Cinema and Television in Singapore

Resistance in One Dimension


Through close readings of contemporary made-in-Singapore films (by Jack Neo, Eric Khoo, and Royston Tan) and television programs (Singapore Idol, sitcoms, and dramas), this book explores the possibilities and limitations of resistance within an advanced capitalist-industrial society whose authoritarian government skillfully negotiates the risks and opportunities of balancing its on-going nation-building project and its “global city” aspirations. This book adopts a framework inspired by Antonio Gramsci that identifies ideological struggles in art and popular culture, but maintains the importance of Herbert Marcuse’s one-dimensional society analysis as theoretical limits to recognize the power of authoritarian capitalism to subsume works of art and popular culture even as they attempt consciously—even at times successfully—to negate and oppose dominant hegemonic formations.

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Kenneth Paul Tan, Ph.D. (2000) in Social and Political Sciences, University of Cambridge, is Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He is the editor of Renaissance Singapore? Economy, Culture, and Politics (NUS Press, 2007).
“. . . an extremely impressive overview of film and television in Singapore with very strong contextualization in an analysis of the polity, arts culture, and culture industries in Singapore. The author provides a powerful synthesis of Frankfurt School critical theory and British cultural studies to provide an original mapping of Singapore and its key forms of television and film culture. The book is extremely well-written, organized, and argued and . . . could be a classic on its subject. . . . Drawing on a wealth of critical material, the author provides an insightful mapping of these cultural forms and creators of popular culture in Singapore. The author has a definite talent for providing excellent analysis with detailed reading of cultural texts and producers and a sharp critical eye that appeared very illuminating. These studies are exemplary works of concrete analysis of Singapore film and television . . . . "
Douglas Kellner, Philosophy of Education Professor at UCLA and author of Media Culture and Media Spectacle.

“The author’s mediations on the battles inside the PAP-fortress have yielded insightful commentaries about contemporary Singapore society, made the book an interesting and compelling read . . ., and . . . offered a welcome spark to much of the extant scholarship on Singapore media, culture and society that have come out of Singapore . . . . the author has done an admirable job in tackling the ‘thinking-out-of-the box’ task he has set out for himself. In so doing, the book highlights the contradictions of contemporary Singapore framed by state apparatuses that foster ‘one-dimensional’ thinking and behaviour on the one hand, and on the other, residents who are, or appear, less one-dimensional in their outlook and praxis. This book[’s] . . . revealing light over the epistemology of the Singapore cultural closet lends fodder to the ongoing debates about contemporary cultural formations in regards to media, state, and society in the interdisciplinary areas of critical/cultural studies, transnational media studies, multicultural/postcolonial studies, and Asian/globalization studies . . . . It has appeal for both conservative and liberal academics, researchers and university students in these areas, Singaporean or otherwise – for different reasons, of course.”
Professor Tan See Kam, FSH-Communication, University of Macau

List of Illustrations
1. One-Dimensional Singapore
2. The Culture Industry in Renaissance-City Singapore
3. Singapore Idol: Consuming Nation and Democracy
4. Under One Ideological Roof: TV Sitcoms and Drama Series
5. Imagining the Chinese Community through the Films of Jack Neo
6. The Tragedy of the Heartlands in the Films of Eric Khoo
7. The Films of Royston Tan: Local Notoriety, International Acclaim

Appendix A: Cited Television Programs and Episodes
Appendix B: Cited Films by Jack Neo, Eric Khoo, and Royston Tan
Film and television studies; Asian cinema; British cultural studies; Frankfurt School critical theory; arts policy; Singapore politics, culture, and society. Scholars; arts policy-makers; and film and television industry practitioners.
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