JUICE Rates 2016 via Local Pop Culture

Globally, this year sees the real world finally catching up with internet culture. IRL trolling reached a massive scale with Donald Trump being elected the next President of the United States of America, the United Kingdom government is in a mess trying to sort out how to leave the European Union, and the trolling in Malaysia has largely manifested in the form of red shirted thuggery.

The local pop culture zeitgeist of 2016 is not far behind in reflecting the state of that shift, with approaches to humour seeing a shake up, identity crises bubbling over with renewed discussions albeit subtextually of course, and the impacts of globalisation gaining momentum.

So this month, to top the year off, we dissect our picks for the biggest pop culture moments of 2016 in Malaysia and try to measure their actual significance.

Text Aizyl Azlee
Illustrations kkkkkiddddd

source: 2016 in Pop Culture
Netflix Comes to Malaysia!

Impact on politics: 1 (House of Cards has to count for something, right?)
Impact on comedy: -2 (The huge list of original standup comedy can only save its comedic impact so much from the horrible slew of Adam Sandler movies expected to keep coming out)
Nostalgia pander: 0
Unravelling of identity crises: 0

The idea that people would pay for content if it were convenient and timely was a huge factor to Netflix’s success at disrupting television in the US. It was pretty exciting when their launch in Malaysia was announced early this year, with it possibly showing local big wigs how to curb piracy. Unfortunately, with the content being regional, we sometimes miss out on some great stuff and we were forced to fall back on good old (illegal) Popcorn Time.

These problems came up chiefly with the Netflix original Voltron reboot never making its way to our shores, and despite Netflix owning the international rights to Designated Survivor, it was always out later than the torrents.

source: 2016 in Pop Culture

Joe Flizzow Celebrates Subang Jaya’s 40th Anniversary with a 360 music video

Impact on politics: -2 (Kinda implies Subang Jaya is under Sime Darby’s thumb. Boo to gentrification)
Impact on comedy: 0
Nostalgia pander: 3 (Plays up old Subang residents and old way of life)
Unravelling of identity crises: 3 (How is Joe the face of so many localities?)

Joe Flizzow is ‘The President’ (presumably of Malaysian Hip Hop), an anak Johor representative, and also the (un)official ambassador of Subang Jaya. His love for all levels of nonexistent government positions led him to be the face of a Sime Darby-produced music video that celebrates Subang Jaya turning 40 this year.

The video tugs on Subang Jaya natives’ nostalgia strings, highlighting uncles and aunties who have been living there for years, and of course, Sime Darby developments that have been oh-so-essential to Subang’s development.

While some may see it as successful at being a sweet ode to the town, others may find it weird that the conglomerate is unintentionally showing how much influence they actually have in shaping the residents’ locality.

You may have forgotten the video by now, but we’re putting a pin on it as potentially being a reference point in the future when we can go, “Right, that’s what happened to Subang Jaya.”

source: 2016 in Pop Culture

Penghasut Clown and Fahmi Reza’s Arrest

Impact on politics: 5 (The caricature has become a symbol)
Impact on comedy: 3 (Gave rise to an anonymous group of replicators of the caricature’s tone)
Nostalgia pander: 0
Unravelling of identity crises: 2 (Brings up the questions of our gaps in civic movements)

Graphic artist Fahmi Reza was not just detained, but officially arrested in June for his caricature of a certain Malaysian official. As great as it is to have a symbolic rebel in Fahmi, the trouble he’s gotten into this year only amplified the fact that he remains to be the only anti-establishment propaganda graphic artist around.

Granted, there are many “higher” artworks available that challenge civic consciousness, but Fahmi’s work remains the only pleb-friendly rabble-rousing statements around.

Also deserving of a mention; his meet with former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad where Fahmi straight up pointed out his infamous ‘Diktator’ caricature right to the Tun.

source: 2016 in Pop Culture

Harith Iskander Vs. Jason Leong to Represent as Malaysia’s Funniest — and the Former Actually Being Crowned ‘Funniest Person in the World’

Impact on politics: 0
Impact on comedy: -3 (Old blood Harith beats out Jason, and the world)
Nostalgia pander: 2 (Harith’s appeal is largely his old world)
Unravelling of identity crises: 3 (What represents Malaysian comedy right now?)

