Geylang Is Portrayed In This American TV Show Like Nothing You’ve Ever Seen


Geylang: Singapore’s Skid Row?

When you think of drug busts, murders and any other sort of illegal activity, which place in Singapore comes to your mind? Does it start with “Y” and end with “N”?

Apparently, American TV shows like Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders haven’t heard of YishunTo them, Geylang is actually the equivalent of Singapore’s skid row, a prime spot for anything shady or illegal. Watch the episode here:


A recent episode, titled Cinderella and the Dragon, was set in Singapore. Although it is typically an action-packed crime drama, we found the way they portrayed Geylang rather humourous.

I guess there are a few things about Geylang that even we Singaporeans, never knew about. Let’s take a look at the side of Geylang that we’ve apparently been missing out on.

“Overcrowded Slum”

While we know Geylang for its amazing food and erm, interesting women, these American guys seem to think that it’s “an overcrowded slum with a thriving underworld”. At least that’s what the script called for a character to describe the area as.

Don’t believe us? Watch this and hear it for yourself.

We know that Geylang isn’t exactly a sterile, family friendly area unlike Orchard Road, but I guess we must have missed out on the slum.

The people who live in Geylang aren’t exactly poor — many of them actually make quite a lot from either selling food or selling their bodies.

And as for overcrowded, well, which part of Singapore isn’t overcrowded?

But I guess these Americans no longer need to go to countries like India to experience life in a slum, a trip to Geylang can quench that desire for them.

Gluttons Bay Geylang?

While sites like Eatbook help you discover hidden food treasures, some places just seem to slip by without anyone noticing.

Such is the case of Makansutra Gluttons Bay Geylang. The touristy outdoor food paradise that we thought was near the Esplanade must have moved to Geylang, because Criminal Minds clearly places it at Geylang — One of the scenes that took place in Geylang had footage of the popular food centre in it.


They really need to change their signpost though (see top left area of photo), it’s not by the bay anymore, guys!

Drug Dealing

The show also revealed unprecedented “evidence” of shady activities in Geylang. Apparently, Geylang is infamous for all the drug busts that have happened there. Look at the concentration of yellow dots in Geylang that supposedly represent drug activity:


Wait, hold up for a sec.

Any Singaporeans know that Yishun, not Geylang, is the epicentre of Singapore’s narcotics scene. Yishun even had its very own “drugs store” until it was raided recently, reported AsiaOne.

Netizens Tickled

Netizens seemed to share our sense of humour too, and found the depiction quite incredible.


Jabs At Singapore’s Justice

Other than their unique experiences in Geylang, the show also took a few jabs at the Singaporean government.

The actors called the Ministry of Manpower an Orwellian concept, on top of numerous insinuations that the justice system was broken.

Best of all, they claimed that foreigners were dealt with harsher sentences as compared with locals — something that any Singaporean will find incredulous, judging from our story on rich and foreign criminals who got lenient sentences.

Moreover, they implied that the concept of “innocent till proven guilty” was non-existent here.

No Research

It’s quite evident that the writers behind the show every negligently or willfully did not do any sort of in-depth research on Singapore before scripting this episode.

Their episode set in Singapore seems like it was set in some more lawless and crime-ridden country than we locals know our country is — perhaps China, judging from the cheena music being played throughout the episode and the cringeworthy pseudo-Chinese saying they flashed at the beginning of the episode that implied that we have pirates? Do they think this is still the 18th century?

Translation: Where there’s ocean, there are pirates.


Artistic Licence

However, if we consider that it’s a TV show, with fictional characters and stories, we can understand that the scriptwriters wanted to attract ignorant Western viewers who don’t know better by exoticising Singapore and thus making it more interesting by having our country fit into their idea of what Asia is like. It’s called artistic licence.

After all, we admit that if they portray Singapore as it really is, the episode would be kinda boring.

It’s not the only TV show to do this. A British TV show did the same thing when they realised that Singapore wasn’t as grungy as they had hoped, even referring to our “Englishtown”.

Which begs the question: Why did they choose to film in Singapore at all? I’m sure they would have had more fodder for their Asian mysticism fetish in China or even Malaysia.

That being said, when it comes to critiquing our justice system, it would be better if a foreign TV show doesn’t go overboard, thinking that people in Singapore won’t get wind of it. After all, we do understand English and what they are saying about us.

However, instead of getting outraged over the inaccuracies in the show, it’s better that we take this with a jolly spirit, and just attribute it to ignorance. After all, if were to angry over this, there will be no end to the things we’ll get angry over.

Featured image from CBS 




About Author

The second sentence is true. The first one is false.

Comments are closed.