Monday ∗ 28 Mar 2011

why it won’t matter to Willie

because I can already hear Willie Revillame’s defense, against all the anger directed at him given this video of the little boy contestant who danced, and did so ala macho dancer on Willing Willie. I can hear him invoking the fact that he did not teach the boy to dance that way, that even he didn’t expect that kind of dancing, which is obvious in that viral video, too. I can hear him saying it’s the parents’ responsibility, that the parents themselves must have taught the boy this dance. I can hear him saying: here, in Willing Willie, every Filipino can be himself, and the boy’s dance was part of that.

worse, I can hear Willie invoking some “us versus them” rhetoric for greater effect: ‘yang mga ‘yan, hindi kase ‘yan mahirap, kaya hinuhusgahan nila ang mahirap, kaya hinuhusgahan nila ang show na para sa mahirap.

then for good measure he will respond to anti-Willie and Willing Willie sentiments: inaapi ninyo ang show na tunay na nagpapasaya sa bawat Pilipino. on cue his eyes will tear up.

I know this because I’ve watched Willie, both in Wowowee (ABS-CBN2) and Willing Willie (TV5), though the latter has been because of Shalani Soledad, which is of course beside the point. my point being: bakit ngayon lang tayo na-offend?

and when I say ngayon lang, I mean this concerted effort to stand up for little boy Jan-Jan and the perceived abuse he suffered on the show. when I point out this fact of public outcry happening only now, I mean what of those countless — countless! — times that these Willie Revillame shows have offended, are offensive, which is really pretty much most of the time.

bakit ngayon lang tayo na-offend? is a question that is not about forgiving Revillame or his show. it’s a question that’s about figuring out how these current conditions with regards Jan-Jan are different from the five years of Wowowee and the less than a year’s existence of Willing Willie. or maybe it isn’t different at all, we just got this one on a youtube video. in which case what does this really say about us?

well, for one thing, it’s obvious that many of those who speak of the Jan-Jan issue now haven’t really been watching Willie or his shows, maybe not a lot of local TV at all. because if you did watch these shows, you’d know that Willie’s responses, the ones I mentioned and the ones I cannot even imagine, have been used before. you’d know that this is rhetoric that’s borne of two things: (1) those of us from the educated and/or middle and/or upper classes calling him crass and bastos and offensive, and (2) Willie turning things around and making it seem like he’s the one being abused here, that we are the ones pointing a finger because we are discriminating against him and his show, and those who watch it.

if you were watching local TV at all before all this, you’d know that this kind of reaction only fuels rhetoric that also always means more money in Willie’s pocket, and about as much for whatever network he works for. it’s rhetoric that has always worked to his advantage, and has just meant making that divide bigger between us who sit and tweet and write FB notes and statuses, and the masses who go and line up for Willie’s shows.

this is class divide at its most stark and painful. yet, only Willie will invoke it to be true, and in the process he’ll run all the way to the bank with it.

as would any company (network or otherwise) he’s worked for. and here it needs to be said that if we’d actually and truly like to pinpoint the culprit in this cultural degradation that has brought about this little boy dancing ala macho dancer on TV, that would be ABSCBN’s Wowowee and the kind of imagination it justified as entertainment. if we were to go to the root of this problem, it would be that contemporary television culture isn’t so much about money for the capitalists, as it actually is about an audience that is willing to die (and already have) for some TV time that’s equal to earning some money.

if we were going to the root of why Willie and his shows even exist, we would need to deal with the fact that there’s a need for it. there’s a need that’s being met by the one show that gives out money like it’s a can of Birch Tree circa Kuya Germs in GMA Supershow.

and no, to say that Willing Willie appeals to the lowest common denominator doesn’t help either. in fact it makes things worse, proving Willie’s accusation correct that we are all just (mis)judging him and his show on the level of class. speaking of these shows’ values (entertainment and otherwise) would also fail at seeing the conditions that allow for it to exist, with or without Willie there. it’s also to discriminate against this audience who are there because life is that hard, and because in truth these people see it as a way to some money, a way that they work hard for, falling in line as they do for hours or days, traveling as they might from across the country. it’s no joke to be part of a Willie show audience. even less of a joke when someone leaves the show with P10,000 pesos.

which is what Jan-Jan did. after he danced the first time, with tears in his eyes, Willie gave him P10,000 pesos. then Jan-Jan’s tears disappeared. then every time that song played he just began dancing, like a wind-up doll. then Willie makes like he discovered a talent in Jan-Jan and made him dance some more. surely to give the little boy even more money after.

