Mediacorp New Year Countdown too cheena

From ‘Why Mandarin segment on Channel 5 show?’, 3 Jan 2014, ST Forum

(Maria Alice Anthony):WHILE watching Channel 5′s countdown show on New Year’s Eve, I was shocked to see a host speaking in Mandarin during the programme. I had to switch between channels to check if I was tuned in to Channel 5, an all-English channel, or Channel 8, the Mandarin channel.

If the hosts were present to translate the English-language segments into Mandarin, where were the hosts to do translations into Tamil and Malay?

Why was a national celebration turned into a bilingual event catering to only one ethnic group?

Maria’s party-pooper rant about the TV50 spectacular is mild compared to theatre actor Ivan Heng’s scathing Facebook complaint about how ‘cheena’ the programme was, where MCs send greetings in Mandarin and you have singers like Wang Lee Hom headlining the event instead of homegrown artistes. To be fair, the show kicked off with a multiracial mix of talents including legend Dick Lee and the original Singapore Idol Taufik Batisah. But you’d soon realise how barren the Channel 5 ‘English-speaking’ talent pool is when you have Gurmit Singh coercing people to ‘make some noize’ as host. FOR THE 7823th TIME. The last time I remember anyone doing MC duty for BIG parties in English was Moe Alkaff.

Gurmit’s partners Joanne Peh and Bryan Wong are themselves ‘cheena’ veterans, but if you look back at the history of our 50 years of television, cheena has clearly dominated the scene, and the fact that two-thirds of the MC lineup were Channel 8 artistes suggests that national television, not to mention NYE countdowns, is unsustainable without Channel 8 celebrity. In one PCK/City Beat/Under One Roof skit, Gurmit was trading jokes with 4 ‘cheena’ artists and 1 Pierre Png, technically now a Channel 8 regular after crossing over from 5. In the final minutes of 2013, the hosts interviewed in succession a who’s who of Channel 8′s star roster, from Zoe Tay to Jack Neo, all of whom didn’t even attempt to say three simple words of Happy New Year in English. Not a single Suria or Vasantham personality was in sight. It was probably the most-watched sequence on stage when everyone’s ready to ring in the new year, yet it almost felt like Cai Shen Ye on a golden steed could ride in at any moment. And where the hell was James Lye? Or the fabulous Muthu?

Critics didn’t just pick on the language bias in the past, but even racial quotas. In 1999, Mediacorp, then known as TCS was accused by a forum writer of being a ‘Totally Chinese Station‘, where English dramas have mostly Chinese as lead actors, or foreign talents with mixed heritage (but still look Chinese). Nothing much has changed since. Think of a current Channel 5 hunk in a leading role and he’s most likely to be Chinese. Or half-Chinese. That’s if you can even think of such a programme in the first place.

It’s really all business and eyeballs for Medicorp, a company that has to struggle to reflect the ‘inclusivity’ of the real world by selling ‘make-believe’. I wouldn’t want to pay money to watch a mash-up of PCK and Moses Lim doing Dick Lee’s rendition of Rasa Sayang on NYE, especially when there’s always catch-up TV. But diehard fans will flock just to watch Jeanette Aw pirouette in a shimmery dress.  If you want a REAL Singaporean year end party, you should have been at Boon Lay instead of sitting at home miserable and wasting time channel surfing. As for Joanne Peh and Bryan Wong, see you in a few weeks’ time at the Lunar New Year Countdown then. I doubt anyone could complain about that being too ‘kantang’.

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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.

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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

Malaysians protesting at Merlion Park

From ’21 Malaysians arrested at protest’, 12 May 2013, article by Amelia Tan, Sunday Times

Twenty-one Malaysians were arrested yesterday for staging a protest at the Merlion Park against the outcome of last Sunday’s Malaysian general election. The rare police action followed earlier warnings that such gatherings are illegal, and after nine Malaysians were warned for participating in a similar protest last Wednesday.

In a statement last night, the police said that “while foreigners are allowed to work or live here, they have to abide by our laws”. “They should not import their domestic issues from their countries into Singapore and conduct activities which can disturb public order, as there can be groups with opposing views. Those who break the law will be seriously dealt with.”

