I Not Stupid 3: When anxiety from obsessing over grades in school lasts well into


I Not Stupid 3 spotlights the rivalry between two mothers who will stop at nothing for their sons to overtake the other, even when their single-minded pursuit of success for their sons’ own good comes at the expense of, well, their sons’ own good. 

In fact, perhaps three lines in the trailer best sum up the film’s intended talking point: “22 years on, why do we not understand our children better? 22 years on, why are parents still obsessed with their children’s school grades? 22 years on, why do parents still deprive their children of a happy and simple childhood?”

In standard Jack Neo style, the storyline is fairly formulaic and a touch caricatured. But I expected as much, and didn’t feel it needed to have changed drastically for me to learn something new. After all, it’s been 22 years – I’ve changed.

Watching the same movie at various points in life often results in a different takeaway each time, coloured by our life experiences, beliefs and values, and even emotional range at that point. As the famous saying goes, “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are.”

WHEN ADOLESCENT BELIEFS BECOME ADULT BURDENS

While I Not Stupid 3 rehashes the tried-and-tested academic trauma narrative that its now-grown millennial audience will find familiar, the film also delves a little into the parents’ backstories, touching on the deeper beliefs that underpin their obsession with their children’s grades. 

Had I watched this film when I was younger, I’d probably conclude that a kiasu (afraid of losing out) society creates Tiger Parenting, which turns mothers into monsters and puts undue pressure on children. Stress is evil. Suffering is bad. Ban all tuition. And I wouldn’t be totally wrong. 

But about two decades since leaving primary school, the first place I fully felt the suffocating pressure to perform, I now know life’s experiences are rarely binary. I’ve seen the negative consequences of carrying well-intended beliefs from young into adulthood – and, if we have children, into parenthood. More often than not, these beliefs are baggage, whether we bear the burden ourselves or unwittingly place it on another.



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