Review: Sassy Player (2009)

Sassy Player (2009)You can look at Sassy Player in two ways: either it’s a screwball comedy, or it’s an LGBT coming of age in Thailand soccer movie. Director Poj Arnon’s film แต วเตะตีนระเบิด is a weird combination of the two genres. The 16 new boys in a formerly all-girls high school are forced to form a school soccer team, even though 6-7 of them would rather be cheerleaders.

The flamboyant queens scream whenever the ball comes towards them, but they hang together enough to arrive at the league championship.

This is an unusually long comedy – 102 minutes – and hoists a surfeit of sub-plots. The school administrator has dementia. A faction of teachers opposes having a team or even having boys in the school. One mom worries that her handsome son keeps having sleepovers with the effeminate boys. Her kathoey (ladyboy) housekeeper tries to spy on the son’s activities. The female coach/teacher (Sudarat Butrprom) tries to lose her virginity by seducing the co-coach. Instead, she drunkenly ends up with the dwarf who referees their games. Two teammates compete for a girl’s affections, but the girls are only interested in each other.

There is actually quite a bit of soccer in this movie; some is authentic, as the casting call looked for good-looking young men with real soccer skills being a plus. Some soccer is the stereotypical type of play where ladyboy doesn’t want to break a fingernail or get too much sun.  The dwarf referee gets quite mishandled during games. To help win a game, one of the teachers spikes the team’s water at half time with a performance enhancing sex drug. The players win the game despite playing with hands hiding crotches for the rest of the game.

What struck me the most about this movie is how the cross-dressing transgender or effeminate players, teachers, and housekeepers are so readily accepted. No one bats an eye when a man wears a dress or acts like a queen. And no one objects when on the field, the soccer players embody all the effeminate, non-athletic, prancing, shrieking, covered with makeup, homosexual stereotypes you can imagine.

This film lead me to research the history and demographics of Thai transgenders. I had already learned about Jaiyah Saelu, the fa’fafine transgender player for American Samoa in Next Goal Wins. In polynesian cultures, the fa’fafine is accepted as a third sex. Similarly, in Thailand, the kathoey is accepted as a sort of third sex, outwardly a woman and definitely not a male; in English, the common term is ladyboy.

Most kathoey see themselves as women, and many start taking hormones as early as childhood, as such drugs are available over the counter. Because Buddhism does not consider homosexuality a sin, being kathoey is accepted as a fact of life, and possibly even a vestige of a past life as the opposite sex. However, at this time, even if you get sex reassignment surgery, Thailand does not allow its citizens to change gender on their birth certificates. There are estimated to be anywhere from 10,000 to 300,000 kathoey in Thailand.

This is a little bit of rear end nudity in the locker room of the macho championship opponents.

I’m not sure who would really enjoy this film. Is it typical Thai humor, or is it offensive to the LGBT community? I apologize that I don’t know.

Also known as: Taew Te Teen Raberd (แต วเตะตีนระเบิด)

In Thai language
Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 4

Released: 2009-04-02 (Thailand)
Director: Poj Arnon
Stars: Sudarat Butrprom , Chayapol Bunnag
Watch the Trailer