Commentary: The Double Standards of Philippine TV (And Its Current Sorry State)

When Wowowillie went off the air in October 2013, people were celebrating the fact that class would finally be restored to Philippine noontime television. Gone would be Willie Revillame and his sexy dancers, on-air tampos and Filipino sob stories.

It is now May 2014. And in just the last week, Philippine noontime has seen indignant hosts, gays choking after getting polvorons stuffed into their mouths and being insulted and an old man feeling up a pretty young thing.

No, Willie Revillame isn’t back on television. But by those descriptions, you could very well be thinking of Kuya Wil, right?

And yet, barely a social media peep out of such so-called entertaining displays. But why? Because we all know if it really were Willie Revillame talking back to his director or network, making inappropriate jokes or making sexual advances toward a pretty young girl, you’d definitely hear about it. The MTRCB would be involved. All-knowing celebrities would tweet their sanctimonious disapproval.

Actually, that did happen. It regularly happened. But you don’t see the same faux outrage against the likes of Vice Ganda or Joey de Leon.

Wowowee, Wowowillie and everything in between was trash. Pure garbage. Unclassy. Nonsense. Waste of time. Yet Eat Bulaga and It’s Showtime are both beautiful pillars of the celebrity-based Filipino society. That’s the popular opinion, right?

Now I’m not writing this to defend Wowowee-tachi or Willie Revillame.

Well, I am. But that’s not my main point here. I’m writing to look at just why such double standards exist.

So my main grievances this week were with Eat Bulaga, but we’ll get to them later.

Apparently on It’s Showtime, Vice Ganda joked about Direk’s warning that the show was going overtime. Eat Bulaga fantards Certain loyalists of a rival program point to that exchange as Vice being indignant and rude and unbecoming of a noontime show host.

First of all, apparently no one cares if Showtime goes overtime, yet “ZOMGTHEWORLDISENDING” whenever Wowowee would go over time. And Wowowee would go overtime because they’d be talking to the poor crying people too long. Showtime? Because Vice just has so many amazing jokes to tell. And “Vice-K moments,” whatever that means. (It’s a thing on Twitter I guess.) So it’s okay that Showtime goes over. Everyone loves it anyway, right?

Yeah.

But I don’t watch Showtime, so other than knowing Vice Ganda loves to insult people like they’re sitting in a comedy bar and loves to spoof current events, I have no clue what goes on there.

What I am familiar with is what’s happening on Eat Bulaga. Since Wowowee went off the air (and before we could regularly watch TV5 here in the US), we turned to Eat Bulaga which at the time had just started their Juan For All segment. It was a huge hit and was a great segment. Watching Eat Bulaga before the barangay visits were a bore to us. The show was so traditional and lifeless compared to the raucous and lively studio audience we were used to with Wowowee.

But since then, we’ve watched Eat Bulaga. We don’t love everything about it, but who loves everything about shows they watch. I mean, who enjoys 100% of all the television shows they are a fan of?

Hmm? Fantards Loyal fans? Nah. Loyal Filipino fans who have been groomed to stick to one network and one network only.

If you’re a Filipino fan of a TV show, you absolutely cannot criticize said show. Otherwise, you’re fake. A hater. Or worse, an undercover fan of a rival show/network. You’ve gotta love every single part of that show. Otherwise, dude, why you watching? Grab that remote control, hater!!! Get outta here. Don’t be saying bad things about our show. You interloper.

But I’m a Filipino-American. So thankfully, I didn’t grow up with that kind of mindset. I can watch a ton of different shows on different networks. I don’t have to blindly support one network or star stable over all the others.

Take for example The Amazing Race. I’ve watched every single episode since the very first one when it premiered the week before September 11th. That’s 24 seasons, 13 years worth of show. And I absolutely love it. The Amazing Race is still one of my favorite shows and is one of the reasons a DryedMangoez.com even exists.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give its recent shortcomings (and failures) a pass. I’m most certainly going to point out what I feel the show is doing wrong. (And it’s been doing a lot of things wrong lately.)

