Friday ∗ 06 May 2011

notes of a TV junkie: the cultural elite & pop TV

which is to ask: how good does it feel, really, now that Willing Willie has been suspended for a month, and now that the MTRCB has tasked itself to do the strangest of things: that is, watch every darn episode there is for possible “di kaaya-ayang” moments, for immediate sanctioning or approval of the next day’s show. it’s good ol’ Pinoy pag-initan natin ang show. the question of course is: wala bang ibang pangangailangan ang kultura MTRCB?

if you were reading our cultural elite throughout this whole save-JanJan-hate-Willie campaign, it’s actually pretty clear that there is much to be done: oh the horrid local culture we have, the elite say. except that what they’re pointing at is local popular and mass culture, so defined because this elite talk about “acceptable culture” and “decency” and “better humor” and “good television” which already says that they know better, that there’s their high art and there’s low art, that there’s nothing wrong at all with this kind of division and how it reeks of the painful truth of elitism. minsan kailangan nating umamin, sa totoo lang.

because what’s wrong here is that in the process of talking about what ails culture in this country, the elite has not looked at itself in the mirror: they call on each other to change things, but fail to see that there’s something wrong with their own cultural productions. in the process they’ve drawn a pretty thick — and old line — between themselves and the rest of us who watch and are the market of popular TV: Oh how crass this television culture! Que horror!

case in point: Monique Wilson. she who made the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer by calling on her co-artists to take a stand against television that “dumbs down viewers” and invoking big concepts like fence sitting and social class. now I’d be all happy with someone of Monique’s stature doing that, except that she forgot that she was talking about herself, too. as producer of local culture, which is to say she’s a Filipino involved in theater productions, it might be good for Monique to deal with her own class limitations: who is the audience of her theater productions? who has the money to watch her shows?

it is no surprise of course that Monique is not of the PETA or Dulaang UP school-of-let’s-go-hungry-for-theater. it’s no surprise either that locally written plays are few and far between in her CV, if it’s there at all. and yes, Monique, when you ask “what kind of senseless segregating is that?” with regards the existence of the ABCD markets, well, much might be gained by asking that question of the sphere of cultural production you belong to.

now this is not to look down on local theater productions of foreign plays, but we must know there’s something wrong with that right? we must admit there’s something fundamentally and ultimately wrong with that, and it is a symptom as well of the bigger problems we have with local culture, over and above Willie and gameshow television.

in the same way that there has got to be a bigger more fundamental problem that needs to be solved when we let someone like Jim Paredes pretend that he is not complicit in the same decay that he insists is in local popular television. no really, let me begin with the fact of Sa Linggo Na Po Sila, which I think is the most wonderful Sunday musical variety show EVER, with Egay Gonzales as musical director and just some really good singing (ala Ryan Ryan Musikahan but, well, with more airtime).

and then let me remind you of Sang Linggo Na Po Sila, where we saw the APO spreading themselves too thin, and failing so miserably at rehearsing their songs, that they began to so obviously read everything off of idiot boards — which are called such for a reason. then let me remind you that it was in Sang Linggo Na Po Sila that the triumvirate of Randy Santiago, John Estrada, and… tadah! Willie Revillame, began as co-hosts. the three took over when Sang Linggo Na Po Sila ended.

let me remind you not so much of how Jim had in 2006 given up on the Philippines (sige na nga kalimutan na natin ‘yon), but more importantly of the conditions that surrounded his return: a stint as the headmaster on Pinoy Dream Academy Season One (which I guess was/is acceptable popular TV because it’s a reality show that’s about talent?), which he accepted in August 2006 as per his blog entry, which is an ABSCBN 2 show.

now realize that it was that same year, only seven months before, that the Wowowee stampede happened, killing 71 people. yes, Wowowee is an ABSCBN 2 show as well.

now wonder why oh why Jim thinks he has a right to tell Manny Pangilinan to take a stand against Willie. and why oh why he can talk to us about Pinoy TV as if he is not responsible for some of the bad that’s there? some of the good sure, but some of its bad as well.

speaking of the bad, maybe the horrid here, it has got to be the really irresponsible. and it’s not just this kabastusan, but also this: where from the beginning the call has been to remove the video of JanJan from YouTube or at least blur his face. where at some point it needs to be asked: who is exploiting who here, at this point in time? and who is getting away with ruining this boy’s and his family’s life and reputation?

what has become painfully clear in the course of this save-JanJan-hate-Willie enterprise is the fact of our cultural elite’s own immaturity: when faced with an issue that’s so layered with class contradictions, it will instead look at it as black and white, and conveniently use the law to back itself up. when faced with a cultural product that isn’t theirs, they are quick to point a finger, and call on the rest of us: come, be responsible for what’s on TV, demand for better things. they don’t realize that what they invoke is the most unstable class based fact: of taste.

