Malaysian children playing Police and Thief adhere to the following formula – Malay boys (Police) chase Chinese boys (Bandits) and put them behind imaginary bars. The Indian boys come to the rescue. They’re the lawyers.

Here goes nothing.

A Malay man, an Indian man and a Chinese man walks into a bar.

Nothing funny happens.

Seriously, what has happened to our sense of humour? I know things have been particularly difficult lately; what with the ongoing circus of some people going at each other Punch and Judy style with their ethnic sledgehammers, but is that any reason at all for Malaysians in general to walk on eggshells around each other all the live long day?

I recall a time when we could poke fun at each others eccentricities, peculiarities and neuroses without fear of reprisal. There’s this fantastic joke the guys at MACC (the non-scary one) bandy about in their routine: Malaysian children playing Police and Thief adhere to the following formula – Malay boys (Police) chase Chinese boys (Bandits) and put them behind imaginary bars. The Indian boys come to the rescue. They’re the lawyers.

See what they did there? It’s a joke about our differences and yes, the audience (multi-racial if I might add – not that it’s important) lapped it up. These are the Malaysians I want to live with, grow with, work with, compete alongside and prosper with. The current crop of thin-skinned Malaysians (telinga nipis babe) we seem to be turning into nowadays? Not so much.

The fact of the matter is this: if you haven’t been paying attention, our Ali, Muthu and Ah Chong brand of diversity consists of more than just:

  1. Traditional costumes – Keith my Iban friend would sooner die than be caught in a thong, loin cloth and faux-fur vest. I do not walk around looking like some deranged vampire from a Sammo Hung movie (Malaysian Tourism Ministry please take note) and when I decided I wanted to wear a dhoti last Chinese New Year, the only person who objected to this plan was Rishvan.
  2. Ethnic dances – I have yet to see a single person busting a move on local dance floors in a nifty display of Joget, Bharatanatyam or flutter red, feather fringed fans, have you?
  3. And what is with that alien hand-on-heart-I-bow-to-you greeting inflicted on me at events promoting our cultural diversity? (Old news I’m sure but I can’t resist having a go at that – Malaysian Tourism Ministry please take note.)

Recently, 8TV released, and quickly retracted, a series of public-service messages about the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, after viewers complained they were racist.

One of the adverts showed an ethnic Chinese girl acting in a rude manner towards Muslims, followed by a message saying: “Do not be loud or obnoxious.” In another of the adverts the girl is wearing a vest-top and is told: “Do not wear tight and revealing clothes.”

That is all. Seriously.

So yes, while I didn’t find the advertisements particularly funny or inspired I‘d say it‘s a bit of a stretch to call them offensive.

Protestors preventing me and thousands others from enjoying the Beyonce Experience TWICE? That offends me.

The online mob which saw fit to lynch the TV station over the ads? That offends me.

The drivel I am forced to read in the news day in and day out about racist this and biased that, unfair this and privileged that? That offends me.

The fact that Malaysians are actively pitted against Malaysians for the political benefit of a few? That offends me.

That we seem to be playing squarely into their hands even though I know we know better? That offends me, oh that offends me greatly.

The late great Erma Bombeck once said “When humor goes, there goes civilization.”

Based on events unfolding over these ill-timed PSAs, I’d say in all seriousness that we’re all in danger of going the way of the dodo unless we do some serious soul searching. Seriously, it’s about time we lightened up.

And no. This is not a snide allusion to people with darker skin tones.


LB: This is a reproduction of an article that first appeared here

Otherwise sedentary to the point of sponge in most matters, Leroy Luar has lofty aspirations of being a writer of creative fiction. Whilst waiting for that the happen, he spends his days PR-ing clients...

3 replies on “Isn’t This Funny?”

  1. For me personally, I was not necessarily being directly insulted by the ad directly, but I am perturbed due to how this may affect the already existing prejudices in the minds of others. Let's face it, even though you and I may be able to see the ad's plotline as a (non-Muslim) MALAYSIAN acting obnoxiously in a highly exaggerated manner, at least a significant portion of the viewers would see the lady as a Chinese, instead of a Malaysian lady.

    8TV's target audience is the young, urban and to some extent the Chinese-speaking populace. Keep in mind that our society today, despite some racial unity we have on the ground level, remains highly polarised compared to the 1960's of our parents' times. The ad, to me, perpetuates stereotypes, and that is the last thing we want right now. I know it may be silly or even funny to some, but many people (especially those who rarely mix outside their own ethnic group) could actually have their current prejudices enforced by the ad, and that is the reason I feel the ad was really inappropriate.

  2. It wasn't the ads per se, but the underlying assumptions. I think Jacqueline sums up very well why some Muslims and non-Muslims have found the ads offensive here:… Not everyone is as articulate as her to point out the disturbing assumptions made in the ads, but that doesn't mean their concerns are not legitimate.

  3. You're offended that you're prevented from the Beyonce experience on the grounds that it's immoral, but you're not offended that there's an ad on TV which says sleeveless tops for women is immoral (during Ramadan or not, that's immaterial). Pitted for the "political benefit of a FEW", huh? I guess you're one of the many, then. These racial jokes ARE funny, don't get me wrong.When it's in the context of a joke. But not when there are people who are taking it seriously and as the truth. What, did you think the ad was part of a Ramadan joke? If you think that the hue and cry about the ad was just because we don't have a sense of humour, then maybe you don't know when something's NOT funny. Yeah, so maybe it's all part of a plan to get us to look away from other issues, like the registration of foreign PRs as voters and then citizens, or some other issue of embezzlement (there are so many that I can't keep track), or the recent JAIS action in a Methodist church, but that doesn't mean that we should just pooh-pooh them if they're wrong, no? Nice cartoon, by the way. THAT was funny.

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