Reflections of a teenager viewer by Ginevra Sciortino*
“It’s having sex, not making love, so we’re afraid that’s it’s temporary” this sentence, said by a young gender fluid boy to the cameras of the filmmaker Noutawat Numbeshapol says a lot about the nature of the relationships among adolescents in Bangkok as captured in the film #BKKY. The young director manages to get teenagers’ –and adults’– attention with a documentary about youth sexuality, which is fast, highly addictive, with a lot of drama and complicated.
The storyline at first sight seems simple, but as we get immersed, we are overwhelmed by its many layers of meaning. Jojo, the main character, is a teenager who struggles with passing college admission and trying to be the perfect daughter for her dad, who raises her alone, while also coping to find out what she really wants, discovering her sexuality, losing her virginity and enjoy life. In the begin of the film she thinks that she is happy being with Q, a tomboy who asks her out and soon becomes her girlfriend, but then she meets Jeff and Jasper, two skateboarders who usually are together at the skate park. After Jojo breaks up with Q to be with one of the boys, things became rough and understanding who is cheating on whom and who is with whom becomes nearly impossible. Jojo and the other adolescents move from hetero to same-sex relationships and back quite naturally, but none of these relationships seem to last long and in the process trust is shattered and love dismissed.
In the midst of these vortex of relationships, young people are interviewed about gender and sexuality, sentimental feelings, life, parents, and university matters. #BKKY is in fact based on the stories of more than 100 teenagers who are growing up in the metropolitan city of Bangkok. Some of the interviews have been cut and inserted in key moments of the story line as a collective commentary on love, trust, relationships, sexuality, and more.
As a high school student in Italy, where belonging to the LGBTQ+ community is spelled out, what struck me most was to notice that the only thing that all those teens didn’t have were labels. Ad this, while fluid sexual behavior seemed the norm among the different genders, So, I started wondering why they do not seem to need to define their choices and prefer to leave their experience “unlabeled”. Could it be, because choosing a label is something that can’t be washed away in time if one changes sexual preference? Or is it because there is no urge to define oneself based on one’s sexuality considering that sexuality is fluid? Or again, is it because the environment does not allow them? I got used to think that choosing a label was important to understand better who one is, but could it be that this is only because we have to assert our individuality in a society where we no longer know who we are. If you already feel comfortable with whom you are and so do your peer, sexual matters may not need to become your identity or the criteria for having a community.
I was also impressed by the “disloyal” behavior of the teens. Usually, when I talk with my friends we do imagine “living happily ever after”. We do hook up, but we see it as temporary before we will eventually find our soul mate. But, in the interviews no one mentioned it. I don’t know if in the West, Disney has tricked all of us, while in this part of the world, teens have woken up and see the reality as it is. Should we not have feelings? Maybe the need of being the only one for someone else is just a way of coping with our self-acceptance problems. Or, on the contrary, could it be that not having such wish is because of the teens’ feeling of incapacity to live up to the Hollywodian love so they don’t even try. Maybe the failure of having stable and loyal relationships is a direct impact of seeing more parents divorcing and conclude that if adults did not make it, how could adolescents? Have we arrived at a point where teens prefer not even trying to have committed relationships? Is hooking up randomly the solution? Or, as the movie shows, we are still going to get wounded anyway, as sex is still impregnated with feelings of happiness and delusion?
Wish I would know, but with #BKKY I got plenty of reflections, many questions and no firm answers. Please don’t tell me I have to “grow up” to know!
* Ginevra Sciortino, is a 14-year old who lives in Bologna and study in high school. She likes hunging out with friends and reading and is committed to advocating socio-political causes for a more open and equal society. When she wrote this reflection she was an intern at SEA Junction during her visit to her aunt and SEA Junction director, Lia Sciortino.