Ivan Heng is a happily, openly married man

From’ Ivan Heng weds his partner of 18 years on a perfect British summer’s day’, 3 Aug 2014, article by Boon Chan, ST

Cultural Medallion recipient Ivan Heng has tied the knot with his long-time partner Tony Trickett in London. It took place on Aug 1. Heng, 50, is the founding artistic director of Wild Rice theatre company and Briton Trickett, 57, is its executive director. They were married at the Chelsea Old Town Hall in London on the 18th anniversary of the day they met and fell in love, according to Heng’s Facebook post.

…Growing up, he explained, there were no positive gay role models to look up to, nor were there happy endings in gay-themed entertainment. With marriage equality now a reality in the United Kingdom, Heng and Trickett decided to tie the knot at a ceremony attended by “our family and our closest friends”.

Heng wrote: “Our marriage is a declaration of our love, and we invite the world to share in our joy. In closing, I would like to report that your fellow Singaporean, Ivan Heng, is now ‘openly married’.”

A law graduate with Honours and one of our theatre pioneers, Ivan broke into cinema with a bit part in The Fifth Element, a Luc Beeson film that featured a gay-ish ‘Ruby’ character (Chris Tucker) that Ivan himself would have felt perfectly comfortable in. Since then, he’s gone from subordinate to evil mastermind Gary Oldman to a bartender and most recently, a pole dance competition judge. His ode to his husband Tony on Facebook reads like a Richard Curtis feel-good movie script, though if it were adapted into film or play, you’re unlikely to ever see it in Singapore.

MDA must be desperately looking for the ‘balance’ in Ivan’s love story to justify it suitable for print in the ST, of all places. After recent crackdowns on comic characters getting married, male penguins rearing a chick together and Mandarin songs about Rainbows, it’s surprising that the media decided to announce our theatre doyen’s happy marriage to another man, a union that’s still illegal here. There was no official ‘coming out’ prior to the ceremony to the extent of Vincent Wijeysingha’s confession on Facebook last year, but to many familiar with Ivan’s cross-dressing tendencies from Emily of Emerald Hill to M Butterfly and his Pink Dot involvement, it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise either. He even appeared on the ST front page in almost full-frontal nudity with Glen Goei, which was, well, super-gay.

Somehow we managed to ban fiction like Archie and educational material like ‘Who’s in my Family’ from shelves, but not block a real life same-sex marriage story from our newstands. Some years back, we even had a real life ‘And Three Makes Tango’ situation when we named an orchid after Elton John in the presence of his partner and adopted child, much to the dismay of some critics. There will be at least 2 famous people we know who won’t be giving Ivan his blessings, the imam behind the Wear White campaign and fellow Christian Lawrence Khong, both probably concerned that this piece of news would encourage gay Singaporeans to tie the knot overseas and give the LGBT/Pink dot community a glimmer of hope at claiming marriage equality, though I doubt Ivan may be the first Singaporean to do so.

LGBT site Fridae reported the marriage of Nic and Tim in 2012, both of ‘Singaporean Chinese heritage’ possibly living in Australia now. The same year, some viral video (that turned out to be ‘fake’) featured Naresh proposing to Clement in the middle of Orchard freaking Road. It was only a matter of time before a flamboyant personality like Ivan Heng decides to take the right to love one step further.

When Ivan met Tony, they were at a gay bar called, ironically, ‘Brief Encounter’ and a disco song titled No More Tears (Enough is Enough) brought them together. A song that wouldn’t strike me as a gay anthem, but a great choice as a dedication to wet blanket naysayers like Lawrence Khong, or those spouting vicious slurs about how ‘unnatural’ this all seems. More importantly, it has Barbara Streisand singing in it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea Old Town Hall starts swelling with Singaporean bookings as we speak. In any case, there’s no reason why we should continue to ban narratives about ‘alternative families’ if our dear ST has already put such a positive spin on Ivan’s life event before the censors could do anything about it. Speak now, MDA, or forever hold your peace.

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Noah movie is a gross distortion of the biblical story

From ‘GV notice for Noah is misguided’, 18 April 2014, Mailbag, ST Life! and the ‘Rock of Ages’ Facebook post, 12 April 2014.

