NAC withdrawing $8000 grant for Sonny Liew’s graphic novel

From ‘NAC withdraws grant for graphic novel publisher due to ‘sensitive’ content’, 30 May 2015, article in CNA

The National Arts Council (NAC) has withdrawn a publishing grant for the graphic novel The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye on the eve of its Singapore launch because of “sensitive content”. The council declined to elaborate on the reasons behind the decision to revoke the S$8,000 grant.

The experimental graphic novel by artist-illustrator Sonny Liew follows the story of comic-book artist Charlie Chan during the formative years of Singapore’s modern history. It weaves together fictional and historical elements, with nods to events and personalities in the nation’s history, such as Singapore’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, opposition politician Lim Chin Siong and Operation Spectrum, the so-called Marxist Conspiracy, in 1987.

In a statement, NAC’s senior director of the literary arts sector Khor Kok Wah said: “We had to withdraw the grant when the book The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye came out because its sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet our funding conditions. The Council will continue to support and work with Epigram, a leading publisher of Singapore literary works, on other projects.”

…Mr Liew expressed his disappointment with NAC’s decision. “I’d hoped the book was nuanced enough in … dealing with the issues. But developments have made it clearer that NAC works under constraints that make it difficult for it to support works that are deemed politically sensitive.”

In 2011, the NAC withdrew a grant for a volume of playwright Chong Tze Chien’s collected plays, which had included Charged, a play that dealt with national service and race.

According to the Funding Guidelines, NAC will reject works that appear to have a ‘negative influence on society’, those that advocate for lifestyles that are seen as ‘objectionable’ by the public, denigrate on the basis of race or religion, undermine the authority of the government or threaten the nation’s security or stability. In Charlie Chan, Operation Spectrum is satirised as a plot to ‘replace all music in Singapore with the melodies of Richard Marx’, which gives a new, rather ominous twist to the lyrics of his greatest hit ever, Right Here Waiting (wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be right here waiting for you). Not only will this ‘indirect censorship’ boost sales of Sonny’s book, it will also draw audiences to rediscover the adult contemporary music genius that is Richard Marx.

A more extreme parallel to Charlie Chan would be the charges slapped on fellow cartoonist Leslie Chew, the mastermind behind ‘Demon-cratic Singapore’. But I would think another reason why the depiction of LKY in a comic book is considered ‘too sensitive’ for funding is probably because of recent discussions to make it illegal for anyone to commercialise the image of our great leader for personal gain. I wouldn’t be surprised if MDA goes around pasting black boxes over panels of Charlie Chan containing references to LKY or the Marxist insurgency. The way around that, of course, is to order the unedited ‘US version’, or head over to the Causeway to buy it, along with a DVD for ‘To Singapore, with Love‘, which would neatly serve as a ‘behind the scenes’ companion to Charlie Chan if you want to know more about that fog of Singapore history known as Operation Spectrum.

Interestingly, Chong Tze Chien, the other victim of NAC’s sudden withdrawal was featured on the organisation’s publication titled ‘Literary Singapore’. The ‘directory’ of writers describes the play ‘Charged’ as such:

Through his signature use of experimental and innovative puppetry and stage devices, Chong’s “Charged” is Singapore’s most controversial and nuanced political play to date – addressing the issue of racial tensions in the most explosive of scenarios – that of a Chinese corporal shooting his Malay counterpart while on military duty.

And then NAC decided: Hmm, maybe it wasn’t such a good idea supporting this after all, I want my money back. What was once lauded as a ‘most controversial’ portrayal of race relations becomes a ‘taboo’ overnight. One moment you’re giving yourself a pat on the back for a ‘progressive’ stance, and the next you’re hurriedly taking it back, like ‘modern’ parents having second thoughts about giving their 18 year old son the car keys before his big date, afraid that they may have to pay an abortion check later. Incidentally, ‘Charged’ won the ‘BEST ORIGINAL SCRIPT’ at the 11th Life! Theatre Awards.

