Believe me, the most exciting thing that happened in my life in my definition lately is all the laundries are dried and folded before noon. Third degree boring.
So,as always, when you’re no longer interesting anymore, look at someone else. Or someplace else. Hey, ape kate we look at what we have around here in Bolehland? ( tepuk kepala-apelah,lambatnye itu pon tak tau)
Looking hard. looking… Hah!
Let us, fellow friends, get to the most recycled issue of life here in Bolehland : race. And I don’t mean The Amazing Race, although that would be the Jewish because they are an ‘amazing’ race invading a country and killing people and still get away with it.No, I’m talking about Malay, Chinese, Indians dan lain-lain. I’ve been watching a lot of TV due to surplus dosage of spare time and i cant help tinkering, having different races means that making a drama is very difficult to do in this country. What race will be the hero be? What race is the villain?
Also, due to excessive leisure time, BBCE (channel 26) had become a favourite just because i think dry British humour are real sexy. One thing noticeable though, the impeccable way the British dramas get around the race issue and generally speaking, they do this quite lamely.
Quick background overview.
READERS BEWARE: History lesson mode may induce drowsiness.
Britain is very much a multicultural society, although post-war immigrants make up 5% of the population, and the pressure on the TV stations to reflect this is. In the old days, the only foreign character would be a Scotsman or an Irish, but now there are Afro-Caribbean, Indian, Pakistani dan lain-lain. What to do with this people? The ultimate hero favourable to the mass audience will still be white, but whenever there is a character that is merely functionary of the plot, it was barely black or brown. They rarely play an emotionally significant role (intense jealousy, anger, rage, sadness with an exception of racism)in the plot and are never, ever be the villains save for the fact if they’re killing each other.
Now, there are many movies who had defied this but some still find it unpalatable. A black ultimate hero kissing a white woman? Blah. Unless you’re Will Smith. Even he kissed a Hispanic Eva Longoria in Hitch. And Will Simth is definitely not British.
This is an indeed a tiny problem for murder mysteries because you straightaway know that the brown/black character is innocent however shady the character look( unless again, the victim was similarly black/brown). Doubters please watch Midsomer Murders on the Hallmark Channel 10 on your Astro decoder. Bottom line, this is called tokenism and it is a bad , bad thing.
In the US, things are slightly different, this is partly because they had been a part of American history since the very beginning, whereas black people had only arrived in Britain just recently( i stand corrected). When US was going through the civil rights movements in the Sixties, black people had barely begun to arrive in Britain in significant numbers.
In recent years , we see black characters on US TVs and moviescreens are played as if they are the same as you and me: they’re just regular folk-doctors, lawyers,police chiefs, dan lain-lain. They can do anything that regular white people can do. Kissing a white woman and vice versa? Yes, that too. (Save the Last dance, Desperate Housewives, Numbers dan lain-lain.). But despite the fact that they can be good romancers, they can also be good villains, which is a good thing and can be a useful guide for us in Malaysia.
” How to Portray a Villain from a Certain Race Without Causing an Uproar” -a followup of a politician dismay over a Malay being portrayed as jahat in LRT Budi Bahasa Campaign.
Right, in the TV medical drama House, starring lovable Briton rogue, Hugh Laurie, the bad guy was a rich man who happened to be black. He was the one who owned the hospital where our hero worked, and he wanted the Nike Shox adorning, jeans-wearing Dr House to toe the corporate line ( which of course, he never cared to, hell, he didnt even want to wear a labcoat- they were itchy, he said.) The best villains are always rich, and it doesn’t matter what race they are. It is assumed that rich people did terrible things to become richer and thus will continue to be badder. But if the villain is pure evil, like Voldemort, then they became boring rather than terrifying but research had shown that this isn’t a problem in TV dramas , as audience want their villains easier to digest.
What was good about the bad guy in House that once they had decided to cast a black actor, they had to work harder in order to not allow the audience to hate him because of his race. They give him a good reason for him being so ruthlessly money-grabbing, and that was because he wanted the hospital the hospital to be a successful moneymaking ventures ( heh, pun to ALL doctors).Nothing wrong with that, it’s just capitalism. Except that there is a strong mood in the global world that health care should not be about profits. So capitalism, was the true villain here and the man’s race was incidental. Get the ingenuity?
Here in Malaysia, we cannot seem to get beyond race in its most basic form. In TV dramas, of course. Sadly to say, they are devoid of race.The Malay dramas will aaaalll have malay characters and the chinese premises with Teongchews all over it and the tamil having tamils wandering all around the screen. As if in Malaysia ,we live in three different worlds.Ah, the ‘dan lain-lain’ is non-existent.
As of late , there are emerging RTM dramas who tried to incorporate our racial proportions in their dramas which i think is brilliant but is trying a bit too hard.The promos goes ” Drama tempatan muhibah pertama di malaysia…” but not the story and they are more of a soap with hundreds of episodes rather than real, quality TV. When youre trying to hard to state the obvious, like banal images of open houses(yaaawn),theres no naturality left and people are left to cringe under the table at the cheesy promos. If you want to have convincing drama here, the easiest thing to do is to avoid having different races altogether. Be natural. If everyone in the film is Chinese or Malay or watever, then you can concentrate on creating convincing heroes and villains ; but if you throw a different race into the mix, then people will get upset.
Start with issues that rise above the race, and which are universal. Greed, for instance. you can be any of race to be greedy. You can be any of race to take advantage of your positions ,betray trust, steal, kill, and nobody can stop you. The dramatist’s task is to show you how the greedy villain rationalises greed- and is allowed to get away with it.
And you have the secret recipe of a good , Malaysian TV.
P/s: Puteri and Pi Mai Pi Mai Tang Tu is a good example of realistic, natural inter-racial portrayal albeit them being light comedy sitcoms. I’ve yet to see dramas step up to the challenge.