(Kam Tin Seah): I was intrigued by the notice put up by Golden Village (GV) at the screening of Noah in Singapore. It read: “The film Noah is director Darren Aronofsky’s version of the story of Noah. “Noah is inspired by the Book of Genesis. Though artistic licence has been taken, we believe the film to be true to the values and integrity of the biblical story.”

…Any informed person would have gathered from the media that since the release of Noah on movie screens, it has raised objections. Malaysia and Indonesia have banned the screening of Noah. Given such controversies, what does the notice intend to achieve?

I proffer that it will precipitate the divide between the money-making motive and religious conviction. Worse, it may be perceived by many as an intention to taint the minds of those who are unaware of the historical context and divine purpose of the flood as told in the Bible. This assaults the very tenet of respect for and practice of religious freedom enshrined in Singapore’s constitution.

Is it wrong to make movies only for profit? Not really, insofar as they do not show disrespect and distort the sacredness of any religious belief or racial norm. I beseech GV to immediately remove such a misguided notice from all the screening venues of Noah.

(Pastor Les and Adeline Chia): The Noah film is another example of the postmodern spirit at work. The film claims to tell the biblical story of the Flood but disappointingly, it does not stay true to the biblical narrative. Instead both the script writers and the director take excessive artistic license and reframe the story. The final product is a gross distortion of the original biblical account.

We understand from the bible that Noah was a righteous man, blameless among his people and he walked with God (Genesis 6:9). God Himself has singled out Noah as one of the three most righteous men apart from Job and Daniel (Ezekiel 14:14). But the film gives Noah a dark twist. It portrays him as a complicated, uncaring and evil person.

…In the film, the character of God is also distorted. God is portrayed as evil and unmerciful. Noah was led to believe that God intended to eliminate humans altogether. So, in obedience to God, he tried to kill his granddaughters but failed. And he sort of apologised to his Creator, “I can’t. I can’t do it. I am sorry. I am sorry.” Noah was just too compassionate to carry out God’s cruel plan. He was more loving than God.

I watched the film and found it surprisingly entertaining, especially for a non-believer. Aronofsky’s previous work include Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, and anyone familiar with his narrative and visual style will walk into the theatre expecting something radically different from what we’d imagine from the Bible. Yes, it’s a distortion of the gospel ‘truth’ and it has elements of typical Hollywood blockbuster fare, but with Paramount’s disclaimer, I thought it would be a simple matter of one man’s interpretation of events and their meaning vs another, since even the most devout people have different takes on the Bible anyway. No ‘biblical film’ has been spared this testament poison that is ‘artistic licence’, whether it’s the Passion of Christ, Prince of Egypt or the Ten Commandments. If you were to make a film about the Bible literally word for word, it’d probably bore people, Christians included, to death. You’d have people nitpicking on the colour of Moses’ skin, the number of lashes on Jesus’ back and the type of wood that Noah used to construct his vessel.

Aronosky, incidentally, is a Jew, and had consulted texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls for the plot. It appears that what the above writers are disappointed about is not so much about how certain characters in the movie resemble fantasy beasts from LOTR (no spoilers, I swear), but how one of the most famous prophets in the Bible has been portrayed more like, well, a flawed HUMAN BEING. In the film we see a stoic, violent, fatherly, drunk, fat Noah played by Russell Crowe, a chosen one devoid of any humour whatsoever that all other plot devices (Methuselah, evil villain, snakes, sex in the forest) around him had to make up for his stony conviction and austerity. If Noah were evil, and his God were equally evil, then it only makes sense since God ‘made Man in His image’. If you wanted a biblical superhero, go watch Son of God.

The word ‘God’ was not mentioned once in the movie, with the writers opting for the more universal ‘Creator’ instead. In the film, the Creator comes across as merciless, stubborn and vengeful, and the ROA pastors were upset that Noah was above all His genocidal tendencies. Well, what’s new here? Isn’t this the same God who annihilated Sodom and Gomorrah? The same God who commanded one to go ‘smite Amalek..slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass (Samuel 15:3)? One moment He appoints you to shepherd everything that ‘creeps and crawls’, and the next He slaughters your camels and asses.  Wouldn’t He be more of a Destroyer of Worlds than Creator in this instance?