I suppose one has to be prepared to make a living the hard way if your grant doesn’t qualify because your book or script is too provocative by NAC standards and may spark a mass riot like Charlie Hebdo. If only they’d told you sooner though. MDA did the same last-minute about turn when they banned Ken Kwek’s Sex Violence Family Values when it was just about to premiere in local cinemas. You could say the authorities were ‘right there waiting’ before deciding to pull the plug.

Charlie Hebdo cartoon pulled out of Economist Singapore

From ‘Right to speak freely and responsibly must come together’:Yaacob on Charlie Hebdo, 17 Jan 2015. article in CNA

Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said he appreciates a decision by a local printer of The Economist not to reproduce a page with the latest cover of the Charlie Hebdo magazine depicting the Prophet Mohammed. “We have no doubt that there’s no such thing as freedom of expression without limits. As I have said before, the right to speak freely and responsibly must come together,” Dr Yaacob said to the media on the sidelines of the JFDI.Asia Demo Day on Friday (Jan 16),

Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs said the circulation of the cartoons will not be allowed in Singapore. He later posted on Facebook that “there are longstanding laws against causing offence to our races and religions” in Singapore. The page in the Singapore edition of The Economist was replaced with a statement informing readers that the magazine’s “Singapore printers” declined to print it. The magazine hit local newsstands on Friday.

“I think Singaporeans understand the sensitivities and we must continue to protect our racial, religious harmony. So I appreciate the sensitivities shown by the printer and I commend them for the decision,” said Dr Yaacob.

…Dr Yaacob said the Malay/Muslim community is “by and large offended” by the latest Charlie Hebdo cover. “But I think they also understood that we need to act rationally and I am quite impressed at how the community has come together to respond to this particular episode,” he said.

Blank Space

Blank Space

Instead of the actual image, our local printer (Times Printers) agreed to allow a link directing the reader to the cartoon, only without the disclaimer ‘Click at your own risk. We are not responsible for any bloody riots taking place on the streets over this’. As the head honcho of all Muslim Affairs we’re supposed to take Yaacob’s word that ‘by and large’ a cartoon of the prophet shedding a tear expressing solidarity with the Je Suis Charlie movement is insensitive to Islam. Hebdo has published worse, of course, with images of His Most Exalted One being subject to gross humiliation and explicit violence. The creator of the latest cartoon has already explained the meaning behind it, that it wasn’t meant to poke fun but imply that the prophet would never have approved of these mindless killings. Angry Muslims elsewhere have already taken to the streets slamming the resurgence of Charlie as an act of defiance. To some, it’s an act of WAR. Well, Sacre bleu!

Since the time someone was investigated for posting an image of a pig on the Kaaba in Facebook, Singaporeans have become all too familiar with the consequences of breaching boundaries of ‘free speech’. The publisher’s ‘self-censorship’ is similar to the restraint exercised by Singaporeans from expressing their honest views about such a ‘sensitive topic’. We don’t talk about it in school, at work, even around the dinner table, letting the controversy drift by while we argue instead over the ethics of Xiaxue vs Gushcloud. Opinion leaders straddle an overcrowded fence, saying that ‘I am not really Charlie Hebdo’ and ‘Killing is bad, but free speech has its limits’. One moment we’re condemning the murderers, the next we’re saying ‘Hmm, maybe those cartoonists went too far’. The usual refrain is ‘There is no excuse for murder, this has nothing to do with religion…’. Then there’s this big ‘BUT….’.

Some go to the extent of calling out countries for hypocrisy, such as Saudi representatives at the Charlie Hebdo march, who hail from the very same place that sentenced a blogger to 1000 lashes for denigrating Islam. Maybe our publishers just really wanted to play it safe in case they get a similar mode of punishment in Singapore, or their office gets razed to the ground by insurgent syndicate members. We can’t blame them for that really, but one can’t help noticing the double-take when a public figure goes on to commend them for muzzling themselves over a cartoon that anyone can find online at the click of a mouse. In particular THIS cartoon. Our local FHM magazine has published a caricature of Jesus Christ with a shotgun previously, which in my opinion is more offensive than the Prophet with a glum face holding a ‘Je Suis Charlie’ sign. Today, FHM is still in business, though focusing more on boobs, thighs and butts, which ‘by and large’, doesn’t offend the general populace. MDA must be thanking the heavens that the publisher censored themselves otherwise they’d have some work to do. Thank you for acting ‘rationally’. Hey wouldn’t it be more ‘rational’ if you removed all links and references to Hebdo COMPLETELY? Here’s a broom and a rug, guys!

