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.

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NLB CEO saddened by protests against gay book pulping

From ‘NLB saddened by criticism over removal of books’, 13 July 2014, article by Akshita Nandra, Sunday Times

The National Library Board did not anticipate the widespread dismay that greeted news that it had removed three children’s books following complaints about their homosexual themes, chief executive Elaine Ng said yesterday.

She told The Sunday Times in an interview that she was saddened that several local writers have withdrawn from library-related events in protest. “I’m saddened by their disappointment in us. I would like to engage those who have worked with us for a long time and hope they will accept our outstretched hands in future,” she said.

But the NLB is not changing its decision to keep the three books off the shelves. They will not be resold or donated as usually happens with discarded books, because of concern that they might be unsuitable for young children.

…”It’s unfortunate that it appears to be a knee-jerk reaction but we have an ongoing process of review,” said Ms Ng. The NLB has a collection of five million books, acquires one million a year and reviews between 4,000 and 5,000 titles a year for suitability.

Ms Ng said information about the withdrawals could have been communicated better, and suggested a public dialogue “down the road”. Asked why not hold it now, she replied: “Things are still fairly emotional.

…The NLB has not been without its supporters. One Facebook group, Singaporeans United For Family, has commended its action and claimed to have gathered more than 24,000 signatures of support as of yesterday.

In 2011, MTI minister Lim Hng Khiang praised the library as a ‘very progressive organisation’. CEO Elaine Ng chimed in by describing libraries as social learning spaces that ‘draw and unite people across ALL ages and CULTURES’. 3 years on and Minister Yaacob has suggested that the NLB also has a duty to conform to ‘existing social/community norms‘. You can’t be both ‘progressive’ and be a nanny at the same time. ‘Outstretched hands’ notwithstanding, Elaine Ng, a former research analyst and high-flyer at MINDEF, did not provide her explanation as to why the books are ‘unsuitable for young children’ and must be destroyed at all costs. I doubt they did the same thing to 50 Shades of Grey. More like a Thousand Shreds of Black and White if ‘And Three Makes Tango’ gets turned into mush. Or what about that 1987 movie about 3 grown men living together taking turns looking after a baby girl. Smash and burn the damned VCD with fire! Look at Steve Guttenberg’s face! Just look at it!

This is not a community norm

OH DEAR GOD!

OH DEAR GOD!

By not elaborating on why ‘alternative/non-traditional’ families are ‘bad’ for children, NLB’s allowing the ‘overwhelming majority’ to do the explaining on their behalf online. To say that things have been ‘fairly emotional’ is not only an understatement, but implies that NLB has mulled over the ban in a calm, objective manner unlike the pack of wild animals that is the general public; that ultimately they still believe they’ve done the right thing. This coming from a chief who was awarded a ‘People Engagement’ trophy in 2013.

Here’s a snapshot of what this self-declared ‘majority’ of concerned Singaporeans are feeling at the moment, according to the ‘Singaporeans United for Family’ FB page.

Eternal, congratulatory gratitude

awesome

Hell, just give the NLB a standing ovation and National Day award already. Unlimited loans for you and your family, sir!

Genuine fear

sodom

Bring a crucifix to the penguin enclosure at the zoo next time. They are EVIL.

 HIV

Thank you for loving gays as HUMAN PERSONS. DOWN WITH WESTERN CULTURE and their HIV epidemics!

Still, nothing sells a book like controversy, and although a few copies may be sacrificed in the pyre, ultimately the authors of Tango may even have NLB to thank for the publicity. A reading event has been organised right outside the National Library as we speak, with copies of intact Tango books available, granted permission by the Police of course. For an event intended for CHILDREN. Is that #wearwhite thing still on? Time to do some work, guys. Just make sure you don’t end up looking like, erm, penguins i.e #wearblackandwhite.

blackandwhite

NLB, you’ve just slapped yourself with that ‘outstretched hand’, and too bad we don’t have weekly bestseller lists anymore that we can shove in your self-righteous faces when a story about gay penguins makes it to the top of the charts. Penguins aside, I still enjoy a good browse every now and then, and I love that I can still find and borrow rare, surprising titles like Naomi Wolf’s ‘Vagina’ and The F-Word without anyone charging at me with a burning pitchfork ranting about defiling community norms or Sodom and Gomorrah.

UPDATE: Minister Yaacob ordered the offending books to be relocated to the adults section, and the complaints persisted. Some were afraid of pranksters deliberating misplacing the books back in the children’s section, while others disagreed that Tango should be labelled as such and wasn’t ‘age-appropriate’ for mature people. NLB must be thinking they shouldn’t have brought this in in the first place.

Children’s book about gay penguins banned from libraries

From ‘NLB removes two children’s titles after complaint that they’re not ‘pro-family”, article by Pearl Lee, 8 July 2014, ST

The National Library Board (NLB) has removed two children’s titles after it received e-mail complaints that the books are not “pro-family”. The first book, And Tango Makes Three, features two male penguins who behave as though they are a couple, while the second book, The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, has two female partners trying to adopt a baby from China.

Facebook user Teo Kai Loon had posted a note in a Facebook group named We Are Against Pinkdot In Singapore on Tuesday morning, calling on fellow group members to “scrutinise” the library’s catalogue, and not allow such children’s books to “go under the radar”.

“You can always e-mail NLB for that, the action is swift, all within two days. Remember, the onus is on us,” he said.

