Sunday, 31 August 2008

SaD CloWn

I am a sad clown covered with smiles,

My big red lips are blood from my guts,

Pearl white teeth is a shield,

Kill me and I will live.

I entertain to feel free,
To be free I must reveal.

I am a sad clown covered with smiles,
Wipe the make up off and I will die . . .

We all have a sad clown in us

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Another university term essay. Essay question based on two materials, a film called Hedwig and the Angry Inch and a play Joe Guy.

Altering one’s identity to fit in the society one lives in does not allow one to belong, as this denies one’s personal truth. The main characters of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Joe Guy changed their identity to be accepted in the society they chose to be in. However even after changing their identity, the characters were still completely isolated. It is only when they accept their true selves that they are whole. Although personal identity is shaped by society’s perception of an individual, the two plays suggests that there is also such a thing as personal truth beyond social appearances.

Hansel’s desire to leave East Berlin and come to America forced him to go through gender reassignment and change his name. (Mitchell and Task, 2000: 43) Hansel’s non typical-gender behaviour is constrained by the ‘cultural perceptions of masculinity and femininity’ (Gove and Watt, 2000: 75) of this dichotomy world, which does not allow Hansel the freedom to belong. This is proven in the lyrics shouted out by Yitzhak, Hedwig’s current legal husband and back up singer in the song Tear Me Down.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Hedwig is like that wall,

Standing before you in the divide,

Between East and West,

Slavery and Freedom,

Man and Woman,

Top and Bottom.

(Mitchell and Task, 2000: 15)

Therefore Hansel who is known as Hedwig after sex-change operation lived in her confused identity in an outlook of a woman or to be precise a transgender. As said by Weedon, ‘The body is central to identity – both chosen identities and those imposed by institutions.’ (Weedon, 2004: 14) Here society’s treatment towards Hedwig account largely from her appearance. This supposedly defines her gender, sexuality, age, beauty etc. In the scene from the movie when Hedwig was singing the song The Angry Inch, a man who was disturbed by Hedwig’s lyrics came up to him and called him a ‘faggot’. Such slanderous attack shows how a person treats Hedwig from what he sees. One could say that this man is judging Hedwig’s appearance and not Hedwig’s true personality. However a familiar rejection is thrown at Hedwig in her kissing scene with Tommy. Tommy expressed his love to Hedwig and this is obviously because of the chemistry and strong feelings he had towards her, however he refused to accept Hedwig’s ‘Barbie Doll-crotch’. Tommy was taken aback by Hedwig’s physicality but not Hedwig’s personality.

Hedwig was born biologically as a boy with male genitals and had lived as a boy until he met Luther but since her sex change she had adopted a female identity. She wore fake breasts made out of clay, (Mitchell and Task, 2000: 44) make up and women wigs (Mitchell and Task, 2000: 47). On top of her appearance and behaviour as a ‘woman and concealing any evidence of maleness’ (Taylor, 1997:201), it should be noted that this was not Hedwig’s true desire to become a woman. Hedwig was persuaded by her mother and boyfriend, Luther, to have his sex changed when Hedwig was perhaps just a boy with feminine qualities whose sexual preference is man. Therefore Hedwig had to deal living with society in an identity he denied. Hedwig is doing what Judith Butler called ‘performativity’. Butler explains that ‘Identity is performatively constituted by the very “expressions” that are said to be its results’ (Butler, 1990: 25). In Hedwig’s case her gender is just a performance but it does not define who she truly is.

Hedwig’s statement projected on screen while she was singing The Origin of love saying ‘Deny me and be doomed’ and the song Tear Me Down proves Hedwig’s appeal to be accepted in a defensive way. His point to people ‘Without me right in the middle, babe, you would be nothing at all’ (Mitchell and Task, 2000: 18) explains that he has equal role as others to be part of the world he lives in. Unfortunately in Hedwig’s case he was treated as ‘the other’.

Similarly the character Joe in Joe Guy was also treated as ‘the other’. He was bullied and outcast by his peers for his ethnicity. This is particularly obvious in act one, scene two, when the British-Caribbean kids treated him unfairly. Like Hedwig, Joe’s appearance was pointed out by his school mate. Marcus made a point that Joe was not one of them; he said “I mean, I know we look alike, but not as dark as you”. Joe’s identity at this stage was very much affected by colonialism, migration and creation of diasporic communities. Unlike the cooler kids of West Indies, they were born British. Therefore they had a sense of belonging living in Britain. Joe on the other hand was considered an ‘asylum seeker’ (Williams, 2007: 16) by his peers. Here Joe is dealing with ‘the dislocation associated with migration to Britain, questions of identity and belonging, alienation, prejudice and racism.’ (Weedon, 2004: 75)

The racism Joe received eventually shaped Joe’s identity. He dismissed his Ghanaian accent, changed his behaviour and preferred to be known as Joe Guy rather than Joseph Boateng for a supposedly cooler Caribbean style. This transformation comes with hopes of being the same as others or perhaps even more superior. In act one, scene five, one can see the transition from Joseph to the “the new and improved model” called Joe. One can see clearly of Joe’s new social identity by contrasting the character Joe in scene one with Joseph from the scene at the burger bar. The fact that Joe denied his Ghanaian ethnicity to change people’s perception on him is agreed by his father “I should never have brought you to England. They have you all mixed up over here.” (Act two, scene four)

Joe’s anger expressed in act one, scene five which was a reaction of being isolated from society proves his fight of wanting to be accepted. In his line “What do I look like to you, what do I sound like, some booboo big rubber-lips monkey-faced African bin bag?”, Joe’s struggle to rise above his appearance and show the possibilities of his self-identity is overshadowed by his roots and background. As Weedon said ‘The meaning of visual is not at the disposal of individuals but is overdetermined by the history of representation.’

