Our Home, Our Singapore, Our Army: My Boyfriend
November 26, 2010
There are some truly big questions that perplex humanity. Where did the first single cell organism come from? What came before the Big Bang? Is there extra-terrestrial life out there? Does the SAF have any creative talent?
Watching its latest advertisement – Our Home, Our Singapore, Our Army: My Boyfriend [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tnwDoFYBfY] – ranks as great a crime as waterboarding and genital electrocution. A bunch of girls (you can’t possibly describe them as women) sit around in a cafe doing what Singaporeans do best – comparing what they have. The suspense over the identity of a boyfriend is duly ratcheted up until a painfully stiff chap in a SAF No. 3 uniform appears from a far like a voyeur stalking his girlfriend. The giggling girls then collapse into the type of sigh that straight men give when they see a Maserati Quattroporte cruise by.
To call this latest attempt to make the SAF relevant to a younger audience hackneyed, cliched, insulting or even banal, is way too easy. What we have here is the most cynical stab yet at entrenching and glorifying a consumer culture and a social status conscious society we proudly call ‘Singapore’. In the not too distant past, the SAF used to sell itself (or ‘package’ for those who prefer market-speak) with illusions of ‘honour’, ‘duty’ and ‘patriotism’. The crudest form of packaging then came with a wonderfully unambiguous siege mentality, complete with the complimentary subliminal message “if you don’t defend your land, they’ll rip it from you and chase you out!” Life then was so much simpler.
Going up another level was never going to be easy. Unlike other countries that have fought actual wars or experienced border skirmishes, we can’t do slow-mo footage of square-jawed Commandos kicking down the doors of insurgents or Guards units saving villages from enemy fire. We can’t appeal to any type of machismo that, say, the US Marines, SAS, or the IDF have stocks of. And you can’t really be truthful when it comes to advertising can you? Imagine a SAF advert that went “Join the SAF. Learn to organise National Day Parades!” – it just ain’t gonna sell.
So we appeal to what we already know – a banal cafe culture, shopping-break gossip, upping your friends in every material and social department. This SAF advert is sad not because it’s poorly done. It’s sad because it has decided to take the path of least resistance in appealing to our baser instincts and to our quest for the superficial.