In the same note, he also included an e-mail he had received from Ms Tay Ai Cheng, NLB assistant chief executive. In it, she said that the two books have been removed following his feedback. She added that NLB takes a “strong pro-family stand” when selecting books for children.

A true brrrr-omance

Same-sex human parents I’d probably understand, but the anti-gay lobby won’t even spare penguins, describing an unusual story about two male birds taking turns to sit over an egg as not ‘pro-family’. The BBC recently ran a story about two similar penguin fathers in Kent Zoo rearing an abandoned chick.  The headline? ‘Gay penguins in Kent zoo are ‘THE BEST PARENTS”. One lucky bird’s surrogate fathers are somehow some human beings’ enemies of the ‘family unit’. One of those people, unfortunately, is the top brass of a public institution responsible for national literacy and nurturing minds, telling children not to be influenced by the instinctive actions of an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT species. What next, The Three Little Pigs as an ode to a homosexual menage a trois, with the Big Bad Wolf doing more than ‘blowing the house down’? (If you know what mean *wink*)

I once saw two male Sun Bears at the Singapore Zoo giving each other fellatio during my vulnerable teen years. It didn’t make me want to find a man to pair- bond with. Or give fellatio for that matter. It made me think that male bears could have been fondling each other for centuries before some furious scribe decided to document the same act in humans as a terrible atrocity against God.

There’s nothing ‘pro-family’ about a NORMAL penguin ‘lifestyle’ anyway in the sense of boy meets girl and together they raise Junior to become Happy Feet. Like most beasts, males slaughter each other over mates, babies get occasionally eaten, abandoned, even kidnapped. If you’ve watched March of the Penguins you’d learn that the females abandon their young, travelling for miles to source for food, leaving their offspring with what’s practically a single-parent family. The animal kingdom is hardly a reliable model for what these purists call the ‘ideal’ family. If the NLB were so strong on ‘family values’, then ban Twilight, the Hunger Games and Sweet Valley High already, before we have a horde of horny, two-timing, violent delinquents running wild all over the country. Wait, too late.

The last time a children’s book from the library was slammed was when ‘The Story of Little Black Sambo‘ was deemed racist. NLB also banned Fifty Shades of Grey for obvious reasons. Meanwhile, kids who are deprived of a heartwarming tale of unconditional love and parenthood inspired by real life events can browse ‘teen fiction’ books outside of the library that promote premarital sex, glamorise the occult, murder, rape and kinky BDSM, without these ‘pro-family’ crusaders making the slightest tweet about it. The underaged girl who goes for an abortion is a victim, the rebel who abandons his aged parents is a rockstar, while two harmless birds enjoying each others’ company and raising a chick instead of devouring it is deemed such an abominable threat to human existence as we know it that the story must be pecked clean from libraries. Bring on more copies of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ then.

Birds have no ‘agenda’ or ‘lifestyle’ to speak of. It’s only a few gay-obsessed humans who will pick on anything to ruffle some feathers before they even witness a single act of penguin sodomy going on.

 

A-Mei’s Rainbow performance banned by MDA

From ‘No A-mei’s Rainbow for an outdoor event as it is accessible by anyone, including the young, says MDA’, 13 June 2014, article by Boon Chan, ST

The Media Development Authority (MDA) has confirmed that it had advised a music festival’s organiser not to have A-mei’s Rainbow performed. The Straits Times had broken the news here online on Wednesday that the Taiwanese diva had been prohibited from singing the track at the 2014 Spring Wave Music And Art Festival at Gardens by the Bay on June 7.

The song Rainbow is about gay relationships and A-mei is also regarded as a gay icon. According to an MDA spokesperson, this was because Spring Wave was an outdoor event accessible by all members of the public.

“For indoor events, consumer advisories are used to allow consumers to make more informed media choices for themselves and their children. The nature of outdoor performances at public spaces, such as Spring Wave which was held at Gardens by the Bay, makes it difficult to do the same. Hence, organisers of these events should ensure that their performances are suitable for general audiences.”

Overseas media reports noted that the singer was perplexed as she had previously performed the song at her gigs in Singapore.

Rainbow contains the following gay lyric: ‘Our loves are very similar, we get hurt because of men, yet we continue colliding’. It also makes a not so subtle reference to a closet (‘spacious enough to keep your paradise’). Yet it doesn’t make any explicit references to lesbian sex, or even kissing. On the other hand, despite our ban on a Katy Perry song from radio stations, the superstar still performed ‘I Kissed a Girl’ to an emphatic singalong at Singfest 2010. Which means the ban didn’t work one bit.

There’s also another platform to listen to Rainbow which is also ‘accessible by all members of the public’. It’s called YouTube. It has a live performance of A-mei waving a flag and showcases members of the audience spontaneously gay kissing.  In Singapore. Is MDA going to ban this from YouTube too?

From the video above it becomes clear to me why Rainbow is banned. It encourages heterosexual and homosexual people to smooch each other and spread the love around like a goddamn virus. Thanks for thinking of the children, MDA. Please make sure the song isn’t performed at Pink Dot too, lest we turn Hong Lim Park into a sticky mass orgy. And under no circumstances should you allow a situation where we have Adam Lambert and A-mei doing a Rainbow duet, indoor or outdoors, for the love of all things straight and innocent.