and this is what we took offense at, yes? but which part of it exactly? the fact that this little boy was like a wind-up doll? the fact that he was dancing like a macho dancer? the fact that he was crying as he danced? the fact that he was given money?

these are important questions because as I watched that video, while I knew what was offensive about it, I also knew that this is standard fare for a Willie show. this is not to say it happens often that a little boy will do some macho dancing. but it does happen that a contestant will be brought to tears because they forgot their cheer, or weren’t sure what to say, or were just too darn overwhelmed to be in front of the audience and cameras. it happens that little girls — oh a great number of them! — dance sexily skimpily clad in clothes ala sexbomb girls. and you know that ispageti dance is no wholesome dance move right?

and so I do wonder why there hasn’t been public outcry about these instances. I do wonder what kind of double standard we are practicing here as we scream: child abuse! in light of Willing Willie, and every other show like it. I wonder how much of this is us reacting to things we don’t know. or is this all a matter of (our) taste?

this is Bugoy Drilon Carino (salamat yol jamendang sa correction) reality show contestant and guest who danced for Willie on Wowowee. we didn’t care that he danced hiphop did we? had he cried while doing so would we have cared?

the fact is we don’t quite know why Jan-Jan was crying. what is obvious though is that he wasn’t crying when he was called onstage, nor was he crying when Willie was interviewing him. the camera was on his aunt (who had brought him to the show) for a bit as she cried because she finally got to hug Willie. the camera was back on Jan-Jan to give a message to his aunt and father (who was there, too), and that’s when it seemed like he was close to tears. Willie tells him it’s ok, bakit ka naiiyak? he asks kindly, even giving the kid a hug. those tears would fall as Jan-Jan was dancing an obviously rehearsed performance.

after, he is given P10,000 pesos by Willie, Jan-Jan pockets the money excitedly and stays onstage to play the game. the music plays again, and he promptly dances on cue. he loses the game and is close to tears again. the game unfolds with the other contestant, and after a commercial break, Jan-Jan is back on stage again doing the same dance, this time with no tears.

it’s clear here why this is offensive, even clearer once you see the video, but what it reminds me is how late the hero we all are in taking offense only now. i do wonder if this is just because we’ve got Jan-Jan on video? or if this this is us acting on our hatred of Willie to begin with, being reminded of the fact that he is too crass, too bastos, for our TV viewing pleasures? maybe this is us barking up the wrong tree really, thinking Jan-Jan as a cause to rally around, Willie as the person to rally against, forgetting that in fact there is this:

the conditions of nation are such that parents of impoverished families will knowingly teach their own kids what they imagine is unique and different, at least enough to warrant extra cash from gameshows like Willie’s (and here Jan-Jan’s parents were successful weren’t they). the conditions are such that when this little kid danced, his father and aunt cheered him on; and when Willie poked fun at the whole act, the little boy had stopped crying because he already had 10k tucked in his pocket. the conditions are such that an absurd situation like this one can exist on local primetime TV. these conditions are exactly what must change, this bigger context is what we must be putting our energies into changing, really.

because these conditions are what allow for the crassness of Willie, the production’s lack of sense, TV5’s MVP raking it in the way a capitalist should. at the same time, to that little boy that is Jan-Jan, and to every other little girl that’s been on a game show gyrating in an outfit she shouldn’t be in to begin with, it’s about the money that’s possible to win in these spaces, it’s about the transaction that might unfold given their talent, the more unique and different the better.

it’s a transaction that we are not privy to, we cannot even imagine as relevant or necessary in our lives, not one we would think to join ever. yet it’s one that has fed mouths forgotten by government, has fueled movement from across the nation to Manila, unlike any trip we imagine taking. it’s a transaction that parents who are responsible for their children consciously and willfully enter. a transaction we might not agree with, but really, why do we even think we are the point?

we are farthest from the point. our anger towards Willie and Willing Willie will barely scratch the surface of possibility of both being cancelled out of local TV. in fact at this point it’s almost something they can shrug off, and something to use against us. because here we are shooting from the hip, angry and disgusted, in the process revealing our social class. we forget that Willie will know to see this for what it is: the class divide at work, one that we refuse to deal with, one we will deny, and ultimately one we will not put out P10,000 pesos for. even if we could.

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

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20 Comments/Pingbacks

  1. Jaime
    March 28, 2011 at 3:07 am

    Hi Miss Ina!

    I never saw it that way. Thank you for pointing out the class struggle that is embedded in the whole thing.

