Sunday Esssays: Different stories, same recipes: Filipinos’ guilty pleasure

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Marla L. Arreza

HUMANS have natural appetites for leisure – often, Filipinos spend it watching soap operas or what is now more popularly known as “teleseryes”. Over the course of time, Philippine entertainment has produced countless of them. Its fan base has also expanded from what were predominantly loyalists (housewives and senior citizens) to younger generations. Many of what were already been produced even received several awards and recognitions. Though given these facts, Filipinos cannot deny that most of them were just recycled versions of older ones.

It can be remembered that Philippines has been colonized several times in the past. Even how Filipinos live today is influenced by the practices of the colonizers. And also, before Philippine networks were able to produce locally made teleseryes, Filipinos were first exposed to foreign ones – not because of incapability to do so but because of practical reasons.

According to the National Commission for Culture and Arts, importing programs was cheaper than producing them locally. Canned programs also appeared to be more popular among local audiences.

Teleseryes have become an inseparable part of Filipino culture. It has even become a surrogate partner to some. Unlike before when it was still considered as “bakya”, now it is just normal to hear people in white collars talk about it.

It has been a common observation that most of today’s teleseryes no longer showcase anything new. Makers use the same clichés in producing their stories. The lack of originality has been overlooked by public. Same storylines, predictable endings, and overexposed artists to name a few.

While it is true that some can really relate to the stories and that these shows actually get good ratings (which is a must for a show to survive), these shouldn’t be used as primordial reasons to stick with what have been established. Is the industry continuously producing the same stories because those are what people want or are they just too lazy to think of something else? People settle for it because makers do not give them the choices – nothing more, nothing less.

Another problem that has been observed is the imbalance of elements. The makers tend to always overdo certain elements without them knowing – too much love, too much misery, too much violence, etc. – there’s always this “too much”.

According to a study conducted by the Asian Mass Communication Research Center (AMIC) based in Singapore, Philippines has the most violent TV shows among ASEAN countries with Thailand and Indonesia come next respectively. The most common complaint: dominance of sex and violence. What does this have to say about Filipino culture?

By continuously portraying these situations over and over again, it gives the audience the impression that these things are actually acceptable in Philippine society. Philippines is known to be a Christian country and thus it values conservativeness. As a result of these portrayals, teleseryes do not really promote moral lessons.

No doubt that the Philippine entertainment has grown. But has it been growing up? It has been on a sluggish pace for quite some time already. It is about time to break from the “different stories, same recipes” trend.

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