Before the rainbow became an international symbol of gay pride, it was a celestial slide into a pot of gold, a natural wonder that springs hope and brings smiles all round. The colours of the rainbow was the only mnemonic I still retain till this day after learning it in primary school. Now, thanks to the MDA, you can’t watch The Wizard of Oz or listen to a singing Kermit the Frog without wondering if their songs contain subliminal messages promoting this ‘alternative lifestyle’. My childhood is ruined forever.

Take ‘The Rainbow Connection’ for example, which can be re-interpreted as a gay anthem.

Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, (the illusion that sex can only be heterosexual)
and rainbows have nothing to hide. (come out, gays of the world!)
So we’ve been told and some choose to believe it.
I know they’re wrong, wait and see.
Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection.
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Oh, Kermit. Miss Piggy ought to know.

Ashley Madison banned in Singapore

From ‘MDA blocks access to Ashley Madison’, 8 Nov 2013, article by Mohd Azhar Aziz, Today

The Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) announced today (Nov 8) that it will not allow the Ashley Madison website to operate in Singapore and has blocked access to the site. In a press statement, the MDA said that the website was banned in Singapore as “it aggressively promotes and facilitates extramarital affairs”.

“It is against the public interest to allow Ashley Madison to promote its website in flagrant disregard of our family values and public morality,” MDA said.

Life is short. And so is Ashley Madison’s ill-fated attempt, as creator Noel Biderman explained, to ‘migrate infidelity to a platform wherein two like-minded (Singaporean) adults can explore what it is they are seeking in a discreet manner’.  One Today writer described such a move by the MDA as a ‘paper tiger’, only to raise the forbidden fruit status of AM, though there are various tricks to bypass the censors altogether, Go Away MDA being one of them.

Pressure from Minister Chan Chun Sing aside, the 27,000 strong petition community known as ‘Block Ashley Madison‘ on Facebook yesterday fired a bellowing tirade at MDA for allowing AM to tag ‘sg’ in their domain address and ignoring the threat of weak-minded Singaporeans succumbing to the moral cesspit that is adultery. The page owner, ‘Mr Tan‘, also issued a stern warning to AM that they’ll ‘not have the last laugh’, would get what’s coming to them ’10 times harder’, and that the ‘light will always overcome the darkness’, with all the evangelical fire-and-brimstone passion of a grandmaster exorcist coercing Satan out of His human vessel. Let him who has not sinned cast the first stone, I say. Or in this case, a boulder.

Well, now that the site is blocked for good, mission accomplished BAM! You all can rest easy knowing that your spouses are safe by your side, divorce rates won’t skyrocket, that our children can focus on their PSLE with a loving stable family behind them all the way, while the rest of us continue to watch Desperate Housewives reruns on cable, reliving torrid fantasies of Eva Longoria screwing her gardener in the kitchen while her hubby is at work. Without AM’s corrupting influence, we shall no longer have the urge to take our foul thoughts a step further, log in to find the perfect willing partner to come over wearing nothing except mud-streaked overalls and getting frisky right next to the sink. Hallejulah!

I believe BAM supporters are not THAT naive and generally acknowledge that infidelity will continue to happen anyway, with or without AM. A chance meeting with an old flame, a colleague in the office, a business partner, your own student, sometimes right under the nose of our Almighty lord God. The last thing they need is something to facilitate such taboo relationships further, especially one ‘aggressively marketed’ like the Facebook for Flings with a brand name that sounds like one of the Olsen Twins or a spinoff Victoria’s Secrets catalogue. Alas, like the 100 sites ‘symbolically’ banned by the MDA, AM too has become the ‘whipping girl’ among the many platforms available for people to fool around at the swipe and a click. Like adultfriendfinder.sg, for example, where you can choose to have a ‘discreet relationship’, which isn’t exactly mystery pen pals in this day and age. Is there going to be a BAFF petition now?

Not sure if this is a case of MDA caving in to high-horse orthodoxy, or they sought guidance from moral philosophers and religious leaders before dropping the axe on AM. They’re forgetting about other debauched sites though. On the same day that AM announced its launch here, 5 Singaporeans were caught in a sting op offering to pay ‘Sweetie’, a computer generated TEN YEAR OLD GIRL, to perform very naughty things. We’re so caught up with something that’s technically not ILLEGAL that we forget about portals that encourage men to defile girls young enough to be their daughters, some granddaughters even.

Temptation to commit sins of the flesh are everywhere, whether it’s an adultery app, online casinos, a sleazy spa or a 7 Eleven selling booze and cigarettes right around the corner. It’s like restricting sex shops or R21 movies from heartlanders, or a nanny stowing away a child’s favourite toy because he’s playing with it too much. Nobody’s doing anything about our gay spas either, which harbour death traps that kill you while you’re trying to strangle yourself for erotic kicks. MDA’s ‘light touch’ regulation is really an excuse for ‘we can’t do anything about it’. Yet when something like AM stands out and should be made an example of, they pound on it like Thor’s hammer on a protruding nail.

Bye, Ashley Madison. You could have been the flirty girl next door, but the neighbours are welcoming you with burning stakes, pitchforks and crucifixes instead of wine and roses. Now that you good folks have done Singaporeans all a proud and just service that we should be eternally grateful for – expelling this wicked temptress from our doorsteps – you can all take a much-deserved break from the complaining and go back to knitting sweaters and hunting eggnog recipes for Christmas, thank you very much.

