As I watch the media here in Australia and try to compare it to the ones in Malaysia, I usually achieve a clear distinction on two outstanding things. One is the degree to which Malaysian media stoop to constantly provide entertainment, entertainment, entertainment 24-7. Two, and the thing that interests me the most at the moment, is the direct openness of the Australian media that sometimes can be confronting.
I know that I’ve only been living here for two years and that is not long by any standards. But I think I have learnt the obscene power that media possess over the people who consume them. Here, the media, especially the current affair shows, blow up stories like “teenage running from home at 14 to have babies”, “woman wants to have 11 babies” and “grandmother forced to sell home because of mortgage crisis”. My very first reaction when I saw these news here was, SO WHAT? I think these things happen in Malaysia too but they are not on tv. So why the big fuss? But when I go on to think about it, I came to a realisation that behind the so-called strong values that Malaysians possess, we are actually so afraid of admitting our faults and mistakes or acknowledging the real condition of the society. So I can understand now why Edisi Siasat used to get a lot of “word-bashing” for their intake on current affairs and that’s not even 25% of the things said here. No wonder I used to think that Malaysia has no problems and that’s because we were never told so until things really get out of hands like when suddenly people start dumping babies in bins at large numbers, then it becomes newsworthy. If it’s just one or two in a month, it sort of appears that it’s the best for all to just keep it mum.
Still talking on values, I can assure that Aussies laugh the hardest at themselves, thus the success of shows like Kath & Kim, Summer Heights High and The Chaser’s War On Everything which are all a satirical view on the Australian perceived values of “mateship” and “fair-dinkum”. These shows make the people wonder about their values and drive them to question the way they live they life. Sure it’s entertainment but it’s embedding a whole lot more than it appears on the surface. On the other hand, I am almost certain Malaysians (including me) wouldn’t have the ability to constantly poke fun at ourselves and laugh at the not-so-ambiguous reflection on oneself thus we instead have the success of shows like Trek Selebriti, Melodi and Akademi Fantasia which are all a paradoxical representation of the Malaysian perceived values of righteousness and modesty. These shows drive people to become engrossed in something that are not theirs and make them drift in constant mindless entertainment. We become obsessed with everything beautiful and wonderful to shift the attention from the chronic issues of the society. In better words, we were never taught to think for ourselves.
What we see on Malaysian television are not us, the majority of people. So, I can only agree why new shows like “Kami” on 8TV should be a hit, it might be partly because a cute guy named Eizani (sigh!) and partly because it, indeed, attempts to represent a large part of the community and have subjects that really matter. So are Gol & Gincu, Datin Diaries (even if it’s a bit over the top yet it is largely a fair representation) and Realiti. We need more shows like the one initiated by The Hoppers and Ahli Muzik where Malaysian is the focus. We need more reliable documentaries like Majalah 3 which tells the story of Malaysia or to Malaysians. Yes, we need entertainment but we certainly do not need 15 reality tv shows a year. I’m sure the argument would be that “Well, we only air what the people wants to see”=consumer-provider relationship. But if you keep wondering why most people tune in to other optional international shows on the cable network, I think it should be self-explanatory by now.