October 13, 2007

Wassup por yu?

Something Like Life
Oct. 12, 2007

I’VE been sick again and, after finally consulting a doctor on Sunday, I was basically told to shut up for 24 hours to rest my inflamed throat, which I probably got from cheering excessively during the La Salle-Ateneo game two Sundays before, then downing half a bag of microwave popcorn that night. (During the championship game against UE, all I could do was clap my hands silly. But yay, Green Archers! Animo La Salle!)

So I was pretty much sidelined in the last two weeks, unable to meet my deadlines because I was also feeling fluish. I was downing all sorts of drugs and incessantly gargling with Bactidol to help ease my discomfort. Because my greatest fear in my life is to die from sheer hunger, I still ate meat and all sorts of yummy chewy treats, which my doc eventually told me were no-no’s. (“Soft foods only!”) Great. That meant lots of lugaw and chicken noodle soup with crackers, but I was too afraid to follow the doc to the letter, lest I become runny like Romy Neri. Ick.

So during the past weeks I was away from the real world, I was occupied with the cyber/video world. I watched the first episode of Private Practice (the “bleah!” Grey’s Anatomy spinoff), the first episodes of the new seasons of Grey’s and Ugly Betty, and now I’m deep into the sex, blood and gore of Rome, the first season. Needless to say, I got involved in the online debate regarding the real or imagined slurs against Philippine medical schools and former President Cory Aquino.

Frankly, I don’t watch Desperate Housewives. I find it a ditzy, boring and brainless show. I watched it only for two seasons, because of James Denton, the actor who plays the sexy hotbod hunk of a plumber who falls for the ridiculous Susan Meyer, played by has-been actress Teri Hatcher. (I hear that Denton’s character is now in a coma and is under the covers most of the time, so why anyone still bothers to watch this show mystifies me.) Out of curiosity, I downloaded that premiere episode of Housewives which contained the allegedly inflammatory remark against local medical schools. Truth to tell, I didn’t find it that offensive.

It’s only a TV show after all, and it was a joke. Susan Meyer is supposed to be an idiot who probably wouldn't even know how to find the Philippines on a map even if it was as large as North America. Besides, I can tell the difference between reality and fantasy because I’m well-educated and because of my own experience with Filipino doctors and nurses. All races and nationalities are always stereotyped or insulted on TV...the arrogant waspish American, the poor hip-hopping Black Americans, the noisy cliquish Chinese, the British and their bad teeth, the Vietnamese and their extended families, the Italians and their mob connections, etc. But these nationalities don’t gnash their teeth or pull their hair over these supposed insults because they know, in TV land, everyone is fair game.

Even our own local TV shows are riddled with all sorts of regional insults — the Visayans who always confuse their “e’s” with “i’s”, the Capampangans who reverse their “f’s” and “p’s”, the kuripot Ilocanos and the angry Batangueños with their balisong, among others. Where are all the online petitions against these TV stereotypes?

Now, if you read the comments left by our kababayan on YouTube and on the Desperate Housewives web site, it showed how some of them are even more racist than the clueless writers of the show. Invectives and slurs were all over the place, not the least of them the anti-American everything! I cannot help but feel ashamed there are Pinoys like that.

The management of ABC has already said sorry along with the promise to delete the offending scene from their reruns, international editions and DVD version. Malacañang has already accepted the apology. Still, some of our kababayan continue to scream for blood! Instead of being gracious enough to accept the apology, we continue to curse Americans, the writers, Teri Hatcher, ABC. There was this old lady who was even crying hysterically about how uneducated Americans are compared with Filipinos during an LA Fil-Am TV show’s phone-in portion. It was so sickeningly OA! If you think so lowly of Americans, why the hell are you killing yourselves trying to get a US visa or even buying their products?

(It's a fake news show, people! Notice the Comedy Central logo at the bottom right corner of your TV screen? Sos.)

Riding on the Housewives controversy, some people also tried to pick on a month-old episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, who is my husband by the way, so lay off! If the aggrieved – led by Sen. Noynoy Aquino, who seems so desperate to have his 15 seconds of TV airtime that he has to use his poor mother to generate news – actually watch The Daily Show, they would know it is a political satire. The piece by Samantha Bee in a Sex and the City format on whether Americans are ready for a woman president was actually poking fun at Americans themselves. Here are these countries — the UK, Israel, the Philippines — which are many light-years ahead of the US in having elected their own female heads of state. It played to female stereotypes—idiots, tramps and sluts — and because most intelligent people know that in real life Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Cory Aquino are not, they get the joke. Sadly, the rest don’t. Hello? Have you eaten your galunggong today? If you didn’t get that one either, here’s a gun and go shoot yourselves.

C’mon, do you ever hear the White House complaining every time David Letterman puts out his piece, “Great Moments in Presidential Speeches,” which basically portrays President Bush as a bumbling idiot? In the first season of Ugly Betty, Mark, the gay assistant of Wilhelmina, persuades Betty to be his fake girlfriend. In trying to memorize facts about each other, he asks the eternally unfashionable Mexican Betty, “You’re from the Philippines, right?” Naku, how dare these Americans mistake us for Mexicans! Or what about Will & Grace? Karen to her maid Rosario: “If it weren’t for me, you’d be flying back to Cucaracha on Air Guacamole with live chickens running up and down the aisles!” Any diplomatic protests from El Salvador or Mexico? As Fil-Am comedian Rex Navarette jokes, “Wassup por you?”

What does this say of us and our relationships to other cultures?

We often ridicule others and make stupid jokes just about every political issue (“AB-ZTE-FG!”), but we cannot take a joke about ourselves. We can dish it out, but we aren’t so accepting when we’re on the receiving end. We are pikon, because I’d hate to think that we are bobo instead and just don’t get the joke.

We have such fragile egos that if anyone makes fun of us, we automatically lash out. It’s as if we love reveling in acting api-apihan to foreigners, so we strike at them by pushing online petitions, rallying, sending diplomatic protests, and demanding for the moon and stars to assuage our hurt amor propio, instead of proving them wrong by being on our best behavior. Was this attitude formed because we were colonized by foreigners, so we have some sort of superiority complex that masks our actual feelings of inferiority toward other cultures? Other nationalities, especially Americans, know Filipino doctors and nurses are among the best health-care professionals in the world, never mind that Liz Taylor has banned the latter around her hospital room. (Anyone picketing her by the way?) So how can 10 seconds in a 45-minute episode of an idiotic TV show change that opinion and fact?

Sadly, I can only blame Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano for these unfunny events. If he had only continued the ZTE broadband hearings, we would be happily texting more ridiculous jokes or poking fun at Ateneans, Ben Abalos’s Viagra prescription, JDV3’s high forehead, Romy Neri’s intentional flu, Mike Arroyo’s dirty finger, and Presidentita’s Victoria Court ad (“shhh”). Get it?

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Main photo from BusinessMirror.)

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