An advertisement featuring a Chinese-origin actor with his skin colour darkened to portray different races has sparked anger across Singapore.
The ad, a part of a government-initiated campaign promoting cashless transactions, featured actor Dennis Chew from broadcaster Mediacorp as four characters.
His skin was darkened to depict an Indian man and a Malay woman wearing a headscarf, and he also portrayed a Chinese man and a Chinese woman. Each character was shown holding a plate of food paid for electronically, news agency AFP reported.
Singapore, where race is a sensitive issue happens to be the home of ethnic Chinese, ethnic Indians and Muslim Malays, as well as a large number of expatriates from all over the world.
“Brownface in a Singaporean ad in 2019. I thought we already went over this,” a Singapore magazine editor Ruby Thiagarajan said on Twitter, in a post that had been retweeted nearly 3,000 times by Monday.
Brownface in a Singaporean ad in 2019. I thought we already went over this… pic.twitter.com/ypTEbVYH8x
— ruby (@RubyThiagarajan) July 26, 2019
“Brownface” or “blackface” are terms referring to the practice of darkening an actor’s skin to portray a person of a different race.
The broadcaster Mediacorp, through its celebrity management arm The Celebrity Agency, has apologised “for any hurt that was unintentionally caused”. “The message behind this advertising campaign is that e-payment is for everyone,” it added.
Mediacorp has not yet confirmed whether the controversial advertisement has been completely pulled but it is reported to have been removed from public places where it was displayed earlier, the news agency reported.
Several people criticised the ad saying how it had used just one actor from the country’s main ethnic group, rather than getting other performers to play different roles. “They could have hired an artist for every single race?? Is it really hard?” one Twitter user said.
A Singaporean office worker told AFP that she found the ad “very, very insensitive”, but other social media users said they thought there was nothing wrong with it. “I don’t see the issue, don’t be too sensitive over ads like this,” one comment said.
(Inputs from AFP)