Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mocca.com Advertisement

(ST Forum - Sep 24, 2007)

Man's skimpy attire in TV ad is disgusting

I wrote to Mocca.com on Sept 18 to voice my and my friends' disgust at the tasteless, vulgar advertisement that is being shown frequently over our television channels at all times of the day.

I got a reply from the customer service saying that contrary to our opinion, they had been receiving favourable feedback.

Whilst I agree that people have different interpretations of advertisements, I am wondering who the perverts are who think that this commercial, featuring a skimpily-dressed guy trying to sell his flat, is tasteful.

If majority of Singaporeans think this advertisement is all right, then I am very sad. It means Singapore's moral values have gone down the drain!

Could we have a consensus on this advertisement? If the majority thinks it is disgusting, then Mocca.com should take it off the air.

Vivien Koh Swee Hoon (Ms)

(ST Online, Forum - Sep 26, 2007)
Mocca.com commercial: Take it in the right spirit

I REFER to Ms Vivien Koh Swee Hoon's complaint against the Mocca.com television advertisement, 'Man's skimpy attire in TV ad is disgusting' (Online forum, Sept 24).

The writer must understand that there are a lot more flesh-revealing images on our media today. The man in the Mocca.com advertisement she so detests is apparently a bodybuilder and bodybuilders, just like women in beauty pageants, have to parade in skimpy clothing.

He was even doing standard bodybuilding poses. If that is disgusting, I don't know what isn't.

The advertisement was done to show the dynamism in advertising, using the irrational incompatibility of a bodybuilder selling his house as a technique to both draw laughter and advertise Mocca.com's services.

If Singapore's values have gone down the drain, we might as well scrap bodybuilding and beauty pageants as they reveal too much flesh. In that sense, we might as well ban bikinis and brief-trunks at swimming pools and beaches.

I think it is quite sad that new-age puritanism in our country threatens to rob us of our sense of fun and humour.

Ho Chi Sam

(ST Online, Forum - Oct 1, 2007)

One's idea of fun and humorous may be highly offensive to others and harmful to society

I REFER to Mr Ho Chi Sam's letter, 'Mocca.com commercial: Take it in the right spirit' (ST, Sept 26).

I strongly disagree with his views that Ms Vivien Koh Swee Hoon's complaint against the Mocca.com television advertisement, 'Man's skimpy attire in TV ad is disgusting' (ST, Sept 24), constituted 'new-age puritanism'.

Ms Koh, as a concerned member of the public, has the right to object to the advertisement's indecent and offensive content.

''Decency' is determined by what members of the public think it is, and when they express it to be decent or indecent, as Ms Koh has done.

Mr Ho should cease from extreme labels such as 'new-age puritanism'.

What he finds fun and humorous may be highly offensive to others and harmful to society.
Ms Koh's complaint is a legitimate call to decency. We should avoid unhelpful and hurtful labelling of others.

The right to free speech is not absolute; there are unwritten responsibilities attached to any right under the law.

Public decency is a common good or community value. We should not objectify human bodies, but appreciate and uphold the dignity of each person.

Andrew Lim Chia Wei


(Unpublished - Oct 1, 2007)

I refer to Andrew Lim Chia Wei's letter (ST, Oct 1), which addressed my reponse (ST, Sep 26) to Vivien Koh Swee Hoon's letter of complaint against the Mocca.com television advertisement featuring a bodybuilder selling his house (ST, Sep 24).

Lim, a homophobic married man who himself champions public morality (see ST, Jul 26 2007; also see http://www.yawningbread.org/arch_2007/yax-765.htm), mentions my view that Koh's complaints constituted new-age puritanism. I would like to point out that Koh herself had attempted to rally Singaporeans to provide theirviews on this advertisement, and went on to say that "If majority of Singaporeans think this advertisementis all right, then I am very sad. It means Singapore's moral values have gone down the drain!" (ST, Sep 24,fourth paragraph). This indicates that she expects oneout of two possible answers to be favourable, using her universalised notion of "Singapore's moral values"to influence potential respondents.

