Blogger Xiaxue hits out at Shrey Bhargava’s Ah Boys to Men 4 audition experience

Chitra Kumar

Singaporean blogger Xiaxue has hit out at local actor Shrey Bhargava as “your whining rings hollow” in one of her two Facebook posts.

Here’s the background of the story, which you can read hereShrey is a Singaporean Indian actor who auditioned for Ah Boys to Men 4. On 27 May (Saturday), he took to Facebook to express his disappointment over his casting experience which left him “feeling disgusted” because the casting director had told him to perform as “a full blown Indian man” and “to make it funny”.

In her Facebook post on 27 May (Saturday), Xiaxue began to air her opinions with a string of Fs. “First off, get the F*** off your f****** high horse,” she wrote.

To Shrey, she said in her post: “You are an actor, or trying to be one anyway. Actors are hired to act in a fictional ROLE. Not as themselves, nor what their perception of the role should be like. Sometimes the roles are comical caricatures. You object? Good, go write your own movie and star in it.”

Xiaxue went on to gather examples from movies to elaborate her line on “movies are chockful of stereotypes.”

Such as American actress Melissa McCarthy who has starred in many comedies.

For a local example, she highlighted Singaporean actor, host and film director Jack Neo, who is also the director behind Ah Boys to Men 4.

“If Jack Neo is racist for asking an Indian person to speak in an Indian accent, then he must be the most self hating racist ever because he is Liang Si Mei, who is a typical uneducated and kiasu Chinese auntie, the sort you meet at wet markets,” she wrote.

Xiaxue also rebutted Shrey’s take on playing a solider with a Singaporean accent who spoke in colloquial Singlish.

“You are ok with a Singaporean Indian role speaking colloquial Singlish, but not ok with him speaking in a heavy Indian accent. Why is an Indian accent somehow considered more embarrassing than grammatically wrong English when both are protrayed as comical?,” she quizzed.

She ended her post saying “nobody made you feel like a foreigner in your own country. You are a Singaporean asked to play a Singaporean role in a Singaporean movie.”

“Stop being so hypersensitive and uptight ffs,” she wrote.

An extract of Xiaxue’s Facebook post: 

OK WHERE DO I BEGIN?

First off, get the f___ off your f___ing high horse. You are an actor, or trying to be one anyway. Actors are hired to act in a fictional ROLE. Not as themselves, nor what their perception of the role should be like. Sometimes the roles are comical caricatures. You object? Good, go write your own movie and star in it.

Movies are chockful of stereotypes. So? If the story needs a stereotype it will have a stereotype. You think Christoph Waltz, an Austrian-German portraying a sociopathic Nazi, won the Academy Award by whining to the director about how he is very hurt that Germans are always portrayed as nazis in film, especially when modern Germany isn’t filled with nazis anymore and this is a painful stereotype? No he didn’t, because the story needed a stereotypical Nazi. So he did what actors do. ACT.

You think the nerdy actors in Big Bang Theory are whimpering about how physicists shouldn’t be protrayed as socially awkward virgins because not all physicists are? Or that Melissa McCarthy is objecting to the roles she typically gets as a klutzy sassy lady because not all fat people are like this? Or perhaps Rachel McAdams flipping the table when she found out that yet another blonde cheerleader is typecast as a mean girl? Is Mike Myers supposed to be angry when asked to fart and burp because #notallogresare uncouth?! What? No movie can ever have a stereotype again?! Oh we better not have another romantic comedy with another heterosexual couple! That is SO stereotypical and insulting, are these actors nothing more than their XX and XY chromosomes?!

I’m sorry you are so easily triggered but exaggerated accents are FUNNY. This is true of EVERY accent, be it the affected French, the stuffy English, the over affectionate Italian, the cowboy Texan, the confused Asian, the villainous Russian. Jian Yang in Silicon Valley speaks in a typical exaggerated Chinese accent where rice turns to lice. It’s hilarious. If Jack Neo is racist for asking an Indian person to speak in an Indian accent, then he must be the most self hating racist ever because he is Liang Si Mei, who is a typical uneducated and kiasu Chinese auntie, the sort you meet at wet markets.

God forbid any Indians are allowed to speak in a heavy Indian accent in any local film from now on. All of them must speak in a polished, respectable way because Shrey says so! Please get the stick out of your ass. It’s COMEDY, where every character regardless of race is a funny caricature. It’s not a propaganda film to promote Singaporean Indians in Singapore/overseas. You want propaganda go film it yourself.

Wait, but here’s what I’m confused about. You are ok with a Singaporean Indian role speaking colloquial Singlish, but not ok with him speaking in a heavy Indian accent. Why is an Indian accent somehow considered more embarrassing than grammatically wrong English when both are protrayed as comical?

Singaporean Indians in movies should not speak in an Indian accent? What made you the supreme authority on how all Indians should be portrayed like? There are indeed Indians with thick Indian accents, why shouldn’t they be represented in movies? Must they be made to feel ashamed of their accent just because YOU find it so disgraceful that you felt disgusted with yourself after speaking it? And what’s a “regular international accent” anyway? Is it the accent uppity people have when they study overseas, think they are very worldly when they come back and suddenly develop a fake accent while finding their own farts smell really good? I think I know that one.

And then we go to the subtle passive aggressive attacks on the ‘majority race’, even though Shrey has left it unnamed. What’s the deal here? What did Chinese people do?! Because we find Indian accents funny we are now racist, even though so many of us wish for Tharman to be the next PM (myself included)? Hello we also find Lulu funny, she speaks with a Cheena Chinese accent. Singaporeans, not just the ‘majority race’, find Irene Ang in Phua Chu Kang funny, and she’s a caricature of a loudmouth Chinese auntie. Whether you like it or not, stereotype humour will always have an audience. It isn’t racism because the characters are there for people to identify with, not to mock. Forrest Gump plays a low intelligence character but nobody is mocking him when they watch the show. There is a difference.

