The Trouble In Labelling Entertainment as “Mababaw”

The Trouble With Labeling Entertainment as -Kababawan-

A few weeks ago, Lea Salonga was under fire when she unwittingly tweeted this while almost half of the Philippines was glued to their TVs watching Kalye Serye on Eat Bulaga:

People responded to her question (#NagtatanongLangPo) . Here’s a snapshot of the first five replies

Lea Salonga Twitter Reactions

The comments were diverse: persons 1 and 2 disagreed, with #1 assuming it was about AlDub, persons 3 and 4 agreed, while #5 clarified the question. The succeeding replies were pretty much assuming, heavily defensive AlDub fans being colorful with their accusations and insults.

A lot of people have given their opinions on the incident. Most have chastised these heavily defensive AlDub fans for jumping the gun. Filipino Director Mike Sandejas has given his support to Lea. On the other hand, Joey De Leon has passive-aggressively conceded in being “mababaw” with this tweet:

Since it has already been a few weeks after the issue, I think it’s time to do a post-mortem examination. Why waste time on this? Lea Salonga and Joey De Leon have already put this to rest, why still open this up? Why? Because I feel we can learn a few things from this situation regarding the state of entertainment in our country.

Social media and mass media are painting a bleak picture of local entertainment. The theme? DIVIDE. Some people are clamoring for a revolution in quality–their muse, Heneral Luna. The people they’re chastising? those they feel who are deep in the trenches of the network war, identifying AlDub and Pastillas Girl as their muses. Both sides aren’t budging one bit. This issue with Lea can hopefully point us in the right direction

As much as I love and admire Lea Salonga as an actress (loved her in Captain Barbell opposite Herbert Bautista and her time in Disney of course), as a gamer (Assassin’s Creed yo) and as a person with firm beliefs, truth be told, I am disappointed with her use of the label of “kababawan”. This hullabaloo would have not have happened if the word wasn’t used in this context. Especially when the idea of the tweet was to invite everyone to an honest to goodness dialogue to examine the entertainment we enjoy. I am 100% in support of that intention. Heck, the reason why I even have this blog is for that same purpose– to examine the entertainment (and culture) us Filipinos enjoy. But, as much as the intention was sincere, the message was distorted because of that single word. Here’s why the label of “kababawan”, I feel, has no place in a proper dialogue.

  • KABABAWAN IS SUBJECTIVE: Going back to the sample of reactions we have above, this was what person #5 was somehow pertaining to. “Kababawan” entertainment is not concrete. In truth, any form of entertainment can be considered as mababaw depending on the person you’re talking to. AlDub and Pastillas Girl can be mababaw. Heneral Luna can be mababaw. The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad can be mababaw. Watching Gilas, PBA, NBA, NCAA or UAAP can be mababaw. Watching Les Miserables, listening to Chopin or reading Foucault can be mababaw. My point is that if we want an objective dialogue, we need to use terms or labels that can be understood by all parties. We need to find a level were we can all meet before we can all state our cases. Which also brings me to my next point:
  • KABABAWAN PASSES JUDGMENT: This is the reason why we have reactions like persons #1 and #2 above. If we discuss mababaw entertainment, it entails a certain standard that was not passed. Or something that is distant. Something that you don’t identify with. Again, if we want to have a dialogue or a convergence of ideas, it doesn’t help that we’re disassociating ourselves and reinforcing this DIVIDE. That’s why Lea received accusations of being a “self-righteous prick” or “kataas-taasan”. The people felt like Lea was imposing her standards to their taste of entertainment. No one likes that. And then some people accuse them of being butthurt when they become defensive. Of course they’ll be defensive, you just insulted their taste!

“anong pake mo ba kung mahilig ako sa mababaw na entertainment? i don’t see anything wrong with it.”

This is the kind of reaction a person wounded by a mababaw comment would say. A reaction that is one-part confused, and two-parts resigned. Confused as to why they’re told that it’s a negative to like mababaw entertainment. And to avoid any further argument, resigned to the idea that a set of people has labeled his/her taste as  mababaw. But it’s obvious that this person gets more than MERE enjoyment from mababaw entertainment. And really, the difficult thing here is that this person would be inclined to take a MORE defensive stance and to be less open to a dialogue, therefore, adding more distance to the divide.

so if not kababawan or mababaw entertainment, what do we call it then?

My suggestion, call it as it is. What we’re all pertaining to is the quality of mass media or mass entertainment. And what I meant by “mass” here is not “masa” but media or entertainment intended to be consumed by a large number of people. Or we can call it as just entertainment for entertainment’s sake? Or pure entertainment? See? there are a number of different ways of labeling it without looking like a snob in the process

Okay lang sa akin ang entertainment for entertainment’s sake, pero hanggang doon na lamang ba tayo?

With the kababawan thing settled, I think we can move on to Lea’s challenge. Again, I totally agree with what she’s advocating. She’s urging us all to examine the entertainment that we consume and broaden our choices–striking a balance between the purely entertaining with the critical form of entertainment. There’s so much the world of entertainment has to offer and yet some people would gravitate towards what’s accessible or comfortable to them. This continued consumption of the same content creates some kind of fanaticism in some people.

Hypothetical example: a Game of Thrones fan may scoff at the idea that Kalye Serye is quality entertainment because it looks cheaply produced and only follows the usual teleserye tropes (typified as elitists). Or, the other way around, a Kalye Serye fan may dismiss Game of Thrones as entertainment because of its heavy atmosphere and its abundance of secondary and tertiary characters (typified as anti-intellectuals). Sadly, these stubborn perspectives of consuming entertainment are the root of the DIVIDE. A lot of the misunderstandings and rage come from a lack of exposure and effort in understanding other forms of available entertainment. Which I find totally absurd because we live in a time where a variety of entertainment is readily available in our fingertips (read: the internet).

Here’s an analogy: why not think of entertainment as food? Food comes in different forms, styles and cuisines. Some are carefully crafted; with every ingredient chosen with purpose. While some are made with the intention of being sold in a massive scale. But regardless of how it is prepared, we eat food to satisfy our hunger. That’s its most basic function. However, food has the potential to be more than just tummy fill. Us FIlipinos, we all know  it doesn’t stop there. Food can lift our mood, can enrich moments or be our expression of love. We carefully scour for the next big restaurant and share our experience on social media. We’re not afraid to expand our palate when it comes to food.

Entertainment also works like that. Be it a carefully-crafted niche one-man play or a run-of-the-mill telenovela, all forms of entertainment are created to provide enjoyment. Listening to Broken Social Scene or the Diary Ng Panget soundtrack can lift your mood. Watching Game of Thrones or Kalye Serye can be THE water cooler topic with your office mates. Maybe if we can be more open to try out other forms of entertainment and enjoy them by their own merits, then maybe we can narrow that DIVIDE.

The Trouble In Labelling Entertainment as “Mababaw”

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