Disclaimer: My thoughts and analysis of the film is solely my personal one, and should not be misrepresented as that of Faeryville’s film direction and message.
Calling it a modern myth, the director envisioned what he felt the future of societies may be like. And prophetically, it seems like the future has peaked quite early…
When asked why he used a dystopian setting “I want to express things without anybody or any establishment thinking that I’m talking about them as ..honestly as I can and setting it in an imaginary fictitious setting where I can dictate my own rules on what a system is. It just frees me to do whatever I want with my characters and story.”
If his film had political analogies “That’s not what I set out to do. It’s more of a critique on the understanding of ideology, rebellion, regimes and a harsh look at both sides from the system, establishment to resistance.”
How he wants the film to impact Singaporean youths “I want young people to see that films..can be different. We can think differently. We can walk out, challenge the status quo and not be afraid to be imaginative in whatever forms of expression.
When I reflected on the controversial meaning and themes – I found the film very relevant to universal issues. The quotes below are what the various characters said in the film.
STRUCTURED SYSTEMS & HIERACHY
Intelligently set in a dystopian era with an US style high school setting – I felt the director had used the school structure and youth issues as indirect analogies of real world problems and systems.
My personal interpretation of what the film’s school hierarchy symbolizes in reality: Principal = Highest Power (his hair reminded me of Lee Kuan Yew’s), Fraternity = Privileged (Elitist), Students = Mainstream Society, The Nobodies = Minorities, Belle = Anarchists
With power, comes control. When you are afraid of losing control, you’ll do anything to keep in control.
“It’s not about power. It’s about fear. Fear of losing control..We all know how fear and power controls everything. But what we don’t know is that those in power are actually the ones who are afraid.”
THE COOL KIDS, ELITISM, AND PRIVILEGE
In Singapore, there are labels placed on schools – elite and neighborhood, or certain educational routes seen as a better long-term pathway than the other. In any school, there is also social hierarchy – with the popular cliques being more favoured over the not-so-popular nerds or misfits. Prospective leaders may be eyed from an early age, and honed to become future ministers.
“Parties like these belong to the privileged ones in our privileged school.”
“We have a tradition of fraternities here in Faeryville college. One that offers life long bonds. Friendships that extend well beyond your academic age.”
“There are two paths that you may choose here in Faeryville College. One prepares you for greatness and all that the world has to offer; the other is the road of the misguided, a path filled with resistance and romantic distractions.”
The film supports local anti-bullying advocacy organisation Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth (CABCY). A major theme in his film – the film protagonists were often subjected to bullying, which is a very prevalent youth issue – be it physical, verbal, cyber or ostracization.
“These are the same kids who pick on us everyday. The ones who call us losers and make us feel like … Nobodies…We’re used to being pushed around. Like it or not, fraternities rule. We’ve come to accept it.”
IDENTITY EXPLORATION & SOCIETAL ROLES
When we become adults, we tend to conform to roles that society impose on us, losing our experimental spirit. One main theme of the film was the nobodies (the clique who saw themselves as misfits) figuring our their identity e.g. sexuality, morality, friendships, and substances, and using different outlets to express their defiance or uncertainty.
LABELS, FOREIGNERS, AND XENOPHOBIA
We often placed labels on each another which only causes fights and divide. There is often this mentality that westerns are more capable or “atas” than Asians. Some Singaporeans also complain of foreigners taking away their rice bowl, or expatriates being given exclusive packages. Xenophobia or tension between diverse communities are common.
In the film, some of the bullies and fraternities seem to be of foreign nationalities whereas the protagonists – the nobodies, were made up of an Asian cast and often picked on constantly by the former. Taurus, the character that enjoyed making mechanical toys e.g. bombs, was played by a malay actor. Not sure if it was an analogy of Terrorism and Extremism. But once again, I have to emphasised that Islam and Terrorism but two entirely separate thing, and should not be mistakenly associated.
IDEOLOGY & VIOLENCE
When ideology is taken to an extreme, the line between right and wrong becomes blur. It may become a blind tool for communities e.g. different race, religion and extreme groups to fight or show displeasure against one another e.g. terrorism, US gun laws – school or suspected racial-motivated shootings. When the bullied is overwhelmed with helplessness or anger, and decides the only choice is to fight back e.g. college campus shootings.
“Ideology can be a dangerous thing. Especially in the hands of the young and misinformed.”
REBELLION AND ITS CONSEQUEUNCES
When we rebel against your school structure or system, what are the repercussions? When you do the same in the adult world? What are the consequences? All-out anarchy for bloodshed and fiery?
“‘Why do teenagers find the need to rebel? That (rebellion) is the only way they know how to express themselves.. and that is why we have systems to keep things in place.”
EDUCATION & CULTURE
In Asian societies, the education structure and culture shapes us at times to blindly conform without questioning, which restricts our minds from creativity and critical thinking. We may give up alternative mindsets or pathways to conform to mainstream social norms or expectations.
“Teenagers need to be saved from their own ideals. Minds can be moulded and the wrong-doers can change if they are given a second chance. That is what education is all about..Education is suppose to equip people with the right knowledge but sadly, there are still those who want anarchy and chaos”
“One prepares you for greatness and all that the world has to offer; the other is the road of the misguided, a path filled with resistance and romantic distractions.”
MIND CONTROL, MANIPULATION, AND BEHAVIOURAL MODIFICATION
Project MKUltra, brutality in US interrogation methods towards terrorists, political prisoners, ISA (Internal Security Act, corruption in government, authorities and judiciary system around the world.
“I’ve asked for the young lady to be placed under Fraternal Care (more whispers). Fraternal Care in Faeryville college itself.. so that she can be corrected.“
Relating back to the film, Belle is an anarchist in the film who rebelled against the school system and often uploaded online videos. She had to go through mandatory counseling sessions, which felt more like an interrogation torture session to “correct” her mindset. The scene reminded me of a police station or prison compound room. The lights were kept bright, most likely making her unable to sleep well.
Backgrounds of lower class
Income inequality and dysfunctional families may be other underlying themes. Behind-close-doors, there may be many family issues a child face, or coming from a less “perfect” background, which significantly impacts their perspectives and attitudes when they become older. The clothes of the nobodies are darker and dull, versus the bright and neat clothes worn by the privileged students.
Written by: Cass
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