If you follow either of these comedians on Facebook, you would have been bombarded with their begging for votes to represent Malaysia in the ‘Funniest Person in the World’ competition.

Obviously Harith Iskander won the votes. If you can make a living telling the same jokes for 20 years, it has to be the funniest jokes ever written, right?

We kid. Wait… he did win the title?!

Nothing against Harith, because even if Jason Leong had won, the entire process had been pretty telling of the state of Malaysian standup comedy. The way standup comedians try and win fans, and the types of jokes they tell, point to a scene that’s very much stuck in time. Standup had never been a “mainstream” medium to have ever given birth to niche comedians, so the scene has been stuck at churning out generalists who make general jokes hoping to capture as large of an audience as possible.

It says more about where we are as an audience than it does about the comedians as craftsmen.

But truth be told, gun to our heads, we’d say Luqman Podolski is Malaysia’s funniest right now. 

source: 2016 in Pop Culture

Rockaway’s Nostalgia Pander Was Off the Charts

Impact on politics: 0
Impact on comedy: 0
Nostalgia pander: 5 (The entire festival was nostalgia pander)
Unravelling of identity crises: 3 (What gigs would Malaysians actually spend on?)

Third Eye Blind, The Darkness, and Scorpions have very little in common other than being old mainstream hits. Which is still a vague unifier, considering they weren’t even making hits in the same eras.

It seems likely that organisers Livescape is experimenting on how much a nostalgia factor plays in consumer decisions, with their other event It’s The Ship also being a heavy nostalgia pander with the appearance of David Hasselhoff in full Baywatch getup.

Guess we’ll only know how well the pander worked out by waiting to see if next year’s lineup takes a similar approach.

But if the Butterfingers reunion at Rockaway was anything to go by, perhaps it’s best to just leave good memories in the past instead of forcing unrealistic expectations on them in the present.

 source: 2016 in Pop Culture

Mamat Khalid’s Rock Trilogy Comes to an End

Impact on politics: 0
Impact on comedy: 3
Nostalgia pander: 4 (Much of its audience were part of the scene it parodies)
Unravelling of identity crises: 3

The third and final Rock movie by Director Mamat Khalid came out this year, tying up the story of the best fictional band to ever grace the Malaysian music scene, Rimba Bara.

In truth, Rock Bro may not be as great as the past two movies, Rock and Rock Oo!, with the novelty of the narrative wearing thin. But like the previous movies (and really, any Mamat Khalid movie), it still gives a rich commentary on Malaysian culture, from the surface level nostalgia of the Malay language rock scene of the ‘80s to the deeper subtexts touching on religious leanings.

Perhaps if Rockaway wants to keep going with the nostalgia approach, they could think about getting Rimba Bara to perform next year.

source: 2016 in Pop Culture

The Rise of Datuk Vida, an Unlikely Feminist Icon

Impact on politics: 3 (Her subversion on football’s machismo was top-notch)
Impact on comedy: 4 (Her hand signs were everywhere)
Nostalgia pander: 0
Unravelling of identity crises: 5 (She got other male-owned beauty brands clamouring to sponsor football teams, her popularity brings up the question of the gullibility of her clientele)

Datuk Seri Dr Hasmizah Othman, or better known as Dr Vida/Datuk Seri Vida, came into the limelight when her beauty drinks (how is this even a thing?) brand Vida Beauty became a major sponsor of Anugerah Juara Lagu (AJL) last year. But it wasn’t until her announcement of being the main sponsor of the Kelantan Football Association (KAFA) by pumping in RM16 million that people got a better understanding of her actual wealth.

She wanted to change the team’s jersey and revamp the stadium to pink, with the team expressing their readiness to do it as long as she was good on her promise of financial resource.