Although Joe’s aim is to become visibly recognised and to have a sense of self worth, he has been denying his true self. In act one, scene seven, when Joe’s scandal with a woman was confronted by Naomi, it can be seen that Joe was doing this only not to be laughed at by his colleagues. He had been changing his identity to meet the expectance of others. However after a materialistic and superficial lifestyle as a footballer, he had never felt belonged. This can be seen from the early stage when he admitted to Naomi his struggle of fitting in “‘Believe.’ ‘Nice blood.’ ‘You go low dat.’ All my life! Sounding like the fucking rest of yer, makes me sick.” (Act one, scene seven) Joe’s slump in life and career got him to return to where he came before. Marcus who used to be a bully surprisingly turned a new leaf and became a decent police man. Seeing Marcus the person Joe has been trying to compete with and be like all this time, in his new identity, just proves that not only ‘our identities are shaped by social structures but we also participate in forming our own identities’. (Woodward, 2000: 1) Marcus ability to change into a better person came from his inner self. Joe’s visit to his father gave reminder of his old self. His father still accepted Joe regardless of all the troubles and this indirectly gave Joe the warm feeling of belonging. The Joe who used to have self respect towards himself, hard working, did not participate in drugs and not buried in fame and fortune decided to meet Naomi and get acquainted with his abandoned daughter. Rather than trying to fit in being someone that he is not, Joe could only escape his current identity he is performing when he returned to his past to retrieve his personal truth. Joe could only try so hard to change himself but he can never deny the true personality in him that has always been in his consciousness.

In Hedwig’s position, she only achieved in being whole when she tears open her dress and exposed her real physicality to people.( Mitchell and Trask, 2000: 72) She refused to put on her ‘woman outlook’ as she walked down the street towards the lights; a sign of rebirth. Setting Yitzhak free and allowing him to wear the wig also symbolised the need of one’s freedom to be one self. Although the way the world defined her and her identity relied on dichotomy, he or she, deep down Hedwig recognized her true self as an individual.

Both Hedwig’s and Joe’s ‘identities may be socially, culturally and institutionally assigned’. (Weedon, 2004:6) Although they decided to ‘redefine and reconstruct’ their identities to fit in the world which they live in, (Woodward, 2000: 39) it was only when they accepted who they were and lived as their true self, did they feel accepted and belonged.


BARKER, Chris, Cultural Studies Theory and Practise, London: Sage Publications

BARRY, Peter, Beginning Theory, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002

BUTLER, Judith, Gender Trouble; Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge, 1990

GILROY, Paul, The Black Atlantic, United Kingdom: Verso, 1993

GOVE, Jennifer and WATT, Stuart, “Identity and Gender”, Questioning Identity; Gender, Class, Nation, London: Routledge, 2000

HALL, Stuart, Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, London: Routledge, 1996

TAYLOR, Paul, Investigating Culture and Identity, London: HarpersCollin, 1997

MITCHELL, John Cameron and TRASK, Stephen, Hedwig and The Angry Inch, United States: The Outlook Press, 2000.

WEEDON, Chris, Identity and Culture; Narratives of Difference and Belonging, England: Open University Press, 2004

WILLIAMS, Roy, Joe Guy, London: Methuen Drama, 2007

WOODWARD, Kath, Questioning Identity; Gender, Class, Nation, London: The Open University, Routledge, 2000

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Short + Sweet

Can It Be Anymore Exciting Than This?
Original work, talented directors and actors, ALL in ONE International Festival?
Short + Sweet will be the next big thing in KL!

Milk shake, steak and cake. Cheese on rye, stir fry and... rhubarb pie?
Silly? Perhaps.
Intrigued? You better be!
It's prim-and-proper out the window, caution to the wind this August!
The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) & Short+Sweet


