Sunday 25 November 2012

Real men watch Twilight (with their daughters)

Maybe we’re Vulcan.

According to Gallup, Singapore is the least emotional society in the world.

Like Singapore, the people on the planet Vulcan are not very emotional – that is, before the planet was destroyed in the 2009 Star Trek movie.

But it’s a common misconception that Vulcans have no emotions. In fact, they have plenty of emotions. It’s just that they have learnt to suppress their emotions. Some Vulcans are better at it than others.

The most famous Vulcan of all is, of course, Spock, who is actually half human since his mother is from Earth, which would suggest that he is more emotional than regular Vulcans.

It was his "ability to see beyond pure logic" that led Ambassador Spock to seek the reunification of the Vulcan and Romulan people in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation.

After all, Vulcans and Romulans already have the same pointy ears and bad haircuts.

I’m sorry, what were we talking about?

Oh yah, according to Gallup, Singapore is the least emotional society in the world.

That doesn’t mean that we have no emotions. It just means that we’re not as demonstrative as those drama queens in the Philippines who top the Gallup survey as the most emotional.

Which is a good thing or otherwise, I would be bawling my eyes out right now. And it’s not because we’re at the bottom of that survey.

Or because the Ministry of Education will no longer name the top scorers of national exams to end PSLE envy.

Or because McDonald’s has stopped selling the Samurai burger.

Or because Ms Cecilia Sue is not testifying in the sex-for-contracts trial anymore.

No, it’s because there will be no more new Twilight Saga movies.

Yes, I’m a middle-aged man who likes Twilight.

I’ve never read the books (and don’t plan to) and I got into the saga only when I saw the first movie on video out of curiosity long after its initial theatrical release and after it became a worldwide phenomenon.

Like many straight men, I was dismissive of the Twilight Saga for being derivative drivel aimed at teen girls just as I was dismissive of Sex & The City for being a wish-fulfilment fantasy for pre-menopausal women.

But when I saw the first Twilight movie, I realised that it’s actually a thoughtful character study about a teenage girl, Isabella Marie Swan, growing up and dealing with the changes in her life.

All that vampire stuff is just colour, even though the Caucasian vampires themselves don’t have much of it.

Despite criticisms about her acting, Kristen Stewart as Bella is the sympathetic emotional core of the saga.

She plays the character with just enough self-aware kookiness to justify some weird decisions Bella makes (like, for instance, falling for a vampire) yet not alienate the audience.

Unfortunately, as the movies went on, they became less about character and more about plot. When you’ve seen one climactic battle between good and bad vampires (with or without werewolves), you’ve seen them all.

Still, you care what happens in the movies because you care what happens to Bella.

But you know who my favourite character in the saga is? Bella’s dad, Charlie.

Maybe it’s because I’m also a father of a teenage girl.

For five movies, Charlie has been unaware that his daughter was dating a vampire, became a vampire herself and gave birth to a vampire-human hybrid.

He makes me look competent.

And on top of that, he’s the chief of police!

The next time I meet my boss for my job appraisal, I’m going to point out that at least I’m not as bad as the top law-enforcement officer in a town overrun with bloodsuckers and werewolves fighting each other out in the open – and he has no idea!

(Insert your own Cecilia Sue-Ng Boon Gay joke here.)

I’m going to miss Charlie.

But what I’ll miss most of all is watching the Twilight movies in the theatre with my daughter – even though we did that only for Breaking Dawn Part 1 and Part 2.

She also became a fan a little late – around the same time I did. It was perfect synchronicity. Twilight became our thing.

After watching Breaking Dawn Part 2, we once again argued over whether Kristen Stewart can act. We have never been closer.

And now Twilight is no more.

I would cry if not for Singapore being a Vulcan society.

Why can’t the Twilight producers just make more movies and disregard the books like what the James Bond producers have done?

The next Twilight movie could be about Jacob and Renesmee having a werewolf-vampire-human triple-hybrid baby who accidentally gets swapped with a very realistic-looking doll at KKH.

I guess I’m still in denial. I just have to reach that final stage of grief and accept that it’s really over.

My daughter and I tried to get into The Hunger Games, but couldn’t. Damn you, Josh Hutcherson for being too short for Jennifer Lawrence.

On the other hand, my daughter is now getting into Star Trek. The new Star Trek movie is coming out next year. It better not suck. (Get it? "Suck"? As in vampires suck?)

May the franchise live long and prosper.

For I have run out of tears.

No, I didn’t cry and you can’t prove that I did.

- Published in The New Paper, 25 November 2012

Dear Samantha,

So you thought that a movie about a baby-swap at a named maternity hospital was funny?

It is okay to ridicule a hospital where a genuine human error has occured? You know that in the current climate, the institution is not going to respond to your stupid comment. And so, you took a cheap shot.

Did the following ever occured to you?

a. KK Hospital is a tertiary perinatal centre where other institutions refer complicated pregnancies for further management? Their team of dedicated obstetricians and paediatricians look after nearly two-thirds of the complicated pregnancies in Singapore?

b. KK Hospital has a great history?

- Pioneering work in IVF in Asia was done in Singapore?

Did you read the article about the woman who conceived through IVF carried out by Prof Ratnam in KKH. Her son conceived through IVF is now studying Psychiatry in Melbourne.

- A surgical technique in Gynaecology is named after one of former Presidents, the Sheare's operation.

So, you chose to ridicule the hospital and in the process the good people working behind the scenes to do good for future generations.

As humans, we make mistakes. So processes and systems must be in place to prevent such mistakes. The best processes and systems can never reduce error to zero. If errors can be reduced to zero, then we will never have nuclear disasters, airline crashes, wrong site surgeries, cable-car accidents etc...Good systems can only reduce these errors but never eliminate them.

What if someone ridicules the quality of journalists in SPH? Would you or your management be happy about it?

COLUMN: Don't call me Samantha