The Singapore Grip, a new ITV drama which centres on a British family living in the titular country at the time of the Japanese invasion, has been criticised for its "harmful" portrayal of colonialism.
Based on the 1978 novel by JG Farrell, the show takes place during World War II and stars Fortitude's Luke Treadaway, Star Trek's Colm Meaney, Coronation Street's Elizabeth Tan, Absolutely Fabulous actress Jane Horrocks and The Walking Dead's David Morrissey.
It was adapted for the small screen by Dangerous Liaisons writer Christopher Hampton.
When the broadcaster released a trailer for the six-part series earlier this month, actor Simu Liu – who is set to play Marvel's first Asian superhero in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings – shared his disdain by quote-tweeting it alongside the caption: "No… just…no."
The post was met with overwhelming support, as many of Liu's followers echoed his opinion. And now, BEATS, a UK-based advocacy organisation founded by British East and Southeast Asians across the theatre, film and TV industries, has condemned the programme ahead of its airing.
"In a landscape where our creative industries are decimated, the Black Lives Matter movement has placed this country's problematic view of its own colonial legacy firmly under the microscope,” the group told Variety.
"In this context, an expensively mounted TV adaptation of JG Farrell's satirical novel, with colonial Singapore as its exotic backdrop, is a kick in the teeth to the UK's East and Southeast Asian community. This is especially concerning at a time when anti-East and Southeast Asian hate crime has dramatically increased during the coronavirus pandemic."
BEATS went on to argue that the programme could have elected to present "a more enlightened perspective" on the era, which would have proved more "in keeping with the progress that has happened in the half century" since the book was published.
But instead, it said the "inconsequential" series ignores a part of Singapore's traumatic history to centre the experiences of Caucasian characters through a lens of "jauntily-forced" comedy.
Writer Hampton addressed the backlash, arguing: "Its very subject is possibly the greatest catastrophe to befall the British Empire during its decline, a disaster the colonists were themselves squarely responsible for.
"The most sympathetic and resourceful of the central characters is a Chinese woman, a member of the Resistance against the Japanese, who is able to educate our hero and open his eyes to what he is already becoming aware of, namely the corrupt practices and casual racism of the ruling British elite."
The Singapore Grip premieres on Sunday, September 13 at 9pm on ITV.
Digital Spy has launched its first-ever digital magazine with exclusive features, interviews, and videos. Access this edition with a 1-month free trial, only on Apple News+.
Interested in Digital Spy's weekly newsletter? Sign up to get it sent straight to your inbox.
You Might Also Like