What about God being portrayed as Morgan Freeman in a comedy with a similar Ark-building theme, Evan Almighty (Malaysian Muslims called for its ban, naturally). Are Christians saying that it’s OK if Noah is played for laughs, but unacceptable if it’s supposed to be a serious movie?

The writers stop short of calling for Noah’s ban entirely, though ROA concluded by urging their followers to educate the masses on what really happened in the build up to the Ark. MUIS also acknowledged that there were ‘alternative narratives’ of the prophets and indivudal discretion is advised. Isn’t this, then, what ‘religious freedom’ is all about? Would you rather have the general viewer watch a pedantic, preachy deluge of a movie that’s the cinematic equivalent of stuffing a Bible down your throat?

From the perspective of the movie industry, Noah is a resounding success, and it’ll take some convincing of the Christian community that Noah, as compared to more overtly religious films like Passion and Son of God, is more likely to pique the interest of non-believers, atheists even, to read up on Genesis than any other ‘biblical’ film in recent memory. If there’s one statement that I agree with the ROA pastors, it’s this:

In conclusion, I think that the Noah film is a great opportunity to engage people that would not otherwise want to talk about God.

Amen to that.

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.

NS as a 2 year character enrichment programme

From various letters, 15 Oct 2013, ST Forum

(Paul Sim Ruiqi): I READ the results of the Institute of Policy Studies survey on public perceptions of national service with much caution (“Poll reveals changing perceptions of NS”; last Wednesday) – in particular, the finding that more people viewed NS as a way to instil discipline and values among the young than as a pillar of national defence.

NS should not be seen as a two-year enrichment or character-development programme as much as it is an individual’s contribution to the nation. There is an undue emphasis on the transformation of boys into men, as portrayed by recent movies and television series.

(Gerard Ong):…We must never forget that we train our national servicemen to fight to win – nothing less.

…When I was called up for NS, many of those in my cohort and I were convinced that we were going to be trained to be fighting soldiers. We understood that the discipline and values that came with our training were incidental and part and parcel of military life. We wanted to be out in the field, learning how to handle our weapons, field craft, operational procedures, shooting and unarmed combat.

We came in wanting to be fighters, not disciplined team players, which we had already learnt how to be by playing team sports or joining school uniformed groups. The survey findings should be examined closely by our leaders and Ministry of Defence, as the public’s perception of NS as primarily an instiller of discipline and values is rather disturbing.

There was a scene in the Ah Boys to Men 2 movie where the main cast applied their military skills to enact revenge on a couple by bombing their car with shit. A comedy played for laughs, some viewers thought Jack Neo’s movie trivialised NS, calling it sexist, misogynist and bad for SAF overall. By the end of the movie, we never know if the boys are capable of killing the enemy, but are constantly bombarded with the message that NS is great for life-skills, family bonding and ‘camaraderie’. There is, however, no evidence that men emerge from NS as better friends, husbands, employees or leaders, and the social benefit of NS, grossly exaggerated in pop culture, has turned from a by-product of regimentation and suffering to a convenient justification for having NS in the first place.

The army itself is guilty of plugging the ‘character building’ angle. Being in uniform would supposedly make you more attractive to women. It also makes you think of your father as an embattled hero and role model. Unlike the ads for the Air Force which emphasise protection of the motherland, the Army insists on humanising NS because the original bloody intent of conscription i.e killing people is a bitter pill to swallow. Especially if you’re a worried parent who’ve seen one too many boys die for nothing.

The researcher who led the poll, Dr Leong Chang Hoong, revealed to the media that only 1 in 10 women would serve NS, and then followed up to say ‘even simple gestures from the female population, such as ORGANISING LUNCH for men training in the field, would make a “significant psychological impact”. Is it any wonder Singaporean women would decline the offer to don the uniform and hang out with the boys, only to be summoned to make Ayam brand tuna sandwiches or cook instant noodles in mess tins for them? I doubt anyone would argue that NS for girls would make them better wives or mothers without receiving a nomination for AWARE’s Alamak Awards. Why stop at green eyeshadow? How about distributing a recipe booklet called ‘Outfield BBQ for Heroic Boys in Green’ or something.

