Crass is the new class?

The magic word is ‘sorry’. All you need to do is apologise and the backlash is temporary

WINONA Ryder (picture) was a huge star. WAS, until she shocked her fans when she was arrested in 2001 for shoplifting at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills.

Ryder, who stole over US$5,500 (RM22,770) worth of merchandise, was later found guilty of grand theft and vandalism in November 2002.

That incident almost decimated her career as she had to lay low for quite a while. Ryder as a brand — her earlier image was more of a squeaky clean sweetheart — was tarnished and even financiers for film projects were not too sure about the actress’ bankability.

In fact, director Woody Allen (picture; left) was unable to cast Robert Downey Jr and Ryder in his film “Melinda and Melinda” because he “could not get insurance on them”.

“I couldn’t get insurance on them…We couldn’t get bonded. The completion bonding companies would not bond the picture, unless we could insure them,” the director said in one chapter of “Conversations with Woody Allen”, a book that chronicles Allen’s career from the 70s.

Just imagine, almost 20 years after the incident, Ryder’s career still could not be resuscitated successfully. Her “brand” had really suffered.

The entertainment business is certainly fickle as much as it is judgmental. However, anyone with Ryder’s past might not have to go through that similar experience in Malaysia.

Malaysians are more forgiving, it seems. Quite a number of wellknown personalities — in the entertainment industry and even in politics — could attest to this.

Even if you’re caught with your pants down, all you need to do is apologise and the backlash is temporary.

Yes, the magic word is “sorry”. If you’re well-known and you said something wrong or politically incorrect on television (TV), just apologise the next day via the press, or any social media platforms, and you can just get on with your life and your career might even flourish.

For some inexplicable reason, Malaysian personalities do not have to be accountable for what they spew on camera or on live TV.

They can body shame people as they please and when they are criticised, all they have to say is, “it’s just a joke”, or “I didn’t mean it that way”.

So, is calling someone’s birthmark, or a mole to be exact, on another person’s face as “Chipsmore chocolate chip” merely a joke? Since when is it okay to make fun of one’s age (and wrinkles) or fashion sense?

Recently, a veteran singer who had suffered from a stroke, was invited to a live show of a very popular TV programme that is currently enjoying a great run on a certain satellite channel to receive a token, or donation if you may, from a generous sponsor.

Everything was sweet and touching until one of the two presenters of the show asked him to sing!

That poor old man just recovered from a stroke, for god’s sake! The veteran obliged, nevertheless.

As he struggled to finish a few lines of a popular 60s hit, the two presenters thought it was cute to back him up as dancers (and you can tell from their expressions that they were having “too much fun”).

The problem is, the audience laughed at their antics! The more discerning viewers at home were left with that horrible after taste.

Last weekend, another unfortunate crooner was feted by the same show. She could not even stand. As she sat there helplessly, the two personalities did whatever they could to push the envelope further.

As the male presenter passed the mock cheque to the ailing singer, he managed to squeeze in some “helpful advice”.

“Jangan buat gi clubbing pulak ya…(don’t use the money to go clubbing)” and the crowd laughed and cheered on. Now, where’s the punchline?

If that was not enough, they made fun of the bright orange pants that she was wearing…and the crowd continued to laugh!

On the same show earlier, one of the main jury who was not too happy with the couple’s antics and told them live on TV that “in Uganda, words are not usually pronounced the way they are spelled.

For instance, V-A-V-I is pronounced as VASS!”. Then, he pointed to the two and said “VASSSSSS”. And the crowd laughed along.

Is V-A-V-I (no matter how it is pronounced in any part of the world) a funny word? Is Uganda really a country of dyslexics? Nope, nothing was censored.

Everything seems kosher on this particular channel. A few weeks before, the words “bongok” and “bodoh” (ultimate insults for stupidity) were generously scattered in between comments on the same show that was supposed to be a venue for singers to rejuvenate their careers.

The show’s two presenters would, more often than not, also behave like they were in their own world, laughing at their own personal jokes and anecdotes that not many really understood, and wasting minutes of air time in the process.

The show is not even a comedy to begin with, and you can imagine how it could influence the number of impressionable children who might be watching it with their parents.

Seriously, some of us do enjoy that “toilet humour”, if you may, once in a while, but in the privacy of our homes and only with people we’re extremely familiar with.

But on live TV? That is also available worldwide via the Internet?

Now, that’s bad branding for the country. Still, you can expect some form of apologies from the stakeholders and relevant parties very soon, and everything will be fine and dandy.

Yup, Malaysians are a very forgiving lot…

Zainal Alam Kadir is the executive editor of The Malaysian Reserve.