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SINGAPORE — Director Jack Neo and actress Xixi Lim have responded to criticism that a character in Neo's new movie, Yuan Yuan Yuan, is fat-shaming.
The comedy, a spin-off of director Neo's Ah Boys To Men films, is set in an imaginary Singapore in which females are conscripted into the military alongside males.
When promotional publicity for the movie began this week, some netizens were triggered by the name reveal of a character played by plus-sized actress Xixi:
Some thought that the name "Yuan Yuan Yuan", which is a repetition of the Chinese word for "round", was fat-shaming.
Yuan yuan yuan?? Wtf here’s to jack Neo normalising fat shaming
— daki stan (@sebasckl) January 23, 2022
Previously, the film had already run into another controversy over a character's name – Neo apologised for naming a character played by transgender actress Kelly Kimberly Cheong 'Amanda Man'. This character was renamed as 'Amanda Ong'.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference on Friday (28 Jan) ahead of the movie's gala premiere, Neo said, "I want people to go to the cinema and watch the movie and judge it by itself, because I think what Xixi did in the movie is more than what they are thinking. So to be fair, I think it's better for these people commenting to watch the movie first."
Neo and other cast members said that Xixi had surprised everyone on set by performing very well physically during the shooting of the movie, despite her size.
Xixi said that when she first heard her character's name, she thought it was cute because it's a double name like her own name, Xixi.
"You don't have to look at it as fat-shaming," said Xixi. "It could just be a character called Yuan Yuan Yuan. It's just a name. But when people see it as something that attacks their self-image, it becomes a sensitive issue."
"It's a fact that I'm fat. I can't stop people from talking about it. I can't control what people think, but I hope people will give us a chance," Xixi added. "In the movie, I'm not a typical fat person. In fact, the message of my character is that it's not true that fat people can't do the things that thin people do – fat people might even do it better."
Ah Girls Go Army opens on 1 February, the first day of Chinese New Year, in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.
Apple Chan and Glenn Yong star in the movie, as well as more than a dozen actors that Neo cast through audition videos submitted by influencers and netizens.
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