The want to universally or uniformly enforce the disciplining of sexuality and gender roles constitutes some aspects of puritanism. If Koh disliked the advertisement, because the bodybuilder was Asian, a bad actor or anything else other than promoting theerosion of morality, I feel the problem is justconfined to Koh's aesthetic preferences.

Tastefulness and distastefulness have nothing to do with morality, and hence nothing to do with my view on the Mocca.com advertisement. If the Mocca.com advertisement was truly morally degraded and offensive, I advise concerned individuals to also lookat the cartoons children are exposed to.

1) In 'Spongebob Squarepants', there are blatant representations and displays of bare buttocks. Some characters' chins resemble buttocks and scrotum. Some characters' noses resemble erect penises. Spongebob's pet snail's name "Gary" is a Scottish slang forbuttocks.

2) In 'Cow and Chicken', there were also blatant displays of buttocks and numerous crude slangs forbuttocks. The character Chicken's waddle looks like scrotum, and the character Cow's udders are oftencrudely presented. There are also animal-like suggestions in the use of "beaver", which is a slang for the woman's vagina.

3) In other cartoons, you can observe "camel-toes" on female characters, whose tight trousers reveal the outline of the female anatomy, a pair of labia.And the above are only cartoons. What are the champions of public morality doing about it?

Furthermore, in the real world, we have bikinis,thongs, hipster pants, and brief-trunks, worn by people at public places or when participating incontests. How do people like Lim and Koh reconcile their disgust with the Mocca.com advertisement and all these other realities that surround us?

People who champion public morality and conservatismneed to understand the following:

1) People have different values systems.
2) Value systems change in time.
3) Is there consistency in what they champion? If so, should they champion the ban of beauty pagents andbody builder contests too, in accordance to Koh's reasoning?

I shall now pose this question to one and all: In place of the local chinese bodybuilder in the advertisement, what if it were Arnold Schwarchenegger in his physical prime, in that advertisement, speaking in his Austrian-accented English? Or what if it were, no offence to the advertisement, done by another bodybuilder with better acting skills? We first have to understand the difference between distastefulness and immorality. Next, if we have inconsistent answers involving my hypothetical question with Schwarchenegger, I do not think the issue concerns morality, but a question of how one perceives the Asian body. Is the Asian body more distasteful than the Western one then? Perhaps we still have this mentality to easily view the 'West' as relatively more morally decadent than us 'East', thus allowing us to let Schwarchenegger slip off our moral police radar.

Humanity has disciplined the woman's body for many centuries. Look at corsets, feet-binding, witchcraft accusations, the bur'qa and so on. The public morality champions in Singapore are continuing the disciplining and policing of male and female bodies, justifying their actions and campaigns based on predisposed and preconceived notions of a possible uniformalised moral governance of humanity and of course views on genderroles and sexuality. I still maintain my stand that we should be able laugh at ourselves. As for the practice of being morally upright, it is up to us to empower ourselves to make the right decisions for us and our families as how wedeem fit, and not impose on others our values system. People in the 1950s saw Elvis Presley's dancing as vulgar, and do we want to revive that button-upculture and impose it on everyone in Singapore? Then all schoolgirls should wear ankle-high skirts.

Also, my point is never to impose my values on any one because I simply did not state them, but to let Lim know that there exist many values systems out there. Since there exist many values systems in society, it is difficult to uniformalise or homogenise society.Since it is difficult to do so, groups will strive toget bigger and bigger, so they have greater representation and vocality to influence administration and policy. You only have to look to the Straits Times Forum to know where these groups o fpeople belong. How then, do we celebrate diversity if you cannot tolerate it?

Ho Chi Sam


Leon Koh said...

I can't say I love that ad.. but its all in good humor and fun.. and I think the ad is hugely successful, considering that you pick it up and send in your complain.. means that its gaining all the attention.. good or bad publicity is good publicity!

I did have a good chuckle at that ad thought..

Sam Ho said...

the ad is actually quite good. it's creative too. but there are people out there who want to be self-righteous scaremongering moral policemen. so i feel obliged to counter them.