For the past few days I’ve been weighing the issues surrounding the Jan-Jan macho dancing incident on Willie Revillame’s show. Since the proper agencies have already stepped in and have proceeded with investigating the incident, I see no need to really dwell on the factual matters of the incident itself.
What has bothered me more is Willie’s recent response on his show regarding the incident. Another matter I found disturbing was some of the reactions of other observers that I found to be contemptuous, if not outright ridiculous.
Now, before I get to the more substantial stuff, let me begin by saying this: I think that having a 6-year old boy dance like a macho dancer once, for money, is once too many times. Having the kid do it over and over, to my mind, just screams abuse.
Still, much as I disagree to Jan-Jan’s dancing in that manner, I cannot in my good conscience say that I have never seen worse. Just some weeks ago, I was at a street party where little kids were made to dance in the middle of a street to “Shembot,” among other songs, and the dancing was no different. The crowd reaction was not that much different either, as the adults in the audience just laughed and cheered them on. I don’t want to make this a “their culture vs my culture” argument, but perhaps there is something to be said about how much popular culture is evolving, and how vastly different our fundamental views of decency have become. That is a much bigger issue that is well beyond the scope of Willie’s show, and we cannot blame him for that.
What we *can* blame him for is what goes on in his show, and this is where I’d like to start my criticism. In Willie Revillame’s response to his critics (which, true to form, he makes on his own show, and with much dramatic flair), he essentially breaks it down to the following points:
1. Jan-Jan was scared of Balingit, which is why he cried
2. Jan-Jan was screened by his staff and not by himself
3. Originally, Jan-Jan was supposed to dance to “Careless Whisper,” to which his staff modified the song because keeping the song would make Jan-Jan’s segment “indecent.”
4. Jan-Jan learned the dance, apparently, from watching YouTube videos of that same dance using the “Careless Whisper” song
5. The negative publicity is just some plot for ABS-CBN to get back at Willie for leaving ABS-CBN
6. Willie’s critics (which include some icons in Philippine showbiz, such as Lea Salonga, Jim Paredes, and Monique Wilson, as well as known child’s welfare advocate Bianca Gonzales) should just shut up and give out free benefit concerts to help the poor, because that’s what Willie Revillame does on his show.
7. His sponsors had better not pull out, or Willie’s “millions” will boycott those products.
8. If people want his show off the air, then they’d better be the ones to take over the work of helping the poor.
Again, I will not make any assumptions on whether or not Jan-Jan’s dancing is done in poor taste, or if it amounts to child abuse. I will leave that to the proper authorities to determine.
Now, Willie Revillame asserts that there was nothing wrong with Jan-Jan’s dance, nor with the circumstances surrounding it. Fine. Let’s start from there. Mr. Revillame, if you truly believed that there was nothing wrong with the situation involving Jan-Jan, then why are you passing the responsibility to no less than three other groups of people, namely a) your staff, b) Joel Balingit, and c) Jan-Jan’s parents? In fact, your statement was very clear: “Pero hindi ako…wala akong feeling na guilty. Wala ako. Hindi ako guilty kasi. Wala ho,” Not guilty of what, exactly? Willie never did say. But his subsequent statements sure were telling: He’s not guilty, because it’s someone else’s fault. Willie, logic dictates that where there is no wrong, then there is no fault; and if there is no fault, then there is no fault to be passed around. Willie Revillame, you have practically admitted to the reality that something wrong happened during the segment where you made Jan-Jan dance repeatedly. Even if you do not come out and say it explicitly, your message is loud and clear.
I agree with one thing, though: Jan-Jan’s parents should be held responsible for allowing that kind of behavior from their child. If Revillame’s revelation is right, and that Jan-Jan’s been dancing that way for 2 years, then that’s 2 years that they’ve been grossly negligent parents.
And then there’s Willie’s challenge to his critics. What is most ridiculous is that he makes it seem as if what he is challenging his critics to do – basically dole out money from their own pockets to give to the poor – is what he does on his show. That is a bald-faced, blatant lie. That money came from The Filipino Channel back when he was in Wowowee, and now it comes from his sponsors. Why is he asking his critics to do something that even he isn’t “Willing Willie” to do? It’s an absurd response to valid criticism.
The height of Revillame’s arrogance is in asserting that his show “helps the poor.” Helps the poor how? By putting a price on public humiliation? By reinforcing the game-show mentality where the best way to get out of poverty is to try to get rich as quickly as possible, and with minimal effort?
Speaking of absurd responses. Online reactions in support of Willie Revillame and his show have been nothing short of depressing, if not absolutely laughable.
To get this out of the way: Again, it’s spelled “inggit,” not “ingit.” If you’re going to engage in kindergarten-level banter, at least spell the damn word correctly.
Apart from the juvenile “Inggit lang kayo kay Willie, wooo fan mo ako Willie, ilabsu!” remarks, some people sincerely believe that Jan-Jan’s dancing is entirely appropriate, that it was just a “talent” and that it’s the critics who are imputing an obscene meaning to it. Well, there’s appropriate, then there’s obscene, then there’s pop culture, which seems to have a hard time making any sort of distinction between the two. In any case, that is quite beside the point. The point is, Willie Revillame himself believed that something was wrong, although perhaps only in hindsight, and only implicitly. Most importantly, Willie Revillame thought that something wrong was going on, on his show, a show where he has the final word, despite his claims to the contrary. In light of this, his behavior in responding to critics is completely asinine.
Still others play the “He who is without sin should cast the first stone” mantra. Common sense check: Using that same logic, then let the Willie supporter who is without sin be the first to criticize me for speaking out against Willie Revillame and his show, and to tell me to shut up. Deal?
Then there are those who insist that Willie Revillame’s critics ought to focus on helping the poor instead. This is just a more reasonable but equally flawed version of the “He who is without sin” routine. Really, do people have to jump through such hoops just to exercise their right to free speech? Besides, it was never a claim of his critics that they were doing a better job of helping the poor than he was. The main claim – in fact, largely the only claim – is that Willie Revillame’s act of making the kid dance repeatedly in that manner was wrong and abusive, and that Revillame should be held responsible. Quite apart from this, these critics that Willie lashes out against are, in fact, involved in their own ways with charities and advocacy groups who help the poor in other, more permanent ways. They already are helping the poor, by helping uplift their conditions and get them out of poverty. Revillame can never make such a claim that a contestant of his show is no longer poor because of his show.
To cap of this blog post, I’d like to provide a direct response to one of Willie’s rants:
“Ngayon, kung tatanggalin n’yo ang programa, pinipilit n’yo kaming mawala sa mundo. Sana kayo ang sumagot sa mga pangangailangan ng mga taong mahihirap na mga ito. Di ba?”
There are many things that the poor need. But they do not need band-aid, quick fix dole-outs that your show provides. They do not need some would-be patron who has them jump through hoops just to win over your sympathy/amazement/charity.
Willie Revillame, the poor don’t need you.
How do you solve a problem like Willie?
Boycott his sponsors. Boycott his studio and his network. Get him banned from television.