The irony was evident from the moment our ministers lined up to ‘strongly condemn’ the act, even sending dignitaries to march with the Parisians. The French ambassador took Singapore’s deep condolences as a gesture of support for the French people, and ‘solidarity in the fight against terrorism’. Yet, we knew that Singapore would have banned Charlie Hebdo all along, whether they’re slamming the Prophet, Buddha Jesus, or the Supreme Court for that matter, as one of our own cartoonists Leslie Chew found out the hard way. It would be a matter of time before the awkwardness hits home, when a ‘controversial’ image from the ‘survival edition’, meant to symbolise resilence against terror, is taken out because people are afraid of the consequences. By branding the latest cartoon as ‘religiously insensitive’, MDA is throwing the ‘context’ out of the window and going for the safer option of a blanket ban. The failure to appreciate context, of course, is the reason why extremists kill people in the first place, and a ban is exactly what they have always hoped to achieve.

The French ambassador may want to take a second look at our condolence signing and look for the small print that says: ‘We feel you, bro, but Charlie Hebdo is still a no-no here. Sorry’. As for us, maybe looking up ‘solidarity’ in the dictionary might be a good idea before jumping on the Hebdo sympathy bandwagon.

Archie comic banned by MDA for depicting gay marriage

From ‘Archie comic breached content guidelines:MDA’, 16 July 2014, article in Today

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has confirmed that it has banned one volume of the Archie. The Married Life series because of its depiction of same-sex marriage between two characters in the comic.

In a statement, the MDA said it had received a complaint about the comic – Book Three in a series of five – in March. After an assessment, it found that the content breached MDA guidelines. “We thus informed the local distributor not to import or distribute the comic in retail outlets,” an MDA spokesperson said.

…Separately, the National Library Board (NLB), which carries copies of the comic, said it acquired the comic before the MDA found its content to be in breach of guidelines.

“We will be reviewing the book in the light of MDA’s decision,” said the NLB, in response to TODAY’s queries.

“It should be noted that Archie. The Married Life was acquired for our adult collection. NLB takes a broader approach for the adult’s collection than it does for its children’s collection,” added the NLB.

Bad Bromance

Archie used to be goofball entertainment for me in my teens, but he has all grown up since. In 2009, the series courted controversy by having the main character marry BOTH Betty and Veronica in consecutive issues, prompting conservatives to accuse everyone’s favourite freckled redhead of being a ‘ bigamist’. Not sure if polygamy is in breach of MDA’s guidelines because it’s an ‘alternative lifestyle’ that sure as hell isn’t in line with ‘community norms’. It’s not just narrow-minded Singaporeans making a fuss about a comic about gay marriage. In the US, the Christian group One Million Moms protested the sale of the comic, to little success. Why didn’t MDA completely ban the movie ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’ instead of giving it a lax M18 rating then? Didn’t you spare a thought for OUR own 1 million mommies and their precious norms?

The gay character in question is military stud Kevin Keller, and in the banned comic he marries Dr Clay Walker, a black man. Keller first came out in a Veronica #202 (2010), when he told Jughead that he was not interested in Veronica because he was gay. Archie never dealt with such ‘sensitive’ topics in the past. He was flirting with either the brunette or the blonde, messing around with Jughead, or watching the resident jock Reggie getting beat up by Moose. Things became edgier when he gave his first ‘interracial kiss’ to Valerie from the all-girl band Josie and the Pussycats (whom he also married). You damn philanderer you.

You’d need to go back almost half a century to find another ban that’s more ridiculous than this. In 1969, our Ministry of Culture banned five MARVEL comics, including Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Daredevil, X-men and Avengers, for themes on ‘horror, violence, suspense and fantasy’.  In 1987, Elf Quest was banned for featuring a ‘ritualistic orgy’, along with No 64 Swamp Thing and the FIRST ISSUE of Green Arrow (which shot up in price from $6 to $50 following censorship).

