Sunday 19 June 2016

'Repulsive': Orange Is The New Black cafeteria promo glamorises prison food, could lead to crime wave

Dear Singapore Police Force,

Sorry to bother you.

I know you must be busy dealing with parcel scams, police reports about Facebook posts and clarifying that the guy who posted on Facebook (where else?) about wanting permission to “open fire” isn’t a police national serviceman.

It would be helpful, though, if you also explained why the guy was photographed wearing what looks like a police uniform and it doesn’t say “NPCC” on the epaulet.

I would also like someone to explain to me what the guy meant when he wrote: “I would like to see these £@€$^*s die for their causes.”

What are these “£@€$^*s” he is referring to? How do you even pronounce it?

Why would anyone want to see “pound at euro dollar caret asterisks” die for their causes?

Did the keyboard of the guy who is not a police national serviceman suddenly go haywire when he typed “£@€$^*s”?

Or does he have something against foreign currencies?

Many say he was referring to the LGBT community, but he could just be very frustrated about the Brexit situation.

Hey, aren’t we all?

But I’m not writing to you, the police, about Britain possibly exiting the European Union because that would be strange.

Or about the guy who is not a police national serviceman even though he wore something that looks a lot like a police uniform.

No, I’m writing to warn you about an impending crime wave.

On Thursday and Friday, a restaurant at Liat Towers was turned into a US prison-style cafeteria to promote the new season of R21 Netflix series Orange Is The New Black, which is set in a US women’s prison called Litchfield Penitentiary and has more same-sex kissing than Les Miserables.

To quote the Chope website where you can make reservations:
“Welcome to the Litchfield Penitentiary Cafeteria, where the bad (but totally innocent) women of Orange is the New Black congregate to eat, hang and get mouthy.

“For TWO DAYS ONLY on June 16 and 17, get your COMPLIMENTARY fill of Litchfield grub for the very first time in Singapore.

“Come meet your fellow inmates, wait in line and stay hydrated with a tall plastic cup of our refreshing house beverage: water.”
Netflix even produced a video with one of the show’s stars, Lea DeLaria, saying: “You have to queue if you want to eat. Oh, wait a minute. You guys like queueing in Singapore.”

Then she winked and said “You’re gonna fit right in.”

Just because we like to queue in Singapore, we would fit in a US women’s prison cafeteria? Don’t we have to enjoy same-sex kissing too?

And what would we be queuing for anyway?

On the menu was water, corn, gravy, gruel and Nutraloaf.

You may remember gruel as something Oliver Twist used to eat.

And Nutraloaf is apparently something served to US prisoners as punishment.

No, you wouldn’t want some more.

But local chef Bjorn Shen, who created the menu for the occasion, said: “Since this is not real prison, I’ve made this dish look and feel like a Nutraloaf, but taste much better. Mine’s made of mushrooms, cheddar, quinoa, pumpkin and nori.”

Which raises the question, why isn’t this a real prison?

While I agree that some sort of detention facility on Orchard Road is needed to incarcerate shoppers convicted of fashion crimes like visible panty lines and wearing Crocs, I found this Orange Is The New Black promotion to be a little off-colour.

The US website Jezebel called it “a bad idea”. Author Piper Kerman, who wrote the autobiographical book that the series is based on, called it “repulsive”.

Remember the uproar over Singapore Island Country Club offering a “poverty simulation” class for its members four months ago?

As politically incorrect as it sounded, that was actually for a good cause — to educate and promote empathy for the poor.

And now we have a prison cafeteria simulation with the noble cause of promoting a TV show.

But that’s not even the worst of it.

My fear is that the Netflix event glamorises prison life and would encourage people to commit crime just to get into prison where the food is prepared by the 2013 Chef Of The Year and Hossan Leong is one of the prison guards.

That’s the impending crime wave I want to warn you about.

Please stay alert.

Now excuse me, I have to go transfer money to someone in China to take care of some parcel I deposited there and forgot about.

Good thing someone called to tell me. So lucky.

S M Ong

- Published in The New Paper, 19 June 2016