Sunday, May 25, 2008

Are you the perfect Pinay?

“Paglaki ko, gusto ko malaki suso ko…kasi yan po ang maganda at hinahangaan.” (When I grow up, I want my breasts to be big because that is what is beautiful and admired.)

My jaw dropped, nearly down to my knees. Although I did not hear the child say it herself, it was both a shocking and an enlightening piece of statement for me, for the host, and for the guest. I watched an episode of Media in Focus on ANC two weeks ago. Hosted by Luchi Cruz-Valdez, she talked about “The Perfect Pinay” with several guests from the media, most notably Emily Abrera, the incumbent Chairman Emeritus of advertising agency McCann Erickson Philippines. Abrera related to Valdez the results of a research they did on little kids aged five to seven. They asked the kids a lot of questions, one of which was what they want to be when they grow up. That was when a young girl dropped the bomb at their feet.

What the little girl said was not even close to what she should have answered but it definitely gave us an inkling as to how advertising has corrupted the most innocent of minds. We are raising a generation that is heavily exposed to mass media advertising. Television, print, radio, and the web all carry different kinds of messages that a young person absorbs, consciously or unconsciously each day. Due to the recurring nature of mass media, messages are reinforced, causing people to believe in them after several constant repetitions.

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder but in reality, people generally have a common notion of what is beautiful and what is not. One of my teachers used to joke around saying, “If you don’t have good self-esteem, don’t look at the magazines. You’ll only get frustrated.” The beautiful image, the image of a “perfect Pinay” always presented by media is one who is fair-skinned, slim, booby, and flawless. No wonder people spend billions and billions of money on liposuction, breast enhancements, whitening products, and slimming pills just to fit the high standards of beauty that media has set. What the people don’t know and we probably never will is how much enhancement is being done behind the glamorous commercials and photo shoots. We will never know, for instance, how much of the pictures we see on the glossies are edited with photoshop or how the models were positioned against the camera to hide the wrong curves. So you see, the very industry that tries to promote the concept of a “perfect Pinay” is struggling to meet the standards of beauty, as well.

What I just don’t like about this whole distorted image of beauty is its effect on a child, like the child who was the inspiration for this article. Children are still at their formative years, trying to establish their own identity – trying to establish the kind of person they want to be. Exposing them to the image of beauty like the one currently projected by mainstream media will affect the way they want their own image to be. I wonder if in the future, we’ll see more people looking like they just popped out of a magazine. Even so, this view of beauty is so superficial I think God would complain that this is not the way He envisioned beauty to be. For such a deep word such as that being equated to merely being white, slim, booby, and flawless – oh my, we have a LOT of serious work to do.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Miley Cyrus brouhaha

It’s not one of those art versus pornography debates. Posing bareback while clutching a piece of silk cloth to cover the rest of her body, 15-year-old teen icon Miley Cyrus is a far cry from the sweet and innocent character she plays in Disney channel’s top-rating Hannah Montana. Since 2006, Cyrus has been hitting the boob tube with her portrayal of ordinary girl-next-door Miley Stewart who has a secret life of a pop star in the person of Hannah Montana. The show was an instant blockbuster, thrusting Cyrus further into the limelight. Last year, Forbes named her as one of the top 20 earners under 25 and today, she has earned two multi-platinum records. But along with her rise to fame comes an expected price: a bout of controversies.

In her case, all of them were controversial photos that spread through the internet. There are pictures of Cyrus sharing what seems to be licorice with a female friend, causing rumors of her being a lesbian. Then there are pictures of her wearing underwear with pouting, seductive lips. There are also pictures of her and her boyfriend kissing. The most recent addition to her growing collection of controversial photos was the bareback one that Vanity Fair released, stirring the sensibilities of a culture that witnessed similar precedents. Parents were a bit shocked and grew concerned of their little girls aged 12 to 18, who adore and emulate Cyrus short of kissing her toes. Will Cyrus continue to be a “good” role model? Will she follow the career trajectory of former teen stars Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears?

I started watching Hannah Montana last year and I enjoyed the show for its wholesome and comical nature, which makes it very lovable indeed. Had I been younger, I would have worshipped Cyrus like a goddess. However, I’m way over my teen years and all this hullabaloo over one photo doesn’t affect me at all. In fact, I love the photo. Very artistic and beautiful. Question is, do teenagers think the same way?

After the controversy broke out, I decided to watch Hannah Montana a little more closely. Like most people, the young can easily fall into the trap of thinking that the actress in real life is the same person they see and adore on television. They forget that they are two different persons existing in two different worlds of television and reality. It doesn’t help that the character’s name Miley is the real life actress’ name and the father of the character is played by her real life dad Billy Ray Cyrus. How can we tell the difference between the Miley on TV and the Miley in reality?

I may never know the real Miley Cyrus – the one without the lights, the camera, and the heavy makeup. If the Vanity Fair issue gave away a part of who she really is, I certainly don’t mind. After all, she is 15 and counting. We cannot hold her back from growing up into a more mature person. Whoever she is, I will still love the Miley on TV. If she graduates from her teenybopper role and start taking on more mature characters, well, that’s a different story.