Vice Gov. Sandiaga Uno wants ondel-ondel puppets with Brad Pitt’s face for Asian Games

A Coconuts imagining of a Brad Pitt ondel-ondel.
A Coconuts imagining of a Brad Pitt ondel-ondel.

Ondel-ondel puppets — important cultural symbols for the capital’s indigenous Betawi people representing their ancestors and warding off evil spirits — are among the most famous icons of Jakarta, but they might get a literal Hollywood facelift for the 2018 Asian Games.

Vice Governor Sandiaga Uno said yesterday that ondel-ondels will play an important part in showcasing Jakarta’s culture during the games, but, since the puppets’ faces are customizable, they should be changed to look like famous celebrities in order to appeal to the younger generation.

“We want special ondel-ondels with the face of Brad Pitt or whoever is famous now. The [ondel-ondels] can be ordered and made in two to three weeks, so for the girl [ondel-ondel] it could have the face of Raisa (a famous Indonesian singer),” Sandiaga said, as quoted by Detik yesterday.

“We’ll make the Betawi ondel-ondel’s concept more global, so that they connect more to millenials, raising awareness for the Asian Games.”

Brad Pitt is a fine looking man (possibly the finest there ever was, alongside George Clooney), but our criticism of Sandiaga’s idea is that Mr Pitt really had his heyday in the 2000s. May we suggest somebody a little more current like Ryan Gosling, Harry Styles, or — to keep it exclusively Asian — K-pop heartthrob G-Dragon?

Others aren’t too happy with Sandiaga’s Brad Pitt concept for more obvious cultural reasons, saying that it would violate tradition and be yet another example of Indonesians putting western foreigners on a pedestal.

Out of ideas, Sandi will use Batavian ondel-ondel with Brad Pitt’s face:

  • Indonesians are ugly, bules (foreigners, mostly caucasian) are better
  • Betraying own culture
  • Not paying royalties, just copying
  • Feels as if having more dignity if a bule’s face is used
  • Selling out own culture
  • Disrespecting history

Noo… Ondel-ondels must stay true to their tradition

Obviously, neither Brad Pitt nor Raisa have explicitly signed off on having their likeness being used by the Jakarta Provincial Government as models for modern ondel-ondels.

The 2018 Asian Games, co-hosted by Jakarta and Palembang, will see around 10,000 athletes from 45 countries competing in 39 sports from August 18 to September 2, 2018.


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