For over a decade now, noontime TV shows have captivated the Filipino public, colloquially known as“the masa”. These shows run for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, usually from around 2 to 4 o clock pm. Their immense popularity is shown by the long lines of people that wait outside the studio hours before the program starts. All of them, hoping to get a chance to participate in the festivities which include playing games, singing, and dancing. Millions more watch through their television. All this translates into high TV ratings, eventually generating billions in revenue for the producers and executives. The host himself earns around 1 to 2 million pesos everyday.
The audience mostly consists of people from the D and E demographics. Butch Stuart in his article “Mr Willie” describes them as “those who come from near or far away, many with borrowed transportation money, coming from all walks of masa life. Some of the groups that he mentioned were featured in these shows include: farmers, fishermen, GROs, bus drivers, people with missing teeth, people with special talents, single mothers, gay, graduates who failed their licensing exams, girls who can dance, boys who can sing, bibingka vendors, and, even, young girls with great looking legs.” Overseas Filipino Workers are also given special mention in the show. Those present in the audience see it as a welcome home celebration, or a way to re-immerse themselves in the Filipino culture.
A euphoric upbeat atmosphere underpins the event. Mr Stuart describes it as “120 minutes of mindless choreographed entertainment – games, dancing, singing and laughter with ample opportunities for ogling”. These events don’t require any complex thinking from the participants. They were designed to be visceral and to conjure a response of raw emotion. Girls in scantily clad outfits are the ones who facilitate the celebration. They serve two purposes in the event. Firstly to captivate and attract through their revealing outfits. But they also carry out logistical tasks like accompanying audience members to the stage and dancing the tunes for everyone to mimic.
The host ensures that all elements of the show are put together. To keep everything lively, his dialogue must always be fast paced. At times he gives off the impression of a cheerleader – always rousing the audience into states of excitement. He will always crack jokes left and right, and will never miss any opportunity even it means making fun of himself. For the show to be successful, the host must understand the sensibilities of the majority lower class audience. The interactive environment can only exist if he can connect with the “masa’s” humor. In Philippine society, no one has been more successful in doing this than Willie Revillame. A household name in television, he has amassed a massive amount of wealth from his noon time shows Wowowee in ABS CBN and later on, Willing willie on TV 5.
Noon time shows rely on the D and E classes as their target audience. When criticism is mounted against these shows, producers are quick to respond that these journalists do not understand the plight of the poor. Some argue that these shows give the poor false hope. They line up for months waiting to be called on stage. Waiting to tell their life story. Waiting to play for a million pesos with house and lot. But the reality is that most of those who line up for the show never even make it to the studio.
We would like to find out why Filipinos from the class D end E brackets are captivated with these noon time shows. It is the poor’s endorsement that sustains them. Companies who want to reach out to this consumer market donate lump sums of money for their products to be advertised on air. They know that the millions of impoverished families watching these shows will see their products. But the poor do more than just endorse. Often they peg their aspirations and dreams to the show itself. Watch any full show and you are sure to come across someone sobbing on air, talking about how his dream was to meet Willie in person.
To answer the question of why the poor are so captivated, we will need to address more specific inquiries. Media for instance, is never a neutral medium. It has the capacity to shape public perception through its different portrayals of reality. After acknowledging that the poor are interested in these shows, we will look into what techniques and strategies these shows use to sustain that interest. It is easy to understand that someone who stumbles across ABSCBN may be mesmerized by the glitz and glamour of the wowowee show girls. But how do the producers maintain that interest for long periods of time when the programs in these shows tend to be repetitive?
Further inquiries may also be raised concerning how we perceive and understand poverty as a social ill. Subconsciously or not, these shows frame this issue in a biased way. Critics are quick to pounce on Willie Revillame for taking advantage of the poor. In return, he retaliates by calling them apathetic and claiming that he truly empathizes with them. Both assertions are possibly right. These shows may be both half empty and full. But perhaps a better way to resolve this conflict is to look into the assumptions about poverty that these shows espouse.
Even more questions can be raised regarding the link between poverty and gender in Philippine society. We question how structures of patriarchy are reinforced and reflected in the arrangments of these shows. Willie Revillame is notorious for using blatantly sexist language. In one account by Butch Stuart, Willie comments on the obesity of a middle aged woman who came up to hug him by saying, “Mas masarap yapusin ang mga dalaga”. But the epitome of this sexism is seen in the dancing girls that liven the show. Mr Butch Stuart describes them as if they were tools to tingle one’s sensations: “Tall, Pretty, Scantily Clad,Jiggling their cleavage breasts, bending, grinding and humping their loins, the tassels and trimmings of their skimpy covers swaying with their dancing, as they blow kisses, seamlessly sequing from program segments to ads, teasing men to the edge of one particular cardinal sin”.
