Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Singapore's Superhero

This advert from Nuffnang caught my attention. Write a post about what a Singapore superhero should be, embody, what powers he should have, etc. This contest is sponsored by the Singapore Movie Fiesta.

Word of warning: This post will not be campy or snarky. It will also probably not win the competition for those reasons. Nevertheless, I believe that campy makes character unbelievable and believability is the heart of a superhero. Spiderman wouldn't be interesting if his superhero-life/non-superhero life didn't screw him over every so often. Batman won't be interesting without his obsessions.

Second thing is, I much prefer superheroes in the form of the TV series like "Heroes" and "Smallville" rather than the costumed superheroes in the 1970's.

That, and I don't particularly like the format of a biography - I much prefer narrative.

Anyways, having stated my preferences, and probably described all the reasons my superhero character won't win the competition, here's my 0.02.


There is a gaping wound over Singapore.

Few can see the the raw gash of glowing red hanging above the sky, but all can feel it. It turns the hope of a better tomorrow to a paranoid insecurity. It transforms honest work ethic into an overwhelming lust for consumption. It turns noble protectors into deluded oppressors. It turns virtue to vice, tolerance to ignorance, best intentions into Faustian bargains. It fuels the tiny bits of evil in every Singaporean and turns them into monsters.

It feeds as it is fed.

It grows every time a Singaporean is corrupted. Every time a maid is beaten, a friend is cheated, a half-truth is told on the national paper, the throbbing sky-wound gets just a little larger, a little brighter, a little more alive.

Singapore needs a hero. It has one.

Jimmy Lee wears no spandex. He wears his favourite wash-worn demin, along with a 10-dollar Giordano T-Shirt. He has no underground cave liar in Xiao Gui Lin - property prices in Singapore are insane enough without having to take out a second mortgage. He is no billionaire dilettante - he works at a tuition agency, trying to put his NIE Degree in Education to use. He has no Kansas-Farmboy good looks, nor dashing Creole accent, nor muscle-bound body - his face is too rough to be handsome, and his build too gangly to inspire schoolgirl dreams.

How can such an unlikely person be a superhero? That is what Jimmy asked himself too when his Eye appeared.

Like all other Singaporeans, Jimmy never expected to be taken in by a "magic stone" salesman. He expected to be smarter than that, with his cosmopolitan outlook and street smarts. He also never expected to develop a blood clot in the brain at the tender age of 27.

Too many blows to the head, the doctor said. Jimmy disagreed. While he professed a love for sports, and occasionally indulged in Tae Kwon Do sparring, he never sparred without safety gear. The blood clot was a mystery, but one that was slowly robbing his health. He had completely lost feeling in the tips of his fingers, and the vision in his left eye by the time he meet the snake-oil salesman.

To this day, Jimmy had no idea what possessed him to boil the stone, and consume the three 1.5 liter bottles of bright green stone distillate. What he does remember is waking up and seeing that his left eye had turned glowing green, and that the sky had a terrible wounding that bled red light.

He had recovered that day, of course. The doctor gave him a squeaky clean bill of health, and expressed surprise that even old tissue damage seems to have disappeared. The doctor never saw the glowing green eye. No one could. Just like no one could see that awful red glow.

Jimmy knew he was going to say that. He saw it in his glowing green left eye. He also saw that the doctor was having an affair with three nurses in the hospital, and that his wife had found out. Most of all, he saw that awful red glow in the doctor, ready to harvest the bitter fruit.

He saw the futures too.

Jimmy saw the first future, where the doctor returned, hurled abuse at his wife, then leave with a pre-packed bag. The wife died in that future. Tore her veins open with a razor and bled to death.

Jimmy saw the second, fainter future, the one which would happen if he confronted the doctor with what he knew now. He saw the doctor confess to his wife, honestly and sincerely, change over a new leaf, and live twenty years of marriage.

Jimmy didn't hesitate.


Since that day, Jimmy has been pulled from event to event, person to person, fighting the awful red glow and its corruption. He has been shot, stabbed, burnt and beaten, but every single time the wounds never lasted longer than 23 minutes. He's leapt over 8 meter fences, out-wrestled three sailors at Boat Quay, and outran the 171 bus to town. Jimmy's second lease of life also granted him some remarkable physical capabilities.

Yet, Jimmy's signature ability remains the Eye that Sees All. Every so often, the Eye reveals to him a person, one special person who is at the threshold of making a decision that will change a life. The Eye reveals to Dennis the greatest power of all - the power of a second chance, like the one he was given.

Perhaps, with enough second chances, Singapore can be saved from itself.


Editor's notes: Some things don't convey well in narrative, so I'm putting them down here as notes.

My conception of Jimmy comes from what I see as two central definitions of Singapore:

  1. The idea that Singapore is a victim of the Law of Unintended Consequence; and
  2. the idea that Singapore is all about second chances.
Yes, Singapore has become very successful but for every action that it takes at success, it creates an kink for itself into the future. Think of the 2-child policy, for example.

What Singapore tends to forget, however, is that it is all about second chances. Our forefathers came to Singapore escaping political and economic persecution, for large part. Our own independence was centered around our seperation from the Malaysian Federation.

Given these two ideas, I think a uniquely Singaporean superhero would embody both these concepts. What if we could get a glimpse of what would really happen? Would it give us just that little push into making things right, doing things better, by getting that second chance?

I don't know, but through Jimmy I'd like to have the opportunity to find out.

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