Indonesian Culture & Parody {POST D}

“Human beings have typically produced a nested hierarchy of spatial scales within which to organise their activities and understand their world” (Harvey 2000).


The world we live in does not come with a guidebook on how to interpret its many intricacies of an anthropological nature (Boellstorf 2002). One way in which the complexities of human nature can be explored is through the use of parody. Parody, or satire, is defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary (2016) as “an imitation of the style of a particular writer, artist, or genre with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect” as in Toto’s 2012 parody of One Direction’s “What makes you Beautiful”, “JOKOWI DAN BASUKI” (with Eng Subs). This can also be extended to Sacha Stevenson’s humorous imitation of the Indonesian culture in “How to Act Indonesian” (2013). Both have used parody as a tool to comprehend, explore and make comment on the intricate nature of Indonesian society.

Toto (2012), a Jakartan local, uses parody to make comment on the state of affairs in Jakarta. For example,

“How come it’s always this trafficky?
It’s been so long, can’t the solvers be in hurry?
They said they were going to build an MRT
If I knew this
I would have moved to Bali
Instead I’m stuck in Semanggi”

In this stanza, he makes reference to the MRT. MRT refers to Jakarta’s monorail train for mass transportation; however, this is an incomplete development, as it is suspected that within the development fund there has been great corruption (Toto 2012). The pylons once intended for the MRT, now clutter the streets of Jakarta (Toto 2012). Semanggi, an area in Jakarta known for its shopping centres is notorious for its traffic jams (Toto 2012). He then goes on to exclaim, “My Jakarta, how come you are so cruel like this? (Toto 2012)” in reference to constant traffic jams, dirty streets and endless bribery.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 11.03.40 am.png
Still taken from Toto’s 2012 ‘Jokowi Dan Basuki’

Sacha Stevenson (2013), a Canadian national who has lived in Indonesia for 12 years also parodies Indonesia’s nuances in short Youtube videos, touching on some of the same issues as Toto. Some examples of this are: “Be creative with your driving” (pay off the officer when you’ve done something wrong); “Indonesians are very clean – make sure you mop and clean every day and dispose of your garbage in a “proper” manner” (poor garbage disposal methods); “If your employer doesn’t pay you enough, you may need to learn to steal in a socially acceptable way” (short changing); “It’s not just Indonesian people that hire people based on factors other than their competence but Indonesians are definitely more honest about it. You will find sexism, ageism and other illegal comments printed in the job postings.” (Stevenson 2013).

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 11.05.34 am.png
Still taken from Sacha Stevenson’s, How to Act Indonesian, 2013

While there is no guidebook on how to interpret the world, it is interesting to see the use of parody from two different perspectives with people of two very different backgrounds, both living in and experiencing Indonesia and all its idiosyncrasies.


Boellstorff, T. 2002, ‘Ethnolocality’, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 24-48.

Harvey, D. 2000, Spaces of hope, Berkeley: University of California Press

Oxford Dictionary 2016, Definition of Parody in English, viewed 11th April 2016,

Stevenson, S. 2013, How to Act Indonesian 1-4, videorecording, Youtube, viewed 10th April 2016,

Toto 2012, “JOKOWI DAN BASUKI” with Eng Subs – “What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction [Parody], video recording, Youtube, viewed 10th April 2016,

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