Remember how thrilling it was that Singapore was featured so prominently in a big-budget Hollywood movie?
Remember how disappointing and surreal it was, yet somewhat expected and amusing, that the Singapore depicted in the movie bore zero resemblance to the real Singapore?
I mean, Chow Yun Fat is married to Singaporean. Couldn’t he have thrown in some lahs and mehs in the movie?
He could’ve said something like: “Aiyah, Captain Jack, why you so like that one?”
Anyway, I was thrilled, disappointed and amused that Singapore was mentioned in another US show this month, this time the sitcom Suburgatory.
It was in a scene where a character named Dahlia was talking to her high school friends.
Here is the dialogue.
Dahlia: My dad is getting remarried, you guys, to a super cool air stewardess on Air Singapore. Her name is Wan Er.
Friend: Wan Er?
Dahlia: Wan Er is like the name Dahlia over there. All the hot bitches have it
Friend: Is Wan Er really pretty?
Dahlia: No. She’s gorgeous. She’s basically a Singaporean supermodel and I’m going to be maid of honour at the wedding. And we’re going to sell the pictures to the Asian Internet for $10 million.
Friends: Ooh... wow ...
Dahlia: And I’m going to go with them on their honeymoon and there’s a fairly good chance that shortly thereafter I would be named queen of Singapore.
I think that’s the most anyone on a US show has talked about Singapore without actually coming to Singapore.
Okay, let’s go through the departures from reality one by one.
The name Wan Er is plausible except that it was pronounce “One Air” on the show, which made it less plausible.
But the line about all the hot bitches in Singapore having the name is clearly a joke because all the hot bitches in Singapore actually have the name Jane.
The queen of Singapore line is obviously also a joke because the only Singapore royalty I know is Zoe Tay, the queen of Caldecott Hill, and Kumar, the queen of queens.
But the most glaring mistake, of course, is that there’s no such thing as Air Singapore.
I mean, even if you Google Air Singapore, you’re going to get Singapore Airlines.
Could TV writers be even too lazy to Google? I know I was, but then I wasn’t paid as much as TV writers in the US.
With the Internet and globalisation, Hollywood just can’t get away with this sort of isolationist ignorance anymore.
On the other hand, it may not be a mistake. It could be that the producers intentionally chose to make it a fictional airline to avoid legal problems.
Then why not make it a fictional country too? Like Singalasia or something.
Then the writers could make up whatever they want about the country.
They could have hot bitches named One Air. They could have a monarchy-based government.
They could have fluffy clouds of foam drifting onto the roads on Deepavali morning. No, wait, that actually happened.
But I guess the writers decided on Singapore because it’s a country that American viewers have heard of but don't know enough about to know that there’s no such thing as Air Singapore.
What was weird was another scene in the same episode of Suburgatory where Dahlia spoke in English to Wan Er on Skype, who replied in actual Mandarin, not fake Hollywood chong-chong gibberish Mandarin.
So the producers were diligent enough to hire an actress who could speak Mandarin (but looked nothing like a supermodel, by the way), yet not enough to find out that a Singaporean air stewardess would most likely reply to Dahlia in English - lahs and mehs are optional.
On Suburgatory, it seemed that Singapore is still in China.
And what’s this about the “Asian Internet”?
All is forgiven, Chow Yun Fat.
- Published in The New Paper, 18 November 2012