I’m not sure if the survey addressed the ‘fighting soldier’ argument as to how many of our men are actually battle-ready and willing to die for the country, that includes the writers above who support the ‘pillar of national defence’ rationale. The reality is many men spend their NS in filler, ‘supportive’ roles like ‘storemen’ or logistics supervisors, and are likely to pass out of it without a single day of field camp, without a sense of undying self-sacrificing purpose that anyone who puts on that uniform is supposed to have. Men without a single meaningful memory outside of staying in the bunk and waiting for orders to perform odd jobs.  At the other extreme, some have compared NS to SLAVERY, whereby minions are drilled in unarmed combat and how to stab dummies with a bayonet. Sort of like gladiators, perhaps. And then there is this guy, who has clearly applied aggression, the vital force of a winning army, in real life. In a LIBRARY. Shudder in fear, enemies!

Despite gaining all the ‘discipline’ and ‘values’ over 2 years, your boss may still quietly frown on your frequent call-ups, or you may miss out on crucial projects that could have earned you a promotion. Some can do without the ‘enrichment’ altogether by getting themselves downgraded, to the extent of celebrating it in public. How ironic that a ‘chow keng’ becomes a millionaire even before you manage to land your first job because you’re too busy defending the nation. Well, at least you still have your lifelong friends and an arsenal of explosive swear words, eh?

Our boys aren’t born Vikings, nor do they pass out of BMT mass chorusing ‘We will still be Friends Forever’ in Vitamin C’s hit ‘Graduation’. Personally I wouldn’t call NS a total waste of time, but I wouldn’t make a big-deal macho fantasy out of it either. The ST editor referred to our defence strategy as that of a ‘poison shrimp’ (NS is no glorified boot camp, 12 Oct 2013, ST) which deters anyone from stepping on it despite our miserable size. It’s dangerously unrealistic to think that we’re tiger prawns instead.

Ilo Ilo child actor physically assaulted on set

From ‘Why was child actor caned’, 8 June 2013, Mailbag, ST

(Teo Eng Swee): I refer to the article, As Real As It Gets (SundayLife!, June 2), on the award- winning film Ilo Ilo directed by Anthony Chen.

It is stated that the child actor was caned for real several times in two takes while shooting a scene. I was taken aback to read that the child was physically assaulted in the name of achieving realism in the film. Even though his mother appeared to have consented to the caning, this seems to be wrong. Animals are humanely treated during filming. It seems to me that children should be treated to a much higher standard.

I hope that the relevant authorities, such as the Media Development Authority, Ministry of Social and Family Development and Ministry of Manpower, will set high standards that safeguard children who are working in the entertainment industry

Koh Jia Ler, 12, had no issue with being whipped on set. In fact, in the interview he said it was a ‘small thing to him’ and admitted that Mommy used to trounce him when he was younger. Which means some parents are still using the old fashioned method of discipline as recently as 2000. I believe a TWELVE year old actor should be mature and professional enough to deal with a little pain for the price of stardom. After all, this could be the very last time he may experience the once familiar hot sting of tough love. These days, men either have to PAY, or go on a graffiti rampage, to get some spanking dished out.

Only time will tell if being flogged for everyone in Cannes to see would leave psychological scars on a growing boy. Protective parents and human rights activists could be up in arms over Ilo Ilo for being too ‘gritty’ for its own good, but forget that they live in a country where even adults are systematically caned as a form of punishment. Foreign audiences familiar with our barbaric penalties would view the scene as a commentary of Singapore’s medieval caning ‘culture’, though modern parents, Singaporean or otherwise, generally shun the rod and spoil the child instead. Better they turn out to be brats who sleep with their iPads than hooked on Prozac and listen to goth. If a stern voice, fierce scowl and ‘reasoning’ works for your kid, then congrats. But if the little bastard turns out to be a problem child from hell, then perhaps a ‘light touch’ which celebrity parenting gurus rave about may be as useful as placing a crucifix on Godzilla.

But this isn’t the first time the dreaded Cane is featured in a local movie. Jack Neo unleashed his fury with one in ‘I Not Stupid Too’.

In the original I Not Stupid, Jack slapped the boy actor playing his son (Shawn Lee) till he BLED FROM THE NOSE. It was almost comical in its brutality. Damn it Jack, either you’re paying your child actors too well or you’ve hired budding masochists for your films. Today, Shawn Lee seems like a normal young adult in a relationship according to his Facebook page despite being viciously attacked by Neo before puberty. Didn’t think he needed ‘safeguarding’ by the likes of MDA, an agency known for doing more damage ‘protecting’ the public than doing nothing at all.