But first lemme take an Elfie

With such ‘adult’ themes in the new-look Archie, I doubt young impressionable minds are reading it anymore. Most teens these days probably know Christian Grey (of Fifty Shades fame) or Glee’s Blaine Anderson but have never heard of Archie Andrews. Well thanks to the ban, now they do. And then they go and experiment with BDSM and choke each other for kicks. That’s better than falling in love with another boy, RIGHT.

Not a sweet ending for Archie or Keller then. News has already leaked of adult Archie taking a bullet to save Keller’s life in the final issue of the Married Life series. To those still holding on to the banned comics as loans: SELL THEM AS FAST AS YOU CAN before NLB raids your home like the Spanish Inquisition, seizes the books and pulps it all to hell. I’m sure you can make back at least 10 times the fine for ‘losing’ it.

UPDATE: On 30 July 2014, MDA clarified that an X-men comic also featuring gay marriage was, in contrast to Archie, allowed for sale with restrictions. Astonishing X-men Issue 51 supposedly offered a ‘balanced treatment of the issue’ because there were characters who disapproved of the union. By seeking such ‘balance’, MDA is already admitting ‘Gay bad, straight good’, and too much gay for their liking equals ‘ban’.

‘Balance’ of course, in most stories about ‘out’ characters’ mainly serves as dramatic narrative so that our gay couple can overcome opposing voices and daunting odds to be together, which is what happened to the gay couple in the end anyway. Moral of the story: Don’t care what others say, get married anyway.

If MDA had followed the Archie series, they would have realised that not everything went smoothly for gay Kevin Keller either, having to endure homophobic slurs like ‘twinkle-toes’. This sure looks like a ‘balanced’ portrayal of being gay to me, but apparently not balanced enough to allow for sale THAT ONE ISSUE where the marriage occurs with not one person charging into the chapel , fist raised, crying foul at the sheer audacity of it all. Obviously, MDA had no idea what Keller had to go through to finally put a ring on it.

Now all you needed in And Three Makes Tango was for one straight, furious penguin to try to destroy the gay family by stomping all over the unhatched egg and the book might have been ‘balanced’ enough to remain on children’s shelves, even if it involved first degree penguin murder.

Batman is a normal Javanese name pronounced ‘But-mun’

From ‘Batman Suparman story takes off’, 17 Nov 2013, article by Nur Asyiqin Mohammed Salleh, Sunday  Times

Singapore’s Batman Suparman (below) made news when he was sent to jail last Monday for a string of crimes. His story also took off beyond Singapore, making the list of best-read stories on the BBC website. The interest clearly was less about his crimes – theft, housebreaking and consuming heroin, for which he was jailed for two years and nine months – and more about his unusual name.

His mother, however, was not amused to hear that his name was being talked about here and elsewhere. “A person’s name is not a laughing matter and it’s our business what we name our child,” she said, irritated to be asked if he had been named after the comic hero. She claimed Batman, 23, was a “normal” Javanese name properly pronounced as “But-Mun”.

Only one other person in the phone directory is named Batman but when contacted, the woman declined to be interviewed. There are 23 listings of Suparman, the name of Batman’s father.

…Veteran Malay language teacher Abdul Rahim Omar told The Sunday Times that while Suparman is a common Javanese name, Batman is not and has no meaning in Malay or Javanese. “I think his parents were probably inspired by the comic.”

What happens if you Google Image 'Batman Bin Suparman'

What happens if you Google Image ‘Batman Bin Suparman’

To date, no one has published a photo of Batman outside of his identity card and it would be interesting to see what he looks like now. I thought it was also rather insensitive of ST to ask Batman’s mother about his superhero name when he’s serving time in jail. No wonder she was irritated; she must have been asked the same question a million times. Nobody cares if you name your son ‘Tan Ah Kow’ anymore. Too bad the writer of the Batman article wasn’t Kimberly Spykerman.

Kudos to Ch5 newsreader Chew Wui Lynn for keeping po-faced when reporting Batman’s arrest. And she passed the pronunciation with flying colours. This is how you say ‘Batman Bin Suparman’ like a pro, ‘bart-mon (as in monday)’.

