MP Lee Bee Wah: How does S'pore govt approve RuPaul's Drag Race shows for local audiences?

Category is: Concerned Politician.

Matthias Ang | January 16, 2019, 03:30 AM

How are performances featuring celebrity drag queens from the Emmy-award winning reality television series Rupaul’s Drag Race vetted and approved by the Singapore government for audience consumption here?

This was the essence of the question raised by PAP MP Lee Bee Wah in Parliament on Jan. 15.

Drag show coming to Singapore

Lee's question was in response to the upcoming Werq the World live show in Singapore, where several of the celebrity drag queens from the show will be giving a performance, Channel NewsAsia (CNA) reported.

This will not be the first time drag queens from the television series have performed here in Singapore.

Previously, contestants from RuPaul’s Drag Race, such as Bianca Del Rio, Naomi Smalls, Kim Chi and Shangela have appeared in successful performances organised by LA Comedy Live.

What's the nitty-gritty in approving such shows?

Here are all of the points to Lee's question regarding the show:

  • Has the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) received objections to the performance of the RuPaul's Drag Race show in Singapore?
  • What are the criteria for approving such performances?
  • How does the Infocomm and Media Development Authority (IMDA) deal with the approval and censorship of performances dealing with LGBT issues?
  • How is the age restriction determined for such shows?

Shows with LGBT content given higher classification ratings

In a written response, Minister for Communications and Information S Iswaran stated that under the category of Arts Entertainment (AE), which includes plays, variety shows and art exhibitions, such events which have LGBT content are given a higher classification rating by IMDA.

In total, there are four classification ratings for AE:

  • General
  • Advisory
  • Advisory 16
  • Restricted 18 (R18)

Iswaran added that the IMDA takes into consideration the overall theme, the content elements, message and impact of the work and suitability for different age groups, highlighting further that content which goes beyond the R18 rating will not be allowed.

In the case of content rated higher than "General", IMDA will issue a consumer advice to enable the public to make an informed decision, as well as guide parents on the suitability of the content for their children.

Iswaran further stated that the IMDA is guided by the Arts Entertainment Classification Code (AECC), which was developed in consultation with the community and is aimed at reflecting prevailing social norms.

Such a measure is aimed at helping to protect the young from unsuitable content while enabling adults to make informed choices.

Past shows have not attracted much feedback

Iswaran also addressed RuPaul's Drag Race directly, noting that past shows have generally been classified R18 in lieu of their mature content.

Additionally, such shows have not attracted much feedback.

Iswaran further noted that IMDA has since received the AE licence application for the Werq the World live show in February and will assess the performance in accordance with the AECC.

Lee Bee Wah's previous engagement with LGBT issues:

When a Rupaul Drag Queen show didn't go so well:

What the Minister for Social and Family Development has to say on the issue:

Top image collage left image from Lee Bee Wah Facebook, right image from Werq the World Facebook