Screen Shot 2013-06-08 at 12.39.22 PM

Tough love Jack Neo style

You don’t hear anybody complaining about I Not Stupid’s violence against children, nor children inflicting violence on themselves (Shawn’s character considered SUICIDE by jumping) because its attempt at sociopolitical satire overshadowed all explicit depictions of child abuse. In fact, Neo’s film was lauded by the British, for whom caning or smacking children is ILLEGAL. Most locals tend not to gasp and cover their eyes at such scenes, not because we routinely mete out corporal punishment ourselves, but we can understand why some parents resort to smacking Singaporean kids about. For those at the end of their tether but struggling to hold back, you could even say they’re envious of it. But why harp on tortured child actors when women are getting slapped left-right-centre in Taiwanese soap operas?

Let’s hope it’s not just a case of forbidden fruit and Western parents’ secret desire to throttle their unruly kids that earned Ilo Ilo its 15-minute standing ovation triumph at Cannes, that the movie won its prize not because people are drawn to Singaporean kids being ass-whipped as they are to North Korean kids playing hopscotch. If MDA censors Ilo Ilo because of scenes depicting child cruelty, perhaps another Hong Lim protest is in order. We could call it #FreeMyIloIlo, but that would sound too much like a protest about pasta.

Doh’mestic violence

Singapore as a location for blockbuster movies

From ‘Lights, camera, action – in S’pore’, 25 April 2013, ST Forum

(Matthew Varughese): THE Singapore Tourism Board (STB) is constantly striving to come up with creative ways to promote Singapore as a tourist destination…A lot of resources have been spent on advertising and organising events such as the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix. Perhaps it is time for the STB to consider another form of marketing that targets an international audience and creates a lasting legacy – that is, entice big-name international film studios to use Singapore as a location for blockbuster movies.

In this way, the STB can achieve its target of showcasing Singapore to the world and marketing it as a vibrant place to visit. Already, Indian film studios have shot movies in Singapore, and some Korean and Japanese bands have used our landmarks for location shoots in their music videos.

The next step would be to get leading Hollywood studios to shoot on location in Singapore. Our country has already been referenced in a number of films and, as a global city with multiple attractions and an iconic skyline, there should be little difficulty in incorporating a Singapore sequence into a modern blockbuster.

Regional cities such as Bangkok, Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong have already made their mark in Hollywood, and it could be time for Singapore to take to the silver screen. Movies in the James Bond and Godfather series have become staples that will be watched and re-watched for generations to come. Should Singapore be featured in such a film in future, the effects of marketing and publicity would endure for far longer than any print, radio or television advertising campaign.

Singapore’s skyline will never match the scale and pomp of China or Dubai, where you have impressive monoliths like the Burj Khalifa as a phallic set-piece for Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible:Ghost Protocol. Hong Kong gets to be featured in Batman and was among the first Asian countries to headline the globetrotting James Bond franchise (You Only Live Twice, 1967). Even Petronas Towers in KL has been immortalised in the spy-caper Entrapment starring ex-James Bond himself Sean Connery. The last time someone attempted to pull off an action flick in our high-rise metropolitian setting was in the Hong Kong film 2000AD, which starred heartthrob Aaron Kwok and local actors like the now obscure James Lye and Phyllis Quek, though the HK superstar served more as product placement for RSAF in the trailer than a skyscraper-crawling daredevil.

Meanwhile, we await Hollywood magnates to take notice of the only candidate to star a blockbuster so far, the Marina Bay Sands. Fast and Furious star and rapper Ludacris gave us a boost by soaking in the Infinity Pool during the F1 season and tweeting about it in 2011, though since then we haven’t heard from Tom Cruise, James Bond or even the guys from the Hangover (with its sequel shot in hot and sultry Bangkok). We have, however, been featured in a Japanese porn film. MBS, chicken rice and all.

Even Julia Roberts’ character in Eat Pray Love would rather head to Bali for some spiritual me-time. So, if our buildings aren’t glitzy or gigantic enough and we’ve lost out on that Oriental lustre and LUST to fellow ASEAN nations, where does that leave us? Bollywood and its song-and-dance with national icon backdrops I suppose. Interestingly, the first ever Indian move to be shot here was titled ‘Singapore’ (1960), and featured Haw Par Villa in its prime. The ‘strange garden’ exists till this day, though more of a curiosity than a tourist attraction that it once was.

