Indonesia is once again in mourning for a national comedian. Now, therefore, is a good time to scrutinise how the media covers deaths of famous figures like Olga Syahputra.
A TV station recently began a new Bollywood-nuanced program. As an international relations graduate, I perceive the new show as an effort to boost business and cultural ties between Indonesia and India, which were booming at the beginning of this century.
To stretch the point, the show could be seen as a declaration of Indonesia’s readiness to welcome the impending ASEAN Economic Community by fusing international actors and native performers on a national stage.
In that sense, the show was an excellent and attractive idea; in practice, it was a catastrophe.
The debacle stemmed from the producers’ decision to hold a surprise birthday celebration for the Indian actor. Nothing wrong with that; they deemed appropriate, however, to impart the paradox of life and death, contrasting the Indian actor’s birthday with the death of Olga.
Exactly what point the show was trying to make was beyond me, and I remain unable to guess the producers’ intentions.
One minute, the MC was encouraging the audience to cheer on the birthday celebrations; the next, he was leading mourning for the deceased entertainer.
Was the TV station trying to educate the audience on the life cycle. Some might call it dialectical dualism; I call it mixed signals.
My attention shifted to the hapless foreign guest. Had the producers clocked the dismay written on the actor’s face as he witnessed the conflation of his birthday with the death of a man he had never met, and barely heard of?
The Indonesian media has come a long way since being freed from the shackles of the Soeharto era, but it has a way yet to go before it becomes something to be proud of.
Andi Juliastri Syafruddin
(This article is originally published on thejakartapost.com, https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/04/11/your-letters-catastrophic-media.html)