21 October 2012

Sumptuous Erotica versus Porn Masala: Same but different?



On Thursday, controversial sex blog couple Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee uploaded a YouTube video to answer “questions and fan mail”.

One of the questions was whether Miss Lee is a transsexual. I’m not sure whether that’s more insulting to Miss Lee or to transsexuals.

In the video, Miss Lee declared that she is not a transsexual and is “100 per cent woman”. I’m not sure whether that’s more insulting to transsexuals or to women.

She has defended the way-too-explicit pictures of themselves on the blog as “a work of art”.

Meanwhile, the controversial local film Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, which was banned by the Media Development Authority (MDA), has also been defended as “art”.

To quote Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh: “To misunderstand the artistic intentions of the film-maker, to ban the film without consideration of its context, sets new OB markers that sends a dangerous signal.”

She added: “Art and literature are subjective.”

Could this also be applied to the sex videos made by Mr Tan and Miss Lee?

This led me to consider the similarities and differences between the two, uh... “works of art”.

First, the similarities:
  • The movie Sex.Violence.FamilyValues has the word “sex” in the title while Mr Tan and Miss Lee’s blog was all about sex.

    The short film in the movie that led to the ban is called Porn Masala while the blog was called Sumptuous Erotica. Since “erotica” is just a polite way of saying “porn”, the blog actually had a classier title than the film.
  • In the same week that Mr Tan and Miss Lee posted the video to answer “questions and fan mail”, the Sex.Violence.FamilyValues film-makers held a press conference to answer questions from the media.
  • Both controversies originated online. One started as a blog while the other was the result of complaints about the “dirrrty” movie trailer posted online.

  • Both controversies have real-world consequences. The movie’s rating was changed from M18 to Not Allowed For All while Mr Lee, an Asean scholar at National University of Singapore, has been summoned by the school to a disciplinary hearing.

    He has also been interviewed by seemingly every local media outlet, looking mighty pleased with himself and the attention.


  • Apart from the “art” defence, both the film-makers and sex bloggers are also using the ever popular “How come Westerners can get away with it?” argument.

    Sex.Violence.FamilyValues director Ken Kwek said: “The film mocks racism in the way that films like Borat or TV series like The Office mock anti-Semitism, sexism and all other forms of prejudice.”

    Meanwhile, Miss Lee said: “It is all right for Westerners to do this but not Asians. This is double standard.”

    I would like to point out that I have seen some crazy Japanese porn (with giant horny alien tentacles!) and the Japanese are Asian.
  • Finally, both the film-makers and the sex bloggers believe they have done nothing wrong.

And now the differences:
  • Despite the word “sex” in the title, the main issue with Kwek’s movie is not the sexual content - like the blog - but the racist jokes.

    MDA said it also received complaints about the movie’s porn actress character wearing a uniform resembling that of a local school. Even though banding has been removed, this is not how a school would want to differentiate itself.

    No one cares what Mr Tan and Miss Lee wear because they don't keep their clothes on anyway.
  • The sex bloggers can't claim to have won an Audience Choice Award (Short Film) at the Gotham Screen Film Festival in New York.

    They haven't received an endorsement from the Hollywood REEL Independent Film Festival or the India International Film Festival of Tampa Bay in Florida.

    Ooh, Florida! Disneyland is there. Or is it Disney World?


  • The movie has received plenty of support from such high-profile people as star Adrian Pang (natch), NMP Janice Koh, influential blogger Mr Brown (real name Lee Kin Mun) and even my fellow New Paper columnist Neil Humphreys.

    The sex bloggers, not so much.
  • Kwek is a Singaporean. Mr Tan and Miss Lee are Malaysians. That “double standard” again?
  • I don’t think Kwek’s parents are pressuring him to withdraw the movie.
  • The movie producers need to recoup their investment by showing the movie in theatres and selling some tickets, despite calls to release the movie online to circumvent the ban. That’s why they’re appealing against the Not Allowed For All rating.

    Perhaps used to losing their shirts (since they like posing naked so much), the bloggers’ intentions are a little less mercenary - they just wanted to share their, ahem, “art” with the world for free.
  • And last but not least, no one has asked Kwek if he is a transsexual.

- Published in The New Paper, 21 October 2012

UPDATE: Sex.Violence.FamilyValues given R21 rating with edits

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