….Last week, the police warned nine Malaysians for “actively participating” in an illegal gathering at Merlion Park on Wednesday, when about 100 people went to protest against the Malaysian election results.

…Separately, the police also reminded migrant worker rights activist Jolovan Wham of his responsibilities as organiser of a Speakers’ Corner demonstration today, also related to the Malaysian general election. He has been told to take appropriate measures to ensure that the event complies with Singapore laws. The police said they were informed that Mr Wham had posted on Facebook that he was organising the demonstration to show solidarity with Malaysians calling for fair elections and that “he had invited foreigners to observe the event“.

“The Speakers’ Corner is a designated site for Singaporeans to freely speak on issues as long as they do not touch on matters which relate to religion or may cause feelings of enmity, hatred, ill-will or hostility between different racial or religious groups in Singapore. Only Singaporeans and permanent residents of Singapore are allowed to participate in demonstrations held at the Speakers’ Corner,” the police spokesman said.

The terms and conditions of the use of Speakers’ Corner is ambiguous on what constitutes a ‘demonstration’, or if you may be just an ‘observer’ and not a ‘participant’ in the event. In 2001, when public demos were banned from Hong Lim Park, the police described such activities as coming together for a ‘specific cause’, ‘chanting slogans’, ‘displaying placards’ and showing gesticulations such as ‘CLENCHING OF FISTS’. I’m not sure if clapping furiously and going ‘Hear, hear’ in response to a rousing speech constitutes participation, but standing from a distance and folding your arms with an expressionless face may have protesters suspecting that you’re a plainclothes police officer instead of a supporter or observer. You may even get crowd-surfed involuntarily if things get out of hand.

The earlier Merlion Park protest had special appearances from two Mediacorp actors, namely Zhang Yaodong and Shaun Chen, who in the image below, are clearly seen ‘participating’ in an illegal activity. Not sure if it’s stated anywhere in their Mediacorp contract if celebrities (and role models to our ‘impressionable youth’) are allowed to engage in political protests. They may inadvertently get innocent bystanders into serious trouble if screaming fans at the scene who have no idea what ‘Ubah’ or ‘Bersih’ are all about get rounded up by the cops for disrupting public order. You may, however, be part of a campaign to ban shark’s fin soup, though that may upset more people than your political beliefs.

Careful, almost a clenched fist there!

It’s not the first time that our Merlion has seen gatherings of this sort. In 2011, a petition for an SMTown Kpop concert was held in the form of a flash mob. Not sure if a police permit was applied for in this case but amazingly (also unfortunately), it turned out to be successful. These kids with their sick dance moves and placards look dead menacing. Slogans on A4 paper? Amateurs. If you want to get something out of your protesting, choreograph a mass-dance, dammit!

Thanks a lot too, Singa the courtesy lion, for giving Malaysian activists ideas for a venue.

There are other ways to show solidarity for a political cause if you’re a foreigner. You could blackout your Facebook profile for a couple of days before reverting it to a pic of your baby. If you’re a Myanmese you could join fellow countrymen to book entire theatres and watch Rambo viciously gun down junta villains (with permission from the authorities of course). You could even have a sit-down dinner in a nice restaurant with face-paint, sing patriotic songs in unison and get nothing more than dirty looks from diners without having a ring of police surrounding you like a phalanx in a Roman army ready to charge a castle.

Screengrab From Martyn See's 'Speakers Cornered'

Screengrab From Martyn See’s ‘Speakers Cornered’

But if you insist on venting your frustrations on crappy governments outdoors, you could do it ‘picnic’ style, like the Bersih 2.0 get-together in 2011 at Speaker’s Corner, where instead of slogans you could hand out yellow roses as a nod to the days of ‘Flower Power’. Just make sure you keep your friendly neighbourhood Police in the loop so they can send their stakeout/riot police team to defuse an ugly situation in the event you start marching around with burning stakes, flipping cars over and then torching them. Singaporean protesters can do without such police permits having been cowed into submission over generations. It’s the foreigners with their campaigns and balls who’re viewed as potential threats (But our government welcomes them with open arms anyway). I mean just look at them, dressed in matching black garb and holding up what looks suspiciously like secret society code numbers.  My God, our riot police have their work cut out for them!

