Recently, two TV personalities, RR Enriquez and Jeck Maierhofer (who I never heard of until now) were shown in a video where they bothered a sleeping passenger in another car by honking their own car’s horn to wake him up. They soon felt the wrath of netizens, leading them to apologize for their apparent rudeness. While I didn’t pay too much attention to this affair, I believe it proves that celebrities are not meant to be examples for Filipinos.
Yes, many netizens were angered by the behavior of these two celebrities. But the question at the back of my head was: would some Filipinos, if they were in the place of these two celebrities, do the same thing? I would suspect, they would.
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This is why I agree with fellow blogger Kate Natividad that showbiz is representative of the dysfunction of Philippine society: the way celebrities behave is the same palengke attitude as the “masa” observed to have horrid habits. I believe I’ve already mentioned Dennis Roldan and other misbehaving celebrities. Even the DongYan thing is still commented on because it demonstrates my points here.
Also, the theory about many societies is that the elite of a society are the ones that set the trend of common behavior. Today, even showbiz celebrities are considered part of this “elite.” Perhaps the bad manners associated with poor people may actually come from the actors being propped as “examples.” Or, perhaps the producers decided that making actors as “palengkeric” as the masses will help get more viewers. It may be a chicken-and-egg thing, but I believe this point remains true: showbiz fandom is worth discouraging, since the idols of these fans may rub off bad habits on their fans. This point even be further supported by a study saying society’s ‘elite’ are more likely to cheat or lie.
So people are quick to defend stars and idolization of them, perhaps saying, “that’s the way it goes, deal with it.” But this way that goes is also contributing to the dysfunction of the country. Or perhaps they use the so-called greatest excuse of all, “they’re human, they’re flawed, that’s normal.” But if they’re human and flawed, that’s the reason not to make them idols.
The problem with that common saying, “people are flawed, so let’s celebrate our flaws” is that it is also used to defend wrong behavior. While this message is used to just tell people “don’t judge,” there are flaws in people that cause trouble and problems for society, and when you point out these flaws, it is not judging. It is just telling the truth.
Again, in a picture, the analogy of Filipinos and their celebrity idols is like this from the recent Bench fashion show.
Don’t even try to give that baloney that idolization of celebrities is an example of “love for others.” It isn’t.
While there are some celebrities who are actively trying to be good examples, the problem is with the fans, or fantards. And some of these fantards are not even from the masa; they are even from the middle class. Aside from celebrities, the poorer people also take cues from the middle class. If they observe people with money are throwing trash on the street, spitting on the sidewalk or even physically hurting people, they will do the same. The poorer people will say, “if these rich can do it, so can we!” It is their way to defend their dignity (albeit a wrong one). It will have a domino effect: the whole society will follow suit and the whole society falls into a plague of bad and unethical behavior.
Also, let me discuss more on the bad examples of television. Showbiz writer Ricky Lee defended teleseryes by saying that the storylines are supposed to convince people to stop judging people who do wrong. Let’s say certain dramas show teenage pregnancies. Each drama shows the usual theme, the (needless) crying and slapping but, the message is for people to accept and not condemn the teen who got pregnant, and sometimes, even the teen guy who got her pregnant. Especially if they decide to take responsibility for the child. OK, that’s supposed to be a good message.
But here’s the problem: after the message that one should not condemn teenagers who get pregnant gets repeated too often, the teenagers will take a different message from it: having sex and getting pregnant is their right, so the adults should not be angry about it! In a sense, it will encourage teens to be more irresponsible about sex and teen pregnancy. Perhaps when the teen guy refuses to take responsibility for the child, he’ll say, “O, look at the teleserye! It says don’t judge me even if I get someone pregnant!” Despite the intention of the teleserye’s message, teens might even feel encouraged to have reckless sex and get away with it! So, instead of avoiding the problem of teen pregnancy, it may have even helped worsen it.
This proves the fifth law of Gadi Wolfsfeld in Making Sense of Media and Politics: The most important effects of the news (or even entertainment) media on citizens tend to be unintentional and unnoticed.
Perhaps the TV shows should return to being more brutally frank and just portray the more realistic lesson: the moment you make a mistake, you bring yourself down and you suffer the consequences. Also, it’s good that in the U.S., there are a lot of parodies of stars, like the Kardashians and Paris Hilton, and their antics. We sure could use that kind of irreverence in this country.
Just to share a theory: when movies were made, actors were originally not celebrated. Movies were just to be appreciated for what they presented. Then, somewhere along the line, someone thought that actors could be fronted as personalities. Thus, the star system was born as a side effect. And so, actors are used as endorsers and convincers to make people buy things, and therefore spend beyond their means. Fantards are thus the biggest targets of commercialism. That is perhaps one of the greatest uses of celebrity fandom; to enrich some at the expense of others.
While the fault is mostly with the fantard viewers, there is a need to pressure celebrities and “elite” to have better behavior, based on the theory stated above. But certainly, the people should stop looking up to celebrities. They should instead look to themselves and be the examples they want to follow. They could take a cue from this variation I made of the Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals slogan:
Be well-behaved and honest.
Even if your favorite celebrities are not.
Even if your favorite celebrities will not.
Even if your favorite celebrities cannot.
I believe, as my cohorts here do, that what Filipinos embrace as their culture is what actually pulls the country down. And those who seem to be anti-dictators, who may also believe themselves to be “heroes,” are the real dictators.