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The Straits Times: Rating denial: Look at context of shows’ nudity

Ke Weiliang (10th December 2016)

I am disappointed by the Info-communications Media Development Authority’s (IMDA’s) decision to deny ratings to the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival’s Naked Ladies and Undressing Room (Fringe Fest Cuts 2 Shows After Rating Denial, The Straits Times, Dec 6).

According to IMDA, its decision to disallow the two shows is an “objective application of existing guidelines” .

What does the “objective application of existing guidelines” entail? Did IMDA arrive at its decision after a nuanced consideration of the specific contexts of Naked Ladies and Undressing Room? Or does it issue a blanket ban on all shows that display “excessive” nudity, regardless of circumstance?

If one were to take time to read the synopses of Naked Ladies and Undressing Room on the festival’s website, it is apparent that the artists use nudity not for the sake of encouraging sexual arousal.

Naked Ladies confronts the sexualisation of female bodies in performance. Undressing Room unmasks the worldly fronts that people put up to appear desirable.

Nudity, in the context of both performances, is a representation of human vulnerability, a theme that any discerning adult can relate to.

While IMDA says that it “objectively applies existing guidelines”, it seems as if these representations of nudity were considered in an isolated manner, rather than in relation to Art & Skin, the theme of next year’s festival.

While I appreciate that IMDA has disclosed its reasons for not issuing ratings for both shows, further transparency behind the censorship process is required.

Further transparency would require IMDA to demonstrate an understanding of the context of performances that are brought to it for approval and not justify its decisions by uniformly applying guidelines that purportedly defend “prevailing social norms”.

When it applies these guidelines without a reasonable assurance that a case-by-case consideration has taken place, it discourages independent, critical thinking and the exploration of oft-shunned issues through art.