Is Parliament of Singapore’s Newest Mascot A Meaningless Gimmick?

Upon reading on Channel NewsAsia (CNA) that The Parliament of Singapore had posted on Facebook “in the voice of Parley,” its new, baby fat-ridden mascot, I imagined a baby squealing in a high pitched voice, miserably trying but failing to even pronounce ‘Instagram’ or ‘administrators’.

Next, I imagined one of those really annoying couples. You know, the sort that predictably descends into a whiny twittering of sweet nothings every time they so much as open their mouths to say something to each other.

Finally, I thought, how is this appropriate at all for something as serious as Parliament?

It’s no secret that Singapore has a long and colourful history with mascots. Some make perfect sense while others seem to operate on the belief that Singaporeans are simple-minded children who should be spoken down to.

Generally speaking, a mascot works if it serves some kind of educational purpose. Take PUB’s Water Wally for instance. Apart from that one creepy Shower Dance video it appears in (hey, no one is perfect), it makes sense that its messages surrounding water conservation are paired with an endearing, animated water droplet.

After all, these are habits that should be inculcated from a young age. Water Wally, in all its bouncy, baby blue glory, makes all of this information accessible for children.

For mascots like SMRT’s Bag Down Benny and company, one could argue that those who refuse to think of anyone other than themselves on public transport should be spoken to like children. At the same time, their juvenile quality make them undeniably patronising.

Unlike civic-mindedness, Parliament is a whole other monster. Apart from everyday concerns like increases in GST and the cost of water, parliamentary debates often attempt to address more complex issues like the struggles of single parents, doing away with the PSLE, or the fate of national icons.

These are not subjects that can be distilled into bite-sized and easy-to-swallow nuggets. Because of their moral, economic, and occasionally racial nuances, they should be expressed with clarity and transparency, not childish vivacity.

In light of all this, Parley feels like a badly executed distraction.

We already know that all sorts of important, ugly, and sometimes completely meaningless things happen in parliament. So why try to filter it through the lens of a stuffed mythical creature?

Why not just give us a live feed?

I get that it’s a challenge getting Singaporeans to care about anything, much less what goes on in Parliament. But this feels too much like manipulative PR.

While Parley aspires to share snapshots of what goes on in Parliament, I have a feeling none of it will discuss those moments where grown adults trade barbs and snarky allusions to each others’ alleged moral failings.

I also do not see it addressing parliament’s less savoury moments, such as when politicians refuse to give straight answers, or when they resort to personal attacks—although a twisted part of me is smirking at the thought of Parley going into great detail about how to have sex in small spaces.  

On Facebook, Parley’s profile description reads, “As a young winged lion, I’m still desperately trying to lose my baby fat by whizzing about the skies as cardio …”

CNA calls this “tongue-in-cheek”, though I suspect the words they were looking for actually lie somewhere in between childish and cringe-worthy.

If the intention here was to get Singaporeans to gush about how cute the Parley plushie is, then this has already exceeded all KPIs. But if it was meant to get Singaporeans to care about what goes on in Parliament, then a winged, taxidermied lion cub cannot be the answer.

Or perhaps, Parley is nothing more than a pointless gimmick.

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