The group will use Marxist analysis to understand the dynamics that exist between the audience and the TV producers in these noon time shows. The paper on Marxism and method talks about the central scientific goals of Marxist analysis. The first of these is to provide a well founded and logically derived description of the central institutional feature of a market based economic system. The second goal is to historicize and to determine how these features came to exist. The last is to determine the social implications of these arrangments.
We like this kind of theoretical framework for its rigid empiricism. Many frameworks start from the universal towards the particular. That is to say they start with an established principle and then go on trying to rationalize the real world to try to fit that picture. In contrast, Marxist analysis begins from the ground up. It first takes a look at what is observable like the relationships of people across the social strata, the relationships of people to capital, or the relationships of people to instiutions which did not exist apriori, but instead have a historical basis to them. After making repeated observations, Marxist analysis will then see if recurring patterns, outcomes, and courses of action exist. Only then will a theory be produced to account for these similarities. The Marxist approach is a scientific one. As Daniel little writes that Marxist analysis explain real world phenomena in terms of underlying causal conditions rather than crude associations among observable variables.
This process of analysis is significant in our research in that it requires us to look at the tangible motivations of those watching these noon time TV shows. It is no mere coincidence or stroke of luck that these shows continue to remain prominent. There are financial incentives that make thousands of people skip their work just to watch them live. There are also practical ways to explain why the poor would rather sing and dance away their problems to the tune of “boom tarat tarat”. Finally, it is an undeniable fact that the elites- namely the business tycoons, the tv executives, the celebrity personalities and everyone else on the upper echelons of the media industry, continue to benefit from a capitalist system that produces massive amounts of inequality. The mode of production, in this instance the noon time tv shows that generate the income, will cease to exist if there were no poor people to delude.
We will also use the Gramscian concept of hegemony to describe the process in which the poor are made to passively accept their positions of status. Hegemony, is the process with which the dominant class projects and reinforces its ideologies through the use of cultural institutions. Chandler states that this represents not only political and economic control, but also the ability of the dominant class to project its own way of seeing the world so that those who are subordinated by it accept it as ‘common sense’ and ‘natural’.
Gramsci would find the institution of the family to be repressive. By belonging into the family unit, we are socialized into aspiring for specific life goals. One of this is to be productive citizens ing specialized skill sets that can be used to earn profit. We see this as obvious. However, the fulfillment of this goal ensures the preservation of our inequitable social structure. The family and educational system ensures that when one profit minded factory owner dies, another one takes its place.
DEFINITION OF TERMS:
Marxism is defined as the political, economic, and social principles and policies advocated by Marx; especially : a theory and practice of socialism including the labor theory of value, dialectical materialism, the class struggle, and dictatorship of the proletariat until the establishment of a classless society.
A body of doctrine developed by Karl Marx and, to a lesser extent, by Friedrich Engels in the mid-19th century. It originally consisted of three related ideas: a philosophical anthropology, a theory of history, and an economic and political program.
Rational Choice Theory
Rational choice theory is defined as An economic principle that assumes that individuals always make prudent and logical decisions that provide them with the greatest benefit or satisfaction and that are in their highest self-interest.
Noon Time Variety Show
Variety shows are defined as Theatrical entertainment consisting of successive unrelated acts, such as songs, dances, and comedy skits. In the context of this paper they are performed using the medium of the television.
SCOPE AND LIMITATION:
Our study will focus solely on Noon time TV programs in the Philippines. Other countries have their own formats for variety shows. These will not be covered by this paper. Our goal is to understand poverty particularly in the Filipino context. Therefore our analysis will focus more on the cultural nuances of Filipino society reflected in local variety shows. We will also not consider other reality TV shows that do not fall under the category of a variety show. That is, an event consisting of successive acts of singing, dancing and, games.
The reason for this is that differences in show arrangements will make it difficult to conduct a consistent analytical approach for all reality tv across the board. For instance, Marxists themes of class inequality to an extent are less evident in weight lost shows such as the biggest loser than they are in wowowee. The selection of participants for both these shows are also markedly different making it difficult to conduct a unified analysis of the demographics.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY:
METHOD AND METHO