Filipinos are fond of engaging in activities to escape reality such as by watching television. The reason why Filipinos want to “escape” reality is because reality for them is such a harsh thing to face that the only way to help them forget about their problems is to be entertained.
For the poor and uneducated, the television is the only tool they can afford to make it easier for them to cope with their misery. The promise of acquiring a better life through other people’s “better lives” on television shows help relieve persistent feelings of depression or general sadness. The television is a magical device for Filipinos seeking to avoid the perceived unpleasant or banal aspects of daily life.
Unfortunately, running away from problems by “escaping” to a different world will not make the problems disappear, especially if all the people watch are telenovelas and gossip shows about celebrities. In fact Filipinos in general have been running away from their problems far too long that these same problems keep coming back to bite them.
The Philippines has a dysfunctional culture and nowhere is this more evident in the number of Filipino television shows that promote stupidity. Frankly, some of us can talk about Philippine society’s problems ’til kingdom come, but unfortunately we can’t make a real difference until mainstream media shapes up and helps in this endeavor.
In this age of Twitter, Facebook, Kindle and the iPad, television is still the best tool that could be employed to change an entire society’s mentality. According to figures from TIME magazine, “across the developing world, around 45% of households had TV in 1995; by 2005 the number had climbed above 60%.” That’s not a lot if you compare it to western households where there are more TV’s than people, but it still means that there are more people who own TVs than those who have access to the Internet.
This is exactly the case in the Philippines where the majority of the population is still not connected to the Net. This means that there are a lot of Filipinos missing out on the Internet revolution. Perhaps the Philippine broadcast industry only care about their bottom line. They rest on their laurels and laugh all the way to the bank as their television shows continue to work their magic on their catatonic audiences.
It comes as no surprise that despite the noise we and some other like-minded people created on the Net to elevate the level of discussion during and after the election, it hardly makes a difference to the way our public officials behave.
It is high time that television be used as a medium to transform the lives of the marginalized portion of Philippine society rather than dumb it down further. Chat shows that talk about people and their love life rather than explore ideas of substance should be purged from local television.
Shows that encourage dependence on hand-outs and escapism like Willing Willie should be replaced with programs that encourage self-sufficiency and self-reliance like those that provide information that could help in the development of one’s skills such as crafts shows or science and technology documentaries.
The show Willing Willie was even recently embroiled in controversy because the host, Willie Revillame bullied a crying six-year-old boy into mimicking the salacious dance moves usually done by the shows mainstay back-up dancers in exchange for money. The dance moves by themselves already promote the very promiscuity and lewd behavior that the Catholic Bishops keep shrieking about. The show needs to be scrapped as soon as possible because there is no way Willie Revillame will ever change.
TV networks need to develop shows that promote entrepreneurship and skill development. They should create original programs and not just copy off western reality TV shows.
Telenovelas or drama shows should be limited to the adult time slots because kids are impressionable and tend to mimic reel life in their real lives. Likewise, drama shows tend to stunt the development of the human brain and make them susceptible to gullibility as in the case of those who voted for P.Noy in the last election. It makes sense to apply the mind conditioning that helped propel P.Noy to power for use in helping Filipinos get used to using their critical analysis faculties a bit more.
They say, and I totally agree, that television has the most transformative impact on women. In India, a study conducted by Robert Jensen and Emily Oster found that when cable TV reached villages, women were more likely to make decisions over child health care and less likely to think that men had the right to beat their wives. TV also played a role in adult education in Gujarat, India. It was said that those who routinely watched Bollywood songs and dance clips had seen significant improvement in their reading skills.
Of course, television is a double-edged sword. It has its drawbacks. Too much television has been associated with violence, obesity and social isolation. But to be sure, TV has done more good than harm worldwide. A good show can actually encourage people to read more books.
Television can change people’s lives. At the moment, Philippine television networks are contributing to changing Filipino lives for the worse because of their penchant for sensationalism and nonsensical shows. One can only hope that the powerful television executives can find it in their hearts to change the course of the plot so the Filipino people can look forward to a happier ending.
In life, things are not always what they seem.