Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, March 28, 2011

What Is Really Wrong With This Picture?

Much has been said online about poor little 6-yr old Jan-Jan Estrada who appeared in Willing Willie on March 12. Many have decried how Jan-Jan was made to perform a macho dancer’s sexy moves. Some people pointed out how cruel it was to make Jon-Jon perform when he was clearly in tears. All the while Willie Revillame and the audience laughed at the incongruity of a 6-yr old gyrating like an adult macho dancer, plus with tears in his eyes.

When I first heard about it, I decided to watch the long version of the clip. Here it is, and I hope you take time to watch it first:

What I found particularly interesting is that Jan-Jan was already in tears even before he danced.

For those who aren’t regular viewers of the show, it should be noted that contestants have to showcase some form of “talent” during their introduction portion. Jan-Jan knew beforehand that he was to do macho-dancing as his “talent.” Clearly the cause of his tears isn’t the dance; he was already crying when he was talking about his parents, and when he was thanking his tita for bringing him to the studio.

This is important because, when you shorten the clip, it looks as if he was dancing against his will:

The fact that Jan-Jan was crying is beside the point. Sure, it makes him look more pitiful and pathetic. But let’s play a “what-if” game: what if Jan-Jan’s talent was to sing, “On My Own”? Suddenly those tears won’t look out of place. In fact, they actually will enhance his performance without him meaning to.

View the long clip again. Towards the end of his dance, Jan-Jan had already stopped crying. And when Willie had him dance again (with the host dancing along), Jan-Jan had already dried his eyes and had a determined look on his face. Without prodding, he gripped the edge of the set to highlight a giling move (at that point, even Willie had had enough, and abruptly had the music cut). Obviously Jan-Jan was behaving like a monkey trained to dance, and that training happened outside of the studio, way before Jan-Jan appeared on our television sets on March 12.

Let’s play another “what-if” game: what if Jan-Jan never cried? What if he was a gregarious child, laughing and giggling the whole time? What if he danced the same macho-dancer routine, but this time smiling and laughing and seeking to please all the adults watching him? Would it be something similar to this?

(Unfortunately the owner of the clip already removed it so you can’t view it anymore. But what’s interesting is that the video shows an adult teaching two young kids to gyrate. And get this: the clip description actually said, “inspired by Jan-Jan.”)

I am reminded of ABS-CBN’s Goin’ Bulilit, wherein the main conceit of the show is simple: children are funnier when they’re made to do adult things. In that show, children have portrayed philandering husbands and cheating wives as a joke. Let’s go even further back in time, back when Claudine Barretto and Patrick Garcia cut their teeth in the show Ang TV!, which was predated by Kaluskos Musmos, which was patterned after The Mickey Mouse Club.

You might say, “Wait, hold on McVie! Sure, those shows may have shown kids dressing up like adults and play-acting adult scenes, but they never crossed the lines of propriety!” That may be true of the older shows, in a different era with different sets of values.

But during these times when macho-dancing and giling moves are honed to perfection by such groups as the Sexbomb Dancers daily, the lines of propriety get confusingly blurred. Another “what-if” game: what if Jan-Jan’s aunt actually said on air that she doesn’t see anything wrong with him dancing like that, that it was all in the spirit of fun? When uncles and aunts, heck, even parents themselves see nothing wrong with teaching their own children to gyrate like there’s no tomorrow, who’s to say if that’s a case of impropriety, or just a case of “De gustibus non est disputandum” (in taste there’s no dispute)?

Willing-Willie is already a glaring example of there’s no accounting for taste; a kid macho-dancing actually feels intrinsic to that kind of a television show. Maybe it’s time we stop kidding ourselves. How far removed is a dancing Jan-Jan from the Little Miss Philippines contestants? Perhaps Jan-Jan gyrating with tears in his eyes isn’t the saddest sight; rather, it is the mostly adult studio audience that kept laughing, clapping and cheering him on.


Mu[g]en said...

Of all the dance moves Jan-jan could learn, why the macho-dancer dance?

Do u think there's a motivation behind it? Because it would sell better?

It might be my way of perceiving things, but when Jan Jan danced at Willing Willie, all I could see is a male prostitute in the making.

jamie da vinci! said...

Well said mader V. Very well said.

Tony said...

Said it before and I'll say it agian....

Japan have their Samurais

America have their Cowboys

Philippines have Macho Dancers

Rygel said...

i think the kid was told to cry to have "dramatic" effect like those on telenovelas. could have been his parents who told him to, but he didn't know he had to do it only during the interview portion... he did it even while dancing.

Ms. Chuniverse said...

Wow, you really made a good point there McVie.

Very well said!

ONAI said...

Well disected McVie... pero you're saying the whole picture is wrong, right, diba? nakakainis lang how they laugh at other people's misery parang kinakawawa para bumneta ewan its how I see it eh. Sad nga.

Will said...

Very good point you have here. If JanJan is female, and she danced the same way those Sexbomb girls do, there wouldn't be too much of a commotion.

thepurpleman said...

i have seen it on tv and i was moved when willie laughed out out in a manner so discriminating when jan-jan said some greetings about his father being in a parlor...grabe ung tawa ng hayop na willie na yan...i felt bad how he he was making fun of other people's misery...pati ung sound director or sino man un pinaulit ulit pa talga ung music just to generate even gregarious laughter from the audience...