Monday 30 September 2019

Toggled: I watched Joanne Peh's 'nude' scene in Last Madame and I feel so dirty now

Okay, I fell for it.

When I read that Mediacorp actress Joanne Peh was going nude for the first time in a drama, Last Madame, I was curious enough to want to watch the show.

Yes, “curious”. That was it.

At first, I thought it’s a Channel 8 drama series, but then I learnt it’s in English.

Oh, so it’s on Channel 5?

Wrong. It’s on Toggle, sort of like Mediacorp’s version of Netflix except nobody says “Toggle and chill”.

All 12 half-hour episodes of the M18-rated series dropped last Thursday for you to binge and purge.

On the day of release, Peh posted a blurry photo on Instagram with the warnings “Mature content” and “Restricted access”. What a tease!

When you swipe left, you can see a still from Last Madame of Peh and co-star Jeff Chou topless in bed but not showing much, just a lot of bare shoulders.

I guess if you want to see more, you have to watch the show.

Peh, a mama of two who plays a mamasan in the drama, wrote on Insta:
“It took me a long time to decide if I would go nude for our bed scene in Last Madame. A story set in a brothel in the 1930s, we can’t shy away from sex.”
The 36-year-old ex-girlfriend of Bobby Tonelli said she made the right decision because “showing two bodies moving in unison captured the passions and inner conflict of the two characters so vividly, it pushed the show to a different level”.

“Two bodies moving in unison”? I couldn’t create my free Toggle account fast enough.

Again, I was just curious. Perhaps a little too eagerly so.

I made the mistake of watching the whole of the first episode before realising the “bodies moving in unison” scene is not in the first episode. That was 36 minutes of my life I will never get back. (The episodes are laboriously longer than publicised.)

I went online and found out that the sought-after nude scene is in the ninth episode after the 23-minute mark.

Here’s what you see.

It starts with a close-up of clasping hands before fading to black.

Then a close-up of Chou kissing Peh’s upper lip, which is how actors in local shows pretend to kiss each other on the mouth without actually kissing. No tongue.

Another fade to black.

Next, a close-up of him kissing down the side of her waist and some sort of weird puncture wound or a very scary mosquito bite above her right hip.

And yet another fade to black.

The scene continues with a few unrevealing shots of them “moving in unison” and breathing heavily interspersed with even more fade-to-black transitions.

It’s over in just over a minute (no reflection on Chou, I’m sure) and half of it is a black screen. That’s all we get for M18?

I now suspect the M18 rating is just for all the smoking in the first scene of the first episode.

Even Peh wanted more nakedness.

Asked about the scene by 8 Days magazine, she said:
“When the final cut came out on Toggle, I was, mmm, slightly disappointed. I think we could really have shown a little bit more probably, because no body parts were shown.”

Actually, body parts are shown – hands, hips, plenty of shoulders – just not the right ones.

So why do I feel so dirty after watching the scene?

Mrs Qi Yiwu used the promise of nudity to appeal to my basest instinct – curiosity – and I let her.

I should have known better. It was the oldest trick in the book. Sex sells.

I wonder how many other people fell for it too and created a Toggle account they will never use again.

If I didn’t have the potential to excel in life, I should be punished by being forced to watch all 12 episodes of Last Madame.

Fade to black.

- Published in The New Paper, 30 September 2019

Sunday 29 September 2019

18.45km Straits Times Run in hazy photos

Actually, no haze.

My first race since Februrary.

Flag-off at Sports Hub at 5.30am.

I started out fast (for me) - maybe too fast because I totally lost steam after 5km.

That was hard.

Monday 16 September 2019

Peel The Onion: Could Media Literacy Council be right? Satire can be fake news? Yes, but...

Why did the Media Literacy Council (MLC) say that satire was fake news?

I blame Mrs Lim Hwee Hua.

Remember her?

You should. She is the first woman to become a full minister in Singapore when she was promoted to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009.

But she was voted out in the 2011 General Election after her People’s Action Party team lost Aljunied GRC to the Workers’ Party.

And that might have been a good thing.

Because the next year, she shared fake news on Facebook.

The article was about then US President Barack Obama complaining about partisan politics and asking a crowd at a campaign rally why he would want to serve another term as president of “this godforsaken country”.

If you didn’t read the article too closely, you could easily mistake it for a genuine US news report.

That was why Mrs Lim shared it with the comment:
“Increasingly challenging everywhere, whatever Obama’s campaign strategy might be.”

The problem was that the article was from The Onion, a Peabody Award-winning US satirical newspaper, which Mrs Lim had apparently never heard of.

The article was satire. It was also fake news.

She might have known this if she had read other Onion articles like “Study reveals: Babies are stupid” and “9/11 hijackers surprised to find selves in hell”.

I believe this must be why the MLC posted a graphic that said satire was a type of fake news, which got the council into so much trouble recently.

It was all Mrs Lim’s fault.

Wait, you may ask, doesn’t this Onion episode illustrate that satire can be fake news and that the MLC was right?

Well, yes and no.

The issue is that even though fake news may be satire, not all satire is fake news.

It could just be local DJ Chris Ho posting on Facebook:
“I’m with you foreigners! Kill the (censored) Singaporeans but not my friends, can?”
That actually happened in 2014. He called it his “little satirical remark”.

But I think the larger issue is that in Singapore, “fake news” has become a loaded term. (And not because of Donald Trump.)

