Sunday, August 24, 2014

Exploiting kids

This is my column today, August 24, 2014.


I am surprised that not a single member or faction of the people that comprise the moral police in this country has spoken about the blatant child abuse, the level of duplicity, and the shameless exploitation that is happening in the local television show Pinoy Big Brother.  It is possible that the shenanigans that have been happening in the show are not registering in the radar since I understand many people have already stopped watching the show after the more interesting people were voted out and after that fiasco when a female PBB housemate was “pressured” to pose for a nude painting.  It’s also possible that people are now experiencing moral fatigue given the many morally questionable decisions that have been made by our leaders recently, all in the name of furthering the supposed moral fight.
I catch some episodes of the show when I am home and having late dinner or coffee, or when interacting with kith and kin in our kitchen where the television set is turned on to ABS-CBN soap operas, which the househelp watch.  The people in the house find the presidential sister a hoot, so they always make it a point to catch her late night talk show which precedes PBB. Truth be told, I have rarely been able to watch PBB for extended periods of time.  I get uncomfortable watching people, specially teens, being used like pawns for the sake of ratings.  I also cringe when difficult or traumatic personal circumstances are wrung out of people in an effort to make them interesting or engaging; there’s just something wrong in a set-up where tragic personal circumstances are equated with personality or talent.  So I have constantly admonished people in the house to watch something else less intrusive or exploitative.  
Of course I understand that there are people in this country who get some emotional high out of watching other people squirm in embarrassment as their little secrets are exposed in public – in soap opera fashion, complete with cliffhangers and maudlin background music.  There are also people who try to live vicariously by assuming there are parallels between their personal circumstances and that of, say, current PBB housemate Daniel Matsunaga; which is actually a long shot given that very few people would have the great fortune of having Matsunaga’s looks. 
Some people even believe the show’s staple justification for the emotional torture it subjects its housemates regularly, which is to supposedly help them become better individuals.  What the people behind the show has been unable to answer is:  Who gave them the license to become sole judge as to what is good for other people?  
But what I really find objectionable is the kind of emotional torture to which the show subjects its housemates.  In this particular season, for example, the show has deliberately misled, or lied to the housemates, or made them believe the worst, so many times just so they can bring situations to a new emotional high.  They should probably include an advisory to teens that lying to and misleading people are still not ethically acceptable.  They’ve also milked all the sordid details about the personal lives of the housemates – why parents separated, what siblings are fighting about, what their childhood was like, etc, etc.  I know the housemates volunteered to be subjected to the emotional torture and probably even signed iron-clad waivers and quitclaims, but the problem is that this particular episode featured teens, adults, and celebrities in one mix and the level of emotional maturity and resilience as well as tolerance for duplicity varies greatly.
In addition, the show has this penchant for pitting housemates and their supporters against each other – and even kindle intrigues that would become fodder for gossip.  I normally would consider this kind of petty intramurals par for the course in our culture, except that the subjects of the intrigues are teens; to be legalistic about it, children actually.  There’s also the predilection to engage and promote stereotypes about teens such as their supposed laziness, inability to make correct decisions, or their being irresponsible or intellectually immature people.   I wonder what Bantay Bata has to say on the matter; but perhaps one cannot really bite the hand that feeds it, so expecting a reaction from Bantay Bata may not be reasonable. 

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