MDA’s light touch regulation is an overkill

From ‘Views published on blogs not news reporting:MDA’, 31 May 2013, article by Leonard Lim, ST and ‘New web rules amount to overkill’, 30 May 2013, Voices, Today

…From tomorrow, news sites with significant reach and which report on Singapore regularly must be individually licensed. Currently, most websites automatically fall under a class license scheme. The new framework makes clear that license-holders must remove content that is deemed objectionable within 24 hours, if notified to do so.

They must also post a $50,000 performance bond. Ten sites are on the list of those who have been formally notified by the MDA. They include seven run by the Singapore Press Holdings. The MDA statement added that it would only step in when complaints are raised to their attention, and the content is assessed to be in breach of guidelines and merits action.

“Takedown requests are not common. In the past two years, MDA has only issued one take-down notice for the “Innocence of Muslims” video,” it added.

(Vincent Law): …The Media Development Authority (MDA) statement, “as the sites are already subject to these requirements, no change in content standards is expected to result”, suggests there will not be any real advancement in quality control. What is new is that online news sites have to put up a S$50,000 performance bond, and are expected to comply within 24 hours with the MDA’s directives to remove content that is found to be in breach of content standards.

Given the current healthy state of affairs in cyberspace, except for occasional skirmishes which the authorities have been able to deal with decisively, the new regime appears to be overkill.

He sees you when you’re surfing

MDA, in its Facebook announcement, maintains that the ‘framework is not an attempt to influence the editorial slant of news sites’. It’s actually the counter-intuitive ‘performance bond’ and annual renewal fees that may turn current news reporting to either self-censored mediocrity or tabloid trash if news makers compromise journalistic gung-ho or integrity for safe news or sensation in order to survive. As if having one New Paper isn’t enough.

MDA assures news providers that it tries to minimise drastic intervention, but this so-called ‘takedown’ of the Innocence of Muslims video wasn’t very successful anyway (you can still watch it on Youtube), an example of futile enforcement which proves that MDA is powerless when it comes to Internet regulation and imposing rigid standards on new media doesn’t guarantee quality or ‘clean’ media. Some whiz kid even outsmarted the government’s filters by inventing a program that allows you access MDA-banned porno sites and nobody has done anything about it to date. If there’s any little good that comes out of internet clampdown, it’s how it spurs creativity in hackers to surmount it. The ‘regularization’ of news as we know it will not be any different. They may have stunted the news, but they forget about the classic rumour-mill that is the ‘grapevine’. In fact, you don’t even need the news to spread information about an Islam-hating video. We have Facebook to thank for that. Try regulating THAT, Yaacob.

What rankles the ‘alternative voice’ community is how this whole thing was set up and communicated. Minister Yaacob once told us in 2012 that an internet ‘code of conduct’ should be a ‘bottom-up’ approach initiated by netizens, but this MDA move was clearly a bomb dropped from above without any warning signs, with the affected sites given just days to prepare for shellshock. He also once advised social media users to ‘use common sense’ in verifying the accuracy of online reports. It seems that within the space of a year, Yaacob and his lot have lost their trust in the public’s sense of discretion entirely, that if we read something about UFOs circling the sky the entire nation would immediately crumble to their feet to pray for mercy from our tyrannical alien overlords.

MDA also presumes that traditionally licensed media that is the bread and butter of the agency is naturally ‘responsible’ in their news reporting. Say what you will about the ST being a propaganda machine, but conducting a snap poll before a by-election isn’t exactly something a responsible, role-model newspaper would do whatever party they’re sympathetic to. And it appears they have gotten away with it despite having the police knocking on their doors. If there’s any media that needs MORE regulation it’s probably the mainstream media itself. MDA, unsurprisingly, was silent about the whole polling affair despite being the ones responsible for ST’s licensure. $50,000 to keep mum when regulations are flouted, well, that’s a JOB, apparently.

So I viewed the MDA rap video once more and wondered how they’d feel if I randomly censored their work.  This was the outcome:

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 10

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 13

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 14

The image above is strangely accurate in terms of MDA’s regulatory stance. Chilling stuff.

Singapore Shiok ad makes Caucasian look like a schmuck

From ‘Singapore Shiok, or just silly?’, 28 April 2013, article by Nicholas Yong, Sunday Times

First, Singapore was marketed as uniquely itself as a tourist destination. Then, it became yours. Now, it is “shiok” too. The Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) latest marketing video on YouTube revolves around the Singlish expression – derived from the Malay word “syok”, which means nice – for extreme pleasure. Cold ice kacang on a hot day? Shiok. The adrenaline rush of sky-diving? Shiok! Being massaged at a posh spa? Shhh…iok.

…In the Singapore video, a Caucasian man struggling to pronounce “shiok” – defined helpfully on screen as “a Singaporean expression denoting extreme pleasure or the highest quality” – opens the clip. When he finally succeeds, his Singaporean friends applaud him…Branding expert Tim Clark, a Briton in his 60s, thinks “using the local language to help visitors to connect with a country is a good thing”.

…Professor Gemma Calvert, a British professor at NTU’s Institute for Asian Consumer Studies, agrees with Mr Clark that the video makes the featured foreigner struggling to pronounce “shiok” look “a bit of a shmuck“. She says: “The phrase isn’t particularly difficult to pronounce and therefore may come across as slightly patronising to outsiders. As a Caucasian myself, I admit I cringed to some extent at the representation portrayed by this particular individual.”