We now conflate “fake news” with “Pofma”, a cute name for what many consider a scary new law, the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act, passed four months ago.

To many, by equating satire with fake news, the MLC appeared to be saying that satire came under Pofma and that would make people like Ho and beloved self-described “satirist” Mr Brown criminals to be prosecuted. (I’m safe because I’m merely an alleged humour columnist.)

To assuage such fears, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugan said last Friday:
“The suggestion that satire is covered by Pofma is erroneous. We’ve been very clear, I’ve been very clear, both in Parliament and outside, Pofma does not cover satire.”

But he defended the MLC as “good people” even though this is the council’s second Facebook mishap in two years.

Last year, it was “Signs your child is a cyberbully” that got the council cyberbullied.

This year, it is fake news about satire being fake news from the organisation formed by the Government in 2012 to educate us about online hazards like cyberbullying and fake news.

The MLC has apologised for the post.

But Mrs Lim Hwee Hua didn’t for sharing fake news seven years ago.

In those carefree pre-Pofma days, after she realised the news article she shared was fake, she just wrote:
“Indeed, it is increasingly challenging everywhere – to foster a trusting relationship between government and people, and between people and people, and to differentiate between real and not-so-real news.”
She could be one of those people who thought The Noose was the news.

Her gaffe is even mentioned on the Wikipedia page about The Onion.

I guess it was fortunate she was voted out of office by then because as a former minister who shared fake news rather than a sitting minister who shared fake news, she was a little less embarrassing to the Government.

Then the Media Literacy Council came along.

- Published in The New Paper, 16 September 2019

Monday 2 September 2019

Woman forced open MRT door because of 'autistic sister': 'Hoax' claim also a hoax?

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said last week that commuters may have to wait longer for trains during off-peak hours.

He must be expecting more delays caused by desperate women forcing open doors in MRT stations and getting stuck between them.

That last part is not true. It’s my attempt at a joke. You know that – I hope.

I don’t want to be accused of spreading fake news. As Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned in his National Day Rally speech, POFMA will catch me.

Already too much fake news has been going around lately.

There was no ceiling collapse in Jewel Changi Airport or stabbing in Tampines Mall as alleged in a couple of viral videos.

There is no gang war in Yishun, although a man in Yishun was caught trying to steal a bra from a pole hanging outside a second-storey flat with an umbrella, which is unfortunately not fake news and probably more disturbing.

But the viral video of the woman forcing open the MRT doors at the Little India station is legit. We know that because SBS Transit confirmed that the incident happened last Monday at 3.30pm.

People criticised the woman for her anti-door behaviour.

Then a screengrab of a Reddit post by someone named “phong” started circulating.

It read:
“I know this auntie. While everyone here is blasting her, I thought I will provide some context for her actions.

“The lady who scurried into the train first? Her younger sister, who is autistic. Who has a history of wandering off and forgetting her way home.

“Hopefully you will begin to understand her motivations for trying so hard to board the train after her.”
Though it was unverified, many shared the post as fact and vilification turned into sympathy.

Then a Twitter user named EllieTay tweeted a whole thread to claim:
“She is my mother and regarding the story about her chasing her autistic sister is a hoax.”
She explained:
“What actually happened is that she and her friend were rushing to get home… (This was at the time where everyone is also getting home from work) and the MRT was packed with people, my mother’s friend got in first, with my mother from behind didn’t want to be left alone to wait for another train, barged forward and pried open the door which got her stuck.”
EllieTay added:
“When my mother and her friend arrived at their stop, they were approached by the SMRT staff for questioning. I was called in to pick up my mother and have talked to the staff, fortunately they are not asking for any compensation for the door, they only gave a warning to my mother to be more careful.”
So which account is true?

While a couple of websites have reported the tweets, they have not been as widely shared as the “autistic sister” post.

My guess is people are now wary that the tweets claiming that the earlier post was a hoax may be a hoax too. Once bitten, twice shy.

The funny thing is that you can see that reporters from The Straits Times, The New Paper and Channel NewsAsia have replied to the one of EllieTay’s tweets, asking her to get in touch with them, most likely to verify her claims.

Since the news outlets have yet to report the tweets, it’s safe to assume they have not been verified. Don’t want POFMA to catch them and all that.

I find the tweets rather dubious myself.

First, EllieTay said the incident took place when everyone was “getting home from work”, but SBS Transit had said it happened at 3.30pm, which is not when most people leave work.

Second, she said “the MRT was packed with people”, but in the video, the train and the platform were not “packed” – since, you know, it was only 3.30pm.

Third, she said that “SMRT staff” approached her mother and friend for questioning, but the incident happened on the Downtown line, which is operated by SBS Transit, not SMRT.

Okay, maybe she got the two rail operators mixed up, which is understandable enough, but I doubt that the staff members could have so quickly identified and tracked down the mother and friend at a different station. That’s a lot of surveillance, coordination and running around just to give someone a warning.

Also, SBS Transit hasn’t said anything about having spoken to the passengers involved in the incident, which I believe it would if it did.

What do you believe?

What do you want to believe?

An auntie running after an autistic sister is a better story than a mother trying to catch up to a friend.

And that’s what makes fake news so seductive. It’s hard to resist sharing a good story.

Sometimes you wish the news was fake.

Like when the Transport Minister says you may have to wait longer for the train.

Hey, where’s my bra?

- Published in The New Paper, 2 September 2019