Following a series of social media posts showcasing how he's now woke to injustices in society, Singapore’s biggest YouTuber is retiring one insensitive aspect of his videos: an exaggerated archetype of an ethnic minority.
In the many skits that Tan Jianhao produced under his umbrella of YouTube channels, there has been a long-running character by the name of Peter Papadum, a caricatural depiction of an Indian uncle who is supposedly a retired Regimental Sergeant Major of the Singapore Armed Forces and a roti prata seller.
Though the character is portrayed by fellow YouTuber Ridhwan Azman, Peter Papadum speaks in a thick Indian accent and has exaggerated body mannerisms. Background Indian music is used as a comedic effect when Peter Papadum appears.
After gaining popularity (for some reason) among Tan’s fans, the character was even spun-off into Ridhwan’s own YouTube channel for even more stereotypical hijinks. On top of being a mainstay in skits, Peter Papadum has sung prata-related parodies of tunes like Drake’s God’s Plan and Lil Pump’s Gucci Gang. Both videos have garnered over a million views each.
It took years but both Tan and Ridhwan have finally decided to retire the character from future videos. This was apparently done in solidarity with the explosive fight against racism and injustice currently erupting in the United States over the recent death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died while his neck was pinned to the floor by a white police officer.
Tan, in particular, has been vocal in his support for the injustice against Floyd on Twitter. In the process, however, the YouTuber has come to terms with some of the problematic aspects of his past videos, including having his hair braided (associated with cultural appropriation) and Peter Papadum.https://twitter.com/thejianhaotan/status/1266718323535839237
Yesterday (May 31), Tan announced on Instagram that he has seen the errors of his ways and made an apology, assuring that he will now be “more sensitive to how (he portrays) certain races”.
"I’ve never meant to put a certain race under a bad light. After some reflection, I realized it was insensitive and we could have done it better,” he wrote, adding that he has a responsibility to educate his young impressionable audiences.
Similarly, Ridhwan has apologised for his portrayal of the character, bidding farewell to Peter Papadum.
“This fictional character was never made to offend anyone but only to create smiles,” he posted on Instagram.
Even long-running animated sitcom The Simpsons has phased out Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a recurring character that has been deemed problematic for being an offensive caricature of South Asians. Hank Azaria, the white actor who voiced the Indian shopkeeper for three decades, stepped down from the role after understanding why it was hurtful.