Skip to Content

Singapore, you’re famous

by April 23, 2017 General

APRIL 23 — Did you know Harlem in New York City is safer than 63 per cent of other cities in the US?

In fact NYC ranks as one of the safest cities in world effortlessly outranking Hong Kong, Taipei or even Montreal?

Yet the majority of television shows including the recent cult hit Luke Cage or the neverending Law & Order continue to portray the streets as dangerous.

We watch the shows, we enjoy the narratives and we continue to live our lives with very little hullabaloo on Facebook.

So why do my fellow countrymen get so excited when a completely fictionalised show (because I assure you most terrorist organisations or serial killer can be brought down in neat 60-minute parcels) portrays Singapore with a little more creative licence than we are used to?

The show Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders aired an episode recently featuring the mean streets of Singapore or more specifically Geylang.

In the show, the protagonist describes our “red-light” district as an “overcrowded slum with a thriving underworld.”

The iconic Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is often shown in movies... the last time was in ‘Independence Day 2.’ — Picture from commons.wikimedia.orgThe iconic Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is often shown in movies… the last time was in ‘Independence Day 2.’ — Picture from commons.wikimedia.orgAnd it is difficult not to laugh because… it is Singapore lah.

I once hosted a friend from South Asia who remained neutral to all the sights and sounds of Singapore as I worked hard to elicit a wow for my city with elaborate itineraries and restaurant reservations.

She remained polite but unimpressed.

Then on her final evening, we headed to my estate’s mall to watch a late show and after the film ended at 2am, I suggested we cut through the park and walk home.

Finally, I got her jaw to drop. And it remained slack-jawed as she noticed so many people (particularly single women in shorts and singlets) cutting across the park in relative darkness completely unperturbed.

But the point I was trying to make returns — most people watching the show who have been to Singapore (much like people who watch Law & Order and have been to NYC) know that television isn’t meant to be an accurate source of news

I appreciate the more tongue-in-cheek responses from blogger Mr Brown and even the Singapore Tourism Board; it is the earnest, outraged reactions which worry me.

What does it say about our standing in pop culture if we are unable to accept the elasticity of truth in television and films?

Did these same people rush downtown to ensure Marina Bay Sands still stood after watching Independence Day 2?

I think (and hope) it’s because we are new to it.

It is only in recent years that the city state has risen in its cachet as one of the defining cities in the world and perhaps Singaporeans are still unaccustomed to all the infamy that comes along with it.

Personally, I’m impressed that some bored Hollywood writer bothered to do enough research to zero in on Geylang which is, in my opinion, one of the few places where walking around at night is still a little exciting and maybe is home to a thriving underworld?

Those parang-wielding durian stall owners look fierce.