The 8 is upside down. Maybe that symbolises something. Hmm.

Maybe it’s time we drop the name ‘Speakers’ Corner’ and just call it Hong Lim Park instead, since nobody goes there just to ‘speak’ anymore without some fist-pumping or incitement going on. Maybe we should have a demo at Speaker’s Corner to protest against the name ‘Speaker’s corner’. We could sit in unwashed, loving huddles, have a feast of organic tofu and sway holding hands to a live ukelele rendition of ‘San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear some Flowers in your Hair)’.

Here’s a sample of events which render the title invalid and outdated:

- Pink dot (2009)

- Give Vuikong a Chance (a petition signing event, 2010)

- BRING BACK MY MCDONALDS PIG TOY (2010)

- Slutwalk  (2011)

- M Ravi dancing (for no one) (2012)

And of course, a recent May Day event about some white paper. Wonder what’s all that fuss about.

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.

[Youtube clip disabled]

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.

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. 

Our Singapore Conversation not about slaying sacred cows

From ‘Not out to look for sacred cows to slay’, 9 Sept 2012, article by Goh Chin Lian, Sunday Times

While the committee will take a fresh look at all policies, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat stressed that it will not set out to slaughter sacred cows. “It’s not a culling session,” he quipped yesterday when asked how he would manage expectations that more longstanding policies will come under the knife.

“I don’t think we should start our Singapore conversation on the basis of looking for sacred cows to slay… I don’t think that would be a constructive exercise,” he said.

Instead, he told reporters, he would rather focus on the kind of Singapore that citizens want to create in the coming years, including values and ideals, “and then look at where we are today and how we get there”. Policies and programmes will be examined, but varying conclusions could be drawn in each case, he said.

“We may reaffirm that what is being done today is good and still relevant. We may recalibrate what we do. We may refresh and innovate into something very different.”

After Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced plans to start the national conversation, many have been calling on the Government to make bold changes and spare no sacred cows.

Knights of the Heng Table

Earlier in Aug, Senior Minister of State and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli remarked that ‘EVERYTHING” should be reviewed and that ‘NONE of them are sacred cows’. Lawrence Wong also felt there should not be any ‘OB markers or sacred cows’. Here we have a rather conflicting message that there may be some topics that Minister Heng wouldn’t be so comfortable talking about after all. It’s like those parental advisory stickers we used to see on CDs, except that instead of warning listeners on explicit lyrics, it’s exactly the reverse: Thou shall not be TOO explicit when it comes to talking about sensitive issues that would make the Minister shift nervously in his seat, like say, ministerial pay, CPF cuts or the defence budget. It’s like asking a friend you barely knew about his thoughts on circumcision. You will get nothing in return other than a shift of topic to the weather.

So will there be any sacred cows or not? With the PAP themselves not even on the same page about the agenda of this glamourised consultation exercise, how open will this ‘moo-ve’ be without giving critics further reason to slam it as a play-acting ‘pseudo participation’ to show that the government is friendly and compassionate? Will participants be ‘cowed’ into refraining from making radical suggestions, in which it’ll be a case of going back to the Remaking Singapore drawing board again? How do you talk to someone ‘informally’ when you’re given a verbal disclaimer on the taboos that you’re NOT supposed to even think of shattering? By setting rules and standards in public discourse, it appears that you can’t kill sacred cows without first killing the conversation. It’s like sending someone a wedding invite telling guests about the minimum amount of ang-pow to give. It totally ruins your mood to be a part of it.

MP Baey Yam Keng mentioned that Minister Heng shouldn’t just engage ‘heads of associations’, so let’s look at this 26-member committee strategically chosen to kickstart the Conversation and whether they’re representative of Singaporeans coming from ‘all walks of life’ as so claimed. The one that most Singaporeans can relate to is the inclusion of veteran actress and getai host Lin Ru Ping, someone to speak for the ‘heartlanders’ in our midst. OK, so we’ve got a celebrity auntie. With luck, our future rallies will have opening acts by comedians, retired actors talking to phantom presidents, rock bands and skits just like in the US Presidential Race. I wonder what Young PAP affiliate and actor Tay Ping Hui must be thinking right now for being passed over for this role. I’m not in a position to judge if Ru Ping is qualified to speak on national issues or not, but it appears she was chosen for mass HDB appeal. It’s cringingly obvious. She was even seated right next to Minister Heng, like having a baby nearby so you can kiss it for everyone to see.

