Sunday 20 January 2013

Rod Monteiro & his Married Men: Getting away with it - until someone complains

It’s not about censorship.

You know, despite all the trouble I got into throughout my almost two decades working in Singapore media, I’m thankful for what I’ve managed to get away with.

For one thing, I’ve never been terminated.

On Friday, radio station Hot FM91.3 terminated its contract with The Married Men team, featuring popular DJs Rod Monteiro, Andre Hoeden and Jillian Lim, and it wasn’t because they played that song about how to blow a whistle by Flo Rida. (“You just put your lips together and you come real close.”)

It was because of a segment on Thursday involving a prank phone call containing “material that was wholly inappropriate on air and breached the terms of the contract”.

According to a Straits Times report, Hoeden had called a woman and claimed to be an officer from an embassy who was doing a background check on her.

He asked if she hit children, to which she said no. Hoeden then advised her to only hit children from poor families as they would not have the money or time to go after her with lawyers, unlike “expat children” from “very rich” families who could afford lawyers.

Just as I have apologised a number of times in this column, SPH UnionWorks senior programme director Jamie Meldrum apologised to listeners who were offended by the “indefensible” segment.

In other words, people complained, probably not for the first time.

So bye bye, Married Men.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after all these years in this business, it’s that as long as no one complains, you would be amazed by what you can get away with.

Just look at Sex.Violence.FamilyValues, which you now can do so after the Media Development Authority (MDA) lifted the ban on the local movie over a week ago.

Last October, the Ken Kwek film already had its premiere screening in Singapore when its M18 rating was withdrawn by MDA after people complained about the movie’s online trailer containing racist jokes about Indians.

The movie can now be shown under a R21 classification “with edits”. The film’s producers said in a press release that the MDA's edits included “beeps and mutes” on dialogue considered offensive.

So they almost got away with it, but then shot themselves in the foot with the trailer, which led to the complaints which led to the ban which now leads to a compromised version of the movie, which I guess is better than not being allowed to show it in Singapore at all.

With all the publicity, which peaked three months ago, the producers may still be able to make some money from people curious to see what the fuss was about.

I suspect that the “beeps and mutes” will be to cover racist dialogue that can already be heard in the trailer, which is still online. So if you’ve seen the trailer, you probably won’t be missing much.

Another film that was unbanned in Singapore last week was the sex addiction movie, Shame, starring Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

Last year, MDA gave it an R21 rating on condition that a group sex scene be edited. Unlike the Sex.Violence.FamilyValues producers, Shame director Steven McQueen refused to make the edit and so the movie was withdrawn from Singapore.

Now it’s being shown uncut by the Singapore Film Society to its members.

Perhaps if the Sex.Violence.FamilyValues producers wait a year, they can also show their movie unedited to the film society members, that is, if anyone still cares by then.

At least they didn’t have to wait 44 years, which was how long it took the movie Wit’s End (also known as The G.I. Executioner) to be finally shown here.

Billed as the first American film shot entirely in Singapore, Wit’s End was produced in 1969 and will be screened at The Arts House (in the Old Parliament House) from Jan 23 to 30.

According to the trailer I saw on YouTube, the “incredible action of The G.I. Executioner could only take place against the background of sultry Singapore” from “the exotic glamour of the Raffles Hotel to the erotic danger of the Singapore pleasure palaces”.

The movie is rated M18 and I don’t know whether it will be shown uncut, but the trailer offers ample nudity and one goofy scene involving gay bondage.

Yet, no one has complained about the trailer - probably because it doesn’t contain any racist jokes about Indians.

Actually, the whole movie is available on YouTube for those of you interested in seeing, uh... what Singapore looked like back in 1969.

After all these years, it still surprises me what gets complaints and what doesn’t. So trying to avoid them can be rather futile.

Back when I was writing for Phua Chu Kang, there was an episode where Rosie was pulling Chu Beng away from Margaret because Rosie believed Margaret was turning into a vampire.

Rosie said to Chu Beng: “I’m trying to save you! She’ll suck you to death.”

And he said: “Well, I was hoping she would.”

Yes, that actually went on air. I’m not proud.

It makes the lyrics of Flo Rida’s Whistle seem subtle by comparison.

Looking back, I’m almost appalled that I got away with it, but no one complained. And it wasn’t like no one watched the show. That was the highest rated episode of the series.

Maybe it was because there weren’t any racist jokes about Indians.

The danger is that the more you keep getting away with it, the more you keep pushing your luck until...

We’ll miss you, Married Men. Consider this a divorce.

Please don’t complain about this column.

- Published in The New Paper, 20 January 2013