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 10.07.39 AM

There was hope in the late 60s/early 70’s. Homegrown action starlet Marrie Lee (real name Doris Young) was featured in several foreign films including the iconic, Quentin Tarantino-endorsed, CLEOPATRA WONG, which had our campy heroine kicking butt in Chinese Garden (Trivia: Cleopatra also starred a dashing BRIAN RICHMOND, now veteran DJ with Gold 90 FM). Then America took notice with the softcore thriller Wit’s End, aka The GI EXECUTIONER (1971), which featured ‘sultry Singapore’ and sleazy sex in the Raffles Hotel. One version of the trailer started with an old local smoking an OPIUM PIPE. Singapore would have been perfect for the Hangover movies then. I’m surprised even master of the C-grade action movie Steven Seagal gave us a miss.

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 10.18.10 AM

Then the Government happened. Local martial arts film The Ring of Fury(1973), featuring real-life kungfu master Peter Chong, was BANNED for its ‘portrayal of crime’ and depictions of gangsterism. Still, that didn’t stop Saint Jack (1978) from being filmed here, another American flick banking on what was left of our sleazy exoticism in Bugis Street. That means two American films in a decade, both with one thing in common. Barenaked BOOBIES. And nothing from Hollywood thereafter except for totally misleading references like the Singapore of Pirates of the Caribbean, a low-life haven that crosses evil Chinese temple with Old World kampong chic. Even our attempts to market the country through local film without foreign money have been stifled for being too seditious or racist for our own good. Jet Li, martial arts superstar and erstwhile Singaporean, has done absolutely NOTHING for our flagging entertainment industry. US chart-topping Singaporean diva-pastor Sun Ho would also rather sing about China than Singapore Wine.

‘Singapore’ has since been featured a 80’s MASK cartoon episode, the occasional foodie documentary with Anthony Bourdian and an Australian mini-series about the Japanese Occupation called Tanamera: The Lion of Singapore. Which ALSO FEATURES BOOBIES. Need I mention Sex: The Annabel Chong Story? Forget Batman, James Bond or Amitabh Bachchan. STB, you should know what to do to make Singapore more ‘Shiok’ now. How about an erotic courtroom drama about an underage prostitute and a high-flying politician, eh?

Ah Boys to Men is sexist and promotes premarital sex

From ‘Ah Boys to Men is Bad for SAF’ and ‘Why promote pre-marital sex’, 30 Nov 2012, Voices, Today

(Vanessa Tai): I recently watched Ah Boys to Men with my parents and younger brother, who is undergoing National Service. Like other Jack Neo films, the humour was slapstick and littered with Hokkien expletives.  Those jokes were tolerable, but the misogynistic script was unbearable. For example, the recruits referred to women as “clothing that can be easily discarded” in a bid to cheer up one of the recruits who had been dumped.

Another example was a sergeant showing his recruits how to tear a certain leaf in order to form the shape of female genitals. Perhaps Mr Neo is accurately representing army life, but there is no value in such distasteful jokes. From what I understand, such banter is commonplace in the army, and while most guys do not hold sexist views, they play along so as not to be ostracised, which is a shame. Such behaviour should not be accepted as the norm.

A first-class military is not one that is just well armed or well trained in combat. A first-class military – in fact, a first-class society – is an egalitarian one that treats each member with respect, regardless of sex or socio-economic background. The Singapore Armed Forces is moving into a Third Generation, with greater emphasis on nurturing and engaging each soldier, which is a step in the right direction. However, more can be done to improve the image of our soldiers. Ah Boys to Men is a caricature, yes, but with many impressionable young men watching it, my worry is that Mr Neo’s careless stereotypes may undo a lot of the SAF’s good work.

(Goh Lee Hwa):As a mother, I am perturbed that Mr Jack Neo (picture) is endorsing pre-marital sex, in the scene where a guy told his girlfriend that he must have it before enlistment, or else the angels in “heaven” would laugh at him should he die during National Service. We parents are trying to discourage such practices, yet Mr Neo is endorsing it. That scene was uncalled for.