Other than a couple of students, the rest of the team are pretty high-calibre thought-leaders and professionals. We have managing directors, association presidents, professors, head banking honchos and former MPs making up the ‘non-government representatives’. Even the taxi driver is a secretary of the Trans Cab Operator’s Association. Although it would seem logical to have experienced, outspoken individuals to represent the population, one can’t help getting the feeling that something’s missing here, and that referring to this as coming from ‘all walks of life’ is pushing it. Being someone with a reputation to uphold and a high-paying job to maintain also suggests that you’re not going to ‘lay all your cards on the table’ in fear of being ridiculed, or shunned as member of this Round Table i.e You can’t afford to shoot your mouth off, though sometimes, as in real life, that is EXACTLY what you need for a creative, meaningful discussion. A ‘conversation’ just sounds too genial to be taken seriously. It’s like talking about butterflies when what matters is dealing with grubby caterpillars.  In order for some serious changes to be made, some violence is in order, be it breaking eggs for omelettes, frying some fish or sending cows to the slaughter, not skirting around the things that matter over breakfast tea and scones. If I wanted to tell someone what kind of Singapore I’m wishing, hoping and praying for I’d consult a genie, not some Committee’s Facebook page.

Where’s the grumbling kopitiam uncle that we keep hearing about? The double-degree holder having trouble finding a stable job? Or the housewife who had to give up her job to look after 3 kids and a gambling addict husband? Where’s the NSman, single parent, grocer, naturalised ang mor, footballer, Ferrari driver, pastor, transsexual, gay, Eurasian, Ms Universe, guy with terminal cancer, teacher, environmentalist, bar hostess, cleaner or char-kuay-teow hawker? The last thing we need from a committee that’s already from similar ‘walks of life’ (a good handful of PAP MPs, no pressure then) is that they end up marching to the beat of the same drum and sing kumbaya when something gets done as a result of groupthink.

So nice try to be ‘inclusive’, but I think you missed a spot, sir. Still, it’s interesting to see how our conversation pans out, though it runs contrary to everything we know about social science, teamwork and people dynamics when you involve THOUSANDS of often irrational, highly emotional human beings in decision making. You would expect some awkward silences but hopefully, in spite of raising the old spectre of OB markers and sacred cows, not a kind of hush that can be heard all over the world. Time to bring your buckets, folks. Looks like we have some serious cows to milk dry before making steaks out of them.

Vernetta Lopez and Mark Richmond playing masak-masak (with bonus review!)

From ‘Illicit affair off air’, 26 August 2012, article by Akshita Nanda, Sunday Times Lifestyle

…In Memoirs Of A DJ, published by Marshall Cavendish, Lopez reveals that Richmond had wanted to call the wedding off days before the ceremony, and she had refused, fearing public embarrassment. She wrote in the book: “Because little 26-year-old me was worried about the public fallout. What would they say? How could I possibly walk around after that? How would I ever buy nasi lemak in a food court again?”

According to her, she could not see or did not want to admit that there was no connection with Richmond, that they were two kids who were merely playing masak masak. Their relationship dissolved not long after the honeymoon and the book described how she became suspicious of his relationship with another woman, identified only as B in the book,and found an illicit love note in his car when Richmond was away filming.

The note was filled with sweet nothings that only an intimate partner would say, she recalled in the book, including the words “…I can still smell you on my pillow…”

…She later followed Richmond secretly and saw him on a date with the other woman. Even then, she could not make herself ask for a clean break. Instead, she cried in solitude or in front of her make-up assistants.

…Lopez stresses that her autobiography is not intended to lash out at her former husband, even though she is aware that many readers will flip immediately to the pages about her first marriage.