Not so for the rest of the world, who say Batman as, literally, Bat-Man. Holy Java Chip Frappucino!

But let’s go beyond the Internet sensation and the most famous Singaporean other than LKY, or the Dark Knight, and try to uncover the origins of ‘batman’ if its Javanese source is disputed. In 1912, a CAPTAIN BATMAN was fined $10 for stowing away a ‘decrepit Chinaman’ into the ‘Colony’. In Melbourne, there’s a place called Batman’s Hill, named after founder John Batman (1801-1839). All this happening, of course, way before the father of the creator of DC’s Batman was even born.

In the military, a ‘batman’ is an obsolete term for a soldier assigned to an officer as a ‘manservant’, and is tasked with ‘batting’, or basically being at the beck and call of your boss.  You could say that the comic’s butler Alfred is a ‘Batman’ in his own way. In 1951, the Singapore Free Press published a report with the headline ‘Batman in theft case’,  so it’s not the first time that a real-life ‘Batman’ has committed a crime.

A batman is also an ancient unit of mass, as defined by the Ottoman empire, roughly working out to be today’s 7.6 kg. The Turkish province Batman, the Batman River and the Batman airport all hint at a possible connection with the Javanese ‘Batman’. ‘But-man’ itself isn’t immune to mockery either (think ‘Buttman’). Either Batman bin Suparman’s parents are closet superhero geeks, or are well versed in the ancient Ottoman metric system. What the journo should have done to uncover the mystery of Batman as a first name, is to get a Javanese or Turkish phonebook rather than a local one. Only then will you get some insight into how, well, Batman Begins.

Cartoonist Leslie Chew in contempt of court

From ‘Attorney-General’s Chambers acts against cartoonist Leslie Chew’, 25 July 2013, article by Walter Sim, ST

The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has commenced legal proceedings in the High Court against Chew Peng Ee, better known as Leslie Chew, for a series of comic strips published on Facebook.

He is alleged to have committed contempt of court by scandalising the Judiciary of the Republic of Singapore. The AGC said in a statement issued Thursday: “The present legal proceedings are aimed at protecting the administration of justice in the Republic of Singapore and upholding the integrity of one of our key public institutions.”

The case will be heard before the High Court on Aug 12. Chew is the illustrator behind Demon-cratic Singapore, a Facebook page that was started in May 2011.

Centre to this case are four comics published on 20 July 2011, 3 January 2012, 5 January 2012 and 16 June 2012 on the Facebook page, which claims that Demon-cratic Singapore is the “full name” of a fictional country, “often referred to as Singapore for short”. It also says the series is a “totally fictional comic with entirely fictional characters based on wholly fictional events”.

Despite his arrest for sedition earlier this year, Chew continued to mock this ‘fictional’ country’s government while other artists in his plight would have toned down the political barbs or stopped drawing altogether. In the 3 Jan 2012 strip, the AGC may have taken offence to the use of the term ‘Kangaroo Court’ and the suggestion that the courts give preferential treatment to celebrities when they get into trouble, in this case ‘Quan Feng Feng’. Just a week prior to this, Mediacorp host Quan Yifeng was sentenced to 15 months’ probation for trashing a taxi, citing mental illness in her defence. Chew may be talented with colouring pencils but subtlety is clearly not his forte. For one, he tweaked the name of every character but left ‘Singapore’ intact.

Blogger Alex Au of Yawning Bread was lucky to escape with an apology and removal of his post for likewise SCANDALISING the courts by suggesting that another celebrity, plastic surgeon Woffles Wu, was let off easy after getting an elderly scapegoat to take the rap for his speeding offence. Incidentally, Chew also took a swipe at the Woffles (or rather, Waffles) Wu verdict in his 16 July 12 post. Does a picture paint a thousand contemptuous words here? Or perhaps it’s the ‘Kangaroo Court’ jibe that got the AGC hopping mad. In 2008, a trio wearing kangaroo T-shirts to the Supreme court were slapped with jail terms up to 15 days for ‘scandalising the Singapore judiciary’, their depiction of the proverbial marsupial in judges’ robes considered the ‘worst insult possible’. Worse than calling the law ‘stupid’ or a ‘senile old fart’ perhaps?

