Miss Singapore World: After the 'boomz,' issues remain
It's all over the news -- second-runner up Pilar Carmelita Arlando will represent Singapore at the Miss World finals held in South Africa in December. The news is the latest in a series of shockers revolving around dethroned winner Ris Low -- her personal failings, lawsuit threats, back-stabbing allegations and more -- that have raised poignant issues for Singaporeans.
The 'Boomz' shakalaka scandal
Ris Low made headlines a few weeks back when a RazorTV interview of the then-winner revealed her allegedly poor language skills, leading many to question her suitability for the role of Singapore spokesperson. Others defended Low, arguing that she was simply representative of today's young adults and the common standard of speaking in Singapore.
Goh Eck Kheng, chairman of the Speak Good English Movement, told The Straits Times that Singaporeans should be the last people to be mocking her.
"How many people are you laughing at, if you laugh at Ms. Low?" he asked.
Another official, Jennifer Yin, reportedly commented, "Lots of Singaporeans speak this way. She is not unusual."
The subsequent flurry of Internet and other media discussions blamed Low's fall on everything from modern educators to mobile phones to the mishmash of dialects and languages that is Singlish.
Pek Siok Lian, a journalist and filmmaker, noted the rise of what she calls 'half-baked Mandarin and half-baked English' here. There is a price to be paid for taking a 'utilitarian, functional' attitude toward language, she said.
Straits Times reader Jane Chancommented, "I am not surprised that Miss Ris Low claimed that she scored A1 in English and Communications. I have met people who can write well but are unable to speak well in terms of diction and pronunciation."
On the ST discussion boards, emmyelly disagreed that low standards were acceptable, expressing the view that, "we should strive to learn English -- as we should, with all other languages, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil etc, with as much accuracy as possible. Why should we seek glory and national pride by deliberately defying all the proper rules of grammar and vocabulary?"
The debate is ongoing, with no clear answer in sight.
The highs and lows of bipolar disorder
Opening another topic of discussion, Low admitted publicly that she suffers from bipolar disorder, a condition generally characterized by heavy mood swings that is relatively unknown in Singapore.
Blogger Phare Anderson wrote, "People like Ms. Ris Low who have bipolar disorder and those people who had all sort of mental disorders or mental illness need acceptance in our society too and a second chance."
Fellow Netizen Stephanie agreed, saying that "bipolar disorder [is] not something we can understand. She can't control herself. That must be why the courts didn't get her imprisoned."
Scientific child prodigy had a different opinion about Low: "Even if she has bipolar disorder, this is not really an excuse. Bipolar disorder gives you severe mood swings, it does not automatically turn you into a congenital liar and fraudster. Indeed, her use of 'bipolar disorder' as an excuse, is an insult to all those who actually have bipolar disorder, because people might begin to doubt their integrity and moral worth, when there is, in fact, no reason to do so."
Beauty pageants -- private enterprise or national pride?
Beyond language and mental health, the Low affair inspired sharp discussion about the nature of beauty pageants themselves.
In a Straits Times article with ERM Marketing, organizers of the Miss Singapore World 2009 contest defended the process that allowed Low's criminal record to slip past judges, famously saying, "Singaporeans did not pay for her."
This brought to light the lack of public backing for Miss Singapore contestants at international pageants and also how the 'Miss Singapore' label has been commercialized.
Lifeobzervr commented on the Temasek Review that "The ‘Singapore’ tag/branding is a form of payment that goes beyond dollars and cents. It carries with it what is termed as Social Capital that is used to transact attention that will gain her and perhaps also ERM Marketing the much needed television coverage."
Roy agreed, adding that "If Singaporeans didn’t pay for her, then the organizers [should] not use the title to portray the false impression that she is endorsed by Singaporeans."