    I disagree though with the tone of the whole article. It’s definitely saddening that we’ve only come to realize this now. However, we should be glad that people are indeed getting angry and voicing out their opinions. A few posts back you talked of how social media plays a role in effecting change and how for a number of people it’s as much time as they can afford to give. I think for the most part posting statuses, links or tweets is enough to gather a big number of people to realize what’s wrong about the picture. And indeed it might be a bit late, or we may have overlooked countless of other incidents, but shouldn’t we at least be glad that finally we’ve come to see the horror that is behind this show?

    I also understand the amount of doubt as to how much change we can really make. There have been a number of complaints already against Willie Revillame and he’s always gotten away with most of them. I do believe though that with the right amount of pressure, even if it is only coming from a particular class, he can be forced to stop doing it altogether. Folks at the MTRCB for example can exercise their power and make better standards to prevent shows like this from exploiting children.

    It might seem like one class bullying another but I really do think that for as long as it’s for the right reasons we should do it. Even if others will look at the upper class badly, it should be done. It’s what’s right! There are greater underlying reasons for this and those too we should address. But just because there are underlying reasons doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop shows like this from airing. If anything, these shows worsen status quo. It gives parents the wrongs ideas on proper parenting among other wrong values it preaches.

    Lastly, I guess the anger really stems from the fact that this time he’s taking advantage of a child. A child that was clearly suffering through the whole ordeal and at the same time gratified by what he did. I guess what made this clip really disturbing was that we somehow saw the transformation. At first he was ashamed of the act and after he received the money, he seemed pretty pleased with himself. We know it happens in society but to see it in a kid and to see the whole process of change from shame to happiness was utterly disturbing.

    In the end, I believe we should encourage the anger. And we should channel the anger to effecting change whether short term or long term.

  2. Jhay
    March 28, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Indeed the effort to stand-up for the boy is of the ‘too-late-the-hero’ kind, but like the saying goes “it’s better late than never.” And this could be the opportunity to address the root cause you’ve identified that has given life to Willie and his shows and to all the other local noon time shows in every network. It has to start at some time, this is probably it.

  3. SK
    March 28, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    It’s not the first time people have raised major concerns about Willie and the show format. MOST ESPECIALLY about Willie’s abusive behavior on the show. He’s been cancelled and reprimanded many times and kicked out of his own show in ABS-CBN. He is not just “a host”. He is the brains, heart and soul of that show, as well as of his previous show. He has a huge say in what they do on the show and is RESPONSIBLE for his conduct on and off camera. This is not a “too late the hero” argument. IF NOT TODAY, WHEN??? Just because you’ve seen a million kids gyrating on camera does not mean that very very concerned and disturbed people should be immune to these as well. We need to fight against indifference. There is a point when you cannot take any more of it. I don’t watch Willie’s crap shows but I don’t blame people for watching it. But if no one speaks up, if no one TRULY MOVES out of anger and major concern, do you really think the TV Bigwigs GIVE A CRAP if their shows are morally degrading? If no one has spoken up in the past, then you should be very glad, there is quite a number RIGHT NOW. You have a voice as well. Why don’t you use it to call for a true and urgent change instead of insinuating people are hypocrites for being offended. It is counter productive and very insensitive. WOULD YOU OR YOUR CHILD EVER WANT TO BE IN THAT CHILD’S POSITION???

  4. ina
    March 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    hi jaime! :-) maybe. maybe it’s the fact that the little boy transformed in front of us, that we saw that process of prostitution that is on TV and plenty of popular culture, but here it was so clear to us, it was so painfully disturbing. so yes, i get the anger. i just feel that it has to be anger that becomes, or is fueled by, a more intelligent way of dealing with something that’s been around for a while. and for which Willie and his show would already have a response. it’s like regrouping and coming up with something more than just anger and disgust, in petitions and all over, in English, online that actually does respond to the conditions behind this one TV moment. because otherwise, really, it’s wasted energy. wasted because Willie and money, capitalism and network ratings, the masa lining up for shows like these, is what will matter.

    • Faye Balanon
      March 28, 2011 at 1:38 pm

      Hello. I’m a social worker and a child-rights advocate. I have been working with child-focused NGOs for years and this is not a new issue. There are efforts to address the sexualization of children by the media and ad agencies and it has been going on for years. It’s one hell of a struggle. We believe that after years of working, we have hardly reached 1% of the population. Still we do not believe that what we’ve been doing is a waste of energy and time – even when we are up against not only capitalism but also societal norms. We are in fact appreciative that now at least the awareness of the issue has increased. Maybe we could all work together to address the issue and promote child protection rather than shoot down such opportunities to do so. If you want to make a difference and participate in programmatic interventions for children please contact me and I will help you get in touch with relevant NGOs.

