Singaporeans react to the National Day Parade #NDP2016 on Twitter

Singapore’s National Day Parade took place yesterday on 9th August 2016. The annual Parade took place at Kallang Stadium and was broadcast live on local free-to-air channels. The main festivities took place between 1836hrs and 2021hrs. I tracked the official #NDP2016 hashtag on Twitter between 1800hrs and 2100hrs and report on the peaks and troughs of viewers’ reactions. Screengrabs taken on 9th August 2016, between 1800hrs and 2100hrs, GMT+8.

01 Badang

This year’s parade drew on the Malay folklore of Badang, a coolie and fisherman who acquired supernatural strength from the demon he caught, by swallowing whatever it vomited (fish). He used his strength to aid the people of the forest, moved to the Kingdom of Singapura, and later served the king.

Unfortunately, some viewers were ignorant of this historical classic.

A handful mistook Badang for a popular local concoction, Bandung.

Some were uninvested in the storyline.

Others were taken aback by the spectacle of Badang’s costume.

In fact, so allured were they that Twitter had a field day reinterpreting Badang in various context. Badang is X.

Other viewers with more historical knowledge humorously chided the inaccurate contemporary portrayal of Badang.

It seemed the skit was missing the plot.

Because the most vital expect of folkloric Badang – that his strength was derived from having consumed demon vomit – was excluded from the narrative. Don’t mess with Singapore folklore, you guys. People know their stuff.

Still, after years of re-narrativizing Sang Nila Utama and Sir Stamford Raffles, viewers were pleased with the attention given to lesser known cultural histories.

02 Spectacle

The Parade has always been a feast for the eyes, with enthralling visuals.

 

As in annual vernacular tradition though, costumes are endlessly mocked.

Child actors are scrutinized.

Contemporary fictions are challenged.

03 Pokémon

Since Pokémon Go was launched in Singapore the weekend prior to National Day, Trainers took their passion very seriously. Some suspected that one of the hosts might have been… thundershocked.

Young people imagined that the president Mr Tony Tan must be a Trainer himself.

Actually, every other politician suddenly had a Trainer persona imposed on them.

Dedicated Trainers were seeing Pokémon in everything.

Dedicated Trainers couldn’t wait to catch more Pokémon… even at the Parade.

04 Ads

As with most prime time telecasts, ad breaks frequently interrupted the flow of the Parade, much to the disdain of several viewers.

05 Sponsors

Viewers were also tickled that commercial corporations such as Koufu and OSIM were represented with contingents in the Parade, uniforms, flag waving, and marching included.

 

06 President

Many young people had thoughts about the President. For one, the Parade organized staged a videocall in the aesthetic of a spontaneous interruption to screen the President announcing that he was in a vehicle and en route to the premises.

And because the President spots a full head of slickly backcombed white hair, every public appearance invokes all the Colonel Sanders memes.

People are constantly scrutinizing your move on live TV. God speed, public figures.

07 Politicians

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who is known for his prolific Facebook presence, was discovered to be a regular human person, much to the surprise of many viewers.

Other prominent politicians were policed for their aesthetic choices in life.

08 Identity politics

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of this year’s Parade was everyone’s fixation on representation and identity politics. Many viewers applauded the inclusivity and diversity conveyed.

 

This sentiment was largely motivated by the visibility lended to people with special needs, whose presence, art work, and performance was noted.

Viewers were also meta about stereotypical but necessary racial representation.

The live commentary highlighted that this year’s Parade featured the first woman in a handful of units.

Unicorn and rainbow subtext aside, there is still work to be done on queer representation.

Class representation was uncomfortable, as progress was equated to wealth and consumption in the visuals of one segment.

Migrant representation was sadly sorely lacking.

09 Progress & dreams

The Parade usually features a video collage in which children and young people share their hopes and dreams. Some viewers reacted to this script.

But most viewers had their responses on hand.

Pokémon is very important in life.

But ask woke young people of Twitter and they will tell you they aspire for gender and sexual equality,

racial equality,

and the space to dream.

10 Music

Not everyone agreed on the running music accompanying the performances.

Some viewers disliked the lineup, which heavily featured recent hits from American artists.

Many viewers revelled in this year’s theme song penned and performed by local band 53a, along with other local tunes.

However, it was the 1998 theme song penned by renown singer-songwriter Dick Lee that really moved hearts once again.

11 Hype man

After this emotionally-charged segment, however, the Parade got rather wild. Hyper-enthusiastic hype men took over.

12 Unicorn

As did unicorns.

13 High

At an one point, some viewers were convinced everyone was just high.

14 Viral stars

Two anonymous Parade performances also attained transient virality for doing a dab on live television…

…. and apparently showing the finger…

15 Fireworks

Ahh fireworks. The climate of the Parade annually.

However, this being the first time the Parade was held indoors, many viewers lamented the smaller scale and muted bedazzle.

Viewers were really really invested in the fireworks display.

Fireworks are a Singaporean institution.

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16 Exit

Twitter backchanneling also provided mundane commentary of Parade attendees scrambling to leave the venue.

17 Spam

There was relatively little spam, although some attempted to hawk their wares.

A handful of viewers shared snapshots of how they were celebrating National Day, while others were plainly self-promotional.

18 Memes

Viewers wanted them memes. But they were only a couple this year.

19 LKY

On a more somber mood, pockets of viewers intermittently recalled the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

20 Collective effervescence

In general, the National Day Parades do what they do best: Stimulate collective effervescence and a sense of belonging.

All the feels.

Why are National Day Parades in Singapore this effective in invoking affect for the country? This despite the exclusion of some demographics of over others and the contentious identity politics over the years? Read Dr Laurence Wai-Teng Leong’s brilliant research on this here (open access).

 

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Next up, the National Day Rally on August 21st.

See Tweet round-ups from last year’s #NDR2015 here.

Farewell.

 

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