Friday, April 07, 2006
From singing competitions like Star in A Million to talent search shows like Starstruck and Star Circle National Teen Quest, the Philippine media industry has been intent in emulating most of the internationally-acclaimed television hits. By doing so, producers have their hopes up that the public would warmly accept the shows they concoct, which are made a little more complicated by the addition of twists but are generally carbon copies of foreign shows. Using little manipulation, these shows that, ironically, Filipinos are proud to call their own turn out to be surprise hits in the country.
The talent search shows Star Circle National Teen Quest (also termed as SCNTQ) and Starstruck make the young dream big. These shows have a relatively upright objective --- that is, both serve as avenues for helping the underprivileged youth achieve their dream of making it into the colorful and astounding world of show business. The shows are all about extreme transformations --- several simple teenagers are chosen who are eventually groomed to be the next, big stars. Their road to fame is quick but humiliating. With roughly six weeks of careful deliberation, the kids have to undergo workshops wherein their weaknesses are heavily criticized. Nonetheless, these shows are gaining surprisingly towering ratings on television. People persist in watching them daily, having their own bets as to who will be pronounced the Next Grand Questor or the Starstruck Survivor. Since two rival stations generated these shows, avid fans of both parties keep arguing as to which station really came up with this “brilliant” concept. What the people don’t know, however, is that the shows’ theme replicates those of other foreign television series like America’s Next Top Model and Next Action Superstar. What made the local shows different however is the small twist added --- instead of grooming the contestants to be models or action stars, they are spruced up to be the next matinee idols. The same holds true for singing competitions like Star in A Million and Pinoy Pop Superstar, which are technically based on America’s television hit, American Idol.
The country’s lack of originality in coming up with unique television concepts weakens the Filipinos’ creativity and ingenuity. When producers desperately alter minor details in a show for it to appear as something new and inimitable, it cheapens not only the standards of the original plot, but it also questions the competence of the TV networks’ capability in coming up with their own spectacular ideas. In the media’s dire efforts to duplicate the same number of following received by these critically-acclaimed foreign shows, they end up defiling the original show’s objective by manipulating it for the networks’ own benefits. Rightfully so, duplicating shows can generally be considered a form of stealing. However, because of minor technicalities like added developments, the local media has evaded such indictment.
One of the reasons why TV networks continue to copy programs’ concepts from other culture is that they believe they are not stealing in any form. Minimal perks are incorporated and while the theme may be adapted, the way they execute the plot is an entirely different conspiracy. All right, these “added perks” may be regarded as points for originality. For example, the talent search programs can be given credit for their own singular way of deciding upon the winner. By incorporating audience’ cooperation through text votes, this particular segment differentiates local shows from the original programs. However, it is not this perk that made the programs a success. It is still the plot that the shows’ producers have adapted that won the interests of many, and the audience’ votes is merely a ploy to gain more money for TV networks rather than having the intention of pleasing the public. Thus, some of the added perks do not make the show better; they only make the TV networks richer.
Some critics say that simulations of programs may not be entirely the media’s fault because it wouldn’t be tolerated in the first place if the public refrained from patronizing these shows. Thus, it could be said that the country’s fondness for these series may largely be due to the colonial mentality of Filipinos --- that is, anything foreign is widely accepted regardless of the consequences it bequeaths which includes compromising morality and courtesy. For example, the flamboyant clothes that are too revealing for comfort are not what the general public is accustomed to. Also, the vulgar spiels and the humiliating manner of dealing with contestants are against the strict civility code of the sympathetic Filipinos. Most Filipinos believe that Hollywood is “in” so we must patronize it accordingly. Despite the glitz and glamour of Hollywood however, it shouldn’t serve as a basis for a show’s quality because beneath the dream-like packaging, the shows produced are relatively the same as ours. While it is true that it is almost impossible to eradicate completely the Filipino’s dependence on foreign culture, using colonial mentality as a reason to sidestep the reality that the Philippines has been replicating programs is insufficient and illogical. Besides, it even encourages dependence by doing so.
Some people may find the local teleseryes like Krystala trashy and cheap, with shallow plots and predictable endings. Who in his non-dysfunctional brain would expect a blue-and-gold costume-garbed superheroine crashing through the posh Powerplant to stop the forces of evil emanating from an active volcano? Well, it can’t be avoided since these shows are by-products of pop culture. While the upper class may censure the foreseeable twists in the shows’ plots, the masses seem to enjoy the predictability mainly because they can easily relate to the characters’ dilemmas and dreams in life. The masses nurture a lowly but full of potential Judy Ann Santos in them.
The derivation of shows also undermines Philippine ideas. Instead of giving enough opportunities to creative consultants to excel in their respective fields, they are peripherally outshined by foreign specialists. Thus, the Filipinos suffer a marginalized culture with no ethnicity and no identity. Aside from stunted creativity, the duplication of shows is an assault to the Filipinos’ level of civilization. We base our progress and refinement on foreign standards, and we purposefully overlook the pagan beliefs and rich culture we once had. This is because our culture is already a fusion of pagan and Western learning. Our ethnicity is not as authentic as it was before.
Instead of trying to use these reasons as means of support to this disappointing practice, the Filipinos could use it in another manner. Fondness for one thing is acceptable, but dependence on it is entirely a different thing. Philippine media must learn to survive on its own without any sign of influence from the dominant Western culture. What the industry needs is a radical makeover by patronizing local notions. The media could come up with Philippine travelogues that showcase scenic spots in the country like Travel Time and creative and youth-oriented shows integrating Philippine mythology/culture like Hiraya Manawari. The Philippines could further enhance highly commendable drama shows that promote values and that reflect the Filipinos’ custom way of living like Hiram. Educational shows like Sine ‘Skwela and Batibot are beneficial for kids, too. By promoting more local shows, this could serve as an effective strategy in developing our unique ethnicity since media is a very influential tool in connecting people.
The lack of originality in talk shows is just a microcosm of the general way Filipinos deal with colonial mentality. If we rely so much on foreign culture to the point that we cannot even come up with Filipino ideas, then perhaps the Philippines is turning out to be a hopeless case --- an extension of American territory with no voice, no expression and no identity. Hopefully, the suggested shows will help minimize copying and, in effect, resolve the side effects brought about by imitating shows from countries we look up to as superior than ours. It should not be forgotten that long before the gumamela-wearing Jasmine Trias invaded the world consciousness through the wildly popular American Idol, the Filipinos beat the Americans to that with Nora Aunor’s and Regine Velasquez’ discovery through Tawag ng Tanghalan and Ang Bagong Kampeon.