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Letter on ethnic stereotyping gets heavily edited by Straits Times

Ms Chow Pei Sze was outraged when she saw an episode of the Mediacorp Channel 8 drama serial, “Daddy At Home”. She wrote to the Straits Times’ forum page on 8 November. Her original letter was 424-words long. After a week, on 14 November, the Straits Times published her letter – which was edited to 155 words.

We publish the two versions of Ms Chow’s letter here.

Ms Chow’s original letter to the Straits Times forum page:

I refer to the 6th November screening of the MediaCorp Channel 8 prime-time drama series, Daddy At Home. I am thoroughly appalled by the instance in which the colleagues of the title character (played by Li Nanxing) joked that they should begin calling him “Aminah” since his character now works as a cleaner.

The nonchalance with which the name of a Malay woman is used interchangeably with the role of a cleaner shocks me for it reeks of a subtle, yet severe, insensitivity on the part of the Mediacorp scriptwriters, actors, and on-site crew. What this instance has encouraged in the popular imagination is the equation of Malays to occupations of low income and menial labour. How is it that such a glaring comment could have passed the stages of re-writes and checks, if any? Would the actors and crew members on location not have realised this during the filmin g as well?

As a teacher, I am doubly outraged that “Singapore’s leading media company” (according to MediaCorp’s corporate website) could let such racist undertones seep through popular, mainstream ‘entertainment’ with a view to profit and gain from what might seem to the company and its scriptwriters as dialogue that reflects the quotidian Singapore experience. If so, then generations of children and young adults who watch these shows regularly have certainly been exposed to potentially racist sentiments that they could easily replicate in the classroom and in their interactions with children of different races.

I remind the Channel 8 directors and writers also, that their viewership extends well beyond the Mandarin-speaking population in Singapore. Surely it was a strategic decision on Channel 8‘s part that including English subtitles for these drama shows allows them to reach a non-Mandarin-speaking viewership. With this in mind, then, how can it come to pass that clearly racist comments are written into the script and uttered before the camera?

Even if this were an ‘oversight’ on the part of the writers, there is no excuse nor any place in Singapore for racism to even be acceptable whether in private or in the public sphere.

I have not been a regular viewer of Channel 8 programmes for several years now, but with this new knowledge of the kind of lax standards that local television possesses, I am undecided as to whether to ignore Channel 8 completely, or to be a more avid viewer and keep an eye out for any future attempts to disrupt the delicate fabric of our multi-racial society. I urge Singaporeans to consider this dilemma as well.


The edited version of Ms Chow’s letter which was published by the Straits Times on 14 November 2009.

I WAS appalled when last Friday’s prime-time drama series of MediaCorp’s vernacular Channel 8, Daddy At Home, scripted in an ethnic stereotype.

Colleagues of the title character (played by Li Nanxing) joked that they should start calling him ‘Aminah’ as his character’s job was reduced to a cleaner. The nonchalance with which the name of a Malay woman is used interchangeably with the role of a cleaner is insensitive and has encouraged in the popular imagination the equation of Malays to occupations of low income and menial labour.

How could such a glaring comment have passed the stages of checks, if any? Would the actors and crew on location not have realised this during filming as well?

I am a teacher, and such ethnic stereotyping worries me. Children who watch these shows are exposed to potentially racist sentiments which they could easily replicate in the classroom and in their interactions with children of different races.

Chow Pei Sze (Miss)

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