“It’s definitely not revenge. It’s just what happened. If I’m going to do my memoirs, it would be silly not to mention it…..People know who I am, but they don’t really know about my personal life. I thought, let people get to know me a little bit more and let them see if they’ve known me at all.” She says she was initially hesitant to write about her first marriage and its breakdown, but then decided “people are expecting to read it. If you’re going to write about your life, write about your life.”

“My mistake throughout that time was to keep it to myself, I was totally isolated,” she adds, as her sister silently takes her hand.

“But I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I’m not about to take a dagger and stab it in someone’s back and destroy a family. All I’m saying is, this is what I went through.

“At the end of the day, I’m very happy for him, he has a wife and a kid and his career’s doing okay.

The only other Singaporean public figure I could think of to write ‘MEMOIRS’ is Lee Kuan Yew. Despite being a veteran in the media business, you’d need to be of a certain calibre, maybe age, before you may even qualify to describe what’s essentially a tatter tale’s gimmick as a collection of ‘memoirs’.  It’s not like she desperately needed the money to sell books, and although she insists that this isn’t about ‘revenge’, Vernetta seems to have forgotten that both of them are already happily married, herself to a British IT guy and Mark to a pro-gay NMP hopeful with a 5 year old kid Sol . Beatrice and Mark presumably met on the set of Triple 9 in 1998, playing LOVERS, when Richmond’s marriage was already ‘on the rocks’.

What started out as a concerned friend turned into ugly ‘the other woman’ finger-pointing. No surprises that they got together so soon (married in 2004) after the divorce, a celebrity script uncannily similar to Hollywood’s most famous love triangle (Brad and Angelina were LOVERS in Mr and Mrs Smith, Beatrice even behaves like an Angelina Jolie in some aspects). Interestingly, Mark himself previously played Denise’s boyfriend in ‘Under one Roof’, while both Vernetta and Beatrice were co-actors in the 2001 flop ‘Now Boarding’.

In a 2009 interview, she had this to say about her previous marriage:

Any lessons you’re carrying over from your previous marriage (Her seven-year marriage to Mark Richmond ended in 2004)?

Don’t be the stereotypical needy chick. You just chill and enjoy the relationship. Hold it back a little, man! Not that I was needy before, but I think I became needy after that. I’ve never been in such a tolerant, understanding, fun, relaxed sort of relationship, where you feel comfortable to say anything.

We take it that the chapter of life with Mark is closed?

People always ask. It’s so closed. You do your own thing, I do my own thing. There are no hard feelings or anything anymore. I’ve definitely closed the book on that one.

Er, no Vernetta. You literally WROTE a whole needy BOOK to remind everyone about it. Someday even little Sol is going to get his hands on your book and uncover dirty secrets about Daddy.

Whether it’s a sly publicity stunt or some form of self-victimising ‘autobiography-therapy’, she appears to have refused to let bygones be bygones, and you could feel the searing heat of the dagger in Beatrice Chia’s back when Vernetta used the painfully obvious ‘B’ in her account of the affair. The divorce was already swirling with rumours of the involvement of a ‘third party’, which both denied at the time. But perhaps the way the article was framed says a lot about ST’s lust for gossip as well. Little effort was made in pitching the actual BOOK itself, but rather spilling the beans on a celebrity marriage gone wrong and putting everyone involved in a bad light, despite the ex-couple still being annoyingly cordial to each other, maybe even exchanging gifts and buddy-hugs every Christmas.

In 2007, she was cast as an ‘unhappy woman stuck in a dysfunctional marriage’ in a Channel 5 anthology called Stories of Love. Maybe that didn’t help her deal with her ex because her reel-life groom then was comedian Gurmit Singh. Earlier in 2003, 2 years after the break-up, she was cast in ‘Ceciliation’ as a mother struggling with her husband’s INFIDELITY. She won an Asian Television award for ‘BEST DRAMA PERFORMANCE by an actress’, which suits the DRAMA queen manner in which she’s handling her divorce. Maybe all this vicarious acting has whetted her appetite for finally telling the truth, even if it’s only one person’s side of the story.

