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A Singaporean Graphic Novel's Rise To Fame, And The Effectiveness Of Banned Content

This article originally appeared on Vulcan Post

Need a video to go viral? Get the Singaporean authorities to ban it.

Since the National Arts Council pulled its funding for graphic novel “The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye”, the novel has skyrocketed with popularity, and has sold out within a week of its launch. The book launch was met with long queues, much more than what most book launches from local writers would have experienced.

It has now been sent for reprint, and should be back on the shelves within the month. The graphic novel by Sonny Liew was said to have breached funding guidelines, and potentially “undermines the authority or legitimacy” of the Government.

Did you manage to get your copy of “The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” signed by Sonny Liew? We hope so, because the…

Posted by Epigram Books on Saturday, 30 May 2015

“I knew the turnout would be a little bigger than the usual, given the attention we’d gotten after the news broke, but I think we were all taken aback by the level of support shown,” said Sonny Liew to TODAY.

This reminds me of an instance when a classmate revealed that she had bought a book on her trip to the US, one that was banned in Singapore due to its inclusion of sensitive content. She became a star amongst her friends instantly, with many begging her to let them borrow the book, or even just look at it, like it was a priceless jewel to be raved about.

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Image Credit: Yahoo

Such a phenomenon is known as the Streisand effect. After popular actress and singer Barbara Streisand sued a photographer for putting a photo of her private residence in Malibu onto his website, the website’s traffic jumped to more than 420,000 in a month because of the publicity that the lawsuit brought. Clearly, the more you try to prevent people from viewing content on the Internet, the more people will be likely to watch it.

The same goes for Jolin Tsai’s same-sex marriage music video, indie film “To Singapore With Love”, or Roy Ngerng and PM Lee’s lawsuit against him. Last year, a reading event in protest of the pulping of 3 children’s books gathered more than 400 people. And while in less conservative countries, Amos Yee would have been brushed off as an Internet troll out to cause trouble, his subsequent arrest in Singapore, as well as the events that followed, have propelled him to relative infamy. His video has since garnered over a million views.

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Image Credit: Straits Times

While “The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye” isn’t banned, it still fits into the trend of how Singaporeans tend to react when it comes to authority: when officials act out against a person or any form of content, people begin to crowd around to see what the fuss is about. Some may be reacting in defiance, but most are simply drawn in by their own curiosity.

And as history tells us, nothing gets you more publicity than a good controversy.

 

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