They say high school is the best place and time for the You Only Live Once moments, the young, sweet love, the first times and all the little adventures and misadventures in between. Through the naïve eyes of the teenagers we see an easy, uncomplicated life free from the chaotic minds. Through the naïve eyes of the youth we see the simple joys, the genuine smiles, and the pure laughter. Or is it not?
Media creates the ‘real’. And in the innocent minds of the youth, ‘real’ depicted in TV shows, films and other media products are more than accepted and glorified. One of the shows I am referring to is ABS-CBN’s Luv U. Luv U is a Sunday afternoon show produced by ABS-CBN in 2012 that ‘depicts and reflects’ the lives of the teenagers – their struggles as individuals and as a youth. Aspects of the teenage life such as school, friendship, family and of course on love are shown and presented. The show is mainly about the story of Camille Sarmiento (Miles Ocampo) and her cousins, April Munoz (Angeli Gonzales) and Whitney Munoz (Kiray Celis) who are in a new adventure as transferees in their new school, the Lamberto Uy Villarama University or LUV U. In this new chapter in their lives, they will be faced with a lot of challenges especially when it comes to love.
Luv U, as the name suggests, is all about love – young, immature love which young girls experience at an early age. The show focuses on Camille and her cousins, seeking and finding love in their new school, their new world. All these characters, which are all female, show that women are very much consumed by their emotions and feelings especially when it comes to men. The characters support the ideology that all women are always in search of love… of love that is romantic… of love that is given by a man. Even at a young age, women are portrayed as addicted and crazy over men as if being loved by them is their ultimate purpose in life. The character of Camille in the first few scenes of the show, do not support this. In fact, she always rejects JB (Marco Gumabao), the main male character linked to Camille, every time he tries to reconcile or befriend her. But eventually, because women are supposed to be accepting of men, she gives up her and breaks down her walls for JB. This leads to her being the stereotypical high school girl being head over heels in love with JB. He then becomes her world from now on.
Not only Camille shows this kind of women portrayal but even her cousin April (Angeli Gonzales). But compared to Camille, April accepts Boom the moment she landed her eyes on him. She is easily attracted by his dimples and cute smile. She fell ‘in love’ with him right there and then and is ready to go all the way with him. She doesn’t know what kind of person Boom (CJ Navato) is. She doesn’t even know the basic information about Boom. But what is important for her is his attractive face and cute smile. That’s what matters. That’s all that matters.
But one character is potentially the key to changing the portrayal of women in the show. That character is Whitney (Kiray Celis). She is a strong, independent woman. She rejects Rocky (Igi Boy Flores) all the time and proves to him that she doesn’t need him as much as the other girls need their boys. This might explain why Whitney is not the major character. She is only a supporting role whose opinions, although liberating in a way, are not important compared to other characters. Maybe it is because of her looks that she is only seen as an extra character. This then moves us to the show’s concept of beauty.
The show promotes that beauty goes hand-in-hand with love. In order to be accepted and seen as a beautiful lady, women need men to affirm it. A woman is beautiful because she is seen beautiful by a man. It shows that a man’s perspective is different and is more valuable compared to a woman’s perspective of herself and of other women as well. It is supported by the school bus scene where Camille and April were very glad of themselves because the boys noticed them because of their looks. Whitney who clearly didn’t expect Rocky to refer to her as a zombie felt bad about herself and got angry with the boy. This shows that Filipina ‘native’ beauty didn’t pass men’s standards of beauty which is quite ironic because it is supposed to be a Filipino show who should be promoting and accepting what is native of the Filipinos. This might be a result of the globalized culture we have today. We see beauty through the Western’s eyes. Although the concept of beauty that the show promotes is quite extensive having Miles Ocampo who is Chinita and Morena and Kiray Celis who is a Filipina ‘native’ beauty, the Western concept of beauty is still present through the Angeli Gonzales who has white complexion and big brown eyes.
The global or colonized concept of beauty is also evident in Lola Paula’s character. She is the grandmother of the three girls. She is introduced in the show through her Facebook account which includes her biography and profile. Lola Paula’s profile has her face photoshopped in a white, sexy women’s body. In addition to this, her biography states that she never got married because her foreign boyfriend left her. We could see two ideologies that every woman nowadays believes in. First is to pursue the Western’s concept of beauty. Lola Paula who has a beautiful, healthy body and a brown complexion has to alter her body in her profile picture, replacing it with the sexy, fair skinned bodies that Westerners have. She has to do this to attract men and not only men but foreign men. This supports the next ideology which is about appealing to foreign men. “Hindi na nag-asawa dahil iniwan ng boyfriend na foreigner” is the exact words written on Lola Paula’s biography. This is a clear manifestation of the colonial culture that we have. This shows how much we value their opinion of us. Also if we look at a broader perspective, not only beauty do we ask for their approval but everything that is about us – our culture, our politics, and our identity as a people. We rely so much on them as if they are our saviors. Lola Paula is also a representation of a lot of Filipinas who look for foreign husbands to rise from poverty. Today, there are a lot of Filipina women who are ‘selling’ themselves online – through cyber chats and cyber communities. This is unfortunately their only means to find their ‘Prince Charming’ in the persona of the Western/ American men.
Although it is not given much focus, Colonial mentality is also depicted in April and Whitney’s relationship with each other. April and Whitney are sisters but they are not physically alike. April is fair-skinned while Whitney is dark-skinned. April has a beautiful nose while Whitney has a flat one. All these and more which are contrary to each other. It is maybe because April and Whitney are half-sisters. April has a ‘lahi’ while Whitney is pure Filipino. Because of having foreign blood, she is seen as more beautiful than her sister Whitney. This further reflects the fascination that we Filipinos have over the foreigners.
Luv U is not the only show that promotes these values to the young audiences. It is troubling to think that women are depicted as ‘dependent’ to men by the media. It is troubling to think that these ideals are backed up by the colonial culture that we have as a nation. But it is more troubling to think that this is a teen’s show that has the capacity to mold young, innocent minds of this twisted ideology.
TFCEntertainment. “Luv U Full Pilot Episode on TFC”. Youtube.com. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgGyIXcHpPA (19 October 2014)