By Howard Lee
So many bad things can be said about the recent Singapore Tourism Board promotional video, that it was probably in good taste that STB took it down. If it was for any other reason, then it was a joyous coincidence.
But what, really, was wrong with it? Poor dialogue, that is for sure, and also poor treatment. Continually switching between either the Marina Bay Sands tombstones or the fake metallic trees at Gardens By The Bay and a very enthusiastic couple tend to get tiring after a while. There has surely got to be more of Singapore we can show tourists.
Also, the over-enthusiastic couple is a tad over-bearing. I mean, the couple spent a few days every year (or so the narrative goes) in Singapore and they can’t wait to get back. And when they do, they ooze with elation like a couple of tipsy teenagers. It all ends with a baby bonus, too! No, really?
However, those are merely stylistic points. Call it bad acting, or call it bad scripting, these can be rectified, had STB taken the effort to do so. And at the end of the day, art is subjective.
What really irked Singaporeans, who by all counts should not have been the intended recipients of the video, was really the portrayal of the subject matter – Singapore. On those grounds, there was plenty to be unhappy about, if not ridicule.
The video marketed Singapore as a city paradise, where the quick-stop visitor can be made happy just by posing with the icons by the bay. We were all about strolling by the waterfront, eating good food with stunning views, and ending the day with fireworks.
For sure, to the average tourist, wherever they hail from, we could be all that, if they time it just right. But this is not Singapore. This is not the diversity of cultures that STB was promoting not so long ago, the melting pot of people where you experience a different race and religion just by crossing a road. This was also not the Garden City where we can still find a little bit of green amidst the concrete, tarmac and steel claddings.
You might have groaned at some of these representations in the past, and surely a lot more can be done for our patches of green, but they they did represent the best side of Singapore, whatever we can possibly muster, to anyone who might think of visiting.
This unfortunate video was, sadly, just Marina Bay Sands and Gardens By The Bay, which is a serious under-representation of all that is uniquely Singapore. If we didn’t know better, we might have suspected that it was a cheap promotional video for the companies running both establishments.
A three-minute video could have showed so much more, but it didn’t. What Singaporeans saw was in fact little more than the degradation of a vibrant society to a quickie stop (if you’d excuse the pun), pandering to the high-rolling social life that has been an increasing part of our tourism landscape.
Granted, this video is not about “My Singapore”, but it can hardly be one about “Your Singapore” either. If fact, we might even begin to doubt if it is an “anything Singapore”.
Truly, STB would have a lot to learn from this little romp by the bay. The last lesson, however, would be to look at it from a stylistic perspective. Instead, review it from a cultural perspective – essentially what we want visitors to feel when they leave, an experience that they really cannot find in any other part of the world.
Image credit: Screen capture from SGAG Facebook page. And yes, you can still view the video here, if you dare.