…Creative director Hanson Ho, in his 30s, of H55 studio also notes: “‘Shiok’ is sometimes expressed somewhat artificially in certain scenes, making it seem quite unnatural.” For instance, having a little boy whisper “shiok” at the sight of zoo animals at the Night Safari seemed to be stretching it a little.

…Lawyer Samantha Ong, 31, wonders if the video could have varied its local vocabulary a little. “There’s a serious overuse of the word ‘shiok’ that’s kind of cheesy and annoying,” she says of the yelled, purred and breathed incarnations in the video.

“Aren’t there other ‘uniquely Singapore’ words or ways to express pleasure, such as ‘sedap’ or ‘ho chiak’ (delicious in Malay and Hokkien)?”

Shiok

By attempting to globalise the word and sell it to visitors, ‘Shiok’ has become as problematic as ‘Lah’: Both also ‘ANYHOW use one’. If a kid exclaimed to me that watching animals in a zoo is ‘shiok!’ I would instantly correct him that he should have used the more generic ‘Wahh’ instead. I may even tolerate the Americanised ‘Awesome’ or ‘Whoa!’. Other scenes where the use of shiok is exaggerated and unnatural include Singaporeans showing off their shopping haul, ‘shioking’ at a club, or marvelling at the LV island in MBS. A simple ‘Wow’ or ‘Niiice’ wouldn’t stick as well, but these poor examples of shiok are as misplaced as getting locals to yell ‘Yahoo’ or ‘Yippee’ while exhibiting ‘extreme pleasure’, though ‘yahoo’ is something I often say in my head with an imaginary fist-pump whenever I manage to board an MRT train during peak hour.

Singaporeans also tend to be bad teachers of their own beloved lingo. When UK boyband The Wanted popped by to perform, fans cheered when they said ‘Singaporean girls are SHIOK’. Totally wrong and even demeaning in today’s context, but the fans don’t care, and this mistake will be perpetuated to every celebrity the world over, who’ll pepper their concerts with forced Singlish like ‘You’re such a SHIOK audience, LAH’. Ugh.

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 8.12.39 AM

When singer Demi Lovato was in town, DJ Divian Nair decided to teach her how to use shiok (like ‘awesome’) as a warm-up during an interview, with the superstar obliging with ‘I’m feeling shiok right now’. Lucky Divian. Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine says Singapore is ‘like, TOTALLY SHIOK’. Neither of these Caucasians has difficulty pronouncing the word, which is like replacing the C in Coke with Sh- (unless you want to be picky and insist that there should be a ‘-yee-ok’ sound). We seem to have an obsession with trying to get foreigners to speak Singlish with the same sadistic enthusiasm as teasing a kitten with a laser pointer. It may well be pride on our part to promote Singlish, but it does make a sporting goon out of non-Singaporeans when they mutilate it, be it shiok, lah or ‘Ho-Say’.

The worst abuse of shiok, however, comes from our Board of Censors. In 1999, when they found the use of ‘Shagged’ in the movie title Austin Powers:The Spy who Shagged Me objectionable, they proposed to replace the offensive word to the verb-form ‘SHIOKED’, as in The Spy who SHIOKED me, which would suggest to those unfamiliar with Singlish that shiok is a euphemism for the F-word. Thanks to our authorities, IMDB now thinks that shioked means ‘to be treated nicely’. If they had really pulled the title edit off, this ad, with the zoo kid whispering a potentially foul word into Daddy’s ear, wouldn’t exist. Max George from the Wanted would have said: ‘I’m here to Shiok some Singapore Girls’. To some cheers still.

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 10.20.59 AM

Yet, it’s not so simple defining when exactly shiok should be used. It’s like trying to teach someone when to use ‘lah’, ‘leh’ and ‘lor’. We have been known to use it in various contexts outside of food from which I believe it originally evolved (Humorist Paik Choo described ‘shiok’ mee rebus in a 1979 ST article). Enjoying rainy weather, lying on a hard cold floor on a blistering hot day or even sprawling out on a king-size bed in a hotel room may qualify as ‘shiok’ activities today. It’s often an interjection ejaculated reflexively, like the opposite of ‘Ouch’, and preceded by a period of anticipation or suffering, specific to a relatively quick, pleasurable stimulus. Nobody goes to a club and yells ‘SHIOK’ while dancing, nor experiences shiok-ness after staring at a fancy floating building for minutes. A massage after a long day? Shiok. A hot bath after a marathon? Lagi shiok! But saying ‘Singapore is SHIOK’? GET LOST LAH.

Go Away MDA bypassing porn filters

From ‘Web add-on bypasses porn censors’ filters’, 28 Feb 2013, article by Lim Yan Liang, ST

A WEB browser add-on that lets surfers bypass the Media Development Authority’s Internet filters to access pornography and other sites has been gaining popularity online. The free tool, for Google’s Chrome browser, has been downloaded more than 6,300 times since it was made available to the public in the browser’s Web store on Feb 16.

It lets users access sites that would normally be blocked in Singapore by masking their true location. The MDA maintains a list of 100 websites that Internet service providers have to block. The creator of the browser extension, a National University of Singapore (NUS) computer science graduate, said usage figures have been growing thanks mainly to word of mouth.

While he had dedicated the tool to users of the popular Eat-Drink- Man-Woman forum of the HardwareZone discussion portal, forum threads discussing his creation have since been deleted or locked.