Maybe the Richmonds are consulting their own publisher as we speak. They could sneak in a response to Vernetta’s bawling expose amid their Grandfather stories, and call it MEMOIRS of a DJ/ACTOR/PRESENTER/COMMENTATOR. I just hope serial DJ-husband Glenn Ong doesn’t get any ideas. Maybe Vernetta’s ex-husband was indeed a total scoundrel and philanderer but there’s no reason to call him out, dig up the past and package it as a sob-story for money. Instead of calling her book ‘Memoirs of a DJ’ and ripping off a Geisha epic, I think ‘V for Vernetta’ would be more appropriate.

Postscript: Following some nasty feedback about how unfair I have been to Vernetta since the post was based on her media interview and not on the actual pages off her book, I decided to head down to Kinokuniya to check it out myself. Surprisingly, Memoirs wasn’t front entrance promo stock, and I took at least 15 minutes just to locate it inconspicuously stacked along one of the quieter info counters (I couldn’t find a ‘Local series’ section. The only local author on display was LKY). Skimming through the chapters, I found them more like essays than a linear timeline of her life from childhood to second marriage. Her tone was exactly like what you would expect from her character on air, sharp, bitchy, even witty. Yes, Vernetta is funny. I said it. Case in point, she excused Mark’s habit of ‘bringing his phone into the toilet with him’ on the basis that ‘reception is better when the toilet flushes’. LOL.

The chapter on everyone’s mind was titled ‘The dark years’ and it started off bleak, about how V was unsure about the relationship and had to consult her mom, who told her that she could still change her mind before wedding day. Then came the rumours of Mark and Beatrice getting too close for comfort in their scenes together as actors, followed by a self-destructive spell of loathing, niggling doubt (felt like ‘strangers on their honeymoon’) and picking up SMOKING. She even had a table of excuses and lies that Mark had presumably told her, of note one about his filming a movie with a ‘famous director’ that either never existed or bombed so bad it just disappeared. The only mention of ‘B’ came when she was snooping around her husband’s stuff, and found the love note, which, as V wrote, ‘was signed off as ‘B’. It was a piercingly shrewd way of pointing fingers, while ‘telling it like it is’. When confronted, ‘B’ came over to ‘explain’ that the pillow story was taken off some literature to ‘console’ her husband who needed to feel loved again. V thought it was priceless. I call it Occupational Hazard.

I had to flip to the last few chapters on the ‘revelation’, when V, with the help of some friends (or relatives, I can’t remember) ‘staked out’ Mark after work, spotting him and B in each other arms, heads nudged together, and him peeking into her car window supposedly ‘kissing her goodnight’. Game over then, with V going ‘I want a divorce’ at the end of it. Interestingly, other than the ‘B’ reference, no names were mentioned in her account. It wasn’t sleazy at all, and although it did seem a little whiny, was over-CAPPED and tends to overplay female empowerment (V worships Oprah), it was actually entertaining enough for me to finish the chapter in one piece. It was snappy, effortless prose and to pay the compliment further, actually worthy of a second flip, though I skipped those BFF moments with Gurmit Singh.

It’s still one side of the story, but for you all know it could have been a restrained narrative when far worse things could have happened in the affair. I would give V credit for her writing style, for putting a witty spin on something gone horribly wrong, but for making public something that happened years ago, for not letting go, even if she had every damn right to spit on her ex’s new family, I still think it isn’t exactly a discerning thing to do. I also think her new Brit husband better watch his back. Memoirs is both a jibe at her ex and love rival, and a stern warning to her current hubby. I bet he keeps it in the office bookcase to remind himself not to mess with his tenacious wife every single day.

So V isn’t going to win the ‘Revenge Sleaze Book Prize’, but someone thinks she’ll get a Pulitzer. When hell freezes over, that is.

Girl-on-girl kissing at Star Awards

From ‘Girl on girl kiss to be censored in re-run of awards show’, 4 May 2012, article in asiaone.com

A kiss between female actresses Vivian Lai and Kate Pang has sparked a furore among Singaporeans. Actress-host Lai, 36, kissed actress Kate Pang, 29, on the lips for one second when she was announced as one of the Top 10 Most Popular Female Artistes during Sunday’s live telecast of the Star Awards Show 2.