As problematic as her products are (her Qu Puteh drink promises to make you fairer, and Pamoga claims to help with illnesses), her campiness and unashamed public display of her wealth are totally YASS KWEEEN. But too bad she’s since had to pull out her KAFA sponsorship for the 2017 season and is now being charged for evading the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

source: 2016 in Pop Culture

Jagat Brings Big Screen Representation

Impact on politics: 5 (From race relations to film industry flaws, Jagat flipped all the tables)
Impact on comedy: 0
Nostalgia pander: -2 (Great, because it doesn’t pretend the past was so damn fantastic)
Unravelling of identity crises: 5

Jagat’s story was as interesting off the screen as it was on it. It was arguably the best local film of 2016 (though Dain Said’s Interchange hasn’t been released yet at time of writing), but the system of how cinemas decide what local films to keep screening almost saw it getting blocked out of public awareness. It was half-saved by fans of the film rallying support online for film lovers to rush to the cinemas that were still showing the movie.

The film itself beautifully captures the micro and macro struggles of the Indian community in Malaysia; of political neglect and economic strife despite being one of the three ethnicities that make up Malaysia’s forced multiracialism narrative since Malaya’s independence.

source: 2016 in Pop Culture

Parody of Yuna Featuring a Blackface Usher

Impact on politics: 2 (People cared, but not that much)
Impact on comedy: -5 (Local television comedy shows are losing it)
Nostalgia pander: 0
Unravelling of identity crises: 2 (Where do Malaysians stand in a globalised world?)

Hosts of a television show on Astro called MeleTOP did a parody skit of Yuna joining Usher onstage at The Roots Picnic ‘16. For some reason, Yuna giving Usher a hug at the end of the song became an issue worth parodying. But they decided to portray Usher with blackface, which in itself created a new issue for the news cycle to eat up.

source: 2016 in Pop Culture

Luqman Podolski and His Crew Take Over the Internet

Impact on politics: 0
Impact on comedy: 5 (Future of Malay comedy is already online)
Nostalgia pander: -3 (Nothing for old people to enjoy here)
Unravelling of identity crises: 3 (Challenges Malay language comedians to rethink their purpose in life)

Luqman’s taken the Instagram and Vine worlds by storm this year, armed with nothing more than a bad wig, a deep “hohoh” laugh, and a dictionary to throw around.

He doesn’t seem to run out of ways to express his frustration over ‘Wicet’ kids and hate for road users who refuse to use their signal. And we hope he doesn’t, so he can put Astro comedy shows like Lawak Solo out of business.

source: 2016 in Pop Culture

Webcomics step up: HXSM and Komik Ronyok

Impact on politics: 1
Impact on comedy: 4 (Finally can put crap like ‘Bro, don’t like that la, bro’ behind us)
Nostalgia pander: 2
Unravelling of identity crises: 4 (They’re Malays, so they can make jokes about Malays)

Both Azwanjjai of Komik Ronyok and whoever it is behind HXSM have been around for a while, but it wasn’t until this year that they really gained traction.

HXSM especially, being drawing spread on Twitter, has been interesting not only in its criticisms of Malay stereotypes, but also in the manner it is disseminated. By that, we mean there’s no real way for this person to make money for his comics, which we feel is more interesting to keep an eye on compared to that Bro, Don’t Like That La, Bro webcomic that for some reason keeps trying to sell cars to its readers.

source: 2016 in Pop Culture

Pokemon Go Launched

Impact on politics: 0
Impact on comedy: 0
Nostalgia pander: 5
Unravelling of identity crises: 0

It launched, it was anything anyone could ever talk about for a couple of weeks, and then it disappeared.

We still believe it has the potential to be the answer to our childhood prayers for a real life Pokemon experience, if they could just update some kind of player vs. player gameplay instead of it just being about walking around all day.

Until then, RIP Pokemon Go.

Till next year!

  • Haikal Idris

    Has the writer been to any local open mic comedy show or is this another ‘talking out of my ass’ moment in journalism