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That TV clip which went viral

So many people have been talking about the Channel 8 show 118 that I had to go and find out for myself what the fuss was about. It’s actually over a 90 second rant by a young man about the cost or standard of living. His parents were chiding him for some underhand methods he had doing business – and he just let it go. In Mandarin. This is my very loose translation.

“You think I’m the only one anxious to make money? Go ask other young people, who’s not anxious? By the time I finish serving the nation and graduate from university, I’ll be 23, 24 years old. In a blink of an eye, I’ll be 30. In these few years, I need to get married; buy a house, start a family with kids; how is that possible without money? A flat now costs at least $300,000 to $400,000. Let’s talk about basic daily expenses…For someone working in the CBD, who takes two or three train trips, sometimes when you’re in a hurry; you take a cab, just transportation fees itself will cost $6-$7. Even the cheapest lunch cost up to $5-$6, a cup of coffee cost $6-$7 at a cafe! Never mind that, the government wants us to get married and set up a family early, but I’ve to get girlfriend first right? If I don’t bring her out for meals, movies, overseas trips once in a while and buy her branded items occasionally, nobody would want me even if I look as good as a celebrity. Some people have to go to university, take loans and even give the family an allowance. A wedding banquet cost $1000 and above for a table. A wedding photo shoot is $3000 to $4000. All this costs money, money, money! Our generation don’t ask for a luxurious lifestyle. Just to maintain our basic expenses, we have to go out and earn more money. I’m sure you don’t want your son to end up asking you for money to throw a wedding banquet or to buy a flat when he is starting a family. Yes, I agree my methods may be extreme and I’m in the wrong. But the fault is not in me, it is caused by the society.”

Apparently, the video clip resounded so much with people that it went viral. It touched a chord – or is it a raw nerve? So many people weighed in, applauding MediaCorp for the script. They said it represented reality – that everything was getting too expensive. I was thinking to myself that it was very odd for MCS to be so politically incorrect. I mean, where’s the balance? I mean, you can use your CPF money with bits contributed by employer for housing – and don’t forget all the grants you can get for staying with parents or near them. I mean, do you have to have coffee at Starbucks? You can still get coffee at less than $1. You don’t have to throw a $1,000 per table wedding banquet do you? Why not ditch that expensive girlfriend? And how dare you blame society for everything!

At least, I can hear these answers from authoritative sources and old fogies which will balance out his rant. Much like Tan Pin Pin’s movie To Singapore With Love, right? No balance. I doubt that her movie will make communists out of the people or make them resort to subversive action. But, hey, this MCS clip is really, really subversive. And it’s free-to-air!

So I was interested to see what MCS has to say about the clip going viral. TODAY obliged today.

The show’s scriptwriter Ang Eng Tee (of The Little Nyonya fame) said he had written the monologue to represent the views of a certain type of young person.

“The character is focused on branded goods and flashy cars. He represents that sort of young person’s values,” Ang said. “He feels life is stressful because a cup of coffee from a popular chain costs S$6 and he needs to buy his girlfriends branded gifts.” The 54-year-old writer said when he was writing the character of Shun Shui, he spoke to many young people, including friends of his 23-year-old daughter, to get their views. “I know a lot of young people feel a lot of stress and can relate,” he said. “(But) the clip that was uploaded to Facebook probably provoked a bigger reaction because it was an isolated 90-second bit of dialogue.”

Oh dear! So this is said to be representative of a sort of young person’s values. I hope it’s a small minority. (I hope it’s not like the beautiful young people featured in Sunday Times Lifestyle pages who don’t mind splurging several thousand dollars on a designer handbag not even a year into their foray into the workplace because it is a “statement’’ about their identity. In fact, I have no clue what that article was trying to prove – that there are such young people? Sorry, I digress)

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Now, the scriptwriter said that if the clip was viewed in context, the character’s parents were chiding him about his credit card debt, “but this young person didn’t care’’. “I think he represents some of the people in Singapore. I don’t think there are a lot of them.’’ He said that there were other characters in the show who are “more grounded’’, like a 30-something who would rather drink $1 coffee at the kopitiam.

So revealing. The under-30s who play free and loose with money and an above-30 who is more frugal. Maybe, the younger character will age and be landed with house and family, forcing him to drink coffee at the kopitiam.

What is interesting is how so many people saw the clip and cheered it. It’s like taking someone’s quote out of context. What has happened to living within your means? And is it so important to maintain a certain lifestyle that you would break the bank, have three months worth of credit card arrears or do something underhanded?

I know this is just a drama series, but it is worrying to me that to some, it sounds true to life – when in fact, the truth is, most spending is within our control.

Written By

An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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