Tales from the idiot box
Television enables people— particularly candidates during an election—to reach more people faster and more efficiently. However, it also magnifies defects and can produce mixed results. Television can be a cruel medium.
Because most households in this country own a television set, we already expected candidates for national positions to take their cause to the people via the idiot box. I guess what we did not expect was the level of gimmickry and absurdity that would be used in this effort. In an ideal world, our politicians should be harnessing the awesome power of this medium to convey their platforms and define who they are.
Too bad our politicians seem more bent on entertaining us and showing off whatever miniscule talent they have in comedy, dancing, or acting.
Thus, watching the first cuts of our politicians’ television ads is really anything but enlightening or educational. The current campaign ads are, at best, entertaining. At worst, they are plain and downright annoying.
Topping my list of most annoying television campaign advertisement is that of senatorial candidate Prospero Pichay. I am sure that Representative Pichay is a competent person and I am even willing to grant that there is something slightly admirable about his dogged and steadfast loyalty to the President. We may not agree with his politics, but at least the guy is consistent. But for crying out loud, “Pangarap kong tuparin ang pangarap mo” (translated, “I wish to make your wishes come true”) has got to be the most vacuous and most ambiguous campaign promise ever made. Dude, wishes are for free and one has to be real spoilsport not to wish that someone else’s wishes come true.
Pichay’s ad features ordinary people talking about their dreams and aspirations. And like a genie, Pichay appears and utters those immortal lines. I think the reaction of my aging nanny sums up people’s natural reaction to the ad “puro na lang pangarap, gawin mo!” (don’t just wish for it, do it!). In real life, if my friends and I find ourselves talking about our dreams and aspirations and someone in the likeness of Pichay were to appear in front of us to intone “I wish to make your dreams come true,” you can bet your last penny that voting for that person into office would be farthest from our minds. We would probably run from the room screaming, or worse, laugh hysterically at the person.
And then there’s Senate President Manny Villar’s current ad, which features that ghastly ditty “Sasakyan Kita” (translated, I’ll go along with what you want, but it is actually one of those songs with sexual overtones and suggests a sexual position) is less annoying. But I think that letting people know that he cannot dance even if his whole life depended on it is not a good packaging strategy. It can be argued that the intent of that ad is precisely to break Villar’s serious demeanor. Well, he sure looks like a dork in that dance number!
And, speaking of dancing, Senator Ralph Recto’s television ad features two groups of dancers competing against each other. The idea is to convey the impression that the two groups are warring factions, reminiscent of West Side Story with Recto as Officer Krupke trying to mediate between the Jets and the Sharks. Fortunately, Recto has resisted the temptation to display his terpsichorean skills in that ad. Too bad the unity message is lost in the choreography. Recto’s resemblance to Ponce Quirino (oh god, I can’t believe I remember that guy from the seventies) makes him appear as a dance show host rather than as a serious politician.
This whole idea that successful campaigns need to be anchored on jingles and dance routines really deserves a closer scrutiny. I have this feeling that this scheme was hatched and is perpetuated by some enterprising people and groups who stand to earn millions from the whole silly idea. I think people want to know what the candidates stand for in clear and plain language. Sure, some artistic and creative flourishes will enhance the presentation, but they must not take away focus from the message. But then again, maybe that is the whole point. There really is nothing much in terms of platform and substance to talk about, thus, we are stuck with the song and dance routines.
So I guess this means we just have to bear with Zubiri’s Boom Tarat Tarat, Loren Legarda’s Ikaw ang Tunay na Pag-asa, and Kiko Pangilinan’s Andito na si Kiko, to name just a few, in the next few months. I can’t wait for elections to be over.
Speaking of more inanities on television, anyone who claims to be unaware about the latest wrinkle on Kris Aquino’s lovelife is either a complete recluse or is someone with pretensions of being above it all. Not that Kris Aquino or the latest ruckus in her life is really that important in our lives; just that we seem to have this propensity to turn whatever happens to this woman into a matter of national significance and sadly (or perhaps propitiously for many), she seems more than happy to oblige.
So last Sunday, the ever-irrepressible Kris dished it all out—all the sordid details about the state of her marriage, the financial arrangements in their union, etc. And in true Kris Aquino fashion, she gave more information that what was necessary.
At the college where I teach, it was the main topic of conversation among the faculty members last Monday night. It would be simpler to just attribute the choice of subject matter to inherent proclivity for gossip. But modesty aside, the IQ level in that small room was probably more than the collective IQ in the House of Representatives and the people involved in the discussion were professionals with sterling credentials. What I am trying to say is that the issue may strike people as cheap and just another one of those inane stuff that local show business regularly churns out. But if we come to think about it, the whole thing also has social implications. Really.
Married couples fight. We know that kids in this country know that their parents fight. Sociologists and anthropologists can correct me on this one, but I think that the norm is still that kids are not supposed to know the gory details of what their parents fight about.
When I was growing up, I knew that my parents fought and I could hear them argue every now and then. But they never discussed with us children whatever it was that they were fighting about. And now, our kids watch in public television a supposed role model talks about the unsavory details of her marriage. While I admire Aquino’s courage in telling the truth and her generosity in sharing with the Filipino people her emotional turmoil, I wish that she really learns to keep certain things to herself, particularly when it comes to details about her marriage.
So when she made that appeal for people not to judge her marriage and her decision to make it work, many among us can be forgiven for wanting to tell her “girl, you’re the one who is putting it all out there for everyone to judge.”
I don’t particularly blame Kris Aquino for getting the idea that her honesty is what people like about her. Truth is, the Filipino people have been very tolerant and lenient towards her. We’ve always made allowances for Kris Aquino probably because of the circumstances around her growing-up years.
But it is time she is allowed to grow up. And it is time for her to do so as well.