Careless, MDA. You’ve banned another local film for insulting Indians but clearly forgot about a film from a celebrated director that puts our entire ARMY to shame. Thanks to Jack Neo, now we know our boys are NOT writing letters to their loved ones, singing camp songs or playing carom in their bunk in their spare time, but trading sexist jokes, boasting about stealing their girlfriends’ virginity away or playing with ‘CB’ leaves. They also shouldn’t get drunk, steal rifles, cry like woosies in field camp, smoke cigarettes or have their maids carry backpacks for them. All that sort of loutish behaviour would surely do our military in. Leaves as sex paraphernalia instead of camouflaging against the enemy. The cheek!

Yes, our SAF has done a remarkable job of keeping Singapore SO safe we’ve never suffered a single war since its inception. Thanks to our army grooming responsible, ‘egalitarian’ citizens out of rough jewels, we’ll never have to worry about the same men beating women about, having sex with underage prostitutes, cheating on their wives, surfing porn or exchanging sex for favours even if they’re head honchos of key public institutions. How could you, Jack Neo. Why can’t you stick to making I NOT STUPID sequels, and portray students as suicidal depressives instead? That would be accurate, at least.

But seriously, why pick on Jack Neo when there are so many other movies out there which insult both sexes and plug stereotypes about young horny men? Does the writer think Jack Neo is a ‘role model’ for Singaporean boys? This guy cross-dresses like a grandmother for God’s sake. Boys are not going to watch Ah Boys to Men to PREPARE for army, or even for the humour. They would rather accompany their teenage girlfriends to watch the Breaking Dawn finale, and then hope that she returns some hot lovin’ for their painful sacrifice. No, Ah Boys to Men is likely to be a fave of Jack Neo’s staple audience, heartland uncles and aunties, and perhaps the entire singing crew of A Nation’s March. There are, of course, more important things to be worried about than SAF turning your boy into a Hokkien-spewing wife-beater. You’d better hope that he comes out of it ALIVE with his sanity and limbs intact, and lungs not permanently scarred from inhaling grenade smoke.

Any army boy booking out to spend their weekends seeing a whitewashed version of army reality is simply wasting his time. He’d rather polish boots than swallow cheap comic-relief stereotypes about potty mouthed drill sergeants, the mummy’s boy who can’t do a single pull-up and gets bullied by everybody until his geekiness saves the day, and of course the effeminate sissy afraid to damage his nails but dons the best camouflage skills in the platoon. The original NS movie Army Daze had all that, and those horrible ‘misogynistic’ stuff too. In one scene, the word ‘sexbomb’ was used to describe a soldier’s girlfriend. Even the Indian recruit had an exaggerated accent.

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Resorting to bawdy humour is inevitable if you want to produce any sort of local army film given the constraints. Which is a waste as Jack could have pulled off something more ambitious without recycling the same old stock characters. You don’t need Jack Neo to EDUCATE young Singaporeans on what to expect in the army, just like you can’t prepare a woman for giving birth by watching ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’. He’s a businessman first and entertainer second, and the trailer alone has formulaic product placement and government approval written all over it. I haven’t watched the film myself, but for all its alleged heartfelt pandering to Total Defence, I think it could have redeemed itself with some badass aliens or mutant zombies. Or maybe an angry horde of striking PRC bus workers. Otherwise I can’t think of any homemade action movie which involved anything beyond a car flipping over and exploding on cue. But there’s hope because Ah Boys to Men Part 2 is coming soon FYI.

Our boys, being moulded into THINKING SOLDIERS as part of the 3G philosophy, should know better. Not thinking about sex, that is. I’m not sure what’s a more dangerous misconception though; that our army is actually READY for bloody battle, or that it’s a MONASTERY that preaches equality to all humankind.

Postscript: Hoping to be proven wrong, I rented the Ah Boys to Men DVD. The slo-mo panning of SAF slogans as the boys walked through the ferry terminal to Tekong could give one nausea before even boarding the boat. The much hyped war scene was packed with special effects that could match high-octane monster films like MEGASHARK vs CROCOSAURUS. The cast, however, saved the movie and kept it entertaining. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the sequel would have less propaganda and more character development, though a climax involving the Ah Boys learning to appreciate NS and becoming Best Buddies Forever seems to be a foregone conclusion.

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