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.