Another personal example is Power Rangers. I’ve been watching Power Rangers regularly since 2002. And was right there on the frontlines of Toys R Us when the franchise was at its peak in 1994. But am I going to love every single thing, every single season of Power Rangers? Of course not. I don’t even like Tommy. And I certainly haven’t liked Samurai or Megaforce.

But I remember the recent brouhaha over Bandai’s “Morphin Madness” madness. Fans (real Power Rangers fans) were upset with Jason David Frank and his campaigning for his Rangers in the tournament. People expressed their opinions on not only Tommy, the character, but Jason David Frank’s attitude toward the whole thing. He called the people criticizing his methods “haters” and babbled on about “true fans.”

Then there’s the fans who think Mighty Morphin is the be all, end all of Power Rangers and those who think otherwise are idiots.

Hmm. Sounds familiar.

Bringing it back to Philippine television, the JDF madness is just one example that people in the same fandom, the same audience (in this case Power Rangers) can have wildly differing opinions. And the internets provides a place to debate and discuss those opinions.

But in the Philippines, that simple back and forth is multiplied by the Network War Culture that has people being incredibly passionate and overly sensitive to even the smallest of negative opinions.

Which takes us back to Eat Bulaga. I’ve watched the show for I guess going on three years now. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about how the show works and presents itself.

I’ve gathered that the show is a very traditional noontime variety show. Where Wowowee was more of a game show with long Willie Revillame-song numbers, Eat Bulaga is more of a variety show with games. The show’s humor is old school. The hosts make inside jokes that are only funny to them and no one else. They aren’t as concerned with giving out prizes as they are putting on a good show. Joey de Leon makes disgusting, sexual innuendo jokes. Paolo Ballesteros is gay. Wally Bayola is not gay. And Ruby Rodriguez is a fat pig.

Those are the things the show has presented and in many instances beat you over the head with. Yes, we get it. Ruby is as fat as a lechoned pig. Doesn’t mean I have to laugh every time they point it out.

And that’s the point right there. The show is fine, but not everything will tickle your fancy. Not everything has tickled my fancy or funny bone, that’s for sure. And some things have downright rubbed me (and many others) the wrong way.

Like last year. A running gag was Vic Sotto, Jimmy Santos and Ryzza Mae Dizon spilling water or juice on each other. Okay, fine. But then, Vic took that gag a step further when he decided to spit his water out at Ryzza’s face. The hilarity of them chasing each other around with a cup of liquid absolutely squashed in that one moment.

Then there was earlier this year. Valerie Weigmann became a regular tag-along at the barangay. On this particular episode, it was her, Jose and Ruby visiting the homes. Jose Manalo loves joking around about his looks and flirting with the pretty girls he comes across. Okay. No problem. But for some reason, in this episode, he repeatedly tries to kiss Val or have her kiss him even though she clearly is not as receptive to the idea.

Another running gag on not just Eat Bulaga, but all Philippine TV is to have someone going for a kiss on the cheek only to have the recipient turn their head so it’s the juicy lips that touch instead of lips-to-cheek. And that’s what Jose ended up doing with full encouragement and egging on by Ruby. Awk-ward.

And then a few months ago, Joey de Leon makes a joke about having sex with/in the family. While he’s standing next to Ryzza. Where the frak does a “sex in the family” joke fit in on a noontime variety show, I have no damn clue.

When Wally Bayola returned to the show after his sex video scandal, Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon did not let him forget it. Saying things like “Patayin mo na yan!” or “What’s his purpose there?” or being visibly resentful at Wally’s presence made the first month or two (and even now) very uncomfortable and awkward.

Then this past weekend, you got Joey de Leon feeling up Korean You’re My Foreignay winner Son Yun Kuk.

But taking this all back to that sleazy scumbag Willie Revillame again. He’s actually been MTRCB’d for much less during his TV career. But imagine him so much as spilling a drop of water on a kid or even attempting to kiss an unwilling babe or even spouting off sexual innuendo, you can bet people would be calling for his head and his show’s cancellation.

But no. This is Eat Bulaga kasi. This is TVJ! It’s an “institution.” They are institutions. Like Gabby Lopez said of Willie, “Stars come and go, but the institution stays.”

Whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. I think we all know plenty of people in Philippine showbiz who deserve to be institutionalized.

