TOC thanks The Kent Ridge Common for allowing us to re-publish the following article.
Deep down inside, everybody wants big, giant commercial corporations to use their capabilities to do good things. These things include being environmentally positive, creating jobs, and making the world a better place to live.
In the same vein, that’s what I want to see Mediacorp doing as well.
Ideally, they should be producing television shows that are compelling, meaningful, have universal appeal and help Singaporeans and global audiences alike make sense of life in the ever-changing world. But what’s this I see?
“The S Factor” is the next show in the vein of their previous productions, “Singtel Grid Girls” and “Eye For A Guy”. 12 girls compete to win 10,000 dollars and a photoshoot with FHM. That’s not too different from Singtel Grid Girls, but The S Factor trailer is really too much. One of the opening lines for the trailer is, “Guys like to watch girls in bikinis. Girls like to watch other girls… look bad!” There it is, wisdom for the ages.
This is soulless, uninspired programming. It makes the “Just For Laugh” sketches on TVMobile looks like social commentary.
The one-minute ad is edited to make the most shocking statements to resemble an episode of Girls Gone Wild as closely as possible without actually qualifying as pornography. The bikini-clad girls are throwing pies at each other, mud wrestling and generally doing things badly (where a ‘man’ could easily do it without batting an eye). “I don’t think I have the brains to answer all those questions,” exclaims a participant. But the worst line of all, when participants had to model with live snakes, one of them laments, “Snakes. Real ones.” In the words of a friend, warrauz.
That’s not to say I’m deeply offended by the level of indecency. Actually, I’m not. What I’m offended by is the level of sheer stupidity. Is this what feminism stands for these days? Eye For A Guy while bad wasn’t terrible. Grid Girls was one thing, but this really takes the cake! Has anyone actually done ‘The Male Gaze’ around here? Is this some kind of societal pathology inherent in capitalism? It is an extremely intricate puzzle that nobody at Mediacorp pays attention to these kinds of substantive issues that make a television show worth watching.
I’m talking about women’s rights. Once upon a time, women around the world were considered inferior; they fought for socio-political equality with men, for the right to work and upholding the ethical principle of being paid equally for the equal type of work. Now in the post-emancipation age where women’s sociopolitical equality is now institutionally protected, some women find that they can continue to play out the stereotypical submissive role to their own economic benefit. They can have their cake and eat it, because the demand for pretty and submissive women still exists.
You may object that these women are in fact not submissive. But then, there’s the gaze. The idea of ‘the gaze’ is that we shape and internalize behaviour based on how we look at ourselves and how we think other people look at us. As long as you can dictate how people internalise ‘the gaze’ of society and their potential mates, you’ve got them by their sociological tail. The drama that ensues from the show teaches us what is socially acceptable, and what is not.
However, wouldn’t it mean that women shouldn’t be stupid? That pretty women have more to live up to than just being a pretty face? After all, if Miss-FHM Queen had been kicked out of the contest because she couldn’t do simple math, doesn’t it say that maybe girls should pay more attention in class?
It’s going to be difficult to read ‘The S Factor’ as a moral satire, or a negative example, especially when the prize is 10,000 dollars and a shoot with FHM. At least America’s Next Top Model gives some pretense towards looking good as a judicious professional skill rather than just giving some excuse to show off skin.
Truth be told, this show probably won’t have any effect on most anybody’s life at all. It’s not going to be the Pride and Prejudice of Singapore (which arguably, Phua Chu Kang was during its heyday). It’s not going to affect the rest of Singaporean, ASEAN or world literature like how The Dark Knight set the standard for comic book movies in Hollywood. Mediacorp as the primary producer of television shows has become more Hollywood than Hollywood.
The recent bunch of local programming isn’t that great either. Red Thread looks good but lacks distinction, and Fighting Spiders has that mild “we’re glorifying our past” feel to it. Don’t get me started on the insipid Maggi & Me.
This is not the first time such an un-politically correct show has been commissioned and produced, and it will not be the last. People will also not care with a resounding “it’s like that, lor”. I too, really don’t care that much, and I’m not agreeable to censorship, and therefore will not watch it.
On the other hand, if this is the way post-feminism is going to be shaped in Singapore, I look forward to the day women are free to come to work in bikinis and hold wet t-shirt contests over lunch.
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