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It’s Not Funny Anymore: Queers as “Payasos” in Filipino Films

It’s Not Funny Anymore: Queers as “Payasos” in Filipino Films

Payasos or clowns are comical characters. Their means of comedy are either through their physical comedic routines or their comic dialogues. After careful examination of the method of representation in Filipino films, I have reflected that the queers are the usual payasos of Filipino films. This article forms an aggregated criticism of the comic relief representation of LGBTQIA+ community members in the Philippine film industry. A criticism on how it is not only stereotypical and ineffective but rather more importantly irrevocably unprogressive.

Filipino Films: A History

The Filipino film industry is one of the most significant aspects of Filipino media consumption. During the 1980s period, the film industry was still trying to gain its foothold in the Filipino social and economic reality. We can best identify the transition from theater to motion picture in early Filipino films. This is through film dramatizations of existing and well-known theatre plays and classical works of literature. Examples of these are Ibong Adarna (1941) and The Japanese Dance (1943).

Highly venerated Filipino films of the 1980s show careful and authentic commentary. These are exemplified in films like Himala (1982) and Maynila, Sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag (1975). These were films that provided an in-depth perspective on Filipino social normative mentalities. Emphasizing the implications of continued entrenchment of the capitalist structure in the very core of our economic landscape.

However, after the entrance of foreign investors into the industry, the quality of Filipino films changed drastically. This marked the beginning of the paradigm shift in Filipino film production. The industry transitioned from centering around artistic expression on social forms and frameworks to being an industry centered on comic relief.

Hence, dominant film genre production from being mainly societal, experimental, and complex would become more concentrated on romance, and comedy.  This decline in Filipino film quality would continue to lead to the emergence of a new cinematic trope, the Comedic Relief.

The Comic Relief

The “Comic Relief” character is a known media construct. It is designed and placed in order to provide humorous texture to a storyline. The LGBTQIA+ Community has always been an active part of the fabric of Filipino industries. They are most particularly part of the show business. This means that the existing stereotypical mentality of correlating queers with humor and comedy. Then, this would transcend into being further entrenched by and in Filipino films.

Filipino mainstream films represented their community as mere characters for “Comic Relief.” These are seen in films of classic Filipino comedies such as Petrang Kabayo at ang Pilyang Kuting (1988), and Facifica Falayfay (1969). The 21t century modern Filipino industry showed this in films like Praybeyt Benjamin (2011), and The Panti Sisters (2019). All of these portray the queer as the character integral for comedic relief.

The implication of queer perception

This issue is immensely important and relevant. Considering that in the Philippines, forms of stereotypical perspective and beliefs regarding the LGBTQIA+ community continues to persist. In the face of this persistence, it is immensely important for the media to reform this misrepresentation.

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The LGBTQIA+ community is one of the most dominant demographics in the country. And, even their continued increase in number has failed to re-establish the community as a socially recognized group deserving of dignified treatment and social regard.

Though there are multiple reasons for this one of the most reoccurring factors that further entrench the community into marginalization comes from religious ideologies and constructions, sexist ideations and mentalities, and continued participation in the highly patriarchal worship of the divine masculine God.  

As audiences, we have become a part of this problem. We play a part in the entrenchment of this misconstrued and highly bigoted demoralization of the queer community in the film industry. This means that we are not innocent spectators in this but rather we have also been its perpetrators.

The public needs to integrate enhanced forms of gender awareness and sensitivity. This means that we should be active agents in stopping the continued characterization of the queer as mere payasos in our films because it’s not funny anymore.

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