6 - 17 August 2008
Pentas 2, KLPac
Sentul Park
Jalan Strachan off Jalan Ipoh
51100 Kuala Lumpur.
(Click here for a location map & public transport options)
Over two weeks, Short+Sweet Malaysia will premiere thirty all-new 10-minute plays, a showcase of some of the best established and emerging writers, directors and talents in Malaysia and across the globe, including Kee Thuan Chye, Teng Ky-Gan, Shanthini Venugopal, Chacko Vadaketh, Hani Khaursar, Soefira Jaafar, Mien Lor, Christopher Ling, Abdul Qahar Aqilah, Megat Shahrizal, Ashraf Zain, Amelia Chen, Dean Lundquist, Paul Williams and many many others!
Competition will be fierce as a panel of industry judges select which plays will get a spot in the Gala Final. Audiences also get to vote for their favourite play to put it in the running for the People's Choice Award!
Top 20
Week 1 Programme: 6 - 9 August @ 8.30pm / 9 August @ 3pm
Week 2 Programme: 13 - 16 August @ 8.30pm / 16 August @ 3pm
RM25 / RM15 (students, sr. citizens & the disabled)
Staged Readings 10
10 August @ 3pm || Entrance by minimum donation of RM10
Click here to download the full Festival programme!
17 August @ 7pm || RM40 / RM25 (students, sr. citizens & the disabled)
Enjoy a 15% discount when you purchase a ticket for Week 1, Week 2 and the Gala Final!
For school bookings, purchase 10 tickets and get 1 FREE!
Comedy, tragedy, mystery, suspense and maybe even the odd bit of food thrown in,
it's high-drama 10 minutes at a time!
Click here to watch the trailer for Short+Sweet!
Call our Box Office for tickets now!
KLPac 03-4047 9000 or The Actors Studio @ BSC 03-2094 9400

Saturday, 2 August 2008

In Loving Memory of Atuk Mak

This was written a couple of years ago when my grandmother passed away.

This morning at approximately 6.30 am UK time (1:23:19 pm Malaysian time), I was awoken by the sound of my phone indicating that I’ve got a text message. I knew from that second, its atuk mak.

I’ve been ‘singing the winter blues’ lately. Perhaps it’s the cold weather, overwhelmed with college work and every other thing that has been bothering my mind. That night I was feeling low, dull and uninspired which is only natural, I guess. I exchanged text messages with Mama and Kakak and knew that atuk was on her death bed.

It wasn’t like I was very close to her compared to her other grand children but I knew one thing is, both of us are emotionally attached. She is after all my grandma.

I did not wake up crying my eyes out or anything like that but the news did add to my bitterness. This is the first death of a close family member. It has been a quiet Saturday for me, had the whole house to myself, and gazed around just by myself. Here I recalled significant memories I have of her.

After Asar prayer, I read surah Yasin for her as it is the least I can do. The thought of calling Abah occurred to me many times but I figured he would need time of his own and probably busy running around handling the funeral. Being a tough person that he is I’m sure he is doing fine. He has done his best as a son, appreciating his mother’s sacrifice. Hopefully he doesn’t have any regrets of “wish I had…” in his mind.

Me and Atuk Mak, we do some how have some similar qualities. I have inherited some genes of hers. Becok, kecoh, gossip, bijak, and emotional. We also shared the same features. I’m just glad I made effort to visit her every holiday especially towards the few last ones although I could have done more. Looking at her I can imagine myself in many years to come. It’s hard when you are caught in your own little selfish world and everything else seems to matter more and every other people are way more important than your grandma.

I knew this was coming anytime soon seeing her state of health the last time I saw her. Right now I just feel like I would want to be there when she held her last breath. You know just to contribute a small wee and complete my responsibility as her grand daughter who’s not always there for her.

Reminiscing: I remember when I was a young brat and I lost my small piece of toy and made a huge case of it. When we got home she searched and searched till she found it and kept it for the next time Abah came to see her. I remember going to surau for sembahyang raya ages ago before some tragedy happened which changed our yearly Raya routine. Every time we leave to go back to KL, she would have tears in her eyes-Emotional. Her cooking which she stop doing long time ago since the new Aunt moved in; lontong, kuah kacang and best of all ikan masak asam pedas. Atuk Mak also did mengandam job for weddings. The bedtime stories about Abah’s childhood, which I vaguely remember, how she used to get on her bicycle selling kuih (cakes) for his pocket money. A day when she and Abah were crossing the road, they found RM5 note on the road which they later bought a bird. A parrot if I’m not mistaken.

She noticed my love for dancing. She noticed I would jump around the living room practising my ballet steps. That touched me. Honestly my other grandma was never pleased with what I do. (That doesn’t make me not like her any less; I must admit some of my values do come from that side of the family). But she did. No reason to hide or cover stories. From my eye she was religious, traditional yet flexible and open minded. Hence being quite liberal gives the opportunity which allows you freedom, creativity and independence. However the consequences of being flexible and open minded produced some Lanuns (pirates) in the family. No doubt about that! It’s only natural, I guess.

I thank my parents for not allowing me to do everything at the same time not stopping me from doing many things. They made me, Me, who I am now and the bigger person I hope to be. I don’t only learn from their good examples but also from their mistakes. I would want be there for you, Abah and Mama like how you’ve been there for us, forever. This I can assure you. Although, second thoughts when it comes to politics. It doesn’t tickle my fancy!

The best words Atuk Mak told my dad which was passed down to me is one of the best life lessons in the world,

“Biar genting, jangan putus!”

May Allah SWT create a clear pathway for her to heaven and let her rest in peace. AL – FATIHAH. Her presence and memories will never leave our sight.

Lost Pearl