  5. ina
    March 28, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    hi jhay! yes, to starting somewhere. and starting to address it with the bigger picture in our heads, that bigger picture that Willie and his shows always use to their benefit. hopefully the level of disgust is such that we are forced to think of ways to address these conditions, not just that one person or show that we see as the problem.

  6. ina
    March 28, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    @SK: wasn’t at all “insinuating that people are hypocrites for being offended”.

    on the question of counterproductivity: in fact, it insists on a more productive way of fighting this industry of the game show as we see it now, fighting it on the level not of shooting-from-the-hip, or just being disgusted period, but on the level of a course of action that will not give Willie, his show, his producers, his network a way out by saying: it’s us versus them, the masa versus the people on the internet, the rich and middle class versus the poor. that’s rhetoric that wins all the time, one used against us, one that we feed by this kind of anger. more than the oppressions on Willing Willie and these tv shows being old hat, our responses to it on this level is something they know of too. it’s like a stage we step on, one we’ve seen countless times before, and one where network capitalism always wins. we obviously need a new way of fighting. that is the point.

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  8. Blueblood
    March 28, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    I am with you Tina. Nice post!

    March 29, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Unless naka-attend ka na ng fiesta party sa baranggay, o kaya’y lumusot sa mga sulok ng fairview o kaya tondo para sa mga street party ng komunidad doon, bago at offensive sa utak mo ang nangyari na yun sa TV. Normal lang yan sa kapitbahay namin. Eto nga lang, National TV at ang daming tao animoý kumukutya sa bata kaya medyo naging collective kahihiyan para sa ating lahat. At siguro na din dala ng pagkainis ng mga burgis kay Willie kasi, totoo, naiintindihan nya ang mahihirap. Mag-aalcohol lang ang kalahati ng mga may internet connection pati mga alta-sociedad ng kamay sa kaganapan na’to at sasabihin “Mga Bobong Indiyong Uto-uto! Kasalanan mo to!” Class division talaga yan. At tulad sa pelikula, laging talo ang mayaman. Sa totoong buhay, di ko alam.

  10. ina
    March 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    @arlene: salamat sa comment mo. matinding hamon ang tondo at fairview statement mo, isang hamon na kaya lang siguro harapin kapag handa na ring umamin ang online world sa kanilang class, at ang pagdikta nila ng moralidad at tama para sa lahat.

  11. ina
    March 30, 2011 at 12:08 am

    and here: how NOT to fight with Willie and reveal that you’re more bastos than he is:

  12. rolando
    April 11, 2011 at 3:09 am

    ano ba gusto mo, ma offend ngayon(lang) o wag na ma-offend forever?

    did you also ask why most Pinoys got offended and acted only after many years of marcos oppression? Besides, ano rin ba ang ginawa mo given that you know very well how Willie operated all these years? nag file ka ba ng complaint or wala lang?

    ate ano ba talaga?

  13. ina
    April 11, 2011 at 3:35 am

    @rolando: hindi naman yata magkalevel ang Marcos regime at ang WillingWillie, si Marcos equals Willie Revillame? grabe namang paglelevel ‘yon.

    hindi rin naman totoo na Pinoys only got offended and acted after years of Marcos oppression: pre-Martial Law pa lang naguumpisa na ang underground movement, lalo’t higit habang nangyayari ang oppressions during the regime, hindi late reaction ang mga tao sa katulad ni Marcos.

    wala akong iko-complain tungkol kay Willie, una dahil malinaw sa’kin na ang offensive sa’kin ay hindi necessarily such para sa mas nakararaming audience ng palabas niya; pangalawa, dahil alam kong hindi naman si Willie ang iisang may sala diyan, kungdi ang industriya ng noontime show na pinasok rin lang niya, na buo na bago pa man nagkaroon ng tulad niya sa noontime show, na nag-evolve mula sa kasaysayan ng noontime show sa bansa.

    sino bang kaaway talaga, ang tamang tanong. sa tingin ko hindi si Willie ‘yon.

  14. EC
    April 13, 2011 at 10:12 am

    I agree with the post that little girls dancing ala Sexbomb in skimpy outfits were just like Jan-Jan’s macho dancing. Many would disagree with this but it’s a matter of taste. The disappointing part is you could sense everybody egging him on. The audience was not entirely the poorest of the poor, you can see as the camera panned the front part of the audience, many were middle to upper class and elderly, could easily be teachers/office worker types.

    What Willie did was exploit the rottenness of our society egging a minor into the prostitution process, even alluding to it (joking about the boy in tears having to resort to this to earn for his family). This is still wrong but hopefully other shows that do this get punished, as well. Willie is just more arrogant and irritaing making him a more popular target.

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