But this last week on Eat Bulaga brought the perfect example of this twisted double standard on Philippine television.

The show suddenly brought back it’s lightning in a bottle segment from last year, Super Sireyna. But they also removed the daily version of its Little Miss Philippines, My Mini Me and its various versions of parlor games and money hakoting. So they needed another segment to fill time. And they did that with a modified Supper Sireyna at the barangay.

Instead of beautiful transgendered women, they had three cross-dressing gay men in a far less serious competition that involved spouting off mottos and answering Joey de Leon’s ridiculous questions while their mouths are full of food.

Good clean fun right? No. As if Joey de Leon making jokes about these less-than-attractive gay men dying, getting killed or starving to death on deserted islands wasn’t bad enough, they had them stuff their mouths full of food. And that’s all shits and giggles until they start gagging and tearing up and begging for water. Which is what happened on Friday.

People have expressed their concerns about the segment. That’s it’s not funny, bordering on being bastos, degrading to the gays that are participating. Some sane, level-headed Eat Bulaga fans replied that the show would be careful and that the gay guys know what they’re getting themselves into. Some even go so far to say that the whole thing is scripted. (What is this, PBB?)

But those reasonable replies are outnumbered by the screams of “EH DI WAG KA MANOOD!” or “You’re just inggit. GO WATCH YOUR KABAYO AND SHOWTIME!” or “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!”

ORLY?

Some people were even accusing others of just nitpicking and watching Eat Bulaga just to find something to criticize.

Well damn. What kind of person would waste their time watching a show they did not like just to say bad things about it? Geez, you could still say bad things about a show without watching a single minute of it. You’d get the same reaction from the loyalists either way.

A national firestorm erupted and drew international attention because a little boy was taught how to dance like a stripper by his parents and told to perform said macho dance on television. It was Willie Revillame, his show and TV5 who got the brunt of the blowback and court cases.

Organizations and sanctimonious celebrities said Willie and show took away the little boy’s dignity by having him dance like that on air. That it was child abuse and people from the show and network should go to jail. Never mind the fact that it was the boy’s parents who put him up to it. Or that a certain, popular children’s gag show had their own little actors dancing, legs spread open, to Beyonce while wearing one-piece leotards. Pshaw. Pesky details.

But then take a look at this segment and their treatment of these gay men. Okay, they’re not very good looking. Or “PoGay” as Showtime has popularized. Does that make it okay to insult them by insinuating they are of a lesser class? They’re ugly AND gay, so we can make fun of them, no problem. That it’s fine and HILARIOUS to watch Jose Manalo force pieces of polvoron into a guy’s mouth until he starts gagging?

Scripted? The gays know what they’re getting themselves into? Yeah, I’m sure they expect to choke on a powdery confection just to make people laugh.

But I and others can’t have this kind of concern lest we be labeled as “haters” and fans of It’s Showtime.

For me, I think the segment is horrible. It’s insulting and the complete opposite of what the good segment that is Super Sireyna is all about. If Super Sireyna aims to help open people’s eyes about the LGBT community and show that transgendered men and women are just like everyone else, Supper Sireyna is the absolute opposite. It actually negates everything the main segment attempts to do by instead promoting the idea held in other parts of Philippine entertainment that gays are the butt of jokes and nothing else.

In what world is watching poor gay men choking on food hilarious frivolity? Maybe in the same world that torture porn like Mara Clara is high brow entertainment.

People counter that shows like Eat Bulaga help so many poor people. But I’d like to posit that you can’t mask inappropriate parts of a show by giving a family who has just lost their home P60,000 in another part of the show.

Willie Revillame’s shows had their share of (mostly baseless) problems , but if we’re talking about the people that’ve been helped, that the basehan of a worthwhile show is how many poor, helpless people have been given prizes by a game show, it’s pretty much patas lang.

For every “Sugod Bahay” winner that gets a boat load of Pure Gold groceries, a Coke-sponsored lunch and P45,000+, Wowowee et al gave out houses and cars and million peso jackpots too.

For all the ribbing on Willie Revillame’s enthusiasm at handing out jackets to the Lolas and Lolos in the audience, Eat Bulaga is much more enthusiastic at handing out “Limited Edition!” Eat Bulaga shirts, umbrellas AND jackets to whole swaths of their studio audience.