“There is no need for the word to get out, I can barely manage the traffic as it is,” said the 26-year-old, without giving specifics on the amount of traffic. He does not want to be named, citing previous run-ins with the law. “And it’s running off a server that I’m paying for.”

He added that the tool was “merely a fun hobby project” he set up during Chinese New Year as he was learning about a set of Web development tools.

Soon to be a thing of the past

Soon to be a thing of the past

While your run-of-the-mill hacker defaces government websites and replaces them with porn, the creator of Go Away MDA (you can download the tool for free at http://getgom.com/) hands you the golden key to online forbidden fruit. If the MDA hadn’t themselves went on a limb to declare war on the 100 objectionable sites, there wouldn’t be a need to device a tool to smash their firewalls down, nor would we proceed to satisfy our natural curiosity to see if unlocking Playboy.com with this actually works (It does at time of writing). There are many hidden treasures yet to be picked up by MDA’s internet sniffer dogs which are far more gratuitous than the softcore goodies of the Playboy empire. The complete list remains a mystery, but the folks at MDA clearly missed out the nefarious CHURCH OF SATAN (google it) website. The horror!

Porno material is generated so effortlessly maintaining a ’100 banned sites’ list is like fencing up a grapevine to keep out the starving foxes but leaving the rest of the sprawling bush unscathed. They haven’t even got a list started on mobile sex apps yet. To many men who spent their formative cyber years journeying through erotic utopias, this is a godsend, like a reunion with an old flame which they’ll greet with an euphoric  ‘Come to PAPA!’. Some would laud this anonymous ‘hacktivist’ the equivalent of porno Wikileaks, tearing down the barriers to the revolutionary ideal that is ‘internet freedom’.

In 2005, two gay sites were clamped down by MDA. They banned one featuring explicit sex and photography while fining another gay dating site called ‘Meet Gay Singapore Friends’ (no longer exists). Three years later porno versions of Youtube were added to the list. When queried about the usefulness of keeping this blacklist when it’s near impossible to block out undesirables without killing the Internet completely, an MDA spokesperson replied that this ‘mass-impact’ censoring was a ‘SYMBOLIC statement of our CORE SOCIETAL VALUES’. In 2010, then acting Minister for Information and the Arts Lui Tuck Yew regurgitated the same reasoning, that the ban ‘serves as a reminder that there is a significant body of material on the Internet that is unsavoury and unedifying’. That’s as enlightening as telling people there are wild plants and mushrooms out there that you shouldn’t be putting in your mouth. It’s like a clueless puppy chasing its own tail; the hydra of porn is always leaps and bounds ahead of you. Nobody goes to Playboy for their fix anymore. A random amateur sex video from a couple of local students may score more hits than all 100 banned sites combined.

Now that the banned sites are being liberated by a tinkerer’s electronic Get out of Jail Card, this ‘symbol’ of all things good and moral about our society has come crashing down like the terminal stage of a badly played Candy Crush game, though our spate of sex scandals has made enough mockery of this surface gesture of moral policing. It’s like putting a helmet on a baby strapped with explosives in a bid to protect it from harm. The more likely reason that this ‘symbolic’ banned list still exists, even if you could find SEX.COM on it, is that it would be an admission of utter failure to take it back. If there’s one consolation for MDA, it’s that their eagerness to ban stuff has given rise to talented, enterprising, rebellious individuals with this inventive drive and mad skills to crack smutwalls, a skill that would make you a top draw for secret military projects, or for hacking into our Ministers’ accounts to see what they have been doing with their million-dollar salaries.

Victory for the high-priests of Internet activism, for Google Chrome, tech geeks and anyone who feels that MDA deserves to be embarrassed for its vile treatment of artists and filmmakers all this time. MDA, you got ‘pwned’. Big time.

MDA banning Elangovan’s Stoma

From ‘Media Development Authority bans Elangovan’s play Stoma’, 9 Jan 2013, article by Huang Lijie, ST

Singapore playwright Elangovan’s first play after a three-year hiatus will not be staged. The play, Stoma, which tells the story of a Catholic priest defrocked over sex abuse charges, was denied a performance licence yesterday.

It was originally slated to run at The Substation in Armenian Street from Jan 17 to 19. In a letter to Mr Elangovan, artistic director of theatre company Agni Kootthu (Theatre Of Fire), the Media Development Authority said a licence was not issued because the play contains “sexually explicit, blasphemous and offensive references and language which would be denigrating to the Catholic and the wider Christian community“.

This is the third time that a play by Elangovan has been denied licence to be staged here, after Talaq (2000), a play about a Muslim-Indian woman’s experiences of marital violence, and Smegma (2006), which comprises 10 mini plays that explore the control and exploitation of disadvantaged groups of people.

Elangovan’s earlier banned work Smegma sounds like a biography of a punk metal band or a sex-heavy meditation on puberty secretions, but it’s actually drama composed of 10 vignettes, including:

  • Three men in a prison cell making fun of  the Singapore flag
  • Kindergarten children calling their MP a PIG
  • Singaporeans sexual escapades with underaged girls (How prescient, this Elangovan)

But it was the Arts Consultative Panel’s fear that it would ‘create unhappiness and disaffection amongst Muslims’ that pulled the plug on Smegma. Interestingly, Smegma was initially granted a licence under a RA(18) rating, but got banned less than 30 HOURS before it was scheduled to play. 6 years later you would see MDA pulling the same last-minute stunt on a film that allegedly mocks Indians called Sex. Violence. Family Values. This followed a consultation with a similar panel of ‘experts’ AFTER MDA had made the more forthcoming decision of granting M18 instead.

