The Pres­tige or­a­cles

What’s the out­rage over the movie when it’s re­ally just a satire, the Se­cret Scrib­bler won­ders

Prestige (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

i once at­tended a kids’ birth­day party with a restau­rant bill big­ger than most wed­dings. The en­ter­tain­ment in­cluded DJ, face­paint­ing artist and high-end ma­gi­cian — even his bal­loon dogs looked gold-plated. The chil­dren were five.

When I was five, my birth­day party was held in the liv­ing room, where we had a crayon-colour­ing com­pe­ti­tion, which was go­ing quite splen­didly un­til my friend Danny con­fused the orange crayon for a car­rot and ate it. We couldn’t blame him. The party food was rub­bish.

Those were sim­pler times. Birth­day par­ties were eas­ier, or­gan­ised fun was cheaper and Danny’s crayon safely passed into a toi­let an hour later.

The Sin­ga­porean birth­day party, on the other hand, was more of a crazy bash hosted by rich Asian par­ents. Some might even call them crazy rich Asians.

At the party, I made small talk with the mother about the ex­clu­sive restau­rant and her re­ply has never left me. “Oh, we were very lucky,” she said, quaffi ng some­thing fizzy and ex­or­bi­tant. “You know when you’re look­ing for that per­fect place to do brunch?”

I re­ally didn’t. I don’t “do” brunch, lunch or din­ner be­cause I’m not part of Sex and the City. I don’t “do” food. I eat it.

Be­sides, I’ve never had brunch be­fore. It’s served be­tween 10am and 2pm, which my fa­ther would call a post-han­gover break­fast.

So my host’s fol­low-up was awk­ward: “Where do you do brunch?”

When I men­tioned a hawker cen­tre in Hougang, she re­sponded with a look of hor­ror that sug­gested I’d bro­ken into her house. “But the toi­lets,” she splut­tered, “they’re never clean.”

“I don’t eat my food in the toi­let,” I pointed out.

“But they’re just so, so, filthy.”

That’s not en­tirely true. Hawker cen­tre toi­lets are cleaned, with pot­ted plants added for colour, when­ever a min­is­te­rial visit is planned. If you want to pee in these places, go when the min­is­ter goes.

But my host ap­peared dis­tracted, star­ing off into the dis­tance. “I went to a hawker cen­tre once,” she said wist­fully, as if re­call­ing a per­ilous trip down the Ama­zon.

She trans­posed words and verbs in a fash­ion not heard in Sin­ga­pore, or any­where else out­side of a gen­teel tea room in Ed­war­dian Lon­don. She had that unique ac­cent found in five-star ho­tel lob­bies across the world, but nowhere else. She sounded a lot like the ac­tors in Crazy Rich Asians.

Af­ter that chil­dren’s birth­day party and a few other black­tie events, it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about over the movie. Sev­eral scenes feel like a doc­u­men­tary.

Be­sides, the clue is in the ti­tle. The movie is a com­i­cal, ex­ag­ger­ated look at a small, niche group. The Texas Chain Saw Mas­sacre wasn’t crit­i­cised for not be­ing an au­then­tic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Texas. Not ev­ery Texan wears a mask made from hu­man skin and en­gages in mass mur­der and can­ni­bal­ism. Ac­cord­ing to polls, no more than half of them pur­sue such hob­bies.

Rich Asians are not all crazy and no one ever said they were. On the contrary, their char­ity galas raise mil­lions for phil­an­thropic causes. Nev­er­the­less, I have met Sin­ga­pore­ans who’ve bought Her­mès scarves — for their dogs.

They weren’t par­tic­u­larly at­trac­tive dogs ei­ther, but the flat­faced kind whose squished fea­tures sug­gest they spend too much time chas­ing parked cars. Now, that’s a lit­tle crazy.

An­other had a child who wanted to break up the te­dium of the long va­ca­tion be­tween terms, so he was signed up for a kids’ hol­i­day camp — in the Cay­man Is­lands. Well, Sen­tosa does get ex­traor­di­nar­ily busy dur­ing the school hol­i­days.

Still, when you can af­ford to send the kid off to the Cay­man Is­lands and stick a Her­mès scarf on a pug, you’ve got noth­ing to worry about from a lit­tle rib­bing in a Hol­ly­wood movie.

Crazy Rich Asians is a com­i­cal car­i­ca­ture that pokes fun at peo­ple we’ve all met.

But the film does get one as­pect of our cul­ture spec­tac­u­larly wrong. No one sweats. Ever. In ev­ery out­door scene, no one per­spires. That’s not just crazy. That’s in­sane. Per­spi­ra­tion is the great so­cial lev­eller in our di­verse so­ci­ety. Rich or poor, ev­ery­one sweats in Sin­ga­pore.

And on that note, I’m off to put my apart­ment on the mar­ket. My kid wants a birth­day party with the high-end ma­gi­cian.

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