Chinese daily Lianhe Wanbao reported that many viewers called its hotline to say they were offended by the kiss. They said that while some women may find kissing each other to be “trendy”, they were not used to it.

Some also said that it was strange to see female artistes dressed sexily and kissing each other. The Media Development Authority (MDA) said it will probe the incident to ascertain whether it has breached content guidelines of the free-to-air TV programme code.

A spokesperson for broadcaster MediaCorp told The New Paper that the “kiss” will be censored for this Sunday’s repeat telecast as some viewers may not be comfortable.

They should have won Most Favourite Couple

This will probably be the most useless snip in the history of television, regardless of what people think of two women kissing. Even if there were erotic undertones here beyond a ‘sisterly’ peck, it would have went unnoticed if the people obsessed with ‘lesbianism’ hadn’t cried foul over it. Perhaps cleavage just fails to shock anymore,  that there’s only a few ways to display one’s assets,  to the point that even the underboob has been milked dry. This Western glam concept of celebrity lip smooching has taken the attention away from boring speculations of boob jobs or waiting for wardrobe malfunctions to occur. The awards  have become secondary and our Mediacorp artistes are being ravaged on the red carpet for tasteless frocks, if not accused of aping the decadent West and turning viewers gay with their antics. People who’ve never seen a single Mediacorp drama the entire year would have at least heard of this event, but only for the wrong reasons. Soon no one will even remember or care about who won the Best Drama or Actress, nor male artistes who dress like hobos, and the Star Awards will be known just for two things: Ann Kok’s ample bosom and a hot girly kiss. Pity the former wasn’t involved in the latter, or you would have the prudes getting cardiac arrests before even writing in to complain about too much sex on TV.

This spontaneous couple seem to have taken a cue off Britney and Madonna, who locked lips on stage at the 2003 MTV awards, with a hint of tongue too. Nobody’s calling either a lesbian.

Our authorities have also banned the first hit single from Katy Perry titled ‘I Kissed a Girl’, which anyone can download off Youtube below, although no girls were actually kissing in the video. Katy went on to marry comedian Russell Brand in a rather short-lived romance, proof that she too wasn’t a lesbian.

Our censors also deleted scenes off critically acclaimed films like The Hours, and banned films like Shame altogether because of threesome scenes which I presume, would have some girly action as well. Kissing used to be a fun thing; experimental, playful and affectionate, and celebrities have the privilege of playing fast and loose with their PDA as they deem fit. Because they ARE celebrities.  Better that they engage in same-sex kissing than snort cocaine. These complainants are treating the act as if someone dropped a box full of forceps in the middle of a life-saving surgery.

Football players smooch each other all the time after scoring goals, yet no one talks about censoring matches because these contain ‘harmful’ scenes of sweaty men kissing, that boys who watch them may end up spending more time in the locker room than necessary. If two men kiss, it’s awkward or a prank, especially when presidents do it. If two ‘sexily dressed’ ladies kiss, however,  a ‘guideline’ has been breached and the innocent need to be protected.

One thing’s certain though; the kissing video would garner more hits than the  combined viewership of both live and rerun shows, even among people who have no idea who Joanne Peh is. Kate Pang may even score the Top 10 favourite artist list every year from now on, even if nobody has seen her act. Going near topless to boost a lacklustre career doesn’t work anymore, and it’s no longer peek-a-boo but ‘peck-a-(chio)bu’ that makes the Star Awards worth saving.

Facebook pictures photojacked onto porn sites

From ‘Facebook photo ends up on porn, dating site’, 30 April 2012, article by Irene Tham, ST

HOUSEWIFE Jules Rahim was shocked when a friend tipped her off last Wednesday that her photo was featured on a pornographic website. That was not the only unauthorised use of the picture of her in a bikini, which she had posted on her Facebook account three years ago.

Last Tuesday, another friend told her that the photo had also popped up on a dating site called sgGirls.com. It was accompanied by a caption which listed a telephone number to call and how much it cost to chat.

‘It’s embarrassing,’ said the mother of four children, aged one to 10. ‘People I know may think wrongly of me.’ Ms Rahim, 32, has filed two police reports – one about the porn site and the other about the dating site.

