Hello fellow Singaporeans, it is me again.
With news drying up, I thought that I can vivisect the faults of this great country of ours in areas we may overlook. Today I will be focusing on our incredibly lacklustre media landscape & why as a Zoomer, I have no interest in what it offers.
MediaCorp. The Public Broadcaster for our nation. For decades in some shape or form, it has brought entertainment directly to our ears and our eyeballs. But it is a far cry from its heyday. Gone are the days it acted as a local counterpart to the BBC entertainment empire, churned out songs that are still being used as a cry for patriotism or even provide entertainment that was good enough to export to our larger neighbours. Remember an era where shows like "Phua Chu Kang" or "The Noose" were able to satirize the current Singaporean dynamic with a liberal amount of Singlish added to the mix? If you aren't an entertainment buff like me, chances are you doubt such a thing ever happened.
In my anger, I did some research to try and explain how this abysmal lack of creativity came to be. But then I realized that I have a limited fascination to this archaic situation that could be easily solved with a press conference, two strokes of a pen and tearing up an entire section of the IMDA rulebook. Long story short, before the new millennium & in the midst of the transition to the "Goh Chok Tong" years, there was concern over lack of family values as a direct consequence of Singapore's increased prosperity throughout the 1980s. Among a slew of draconian legislation came a media regime that stated that nothing that went against "traditional family values" shall be broadcast on local entertainment networks. While I am sure this was with good intention, it has left us dry. No overt violence or displays of the 7 sins. As a local YouTuber named "Sneaky Sushii" said some days ago "Family show, Police show, Family Show, police show, Family F***ing Shows"
I do not know about you, but I do not want to watch the 50th season of CrimeWatch or the 1000th episode of an imported Hokkien drama that has a plot impossible to follow as it lacks English subtitles. And that these media restrictions are more senseless than it seems. "Family values". Like what exactly does it mean in legal terms. It is purposely left so vague that it could encompass literally anything. At this point it's not an issue of censorship, but the very stifling of creative expression. Everything entertaining is usually controversial in some shape or form. So are we supposed to try and make do with what has already been copied over several times or risk reinventing it at the cost of a fine or a potential lawsuit ?
To add insult to injury, they try to lengthen their financial lifespan while being stuck in broadcasting items that are basically "Family values, harmony between religion & race, the Singaporean identity and an obsession with family dinners" with... I kid you not... a "Meme-In-Chief". If it wasn't bad enough that they lost interest among people like my ah kong or mother after Season 3 of "Mata Mata"... Some middle aged executives actually hired random people on Instagram to make Memes using clips from their boring TV shows. One example uses a clip which shows parents complaining against a doctor unable to cure their son from a terminal illness... and has the caption "When fate challenges you to give up (>_<)". This is supposed to be funny ?! Am I supposed to laugh at their son for having less time on earth than he should normally have ?
Even other authoritarian countries are better off in expressing their individuality. Look at the stuff the Chinese make. You can't say stuff there that you can say here, but yet they have made efforts in making their own entertainment. Not as good as what billions of dollars piled on entertainment centres like Hollywood can achieve. But it is miles ahead of ours. Even if it does serve the means to indoctrinate, it at least looks the part. All we have is remakes of poorly copied shows. You could make the argument that we as a small nation of barely 6 million people should not fret over things like this. But take the Hong Kong shows. Even as the Sleeping giant crushes some forms of art, they still make stuff they can clearly call their own. This garbage produced locally is subsided and promoted by the money I use on taxes ?!
So here is my question: When will those on top allow enough space for our own talents to make something that we can at least distract ourselves from the monotony of life ? When do we have a country that can make something as basic as... a crime action show centered around a fictionalized version of Geylang or a sitcom based around a "typical" family within a 3 room HDB flat that is relatable to the middle class it portrays ? When do we have the means to express our humanity without being strangled by threats of shady men in suits who wave lawsuits ?
NEVER STOP. The quest to pursue freedom of speech. Or at least freedom from government punishment over speech. And to those that call it some "Western" value out of place in this region, I ask you to stare outside our borders and watch what they have on TV ! Till then, I will be keeping a media diet of YouTube, streaming services like Twitch and a small amount of Netflix. If you do not know, I highly recommend "Our Grandfather Story" or "Not Safe For TV" on YouTube. Or even that "Sneaky Sushii" guy. Give them a try, you may have some hope yet for what is only a small nugget of our potential. With this pandemic, I will be making more social commentary on where we have faults in. Till then dear readers.
Your Loyal Reader, Justin