They Totally Ignored Social Distancing For This Shoe

Yeezy madness strikes. Again. What pandemic?

It was a COVID-19 day. If the virus was indeed circulating in Orchard Road yesterday evening, outside the Foot Locker flagship at Orchard Gateway (the other half opposite 313@Orchard), they would have seen a delectable buffet. Such a shocking number of people (videos circulating online showed mostly kids) were crowding the entrance of the sneaker retailer that at some point, the police were called in. One SOTD reader who, was going to Uniqlo across the street, saw what he thought were personnel from the anti-riot Police Tactical Unit. Seriously? Apparently, even social distancing ambassadors could not manage the crowd. People didn’t care. Treasures and profiting were to be had inside Foot Locker. Coronaviruses, be damned.

The said covetable shoe was the Adidas Yeezy Boost 350—released for the umpteenth time. Yesterday’s launch was the V2 Core Black/Core Black/Red (first released in 2017). The Adidas website had announced weeks earlier that the sneaker would be launched yesterday, and by Thursday morning, had declared on their Facebook page that their online ballot had closed and that “winning entrants” would have been notified by e-mail. “For those who were unsuccessful,” it added, “you may stand another chance to purchase—our Pacific Plaza store will be contacting unsuccessful balloters in the case of drop outs on collection day.” And if even that couldn’t help the Yeezer lover, “…fret not. We will also be launching the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 Core Black/Core Black/ Red on come 5 December, 12pm.” Adidas didn’t think there would be this many who love the Yeezy Boost so much and want to touch a pair so desperately, they’d risk falling sick—seriously sick—to jam a store front for that chance.

Back to the old normal: The unbelievable crowd outside Foot Locker. Photo: solesuperiorsg/Instagram

But the staggering and disturbing Orchard Road turnout was not the only one. Apparently, over at Foot Locker’s Jewel outlet, close to 200 people crowded the store this morning, hoping to cop what they could not last night. A cheerful but perplexed staff told us that by eight, there was already a long queue. “We told them we don’t have the shoe,” he said helpfully. “Many left, but some still hanged around.” Why did he think people were so crazy about this pair of kicks? “I don’t know; I don’t get it. I think most who buy are re-sellers. I don’t know how they knew we had the shoe (at the Orchard store). We didn’t announce it. When we told them the shoes were sold out, they insisted we still had them.” What spell did Kanye West and Adidas cast on this unsexy sheath of sneakers?

The guy at Foot Locker Jewel continued, understandably on the side of his employer, “Actually, the people who came, they were out of control. We did our best to tell the people to social distance, but no one bothered. Actually the space (including the kerb) that they were crowding did not belong to us. The mall security didn’t help us; they let us do everything ourselves.” When we said we understood, just as we know how hard it has been for F&B outlet operators to tell people not to enter their premises in groups larger than five and not to mingle, he added, “These shoppers didn’t think about those working in the store. When we were asked to close for ten days (as instructed by the authorities this afternoon), all those people would have no work. But our company did not stop them working. The staff were shared among other stores.” Whatever, happened last night, Foot Locker alone should not have to shoulder the blame solely. However much you covet a shoe—any shoe, do not let COVID-19 win. Yeezy Boost is not a talisman.

Illustration: Just So

A Family Not His Own

Nominated for one of the five best films at this year’s Golden Horse Award, Dear Tenant is a poignant story of familial strain and societal discrimination, made worse by ethical predicament and moral dilemma. There is also the moving performance of the winner for best actor, Mo Tzu-yi

The (still) unconventional family in Dear Tenant. Photo: Filmosa Production/Golden Village Pictures

Before watching Dear Tenant (亲爱的房客), we knew Mark Lee was not going to win the best actor at this year’s Golden Horse Award. After watching the Taiwanese film, we knew exactly why. The movie’s lead Mo Tzu-yi (莫子仪) showed the one thing he could do as actor, and do well: act. Mark Lee, in contrast, was playing Mark Lee; a product of Mediacorp Studios, the eternal pupil of his director pal, Jack Neo. His film Number 1 was awarded the Best Costume prize in what could be a stroke of luck. These two movies, although broach hitherto difficult to express LGBTQ issues, are as different as it is from L to Q or, more specifically, between G and T. Mr Mo’s performance is natural and nuanced, Mr Lee’s one-track and over-the-top. One could tug at heartstrings, the other not.

Despair courses through Dear Tenant like blood in the body, and Mo Tzu-yi’s barely-ever-breaking-a-smile performance belies his character’s quiet suffering. This is not really a dark film, but neither is it dappled with sunshine. For five years, Mr Mo’s Lin Jianyi (林健一), the tenant, takes care of a family of two persons vastly different in age. One is a diabetes-stricken geriatric, the other a fatherless nine-year-old boy. Both are left behind by Lin Jianyi’s lover, the child’s dad, who died during a trekking trip. It isn’t clear what drives the tenant to take on the role of father and caretaker: remorse or responsibility, or both. He goes about his duties almost stoically, teaching his young charge piano and helping with school work and cooking for the elderly woman—played by Chen Shu-fang (陳淑芳) who won the best supporting actress award—and changing the bandage of her unpleasant wound that is likely caused by peripheral artery disease. He himself appears to have no life of his own, except the odd hook-up established through dating apps.

As if Li Jianyi’s circumstances are not heartrending enough, tragedy strikes. He ends up in jail, goes before a public prosecutor and from there, the not-quite-courtroom-drama narrative through flashbacks fills in the blanks of the revelation till that point. The love story of the two men are recounted, the events that led to Li Jianyi’s incarceration are told, but the protagonist’s own background are blocked out. While his pain of loss is understandable, whatever is recalled is not done with burning intensity. The no-rush pacing of the film sometimes feels like it is not going to move further. But perhaps therein lies the appeal of the story: its seeming ordinariness. This is a pingfan (平凡, ordinary) man, living in a too pingfan port area of Kaoshiong (even his deceased lover was a port worker), facing just-as-pingfan homophobia across society and the police force. The prejudices, while not overt (this is modern-day Taiwan, where same-sex marriage is now legal), simmers and the palpability makes it more disquieting.

“If today I were a woman, and my husband died, and I continue to care for his family, would you be asking me the same questions? (如果我今天是个女生,我的先生过世了,我继续照顾他们家,你还会问我一样的问题吗?)” This was asked in a courtroom scene, but Li Jianyi did not do so for pity; he only wanted to know why, he, a pingfan man, would be treated differently. Mo Tzu-yi plays it all with understated control, a bloke’s restraint, to the point that when the tears do come, it feels real and shoots straight for the heart. Director Cheng Yu-chieh (郑有杰) has created a gay-themed movie without any flailing-arm hyperbole. The scenes of the two men up in the mountains may recall 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, yet in its own subtler way, they suggest that homosexual love can stand just as tall. Above all, the dear tenant shows that even a gay man can be a family man and, when duty calls, a father.

Rating: 4 out of 5.