The Straits Times understands that at least two other Singaporean women have also discovered that their Facebook pictures have surfaced on these two websites. The three are victims of what is known as ‘photo-jacking’ – the act of stealing pictures from social media like Facebook and Twitter and exploiting them for use on, say, porn sites.

Tipping off a friend that her photo is being used in a porn site is an awkward admission of guilt that one surfs porn. If I were the victim, I wouldn’t know if I should thank him or give him a funny look. Worse things could happen if you’re a celebrity though; your pic may be photoshopped and superimposed over actual porn actors. Or you could be used as bait for ‘click-jacking’ pranks such as the Facebook ‘Fiona Xie sex video’ link which doesn’t lead you anywhere other than spreading the message to all your friends that you want to see Fiona Xie naked. Disappointment AND embarrassment.

Internet privacy has been a problem since the late nineties, when a similar site to Sggirls known as JCGirls  featured candid shots of girls in public (Harmless or has it invaded privacy?19 Oct 1999, ST) . Though there wasn’t any intention to shame or outrage the modesty of schoolgirls,  nor did the creators sell soiled panties on the side, it was an unspoken fact that this site was drawing a specific audience, mainly men in the ‘old enough to be your father’ demographic. When you let ‘netizens’ take over, it’s like giving a psychotic clown an lifetime’s supply of pies. I would rather have my face on a porn ad than being caught by some busybody Stomper in an embarrassing situation taken out of context. Getting Face-Stomped (tagged and linked in both sites) is the worst fate that could befall decent human beings. It’s like getting gang-raped by Alien and Predator, with the resultant offspring gnawing its way slowly out of your insides with the aid of a laser-guided cannon throughout the  incubation. But then again, males in general don’t have much of an issue being ‘photojacked’ in sex ads. In fact, if you tag our faces with a ‘I GREW 2 INCHES in a WEEK’, it may even be taken as a compliment.

You don’t have to be in a sultry bikini pose to get spotted by porn marketeers. Even wearing a seemingly innocent Minnie Mouse hat could have you mistaken by paedophiles for a Lolita prostitute in an online sex ring. If you’re not cute, nor have the body to flaunt, you could also get targeted if someone has a bone to pick with you; an ex-lover, a jealous colleague, or a complete stranger who simply doesn’t like what you put on your Facebook wall. Or you end up as a random target for someone who needed a convenient scapegoat.

You may also misuse photos as fronts for bad behaviour. In 2007, a couple of brats created wearemean.blogspot.com, a now defunct site that mocked people caught unawares in public. Interestingly, it’s not so much their snapping of random passers-by and commenting on their ugliness or dress sense that’s illegal (people currently do that all the time on STOMP), but impersonating other people on their blog using  their photographs without permission. If you’re cowardly enough, you could troll Facebook discussions logged in as somebody else. Sometimes, even your own spouse can’t be trusted when it comes to online misrepresentation.

Vicious rumours could also get you recognised for all the wrong reasons, as what the ‘mystery woman’ angle created by the media led to, with wild guesses and snapshots of innocent parties being tossed about in forums. Ironically, in the attempt to protect a key player in a scandalous tryst,  this has resulted in  several other people, minding their own business and having absolutely nothing to do with the case, becoming unnecessarily involved and suspect. Putting our reputations on the line online is the price we have to pay for the benefits of social networking, and privacy controls alone may not be guarantee that you’re safe from harm. Even people not on Facebook get caught in ‘friendly fire’, as long as people snap, post and comment, without even having to tag you in the process. Facebook narcissists are free to exhibit and pose in whatever they want, but if you decide to wear a Playboy bunny suit, intimate lingerie or lie on the beach nude for your FB profile pic, then you should expect to draw the wrong kind of attention.  I’m not sure whether it’s a good idea provoking the culprits and going public as what Ms Rahim has done here though. It has already sparked plenty of interest in the lady herself, no thanks to ST releasing a ‘porn-worthy’ image of her with face digitally masked, and in this climate of scandal, a censored face means instant fame/notoriety as one the top 10 search hits on Google trends Singapore.

No 8 on the charts 30 April 2012, same day as article

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