Stop saying bullshitty things like you are nothing more than the colour of your skin to your entire country just because in this ONE instance you were asked to speak in a comical exaggerated accent. Ridiculous. I suppose whenever someone asks me to sing Kill Bill I will break down because my only self worth is being a horse for entertainment.

And lastly… nobody made you feel like a foreigner in your own country. You are a Singaporean asked to play a Singaporean role in a Singaporean movie. I literally cannot think of anything that can make someone feel more Singaporean, except maybe when they are handed keys to their BTO or given a voting slip.

Stop being so hypersensitive and uptight ffs. The self importance masked as noble social justice is palpable. Through your post, you claim that ABTM is racist but all the exchange showed is that they find the accent funny and think the movie audience will like it. You, on the other hand, find the accent embarrassing and disgraceful, and think you are one of the Singaporean Indians who are better than those who speak like that. I’ll leave this here to let people decide which is worse.

P/s: After your blatant name calling for a non issue, I wonder if anyone dares to audition you for anything else in future in case you go off on a tirade about accents again and tell everyone how racist the film is. “How dare you make me speak Legalese for this role!!!! Not all Indians are lawyers you know!”

Edit: WTF!! Link to Shrey’s post in the comments because somehow, if I add it to this post and people share the post it will not share what I wrote but only his post. Get your shit together Facebook!

Click for Xiaxue’s Facebook post.


Separately, Facebook user Donovan Choy said in a post “there was nothing racist” about Shrey’s audition.

Choy said the Ah Boys to Men 4 casting crew was “not racist and the element of racism here is non-existent because that was the role that is being demanded of you here, whether it was that of a Singaporean Indian, North Indian, British Indian or Red Indian,” he wrote.

Click for Choy’s Facebook post.


Shrey has hit back with a rebuttal, lashing out at his critics, especially those who told him off saying he should not have audition in the first place if he is so against the role. He also insinuated that most of his critics are Chinese:

“Also, many people are, from their privileged point of views, finding it easy to suggest that I shouldn’t even have auditioned. This brings to light yet another issue. Most of the people saying this are Chinese, and they can say it because if it were them, they could very easily not audition and just look for another casting call. But we as minorities don’t have the luxury of a variety of choices of roles to audition for. Many of us struggle to sustain our careers as actors because there just aren’t enough minority roles to begin with.”

Here’s Shrey’s rebuttal in full:

“The problem in the casting already began with the casting call ‘Malay/Indian’

–> This shows that to the production house it doesn’t matter if the character is Indian or Malay, its just a token minority character to add to the humor. This is a problem, when you’re making a film that you say is a SINGAPOREAN story. When other characters in the script are all mostly Chinese, and even though they have stereotypical features, they are fleshed out and have a significant story.

I, as an actor, audition, because we actors need jobs, we actors have to audition to get work, and guess what, the status of things are that bad that there aren’t many minority roles out there. All the more big productions like ABTM have the responsibility to (if they’re writing roles for minorities, to not perpetuate such stereotypes).

I could very well not audition but that’s besides the point, it’s sweeping the issue under the rug. It’s about time we as Singaporeans realize that the entertainment we consume should not be at the expense of one another.

And back to the issue of the casting call. To have the minority role be Indian/Malay and then want it to be funny by exaggerating the Malayness or Indianness is necessarily a race issue because it is specifically race and not other attributes that’s drawing in the humor. That’s when comedy slides into outright racially offensive humor – comedy at the expense of others.

There is a lot of intelligent comedy out there. If you say that stereotypes and caricatures are the basis of comedy, sure on one level you’re not wrong – it is precisely that that has made characters like Aloysious, Ip Man and Lobang funny, but when RACIAL stereotypes become the basis of comedy, that’s when it’s a problem. The aforementioned 3 characters aren’t funny because of their race. In fact, slapstick humor such as stereotyping is arguably the most basic crudest form of comedy.

Comedy is funny when it reflects TRUTH. Intelligent witty comedies, always are tragic stories that reflect the truth of a character’s suffering, and a character’s misfortune is what makes it funny. But it has to be true!

It’s time for us to as a nation say, we’re above such shallow comedy. We want local films to grow, local culture to evolve, our industry to prove that we are a society that sees beyond each other’s race to appreciate humor.

We decide what we consume. Let’s reclaim our local shows and films and make them something we can be proud of – something ALL Singaporeans can be proud of. Now wouldn’t that be awesome?

EDIT:

Also, many people are, from their privileged point of views, finding it easy to suggest that I shouldn’t even have auditioned. This brings to light yet another issue. Most of the people saying this are Chinese, and they can say it because if it were them, they could very easily not audition and just look for another casting call. But we as minorities don’t have the luxury of a variety of choices of roles to audition for. Many of us struggle to sustain our careers as actors because there just aren’t enough minority roles to begin with.

And now, if you suggest that still, I ought to have just not auditioned, I implore you to check the position you’re coming from. Minority actors do not have the privilege to pick and choose what to audition for. And I know I speak for countless minority actors who have had to suck it up and keep auditioning for roles that demean them or the community they come from just to sustain a living. And the time has come to change this.”

Who’s right and who’s wrong?

Is Shrey a victim of racism? Or is he too sensitive?

Is Xiaxue a racist? Or is she just calling out the boy who cry wolf?

Photos of Shrey and Xiaxue taken from their respective Facebook pages.

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