The synopsis for Smegma contains the following line: “When the comfort zone is shattered, ugliness rears its head like SMELLY SMEGMA”, and so it is with MDA coming down hard on Stoma for its priest-sex associations, like a libido-killing, shameful splotch of spermy grime on a male porn stud’s scene-stealing manhood. What is the difference between Stoma and another similarly-themed production Doubt (performed here in 2006) anyway? Does Jesus Christ cameo in it totting a shotgun? Or perhaps it features sexy nuns showing more leg than habit?

The controversial Talaq (Divorce), which earned the playwright and even its lead actress Nargis Banu DEATH threats, was based on true stories of Indian-Muslim women getting battered and raped by their husbands.  The theatre company clashed with the National Arts Council (NAC) for inviting two deeply religious Muslim men from the South Indian Jamiathual Ulama (SIJU) on their panel, one of whom, Haji Marican, reportedly objecting to the play not so much that it depicts Muslim husbands as violent rapists, but that involuntary sex  should NOT be considered rape in the first place:

In Islamic law, a husband cannot rape his wife as long as the marriage continues. He need not ask permission from his wife for sexual relations each time he wants to have it. Even if she is angry or not in the mood, he has the right to it. In any event, a husband can have sex with his wife without her consent and that will not be rape

I’m no scholar on religious matters, but I wonder if these guys were intimidating the NAC into making an unfavourable decision not with choice religious words, but with wooden clubs that could beat off the most rabid sabre-toothed tiger. Elangovan’s wife (S Thenmoli) and president of his theatre group also got arrested for trespassing after holding a private rehearsal of Talaq in 2000. Maybe if I had threatened to nail Stephenie Meyer shut in a coffin and bury her alive, and MDA intervened accordingly, disgruntled boyfriends and husbands in Singapore would have been spared the torture of sitting through 5 soppy, draggy vampire movies which also promulgate bestial-pedophilia love between wolfmen and little girls. And all that got was a PG rating!

If there’s anything that should be banned, it’s this promo rap video below which MDA produced in 2007; for giving the arts-loving public the false impression that they’re cutting-edge and cool. I rather scrape dried smegma off a rapist’s corpse with my fingernails than listen to this. They just don’t stop, y’all.

Postscript: Barely a week after this ban, a sex scandal involving a pastor from an unnamed church and an underaged girl surfaced. Oh the irony. Elangovan’s fiction is eerily close to the inconvenient truth. Looks like the year of the Scandal is stretching past the Chinese New Year.

Sex Violence and Family Values NOT allowed for All Rating

From ‘S’pore film yanked from release over offensive racial remarks’, 9 Oct 2012, article by John Lui, ST

A LOCAL comedy that had originally been given an M18 film classification has had its release pulled by the Media Development Authority (MDA) over offensive racial remarks, just days before it is due to open in cinemas. Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, a compendium of three short films by first-time director Ken Kwek, was handed a Not Allowed For All Rating last evening, a rarely used classification. A film given such a rating is not allowed to be screened.

…Of the three shorts in Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, Porn Masala is the most controversial, revolving around the making of Singapore’s first “arthouse porno”. In a trailer released on the film’s website a few weeks ago, a boorish film director played by Adrian Pang and an Indian porn actor played by Vadi PVSS are seen trading racial insults, based on gross stereotypes.

…The MDA statement said: “An overwhelming majority of the panel members have expressed that the film should not be allowed for public exhibition in view of its overt racial references, which are demeaning and offensive to Indians.”

In the ‘dirty’ version of the movie trailer, Adrian Pang’s porn director makes reference to sex and alcohol in relation to  Vasantham actor Vadi PVSS’s race. This ‘unkindest cut of all’ comes fresh after Amy Cheong got sacked for posting remarks about Malay weddings on Facebook, except this time it’s another minority race bearing the insult. Lionel De Souza is probably drafting a police report against the cast and crew as we speak.

At this rate of heavy censures being handed out for any form of stereotyping, where you could fire an NTUC assistant director or pull someone’s movie off local cinemas, you wouldn’t expect anything less than sacking radio DJs for mocking Indian accents, dismissing ST writers referring to ‘often- drunk Sikh priests’, or closing down Breadtalk for selling bread named ‘Naan the Nay’. You might as well clamp down on Kumar’s comedy routine, or ban all Bollywood DnD theme parties. Now, even being ‘politically incorrect’ is hazardous to your mental health not to mention career. But as if losing your bread and butter isn’t enough, your former employers use blame-shifting phrases like ‘I DID what WE had to do’(Lim Swee Say), and then ask people to ‘spare a thought’ for you after what they did to you. That’s like pushing you off a cliff and then throwing a pillow down in the hope that it would somehow cushion your fall.

The ‘Not Allowed for All Rating’, or NAR, is slapped on films which MDA describes as follows according to their Film Classification Guidelines:

  • Themes that promote issues that denigrate any race or religion, or undermine national interest will not be allowed.
  • Themes that glorify undesirable fetishes or behaviour (e.g. paedophilia and bestiality) are not allowed.
  • Promotion or glamorisation of homosexual lifestyle.

