atans1

Indian lady takes issue with charge that Nets ad was “brownface”

In Uncategorized on 05/08/2019 at 4:58 am

Phew, I really have a problem understanding the outrage of local YouTuber and comedian Preeti Nair (known as Preetipls) and her brother, rapper Subhas Nair that resulted in a vulgarity laden video full of aggressive attacks against Chinese, and their allies, many of whom are the anti-PAP cybernuts or the usual suspects who wish the PAP ill. (Btw, I don’t take offence at the video. Juz shows how badly Nairs were brought up.)

So I was really glad to read in TRE of all places that an Indian lady shared my surprise that it was offensive because it means that my cluelessness that it was offensive had nothing to do with my Chinese ethnicity, even if it isn’t the real deal: I’m Straits Chinese and my elders still (I’m 64) call Chinese “Gek” in conversations among themselves and with youngsters like myself. They even call their granchildren “Gek” (albeit affectionately) if the grandchildren have a “Gek” father.

Here’s Linda Chopra’s piece. Secret Squirrel tells me her pa’s Khush Chopra, a lawyer and someone who calls for change in S’pore. Her pieces have appeared in TRE: sense (like mine) among the trash.

Racial Harmony – Where do we draw the line?

The most recent incident started with Dennis Chew impersonating a Chinese man, a Chinese woman, a Malay woman and an Indian man in an advertisement for cashless payment.  Unfortunately, the advertisement was greeted with disdain by some netizens who thought it offensive.

The question is … why?

This is a point I find it hard to understand.  If we think about it, Americans dressed up in various costumes during the Halloween.  But they never have people complaining that it was disrespectful for the supernatural beings.  Likewise, many fans dressed up as their gaming, comic and cartoon characters during Cosplay events.  But the respective gaming, comic and cartoon companies never complained that these fans were disrespectful to their trademark characters.  If anything, these companies actively seek to organise and promote Cosplay events and want as many fans as possible to take part in such events.  Of course, one might point out that there are financial incentives for these companies, since they stand to profit from having more customers.

The point is this.  The motivation of the fans to dress up as their favourite characters is NEVER about disrespect.  Rather, they are so attracted towards their favourite characters that they wanted to act them out in real life.

Of course, the same cannot be said of Chinese impersonating Indians in that these Chinese are so attracted to the Indian culture that they want to act out like us in real life.  However, one thing that should be clear to everybody is that, at the very minimum, they do not dislike Indians.  If they really hate Indians, they will not have shown any interests in our cultures and certainly will not want to dress in traditional Indian gears.

When I looked at Dennis Chew in the advertisement, I am not able to pick up anything to suggest that he was disrespectful to the Indian culture in any way.  He was just advertising for the cashless payment services and there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that he was mocking the Indian culture.  So why are some of us so upset?

(Of course, from the advertisers’ perspective, it is cheaper to pay one actor to act out four roles than four actors/actresses to act out four different roles.  But that is only managing costs and is not exactly showing disrespect to the Indian culture.)

If we go further back in history, there was a similar event during the UOB Bollywood-themed staff party in 2012.  I was too young to remember what it was all about, but it appeared to be a fancy dress party that focused on the Indian culture and the Indian cinematic scene in particular.  Unless there were evidences of people mocking or denigrating the Indian culture during the staff party at that time, I am not able to understand what the fuss was about.  In fact, I would have thought it a compliment to the Indian culture in that UOB chose to showcase our culture during their staff party. As a comparison, would any of us have complained if they had organised a fancy dress party based on the traditional Chinese culture, the traditional Thai culture, or even an Amazon tribal culture?  My guess is probably not.  In particular, I would not think Chinese would have complained if UOB female staff dressed in cheongsams. (Apologies … I do not know what is the male equivalent of Cheongsam.)

At the end of the day, Singapore is a multi-racial country.  I am proud to be a daughter of the Indian culture and I am more than happy that other races show interests in and want to learn more about my culture.  For my part, I am proud to showcase my culture to other races.  Likewise, I also mix around with Chinese and Malay friends and I also get to understand their cultures.  The true spirit of racial harmony should include the cultural cross-exchanges between different racial groups, the pride to showcase one’s own culture and the acceptance of culture from other racial groups.

Cross-dressing in clothes of other cultures is a sign of acceptance and we really should not be so offended about it.  In fact, anyone can buy Sari in Little Indian, Cheongsam in Chinatown and Baju Kurung in Malay Village and there are tourists who shop for these clothes when they visit Singapore.  Are we going to ban the sales of these traditional clothes to other races?  Yes, I will be hurt and offended if other people make fun of my culture, but this does not seem to be the case in both the advertisement and the UOB staff party.

I hope that we Singaporeans will look at this episode with a new perspective of acceptance and not get overly heated up, particularly when there is no intention to offend in the first place.

PS:  I hope Chinese Singaporeans will be forgiving towards Preetipls and Subhas for the rap video and I hope that this episode can be laid to rest in a peaceful manner.

Linda Chopra

Related post: The cultural ignorance of SPH staff and other S’poreans

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: