Opinion: Can Singaporeans Become Tainted By A Naughty Movie?
There's worse material out there in the Internet.
What’s up with the youth of today? I’ve heard that they’ve been corrupted. Or at least, I read it in the comments section of the trailer for Siew Lup, Sam Loh’s R21 movie about sex, violence, and more of both. Hedgehog Twin wrote: “Sex n violence (i dont mind e violence). thats all I see. spore getting corrupted. teenagers get affected. bc of SEXPLOITATION.” [sic]
Those are some serious accusations, Hedgehog. I notice that it’s sexual content, speciﬁcally, that grates you. Is sex in movies really so dangerous? I tracked down Loh to see how he feels about this reaction.
“I’m always very disappointed by comments like that because these people always look at local ﬁlms and pick on us. I guess it may be a very Singaporean thing—always complain and only look at the negative side. But did they actually consider the kind of hardship and difficulty in making a ﬁlm in Singapore, and in my case, a rated R21 movie that has so many restrictions to deal with?”
In other countries, using sex or violence to sell a ﬁlm might be considered a cheap tactic (does anyone remember 3D Sex and Zen?), but in Singapore, you’re crippling yourself before you start. Funding, talent, MDA and ﬁnding cinemas to distribute the ﬁnished product all become major chores. Criticise Loh all you want about his movie’s content, but don’t dismiss it as simple.
All the Singaporean ﬁlmmakers that I’ve spoken to over the years agree that Singaporeans are more sceptical of local movies than of foreign ones, and that’s crazy. 50 Shades Darker was foreign, and that was the ﬁlm equivalent of an erotic cake made out of the burnt, charred remains of a Twilight novel. That’s a ﬁlm that deserves your scepticism.
So, what sinister reason did Loh have for going out of his way to make a “sexploitation” ﬁlm? Probably to turn this generation of youths into sex zombies, right? “I’m not sure whether my erotic thrillers serve any purpose,” Loh says. “I just want to make ﬁlms that are entertaining to watch; not the usual arty fare, and HDB dramas and comedies that Singapore has been churning out and is so used to watching. We already have that kind of diet for TV dramas, so why do the same for movies?”
“Erotic thriller” deﬁnitely sounds more credible than “sexploitation”, and it’s a genre that deserves a chance to thrive. God knows what kind of sheltered hermit-simpleton would ever get corrupted by a sexy movie, but even if he were, it’s not Siew Lup’s fault. Appreciate it or not, Loh’s ﬁlm is art, and while art has the capacity to inﬂuence, it’s not responsible for how audiences react to it.
The good news is that audiences have been very supportive of Siew Lup, and I’m yet to hear of a movie-fuelled, sexually-explosive incident. I asked Loh if he thought Hedgehog Twin was on to something with his youthcorruption theory. The response was simple: “Please lah. There is far more worst stuff that you can watch on the Internet and YouTube than my NSFW trailer lah!”
Far more worst stuff, indeed.
This article was first published in the print edition of Esquire Singapore, May 2017.