#23. My Take on the Ah Boys To Men Casting Issue

Hi.

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Yes, I have once again fallen off the face of the earth, but I’m back. WITH VENGEANCE.

No, but really, my comeback post is gonna kinda sorta start on a negative note, but my intentions with this post is positive. 💕

If you haven’t heard, a freelance actor, Shrey Bhargava, has recently come into the limelight for writing a Facebook post about how he feels coming out of an audition for an upcoming sequel of local feature film, Ah Boys To Men. He was even recently questioned by the police because of what happened from that post, which is ABSOLUTELY ABSURD.

You can check out the post that started it all here.

There’s been a whole lot of argument from different people from different sides discussing Shrey’s post, but I’d just like to give my own two cents about this, even though no one will probably bother reading it, but I am just so internally frustrated [read: ***TRigGeREd***] and upset about the whole situation that I just need to let this out into the universe.

And also because, “my feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit”.

Okay, final disclaimer: I used to be an ignorant person who participated in casual racism and other negative behaviour from time to time, but I’d like to apologise for that. I am still very much a very flawed human in society and I acknowledge that I still have so much left to learn.

Okay, final non-disclaimer: Take a shot everytime you read the word “prerogative”.

✨OKAY, HERE WE GO. WOOHOO. SO FUN. (not)✨

1. The main issue isn’t solely about putting on an accent for a casting. It’s about unnecessarily forcing a stereotype into one’s race solely for comedic purposes with no addition to the story.

Let’s put it this way, local Singaporean film, Lulu The Movie, had an appropriate use of an accent. The lead character, Lulu, had a certain accent, not simply because she’s Chinese and “Chinese must have a certain accent blahblahblah”, but because the character is from a specific area so it matches the representation of the character.

But in the ABTM casting, the character Shrey was auditioning for is a local Singaporean. At least this is what I gather based on the given casting lines, which is available to the public.

And I get it, local Singaporean Indians could speak with an Indian accent too, that’s not a crazy thing to consider. If the director wanted his character to have “a more traditional Indian accent”, that is fine. Directors have their own visions for their characters.

But the point where he was asked to “make it funny” by becoming a stereotype of a certain race is the issue here. It’s that this character, the humor in this particular scene, will only be present if an accent is present.

Read the given lines for this character and imagine it being said by someone with a plain old local/Singlish accent. Do you think it’s funny? I personally don’t think so. Shrey wasn’t asked to do physical comedy to make the scene funny, he was asked to portray a stereotype to get a laugh, and that is completely ridiculous.

2. Now that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the most ridiculous argument here, “I make racist jokes with my friends, and no one gets offended, chill out”.

*INSERT JENNA MARBLES SCREAMING NOISE*

It is your own prerogative to make racist jokes and not be offended by racist jokes, but just like how Donald Trump doesn’t speak for all Americans and how Taylor Swift doesn’t speak for all musicians and how Amy Schumer doesn’t speak for all comedians, YOU DON’T SPEAK FOR ALL OF US WHO HEAR RACIST JOKES.

When you’re joking with your friends, it’s in a comfortable environment. You can call your friend a bitch, and no one’s feelings may get hurt, but the moment an outsider calls them a bitch, OOOOOOH DAMN SON SHIT’S ABOUT TO GO DOWN. Am I wrong?

It’s like how we all complain about menial things in Singapore, but the moment a foreigner complains about one small thing, it’s like HU DA FUCK IS U GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY, SON.

Your tolerance for casual racism does not equal other people’s tolerance for casual racism, so please just stop even using this as a talking point.

3. “It is not the production team’s responsibility to fight against casual racism, if they wanted a majority of Chinese in the cast or if they wanted a character a certain way, that’s their own decision”

This is right. It really is their own prerogative, and no one can fault them for that. It’s not their responsibility to be role models in the entertainment industry (though I would admit, it’d be fucking great if they were), but it does say a lot about what they really think about these issues on hand.

In my humble opinion, it comes off as if the people producing the film thinks that Indians can *only* be funny if they act like “a full-blown Indian man”- whatever the fuck that means.

But regardless, yes, it’s their prerogative, but at the same time, it’s also other people’s own prerogative to comment and bring up issues they find in their work and create a discussion about it in hopes that things could possibly change for the better in the future.

4. Chinese Privilege in the local media industry exists. Let’s just talk about the media/entertainment industry here, because Chinese privilege in its entirety is a much bigger topic that I do not have the mental energy to discuss fully right now.

For those who don’t know, I’ve been working in the media industry for almost 4 years, and even though that really isn’t a long time, I’ve seen Chinese privilege apparent all over the industry. Some people in the industry may not like that someone “on the inside” is saying this, but sadly it’s true.

Just like how it’s not J Team Production’s responsibility to enforce 100% racial equality in their films, it’s not a product company/advertising agency/production house’s responsibility to do the same for their campaigns/TV shows/ads. However, I think it is people’s responsibility to at least acknowledge that Chinese privilege is a thing that actually exists.

I personally don’t see an issue with there being more Chinese on TV than any other race. Since the Chinese do make up the majority of the nation, it only statistically makes sense. What bothers me is that because of this, some people somehow have the mentality that the Chinese should be represented more than any other race.

If you work in casting, you would know that there are way more jobs for Chinese talents than there are for any other race. Even the ABTM casting is looking for 4/5 Chinese actors for roles, with the remaining 1/5 to be between Malays or Indians.

Again, it’s people’s own prerogatives for casting whoever they want in the work that they produce, but I believe people should at least acknowledge that CHINESE PRIVILEGE DOES EXIST. And that this is an issue that could be greatly affecting some people’s lives, and that it isn’t something that can just be swept under the rug.

Someone mentioned that they were being hard with their criticism of Shrey’s post because “peace and harmony in the country is not easy and God knows our country went through shit for what we have today”. Well I personally wouldn’t say that people keeping quiet about the issues they constantly go through can be considered as “peace and harmony”.

Perhaps our country is still going through shit fighting for proper peace and harmony, and maybe that not too much of a bad thing. 💕

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