(I still don’t get why anyone would chide Willie for giving Lolos and Lolas some money, a jacket and a CD. Like that’s somehow loathsome.)

But I guess that brings us back to my main point. Why does a double standard exist? And it’s not even only horrible Willie Revillame vs. the clean, well-respected, never done a bad thing in life Tito Sotto, Vic Sotto and Joey de Leon.

*cough*#NoPepsiSponsorshiponEatBulaga*cough*

There’s those who criticize Vice Ganda’s brand of insulting, mapanlait comedy bar humor, yet love Joey de Leon’s sexual innuendo or Jose Manalo’s own insulting jokes and gay mouth stuffing and think there’s never anything wrong with it. That it’s actually the most hilarious things evah!!!1! And you should also be used to and accustomed to their style after all this time.

I don’t know about you, but there’s absolutely no world where it’s okay to be making “family sex” jokes next to an 8 year old girl. And don’t forget, several Eat Bulaga hosts are comedy bar regulars themselves.

The double standard exists in all parts of Philippine showbiz. And it’s connected to the illogical Network War Culture. You loathe Willie Revillame, of course everything he does is wrong. You grew up watching in the institution of Eat Bulaga, of course they do no wrong. You’re a Kapamilya? Of course all GMA shows suck ass. You’re a Kapuso? Yeah, GMA shows suck ass, but ABS-CBN shows suck more.

Filipinos hate criticism, even if it’s for their own good. Just take a look at truthful, outspoken artistas and even politicians, those who hold nothing back and spill all the beans they feel are necessary. People don’t like ’em. They are without class or “palengkeras” (or –ros).

Filipinos, especially those fully engrossed in the Network War Culture (can I make that a thing? #NetworkWarCulture?) love to see things ONLY through rose-colored glasses. Debates involve only who can shout the loudest (or type the most words CAPITALIZED) without any substance to back their opinions up. And when someone does have substance to back their opinions up, the only response you’re going to get is “Ugh, hater. Inggitera.”

Everyone is free to watch whatever they want. Whether it’s being loyal to one network or having an open mind and watching a whole variety of channels and programs, you have that choice.

But at the same time, everyone is free to voice their opinions and concerns. In a time when anyone can sign-up for a Facebook or Twitter account, people are more readily willing to express their thoughts to the world. But when legitimate thoughts get lost in the sea of blind loyalty and fantardism and sincere concern gets pooh-poohed as haterade and jealousy, then that’s when things unfortunately get murky. So is the sorry state of Philippine TV these days.

8 thoughts on “Commentary: The Double Standards of Philippine TV (And Its Current Sorry State)

  1. I saw your tweet when Suffer Sireyna got a trending spot on Twitter, and I really agree with you.

    My dad, who also happens to be an Eat Bulaga fanatic too (like most people, but not me) find Suffer Sireyna funny and adorable. But I do not feel the same way. I know that Filipinos like humorous noontime shows like such but they tend to forget the real “Human Rights”, and instead make fun of people who are mundanely and physically oppressed.

    It’s so sad to hear that the people and the authorities (in this case the MTRCB) tolerate this stuff.

    • Yeah, it could really be a nice little fun segment, but instead it is just mean spirited and many times cringe-worthy. If they were doing the same stuff to women? You can bet the MTRCB and all those pasikat politicians would immediately speak up or take action (just like Pinoy Big Brother’s little brouhaha). But no, since these are “ugly gays” it’s okay.

      It is a very sad reality I guess. =( This is Philippine entertainment.

  2. I’ve been thinking about these very points since the airing of the Super Sereyna segment, but kept them to myself as I had a feeling that I was the only one who had a problem with the way those people were being treated (although I vented a bit about it to my non-Filipino coworker). You laid it out perfectly, and I hope more people see this and at least TRY to understand what you’re saying. Unfortunately, though, I know many won’t even budge and just look the other way. Blind loyalty is a terrible, terrible thing.

    • Thanks!