Worse than wearing the F word

2 days after the Quan Feng Feng strip, Chew published ‘Justice is Dead part 2’, which featured a ‘Romanian diplomat and a ‘New Zealander’ fleeing the country to escape jail time. The obvious diplomat reference would be Silviu Ionescu, who fled Singapore after knocking down and killing someone in 2009, went on trial in 2010, and only sentenced to 3 years in prison in May this year.   The ‘New Zealander’ is likely to be Robert Stephen Dahlberg, who was sentenced to 5 months jail in 2012 for being involved in a Suntec brawl in 2010. After the assault he jumped bail and was only brought to justice because he SURRENDERED.

Well you sure took your own sweet time, Justice. Not sure how a ‘kangaroo court’ insult is akin to calling one’s mother a whore in the legal sense, but I would think the speed at which these foreigners are made to pay for their crimes is an insult more to kangaroos than the Judiciary. Except when the crime involves ‘scandalising the judiciary’, like what 77 year old writer Alan Shadrake was charged for some insulting passages in his book ‘Once A Jolly Hangman’. Unlike the other foreigners, Shadrake didn’t run over innocent people or bash their heads in, but he served more than a month’s worth of prison time. Did I mention he was 77 YEARS OLD?

A certain Lord Anthony Lester called the ‘contempt of court’ offence ‘outmoded and archaic’, but what more can you expect really from a system that’s unwilling to let go of an anti-gay law like Section 377A? I wonder if the term ‘dinosaur court’ would make more sense instead.

Chen Show Mao posting disrespectful cartoon on Facebook

From ‘Chen Show Mao’s Facebook post shows lack of respect’, 15 July 2013, Voices, Today

(Gary Chua Sheng Yang): Over the last few weeks, the verbal sparring over the issue of hawker centre cleaning has been kept relatively civil by the Workers’ Party (WP) and the People’s Action Party. On Saturday, though, WP Member of Parliament (MP) Chen Show Mao posted a caricature on his Facebook page depicting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his colleagues Mr K Shanmugam and Dr Vivian Balakrishnan as three dwarves with cleaning gear.

While he probably intended it to be funny, it displays a lack of respect in the political arena and not something I expect of an MP, much less an established lawyer like Mr Chen. The WP has spoken of building a First World Parliament. Is this the behaviour it would condone from one of its MPs?

The party should respond with facts if the allegations against its MPs are inaccurate and, if the allegations are proven correct, accept the mistake and apologise unreservedly. This action by Mr Chen is disconcerting to neutrals and suggests that the WP may not be ready to be taken seriously as a political party.

Come, clean!

Come, clean!

Chen Show Mao’s caption for this post was ‘I heard the news today, oh Boy’ –Good Men on the march, though the quote may also be attributed to a Beatles’ lyric in  ‘A Day in the Life’. There’s nothing really scathing, humiliating or even FUNNY about the caricature, and in fact it even puts the ministers in a good light because they’re depicted as ‘getting their hands dirty’ to do the job, though you’re more likely to see a baby in a politician’s hand than a bucket or rubber hose. At least Breakfast Network putting Tan Chuan Jin’s face on an equally diminutive Ewok was ridiculous enough for the Minister to have a hearty chuckle about it. All part of this big-head-on-little-bodies fetish that people seem to have when it comes to minister caricatures. Even LKY has a Mini-me of himself.

One should still be careful when publishing political cartoons here, as the Demon-cratic Singapore artist found out when he was arrested for sedition. If you are less artistically inclined but dying to show off some funny bone, you may joke about a fellow party MP-to-be on Facebook provided you’re of a certain rank, namely Emeritus Senior Minister rank. Just ask Tin Pei Ling.  I think this is really about bad timing rather than ‘disrespect’, considering that both Vivian Balakrishnan and the PM himself have been nagging non-stop at WP leader Low Thia Khiang to sort this thing out. Perhaps not the best time to make a joke about the hawker situation if the ruling party is breathing down your neck waiting for an apology.