and their own distaste against local popular television, against local mass culture even, and yes i generalize. i want to know what it is that this cultural elite considers as good cultural products, as products that are worthy of pride. because they are failing miserably at proving that they know what they’re talking about.

which in this case is TV, yes? and my question is: when was the last time they considered the gameshow as a cultural entity by itself, distinct and separate from the viewers at home, because it is a communal enterprise? when was the last time they sat through a Pinoy soap opera and instead of seeing the archetypes within the story, considered its newness, its difference? how many of them appreciate I You Pare for its utter rebellion? how many see how well done the twin protagonist enterprise is in Minsan Lang Kita Iibigin? or how much better the Pinoy retelling of the Koreanovela Green Rose is? or how exciting the upcoming Amaya is with all its promise of woman power? how the morning show battle is one that’s been messed up by TV 5’s Sapul sa 5?

and who can even begin to talk about Pinoy humor or noontime television as we know it, without watching and getting the Vic Sotto and/or Joey de Leon school of everyday humor via Eat Bulaga? teka, hindi kayo natatawa kay Wally at Jose? they’re the best.

granted that there are the old shows and old archetypes, anyone who wants to talk about popular television culture must be watching it still, and not judging it based on what they know from when they were kids, or what they presume is there given the incident with this little boy who really did just want to earn some money via Willing Willie. which he was able to do by the way.

except that he and his family didn’t count on him becoming the poster boy, not so much for child abuse (for how horrible to be the poster boy for that, especially when it still is highly arguable, and really that libel case is about this yes?); but the poster boy for the anti-Willie and anti-popularTV campaign. maybe the poster boy for the cultural elite throwing its weight around because it finds that it can scream its loudest online and become the lynch mob it refuses to admit it is.

after all, admitting to being the lynch mob is tantamount to admitting that as the cultural elite, they fail at dealing with the layers of class, the struggles and contradictions, in the sphere of culture. admitting to being the lynch mob means they’re not here for some intelligent discourse anymore, kampihan na lang based on taste, what matters is that they all agree about what’s unacceptable.

admitting to being the lynch mob is equal to saying that as the cultural elite they know what is right for all of us, what is decent television, and what is worth watching.

sounds like the Catholic Church doesn’t it? as irrational and uncritical at this point, too.

Posted in: arts and culture, bayan, kapitalista, komentaryo, pulitika, TV

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5 Comments/Pingbacks

    • ina
      May 8, 2011 at 1:27 am

      gabby d, how interesting ‘no, that the rules are still ambiguous really, and the guidelines are difficult to set-up. online there are plenty studies on television and children in america, and much of the guidelines are given to parents NOT to the TV shows.

  1. Brian
    May 7, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Yes, high culture na ang musical theater sa kanila. Gaya nang usual kong sinasabi.

    Filipino poor = poor in other countries
    Filipino Middle class =/> middle class in other asean countries
    Filipino elite < elite of other countries

    Paninging nila kasi dahil mas marunong silang umingles mas matalino sila.

    • ina
      May 8, 2011 at 1:33 am

      brian, ang ganda ng assessment mo, ng equal to, greater than at less than signs, winner lang! :) mga a year ago, Newsweek came out with an assessment of the Asian middle and upper classes, and they found na while the middle class has been falling to the lower classes because of major socio-political changes, the elite of Asian countries have begun to be extremely removed from these conditions and have come to equate themselves and be equal to the lifestyles and ideologies of the American elite. pinagiisipan ko pa ito, pero naisip ko halimbawa sina Kris Aquino at Ruffa Guttierez at Gretchen Barretto na walang pakundangan kung maglantad ng branded lifestyles nila, hindi nga ba’t lumelevel kina Paris Hilton at Kardashians? dregs din naman ang mga yon ng American pop culture, pero mayaman sila, and in which case what does that say about our “elite” ano.

      of course kasali na sa usaping ito ang ‘nyetang Hermes bag na 1M pesos na hiningi ni Dionisia for her birthday kay Manny Pacquiao. just after Manny announced that he wanted to end poverty. aba, tigilan kaya ang lifestyle na yan sa gitna ng kahirapan ano.

      • Brian
        May 8, 2011 at 9:51 pm

        Philippine elite kasi are from minority races, which are forced to protect their own no matter what. They have to keep their bonds strong.

        And because of colonial mentality, these elites are rarely challenged for their wealth and influence. Nakakabobo nga ang insulated na lifestyle and they are allowed to keep making money through the funneling of OFW remittances. They are not at all interested in innovating.

        Their usual contribution of bringing what’s abroad back home isn’t useful anymore in the age of the WWW, especially when we all have relatives abroad din. So ano na sila, pera nalang?

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