SG content creators Jianhao Tan and Ridhwan retire 'Peter Papadum' character amid racial sensitivity issues

Local content creators Jianhao Tan and Ridhwan have voiced their decision to retire the “Peter Papadum” character and apologised to Singaporean minorities who may have been hurt by any of their jokes.

In an Instagram post, Tan said he never meant to put a certain race under a bad light, and after some reflection, he realised it [Peter Papadum] was insensitive and that the duo could have done it better. The Peter Papadum character came about when Tan first started YouTube with Ridhwan, and the duo created characters to portray various acts. Peter Papadum was one of these characters and the storyline was that Peter Papadum and Tan have a long history of banter and putting each other in tough spots.

“This was a time where we couldn’t afford to have a team or pay other actors yet. Among other characters, Ridhwan also plays other characters such as an awkward Chinese boy Ren Yi Xiang but I understand the difference. [Peter Papadum] adopts caricature-like qualities that exploit racial stereotypes, while Ren Yi Xiang merely appears as a name,” Tan explained, adding Chinese people in Singapore do not deal with the same oppression as other minority races.

According to Tan, he tries to include as many races in his videos as he can. Among the characters which have played a role in Tan’s videos include a Malay principal, a Chinese cleaner, an Indian teacher. “I do not give actors roles based on their colour of their skin. I give it to them based on their ability to portray a role. However, now, as I grow and learn more, I will be more sensitive to how I portray certain races, and I apologise for not understanding this implications of this and I will not make the same mistake again,” he said. He was also of the view that:

I realise now that to enact change to dismantle racism it has to begin at home, and with those who have a voice.

“As an influencer and content creator with a following, I have a responsibility to educate my young and impressionable audiences. To the Singaporean minorities I’ve hurt with any of my jokes, I apologise,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ridhwan too apologised in another Instagram post if the fictional Peter Papadum character “ever offended anyone”. He added that he hopes all can lend their voices in these dark times, and make a difference to fight this ongoing issue of people suffering due to racism. “I know some of you love this fictional character that have been appearing in my videos and @thejianhaotan's videos. This fictional character was never made to offend anyone but only to create smiles. I would like to sincerely apologise if it ever offended anyone. So let this be the last time. Goodbye,” his post read.

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The response from both Tan and Ridhwan comes amid the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the US, which members of public all around the world have pledged their support to. Through videos, social media posts and many other ways, people are calling out acts of racism and xenophobia. In Singapore, Tan too expressed his disgust towards police brutality that led to George Floyd’s death in the US. In an Instagram post, Tan said racism, oppression and inequality is a reality and called for everyone to stand together against any type of racial hate.

Separately, brands globally have stood against hatred and inequality. In light of Floyd's death, Nike put up a video asking viewers not to "pretend there isn't a problem in America", and told audiences not to turn their backs on racism, and not to sit back and be silent. It ends with the caption "Let's all be part of the change". This caught the attention of rival sports brand adidas, which retweeted Nike's post on its own Twitter account with a caption: "Together is how we move forward. Together is how we make change." 

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