civilian corporation and it’s the owner that is painted as corrupt, they pointed the finger also back to the court system with the legal loopholes allowing those in power to operate without fear of consequences, even while doing illegal deeds like running drugs through legitimate businesses.
Their disclaimer at the beginning of each episode helped them to distance themselves from any conclusions drawn or actions taken after watching the series.
Characters, actions, occupations, and events in this series are fictional and created for entertainment purposes only. They are not intended to urge or promote any behavior in the series. Viewer Discretion Advised.
Let’s get back to the show.
Couples and Conclusion
Each couple in the series addresses current issues from inside Thailand from the perspective of the people involved. There are shades of gray, with no one being all good or evil.
Let’s start with our side pairings before we discuss the leading pair. We have Gram, who is in love with Black’s ex-girlfriend Eugene. Gram is a law student by day and a vigilante by night. He believes passionately in making the people’s voices heard, even if he doesn’t know quite how to go about it. Eugene is a dancer using contemporary dance to show what is happening to Thai protestors, and her arms are covered in bandages and blood. She uses her body to express her opinions. What is beauty? If people belittle us, do we accept their words as truth, or do we fight and struggle against people’s perceptions? She uses her performance to show many ideals. They are a good match. Both know what they wish for in society and their personal lives.
Next, we have Yok and Dan. Yok’s mother is deaf. She struggles in Thai society with people who discriminate against hiring her because she’s differently’abled. But she also doesn’t want to be given a job just because she is deaf. She wants to prove that she is equally capable as a non-hearing impaired person. Yok fights for her right to be heard and not overlooked. She is his reason to fight. He is also an artist with a soul that sees art as a liberating form to bring society’s attention to current problems in their country. His opposite is the quiet Dan, a street artist who paints to express what he can’t say out loud. He is also a policeman, a part of the “system.” He sees both good and bad but feels trapped within its confines. They bond over art and its value in society.
Lastly, we have Black/White and Sean. First, I will talk about Sean. He is also a law student, determined to become part of the system to change it from within. His father was killed by the police evading arrest on a drug run. His world shattered because he looked up to his dad. But his dad is a human who was also trying to feed his family. Maybe it’s a gray zone if you will. Sean has no sense of self-preservation but a sense of rage that fuels him. He is reckless, willing to risk his own life to see the head of the company where his dad worked punished and unable to regain his position in society.
Black is rugged, street smart, and wants to change the world. He sees his mother, a judge, as part of the problem. And his father is a diplomat who is willing to sweep things under the rug. He wants to expose the corrupt and show who they are. White learns this world he lived in is built on other people’s backs. He begins to see the world as complicated and messy. But he begins to live in his brother’s world, trying to make a difference in any way he can. I love the inclusion of the marriage equality protest in this show. White and Sean dance under the rainbow flag, laughing with joy & freedom with the protesters. They include the hashtag and QR code on the screen for Thai audiences to find out more. Proud of GMMTV during that scene.
Side characters also carry a role of importance in Not Me. The ex-girlfriend (trans) of Gram, Nuch, is the voice of reason and is willing to speak her mind to challenge Gram and Black’s perceptions. Gumpa is the garage owner willing to train this group of misfits. He sees what drives each person & helps them turn helpless rage and anger into more meaningful actions. Those are just a few who stood out in my mind. Overall I loved every second of the series. Every character, plot point, and conflict made sense to me. It appeals to my inner social justice warrior.
This series will probably be my series for 2022. I don’t see how anything can top this for me. I hope that you enjoyed this review. I would love to hear your thoughts on Not Me.
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. [See our Review Guide]
Join the discussion 3 Comments
Thanks for your thoughtful and loving analysis of this ground-breaking series. Compare it to some other GMMTV series: Enchante, Star in My Mind and Bad Buddy- much more about wealthy students who may or may not be straight falling in love with another guy!!!! Can be fluffy and fun- but not dealing with some real stuff in Thailand that ain’t so pretty. I felt this series aimed for the sky- even though it was often messy and imperfect.
I agree that Off stepped up in this series- his only other performance that I thought was great was back in Sotus- where he was perfectly cast as a charming but obnoxious friend. First again showed his range after his wonderful comic performance in The Shipper and an effecting small turn in F4. He is like Singto- apparently able to have chemistry with anyone he is paired with.
Another actor who I thought stepped way up was Sing as Tod. He held his own with the always fine Gun and when his scenes had some meat on the bones- seeing the two of them square off was magic.
This many good performances means the director and acting coach also have a magic touch.
Goods: Social commentary, acting, cinematography
Bads: Logic (the kidnapper decides to drive his abductees into a protest rally? The uni setting again with actors in their late 20s and early 30s—-why?, the “stake out” and action scenes around the villian’s factor- not credible or well staged), the 700th time the gang doesn’t seem to know that a twin is going in blind and asking way too many questions )
I give the series 4/5 and say it is a much watch for shooting for the sky- even when things don’t always make sense….the rewards are significant. One example a protest rally against the villian turns into a gay rights rally—- led to one of my fave scenes: White meeting Sean under a rainbow flag- beautiful to see.
All good points! I loved this series too. I thought it was very realistic to show that Dan, who thought he could be part of the system and still protest against injustice, was only tolerated by the powers that be until he actually threatened their system, and then they brought him to heel by threatening his parents.
Exactly. The world is full of shades of gray, sometimes we work for change from both within and outside of the agency that needs reform. When they reprimanded him and threatened his family they played their hand, but made it easier for him to make up his mind as where his priorities were.