Chen’s flair for sketching is apparent from his Facebook page. In 2011, he posted a self-portrait created on his iPad. For those old enough you’d see the Beatles connection too.

He did not comment, however, if the 3 dwarves pic was in fact his handiwork, and it would be a mistake to admit so, because that implies that instead of helping your team work out a defence against allegations of lying in these desperate times, you’re cutting out photos of PAP ministers’ heads, gluing them on paper, and doodling around them like you have all the time in the world.

Water Wally peeping at boy in the shower

From ‘PUB music video draws flak online’, 22 May 2013, article by Nigel Chen, My Paper

…Water Wally, the national water agency PUB’s water-droplet mascot, has been drawing mixed reactions for a music video which was posted online on April 15. The video, Water Wally Shower Dance, which was uploaded on PUB’s website and YouTube, features the mascot in a rap ditty, reminding children and adults to keep showers to under five minutes.

…PUB said that, by the end of the year, pupils in 185 primary schools would have learnt how to do the Shower Dance as part of its “Time to Save” programme. So far, pupils in 28 primary schools have been taught the dance….However, the video has drawn some flak online, with 186 dislikes on YouTube, compared to just 50 likes, as of 7.40pm yesterday.

…Ms Candy Kang, creative director of advertising agency Available, said: “The comedic nature of the dance, coupled with the exaggerated movements, detracts one’s attention from the original message of the video.” She also pointed out that a particular scene where Water Wally walks in on a boy showering in a bathroom is “inappropriate”.

Ms Kang added: “It shows someone (Water Wally) intruding on a boy’s privacy while he showers, which could also be seen as an outrage of modesty.”

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 8

Water Wally has a habit of barging into toilets. In the ‘Adventures of Water Wally’ cartoon, the perky little droplet charged into a forest latrine to turn off running showers and taps in the episode ‘Camp H20’. Although he has been accused of being a creepy paedophile or a serial murderer inspired by Psycho in this PUB video, Wally is portrayed as a heroic little squirt in the animated series who lives in an alternative universe where entering uninvited into showers to remind people not to waste water is the neighbourly, considerate thing to do.

In fact, Wally’s wide-eyed intrusion may be exactly the reason for the video’s success; by scaring little children into not bathing at all. I, for one, would hesitate to take a shit now without making sure the door is locked, though I would also be wary of Wally magically leaping out of the toilet bowl when I flush and dragging me into a raging vortex of my own piss and excrement. I didn’t think Wally needed to even handle a door knob. He could have transformed into a little puddle, seep beneath and door and watch you bathe all he wants before casting a charm that makes you para-para non-stop.

The ‘Shower Dance’ itself, if you ignore the terrible Black Eyed Peas influenced rap, is a mash-up of various genres of the art form spanning decades of pop culture. Allow me to break the moves down to argue why the Shower Dance has nothing to do with showers or contagious epilepsy at all.

The Hippy Hippy Shake

The Hippy Hippy Shake

The Robot

The Robot

Gwiyomi/Para Para

Gwiyomi/Para Para

Zombie Walk

Zombie Walk

I tried doing the first sequence of the Shower Dance while bathing myself and all it did was get the entire bathroom wet, not my naked body. With all that outburst of energy splashing around it’s not easy to ‘keep it to 5’. It also doesn’t emphasise on scrubbing behind the ears, under your armpits or between your toes. It’s probably more efficient to bathe with a scoop and pail, or use targetted wetting by directing the showerhead at dirty areas, but how can anyone boogie while holding some damn thing in your hand?

To help us keep track of our shower times, PUB distributed waterproof timers last year to stick on our walls. It’s probably a miracle device for people with OCD, but I want to get out of my bath after a long day REFRESHED, not feeling like I’m being buzzed out of bed for work. Rushing people into taking quick baths aside, we should also discourage couples from having prolonged sex in the shower and jilted teens from sitting in there crying all night with the water trickling down their sad faces like what they do in Mediacorp dramas.

Good try, Wally and PUB, but this shower dance thing is a total wash-out.


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