On James Reid or: A Foolish Fan’s Formidable Flights of Fancy July 1, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Fanboy, Noypi, Pop Cult.
A number of reasons explain why the recently concluded Pinoy Big Brother Teen Clash of 2010 is not a hit. For one, the final tally of votes is underwhelming. The Big Winner only got a total of 179,294 votes as opposed to the half-a-million mark that previous winners reached, which is definitely a bane of a show that takes pride in overselling. Despite its poor ratings, PBB also continued to air on a much later time slot after the school opening. Low viewership especially from its target group not only means it is taking chances with the loyal crowd; it also implies that the producers could have planned their market strategy better, only, and unfortunately, they didn’t.
Then there goes the early—but not easy—eviction of the much-hated housemate Tricia. Unlike Wendy Valdez who sailed her way to the Big Four of the first season, Tricia only came close as being a trending topic on Twitter (“BBE Tricia”) and landing a special interview on The Buzz. Nevertheless, her early eviction does not change the fact that she is also one of the most loved housemate by the voting public, frequently earning a percentage of votes more than 50%, rivaled only by James. Tricia as a divisive character may need another essay to discuss, but her departure only warrants cordial episodes to come, which is far from the “teleserye ng totoong buhay” that PBB producers intend to have. “Tricia” is an element present in any season of the show, the one that strikes the ire of everyone and sponsors the drama. But when that element leaves, what is there left to watch?
The “clash” here is one. The idea of pitting the international teen housemates, who came in weeks after the show started, against the Pinoy housemates is a clever conceit to push the show’s hardcore brand of patriotism further. It takes both the literal and figurative sense of nationality, which in its past seasons is only illustrated by making way to half-Filipino contestants and exchange housemates from the world’s most frigid countries. PBB likes to grate in the extreme, so now it welcomes completely foreign housemates to compete with the Pinoys. Predictable he is, Kuya holds a debate to discuss what constitutes being a Filipino. Only the stupid will insist on narrow definitions, but hell, isn’t this the perfect show for that? After all, the inclusion of the “teenternationals”, and eventually the win of one of them, raises that important question again: why the hell bother?
And there goes the disaster called Unite at the Big Night. A change of venue, from Araneta Coliseum to Ynares Center, taps the domino in front and falls all the other: Toni Gonzaga, Mariel Rodriguez, and Bianca Gonzales dressed and made up by Morticia Addams; computer graphics cheaply and crudely designed; unflattering performances by Pilipinas Got Talent winners and former housemates made worse by garish production design and dull editing; the failing signal. Murphy’s on all sides, but the thing that keeps the night moving, as always, is the result. And the result is definitely worth shouting for, the icing on the cold vanilla cake, the reason Pinoy Big Brother Teen Clash of 2010 turns out to be Laurenti Dyogi’s best season so far.
Call me a sucker but the show’s refusal to be usual—no big fights, no long speeches, no poverty overkill, no looming winner, just bent on the basics of the Big Brother concept—leaves its mark on me. Kuya has not succeeded in creating a dramatic “teleserye ng totoong buhay”, which, to be fair, is difficult because these are teenagers whose time inside the house is short, and whose life—your cue to get out your handkerchief—is too vulnerable to taint. I am sold on how it tries to reveal personalities through simple but meaningful tasks, far from the ambitious and dramatic failures of its previous seasons, except the kidnapping episode which turns out, at its full throttle, rather inept. (The Big Goal concert too, considering the ticket price of P10,000, is cute but limp. But on second thought, that’s not the point of charity, is it?) It also gives me more reason to watch when the housemates unfold their characters bit by bit under less contrived circumstances. “Less contrived” meaning its projection of false intimacy is credible enough—and in Ryan’s case, hilarious and entertaining—to merit a following. I may disagree with Kuya’s decision to be “fair”—giving three slots to both Pinoy and international housemates for the Big Night, given that the “teenternationals” apparently has stronger fan base—but I understand that it’s tricky to have five foreigners in the finale of a Filipino show. But to tell you the truth, the Pinoy housemates did not fare that well.
Five years of Pinoy Big Brother and it doesn’t take a genius to read between the lines: Kuya wants the most deserving to win. Popular belief tells that James Reid is not. James is not only the unlikeliest housemate to win but also the unlikeliest to lose. He’s a sickly beanstalk; he’s not pure Pinoy; he doesn’t think he deserves to win; he doesn’t care who wins. Add those to the fact that he’s charming; he hypnotizes with his accent; he sings and plays the guitar; he does captivating Melbourne Shuffle and handstands; he models clothes like you will never think twice taking them off him; he’s an utmost pleasure to look at. Kuya sells winners; and it’s up to the voting public to buy them. In James’ case, he isn’t sold—he is actually the most raring to go after his lung condition worsens. He does nothing to win; and he wins. Isn’t that catchy enough?
As Ivan puts it perfectly, “We do not bring our poverty here.” James’ win proves that it’s not really a question of who deserves it most but who fancies you most, mindful of the fact that the two can go together (Kim Chiu, for instance) although sometimes they just don’t (Ejay Falcon upstaging Robi Domingo). Fancy: that’s a term frequently avoided because capriciousness tails it, but fancy is fondness fraught with imagination. I choose fancy over relevance because fancy is far from proving itself right. Fancy is its own defense. People hate the fact that his supporters voted for James just because he is handsome, but since when have we ruled out good looks as a basis for judgment? Isn’t it the foundation of celebrity, the seed of fame, and the cornerstone, aside from talent, of a long-lasting career in show business? James seems pretty endowed with both anyway, charms and crystals, boy-next-door looks and fresh skills to develop.
These traits go well together, especially now that the shock of being a celebrity, not to mention the many pretenses of it, is only starting to sink in. Given appropriate projects, James can make the most of his stay here in the country, appearing in shows that do not require clamor for Tagalog lines like hosting, and continue the usual studying later on. He has the knack for winning hearts like picking flowers, and an innocence that can be rendered nicely in commercial movies. Just imagine how that two-second wink, at the end of the “teenternationals” video for “Butse Kik”, made a thousand hearts swoon for days and nights.
Humility (and to some extent, apathy) made him win. But that moment: when he goes out of the Big Brother House like that, in an elegant black suit, fireworks and big lights on cue, Toni’s muscular voice introducing him, the audience screaming his name and waving “JAMLI” banners, egging him on to flash his big smile—and the strangest of all is he doesn’t expect it, all the surprise and bewilderment and candidness written all over his face, the very picture of love gleaming gorgeously—isn’t that the spirit of a winner that needs nothing more to prove than be visible in our eyes?