Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 18:37 | SYDNEY
Friday 20 Jul 2018 | 18:37 | SYDNEY

The Singapore-Donald Duck axis


Sam Roggeveen


14 August 2008 09:39

This is an interesting post from a newish blog called Undiplomatic. It recalls a memorable phrase used to describe Singapore — 'Disneyland with the death penalty' — and asks whether that description can now be applied to China as well.

'Disneyland with the death penalty' does get across some of the sheer creepiness of Singapore — its sense of officially enforced good cheer masking a slightly sinister authoritarianism. It's not right to say Singapore lacks fun and humour; it just comes in highly restricted forms and is entirely lacking in irony. In that respect Singapore is like Disney's cartoons, full of antics and pratfalls but with none of the anarchy and subversion of Warner Brothers.

But although I've never been to Disneyland, I reckon one thing that would puncture the veneer of manufactured geniality would be the bored-looking parents. My (admittedly short) experience of Singapore, on the other hand, is that the adults buy into the project. One abiding memory of the taxi trips I took in Singapore was that, although the drivers looked suitably gruff, middle-aged and cynical, you'd always hear teeny-bopper music on their radios, as if Singaporeans were being put in a state of permanent adolesence.

Then again, in Western countries too, pop music stopped being just for teenagers long ago, so maybe we're all being infantilized.

UPDATE: A couple of Lowy Institute colleagues reckon this is a pretty unfair attack on Singapore, and as I've admitted, it is based on a very short exposure to the country. As always, I'm very interested to hear your views.