*the title of this post takes its cue from a comment left by Jan Gabriel Castaneda on a Rappler article that reviews the film, Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy by Wenn Deramas
On Christmas Day every year, the Philippine public is treated to a parade of mindless garbage in the form of the Metro Manila Film Festival. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: to call this a film festival is an insult to the whole global film industry and every artist and scholar who works in and around the movies. So of course I was not expecting much from any of the films. Full disclosure: my friends have made a tradition out of watching these MMFF films during the holidays; I begrudgingly go along. I love my friends dearly, but it’s sometimes difficult to contain myself when they say that they enjoy certain films that make me question how on Earth this country survives its own idiocy.
Director Wenn Deramas and comedian Vice Ganda have made lucrative careers out of exploiting this said idiocy and the public’s constant need for a laugh at any expense. Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy delivers the expected punchlines and a loose story-line that strings one contrived conflict after another. The film is rife with political incorrectness: racism, sexism, effeminophobia, transphobia, misogyny. Again, it’s not something that you would not expect from a Vice Ganda film, but what truly bothers me is that this film supposedly won the “Most Gender Sensitive” Award at the festival. This is bothersome because it mirrors exactly how blase Philippine society treats the marginalization of the lgbtqia (etc) people.
Visibility is not acceptance. It is tolerance at its best and indifference at its worst.
Just because a film has queer characters that does not mean that the film treats them with any semblance of sensitivity or compassion or understanding. You will not find any trace of these in GBBT. I truly wonder what the parameters were for the festival’s category of a gender sensitive film. This one pits the bakla against the girl, creates a martyr of the mother while villainizing the husband’s new girlfriend and the mother-in-law, leaves the boy impotent and weak because of his illness, and trivializes the body of the tomboy. I also saw the Kimmy Dora prequel, and I found that film much more sensitive to gender issues than GBBT.
Of course critics would say that to look for an actual story-line or proper character development in an MMFF film is in itself a futile endeavor. But is it really too much to ask for a mainstream comedy film that does away with all the racism and sexism and stereotyping that’s already so common in thousands of other mainstream films?
Apparently it is.