      It is really unfortunate how any criticism, even valid, gets tossed aside as nonsense from “haters.” And the blind loyalty that’s been developed in the Philippines by the networks is definitely very sad. =(

  3. Pingback: Commentary: At the Elliptical Road of a Presidential Debate, Rules and #NetworkWarCulture | dryedmangoez
  4. I came across your article while trying to find articles on Philippine television criticism, which on that note, is almost non-existent. This article is one of the few the popped up in the Google search. Our television seem to be the only mainstream media in the PH with no solid or active culture in terms of criticism. We have a very appalling television culture but nobody seems to have a dominant voice that wants to talk about how awful and ridiculous it really is. It’s just really frustrating sometimes how nothing seems to be evolving. It’s stuck and it seems it doesn’t even want to get out. It’s not diverse in terms of content or message. It’s a lumbering giant of tropes that have gone past forgivable, even tolerable.

    • Thank you for finding my littlw article. =)

      I agree. One of the most absurd aspects of Philippine entertainment is if you have any criticism of a particular network or celebrity, you are automatically called a fan or supporter of the competitor. If you are in the print or online media, you will be accused of being a paid operative of the competitor. Which actually, is likely true. Each network has a group of tsismis writers who will write only positive things about them or present network press releases as journalism. Very sad.

      That’s the opposite of here in the US when even the cable news networks have in-house media critics who not only critique other networks, but their own network’s work as well.

      You probably know more than I would, but I assume there are Media Studies classes in colleges in the Philippines. But sometimes, I assume people only take media classes (or even Communication) in the Philippines because they think it’ll give them a path to becoming an artista.

      And I definitely agree about the stagnant Philippine entertainment and media. Most of the time any “groundbreaking” achievement is just superficial and cosmetic while the actual content is just the same recycled nonsense.

      • Haha. I’m always looking for articles like this because I really am passionate about this particular topic. Over the years, Philippine television has been my favorite thing to criticize. I’ve been accused of cultural elitism and snobbery, of being a Kapamilya/Kapuso-hater depending on which show I criticize (or make fun of!), or and for me this is probably the worst, ” a pretentious asshole na masyadong nagmamarunong.”

        Oh, so you are based in the U.S.! Well, funnily enough, I have long since jumped ship in terms of television consumption to the American shows (which dare I say, is on its golden age) and I am much more familiar with the media landscape of American television. That’s why I’m apparently the “cultural elitist” who wants to model Filipino media from the Western media (specifically US). Whatever. Haha.

        Anyways, #NetworkWarCulture! Haha. I really like that! It’s something that baffles me to this day. Uber loyalty to these brands is rooted to, what exactly? What do they get from it? Haaay. Media brainwash.

        Funny you should mention, I am a Communications major and well, television criticism in the Philippines has been one of my term papers for some of my media studies courses.

        Sadly, that’s true. At least in my university. Communication, generalist a major it already is, there’s a divide in terms of interest. Students are divided into the artistahins and the ones who are actually pursuing journalism or advertising, and even media and public relations.

        True! Just when you think a network or a show is actually trying to evolve or improve and step out of the “tried and tested” recipe, you find yourself cringing instead and rolling your eyes and throwing your hands up, because, it looked promising at the beginning and then it was ruined by its characteristic Pinoyness

        It’s worse than our cinema because unlike film, our television doesn’t have an indie scene, or mainstream premium cable and streaming services (as in HBO, even Netflix) as alternative avenues to sort of cater to grittier or more niche programming. I’m not even gonna pretend to have firsthand knowledge on how this industry works, but here’s the thing. I think what the TV networks say by sheltering the Filipino audience from variety and god forbid, first-class and genuine art-imitating-life stories, is that we’re idiots and that we like seeing shows where the same thing happens over and over again but only with different or new faces and maybe some slight modifications on the already cliched and “tried and tested” recipe, until we move on to the next slightly-modified version of the same thing.

        But I really think we can do better. I think – I hope – some people out there are trying and are just not getting any traction because no network would ever touch or take a risk on “new material” or “non-soap operas” or “non-love-story” or “non-loveteam-based” or “non-remake” or anything that is completely or just even slightly out of the traditional Pinoy teleserye box. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it, as they say. Really? Is it really working? They’re making money, I guess. But is it too idealistic to think it’s not all about that?

        -end of cultural elitist rant- 😀

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