Saturday, September 10, 2011
Being Undead, Gay, and Loving It
I'd been meaning to watch Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington ever since I chanced upon trailers of the movie in IRC many months back. I visited the Facebook fan page dutifully, but there never was really an update as to when it will be shown. Finally, I got wind of it again in Cinemalaya, but Cinemalaya 2011 came and went, (but I never did. Sigh.) and I still hadn't caught the movie. Thankfully, the movie proved enduringly popular enough for me to catch it when I did, which was already very very late in the game.
I really don't intend this to be a movie review. I find the whole process of reviewing films (at least formally) a little too tedious for my taste. Probably the many reports I had to do back in my student life left a poor taste in my mouth. Anyway, I'd like to talk about what my expectations of the movie were, and how I feel, now that I have finally seen it on the big screen.
Early into the movie, I realized that this movie was slightly different from your typical comedy. It began to seem like a veiled commentary on contemporary Philippine homosexuality. From then on, I expected the movie to have a redeeming message. Perhaps, say, one of equality and acceptance? Eventually, the movie veered into related, yet somehow, indirect, territory. And this is, also, where the spoilers start. You have been warned.
1 - Homosexuality as a curse. How very tongue-in-cheek. Who hasn't heard these words before? The movie takes this on very literally at the beginning, when the titular character is cursed for calling a gay guy, well, "gay." Somehow, the word doesn't sound as derogatory when translated in English. Anyway. You get the point.
Remington has to know what it feels like to be gay to be more accepting of gay men. But, he doesn't really become "gay" enough to experience the "downside" of being gay. People generally still thought of him as straight, despite his awkward gait and his changed manner of dress. Never mind that he has now become fluent in bekimese. Somehow, these didn't shed any negative light on his character (not that it should, but it does!). In fact, he wasn't even spurned by (a) lover(s) (I'm sure, a most common affliction among us gay men) and didn't find trouble finding affection. In other words, the guy had it easy. The fictionalized version of Lucban, Quezon was very accepting of gay men, save for the antagonists, who are eventually revealed to have "issues" of their own. Unless, the filmmakers are trying to portray this as the Utopian version of our world, but that just runs contrary to the tongue-in-cheekness of everything else.
I left the movie feeling that, if I were in Remington's shoes, I'd feel that the entire experience was just one big inconvenient nightmare, and it wouldn't necessarily lead me to be more accepting of gay guys.
2 - Homosexual stereotypes. Sure, the movie revealed that there's more to gay men than just dressing up in drag or being beauty parlor queens, but I felt that they could have done more. The surprise "reveal" of who were, in the end, closeted gays, could have been easily overlooked. The film could have examined the whole subculture of straight acting gay men, too. I'm sure that would have some laughs too more than the slapstick (and frankly, dated) humor of the parloristas.
Then again, so many serious gay indie films have tackled that subject matter before, it would've made the film stereotypical. I just think that, being a mainstream success like it is now, it was a missed opportunity to educate. We so lack these "role models" for gay men growing up. A gap needs to be filled. Papa P is our closest hope. Haha!
3 - The "true" nature of homosexuality. This was a smart movie in the sense that it was subtle enough to veil its message through dialogue. The writers put in nuggets about acceptance, equality, and even nobility through the characters' banter. "True" gay men are those who know what they want, and fight for what's right, and don't let things happen to them. No argument here. Despite that, I didn't feel like these made a lasting impression. Looking back, these lines somehow come off as cheesy. That may have been a conscious effort. Maybe the filmmakers did not want to rock the boat too much. Or maybe it was just the quality of the acting. Either way, the message was there. It was on the surface, but not obvious enough for me.
Then, there's the resolution of the story. You want the curse to end? Pass it on. One hopes that everyone knows that homosexuality is not a contagious disease. What's the cure? Find (1) a straight guy who (2) hasn't done the nasty with a gay man and (3) who was willing to take on the curse. Funny how they had a hard time finding a guy who met the first two criteria. But really, why pass on the curse in the first place, when the protagonist hasn't really redeemed himself yet? The dialogue seems to indicate that it's because Remington doesn't "deserve" to be gay.
Like I said in number 1, I didn't feel that Remington was "gay" enough to have really learned his lesson. Despite the best effort of the dialogue to paint the picture that he doesn't deserve to be gay because he isn't as "noble" as gay men, the whole point felt forced and rushed. Later on, his dad takes on the curse for him, saying he wants his son to be happy. Does being gay necessarily lead to an unhappy life? I may complain a lot, but I know it's not impossible to be happy.
So, now, Remington's father is gay. He checks out other men with his wife. He made this decision for the "good" of his son without consulting his wife, and just dismissed it with a "she'll understand." Call me a traditionalist, but that just didn't sit well with me. A father's sacrifice is understandable, laudable even, but the context is problematic. He is a gay married man after all. Then again, the filmmakers didn't quite explore this portion in depth, as I imagine, this would dig up a can of worms.
I've written a lot more than I expected, so I'll stop here. Did the movie uplift the status of gay men in this country? Somehow, I think so. Was it entertaining? There were more than a few laugh out loud moments. Was it satisfying? The whole experience was diluted by my own personal perspectives about these issues. The movie could have done so much more. I know that's just my unmet expectations talking. In any case, it's a step in the right direction. Let's hope this really turns into a journey of a thousand miles.