Singaporeans are a fiercely proud little nation.
So when anything about Singapore comes on TV, my wife wants to watch it.
Flicking channels one night, we came across what looked like an interesting documentary.
It was about a woman named Annabel Chong.
She went to Raffles Girls’ School, my wife’s old school.
It’s named after Sir Stanford Raffles, the founder of Singapore.
Standards are very high: education, dress, speech, manners.
Amongst the teachers and the students.
After doing her A levels, Annabel Chong came to London to study law.
Eventually she dropped out of law school and switched to The University of Southern California.
Here she studied ‘photography, art, and gender studies’.
One day, she saw an ad in the LA Weekly, for a modelling agency.
She went along, and they turned out to be making hardcore films.
Annabel Chong was persuaded that being in these was a feminist stance for equality.
She was convinced she would be making art.
So she began starring in porn films, and after a while it seemed perfectly normal to her.
There is a massive porn industry in LA and she was welcomed into it.
So much so, that she was persuaded to make a movie called ‘The World’s Biggest Gang Bang’.
There was no plot.
It was just a world-record attempt.
She would have sex, on camera, with over 250 men.
The film became a massive hit and Annabel Chong became a superstar in the porn industry.
She felt she’d achieved something to be proud of.
She went back to Singapore.
She took a film crew to Raffles Girls’ School.
She wanted to film the teachers talking proudly about what a good student she’d been.
And how they always knew she’d make something of herself.
She thought they’d want to call an assembly for her to make a speech to the girls.
Telling them everything she’d done and that they could achieve similar things.
That was her reality.
But suddenly she ran into their reality.
They didn’t want her in the school.
They wouldn’t even talk to her.
The teachers wouldn’t be interviewed on camera.
They were deeply, deeply ashamed of her.
They didn’t want the girls exposed to her influence.
To them she was no better than a prostitute.
Annabel Chong was in floods of tears.
This was a prime example of cognitive dissonance.
When what’s in your head doesn’t match reality.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to go at all.
IMHO, Annabel Chong’s life is a prime example of naivety and denial.
She just assumed that, as she was now an artist, a feminist icon, and a world record holder, Singapore would automatically be proud of her.
In her naivety she had a massive desire to be accepted.
And of course, fame is the ultimate badge of acceptance.
She hadn’t understood it isn’t just about being famous.
It depends what you’re famous for.
It isn’t just about holding a world record.
It depends what the world record is for.
Now of course she’s done nothing to be ashamed of.
No one else got hurt by anything she did.
But where she did go wrong is in being oblivious to everyone else’s reality.
That’s a lesson that we, in our business, really should be aware of.
It’s fine to do what you want.
It’s fine to shout about whatever you want to.
As long as you don’t want anything from anyone else.
If you do want something from someone else, you’d better find out what they want.
If we want a certain reaction from an audience, we need to hold the audience in mind.
We need to come off broadcast and go on receive.
Otherwise we’ll be disappointed when we find out what we think they ought to want isn’t what they actually want.
Provoking a desired reaction is not the same as just provoking.
And, as my wife turned off the TV, she summed it up.
“Stupid woman, what did she think was going to happen?”
And the answer is, of course, she didn’t.