Singapore split on ‘fat-shaming’ character in Jack Neo’s ‘Ah Girls Go Army’

A movie poster promotes a character named “Yuan,” Mandarin for “round,” in “Ah Girls Go Army.” Image: MM2 Entertainment Singapore
A movie poster promotes a character named “Yuan,” Mandarin for “round,” in “Ah Girls Go Army.” Image: MM2 Entertainment Singapore

Some Singaporeans take jokes more lightly than others, with complaints surfacing today that a new military-themed comedy went too far with the fat-shaming.

As soon as posters dropped promoting filmmaker Jack Neo’s latest satire Ah Girls Go Army, people began dragging Neo for naming a plus-size character “Recruit Yuan Yuan,” (Yuan meaning “round” in Mandarin) who is a backward caricature.

“​​The bar is really in hell with this guy. Jack Neo with his lowblow humour once again. It is 2022. Do we still need to put up with this?” an admin of politically progressive Wake Up, Singapore wrote today.

Others said the name was “fat-shaming” and “shows a real lack of creativity.”

The movie, out Tuesday in theaters, is set in a future where the nation’s low birth rates forces female recruits to serve in the army as there are not enough men to do so. 

The character is played by actress XiXi Lee, who appears in an army get-up with a nametag reading “Yuan.” 

It’s not the first Neo character to be called out. In November, Neo apologized for naming a “tomboy” character played by transgender actress Kelly Kimberly Cheong “Amanda Man.” 

While he promised the name would be changed, some people accused him of not learning anything.

“First, Amanda Man, now this. The humour is really juvenile and targeted at same,” a Yo Ke He Ng wrote.

Some came to Neo’s defense to remind others that it was just a movie and should be treated lightly.

“Movie is just entertainment, dont need to be serious. U like, pay and watch, dont like also dont spoilt people[‘s] hard work,” Kelvin Lee wrote.

“If the lady chosen for the role agrees to act with that given name, who are we to start something? People gotta lighten up and let things pass for humour sake. It may not be for all but i dont think he should be condemned for it,” Smitha Pillai wrote. 

A Daryl Tan thinks that if you don’t like it, then just don’t support it.

“Stop la. The actress agreed to the role. She’s getting paid. Don’t like the movie follow the rest of us, don’t support with your dollar,” Tan wrote.

The movie’s distributor MM2 Entertainment Singapore did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

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