Which puts Sex Violence in the same league as donkey porno. How did Sacha Baron Cohen’s films like Borat, Bruno and The Dictator get past the censors then? Did anyone miss the screaming Chinaman stereotype in films like the Hangover and Ted? Why wasn’t Mike Myers’ THE GURU banned? How about the discriminatory banter between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour trilogy? Did MDA ignore all these elements because these were blockbusters and Ken Kwek’s film is a small indie movie, or did they all assume that some races are better at taking potshots than the others?

But it’s not just Hollywood movies that have the potential to fall into NAR territory. Even our local productions are full of disguised ‘racism’, with Chinese being overrepresented in dramatic roles. In National Day videos, you’ll invariably have singing Indian prata men, and nobody said anything about Alaric Tay’s portrayal of a ‘Mat Rocker’ in the Noose. The only reason why nobody considers making the latter into a full-length feature is because MDA may NAR it too, on the grounds of ‘overt racial references’. Hence the I Not Stupid sequels. I suppose it’s better to have horrible English than being, you know, RACIST.

Moving along. Under ‘Language’, you have:

  • Language that denigrates religion or is religiously profane (e.g. Jesus F**king Christ).

Fair enough. Except that in Ted, I believe there was a scene where the exact same wording as above was used, but the middle profanity was muted out. In the 25th hour, a good few minutes were sliced off Edward Norton’s ‘fuck the world’ rampage against the various ethnicities in New York City (for a R21 rating). Isn’t the NAR rating in this case like decapitating a patient who has a stye in the eye, firing a bazooka into a mouse hole, or using a samurai sword to peel a banana? Did someone lose the censors’ chopper and decided it was easier to ban it altogether? How about delaying Sex Violence’s slated release to talk to the producers about possible re-shoots? You know, a CONVERSATION perhaps? Maybe there could be two versions of the movie, an internationally acclaimed one called Sex Violence Family Values, and an edited PG 13 one for the domestic market that is ‘community-friendly’ called, well, FAMILY VALUES. Instead of Porn Masala, you could replace it with an episode of Jacintha’s ‘Mum’s not Cooking’.

Whether Sex Violence is considered satirical art is irrelevant. As with all banned videos, thousands of curious Singaporeans will be googling Porn Masala as we speak (Don’t do it at work, you’ll get ACTUAL PORN as the top search hit instead), but it’s unlikely that we’ll see the original version on Youtube, what used to be a trusted treasure trove of stuff that MDA’s censor panel can’t deal with after a century of co-mingling with other races (Well THANKS A LOT Innocence of Muslims!). At the expense of being annoyingly cordial to each other where any suggestion of discrimination has to be repressed, we’ve sadly lost the ability to laugh at ourselves, which is the way most developed countries deal with the idiosyncrasies of their racial melting pots. Forget the National Conversation. I want our national Humour back.

Yet, ironically, some good may come out of this. If Ken Kwek continues the run on the international circuit and ride on the publicity of the ban, Sex Violence will garner more attention than Sex:The Annabel Chong Story. And nothing will put the MDA to shame more than this movie picking up festival awards, or better still a selection for the Oscars Foreign Film nominations. By then, the best thing that could happen to local film is not that MDA passes it UNCUT, but that it BANS it altogether, like a Chinese film about the Nanjing massacre or tainted milk powder, covering up for ‘fault lines’ that exist no matter how you preach otherwise.

Postscript: While the producers are appealing the ban, MDA responded that they left the decision to a Films Consultative Panel, which consists of ‘volunteers of various professions, age groups, religions and races’. Of 24 members, 20 gave a thumbs down to the release, while 4 opted for the strictest rating possible R21. There have also been complaints of the depiction of a schoolgirl in a CHIJ uniform in Porn Masala, which could have been a cynical reference to convent girls being branded as sluts in need of a ‘one night stand’.

So, who’s in the FCP? My first impression was that this is a secret Oracle of know-it-alls who wear white hoods brandishing sceptres or a council of hologram Elders like those you see in the Superman movies, but they’re actually mortal human beings, according to details in the MDA website.

The Council of Elders says no to Porn Masala

Let’s look the kind of people you need to speak about morals and ethics on behalf of 5.3 million people. For starters, the CHAIRPERSON Vijay Chandran is INDIAN, and ironically belongs to a company called ELASTICITY Pte Ltd. Another striking feature is how a majority of these members hold high positions in society, directors, doctors, CEOs, lawyers and a couple of obligatory housemakers, entrepreneurs, artists and students. Would a panel vote objectively if the chair belongs to a race that is picked on in the movie? How representative is such a panel anyway, and why is it there’s not a single moral philosopher or sociologist in the team? Why on earth do you need a POLICEMAN on the panel (Steven Moorthi)? How ELSE would you expect a cop to vote on race issues?

It’s obvious by glancing at the composition of the panel that the FCP is not a one size fits all arbiter of moral values, whether it’s gratuitous sex and violence, religious, race or gay issues. The very presence of an Indian leading the team already suggests bias in decision-making. Sex Violence deserves a second opinion, and whatever the final outcome, I for one, will be begging to watch it.

Postscript 2: The film eventually got passed with cuts under a R(21) rating. Don’t rush to book your tics yet, though, you’d never know if the MDA may decide to pull the film again days before screening. Today, you may download the entire Porn Masala scene from Youtube. 

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