Aesthetics of the Pathetic: The Portrayal of the abject in Singaporean cinema

Chua Beng Huat and Meisen Wong
Vol 31, Number 2, p.138
A central figure in documentaries and commercial films in 1990s Singapore cinema is the abject figure in various guises, ranging from the urban poor to migrant sex workers from the other parts of the region. These abject figures make their living on the street and are thus fully visually exposed to every passing eye and lens. Set against the backdrop of Singapore’s triumphal national economic success story, these figures are aestheticised in visual representation, and stand as immediate disruption, critique and indictment of the long ruling government. Ironically, the same figures could just as easily be represented as ‘heroic’ figures of strength, self-reliance and individualism, qualities that are essential to Singapore’s success.