Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Pursuit of Awesome

I entered the world of television writing with an intellectual boner roughly the size of a small child. Had it been something visible and tangible, I would have made a successful career starring in pornographic movies. At any rate, it was the turn of the millennium, I was young, and like most upright citizens of Geektopia, my head was crammed full of strange and wonderful things drawn from years of voraciously consuming comic books, videogames, anime, movies, the internet, and the more bizarre permutations of fiction. I was a canonist of cool, an apostle of awesome, an aficionado of asskickage… and I was planning to own this bloody town like Samson owned a thousand of the Philistine horde with the jawbone of an ass. That is, until the first major problem presented itself: television can only be as cool, as awesome, and as kickass as the taste of those watching it.

The brutal truth is that television is a business. A network churns out what the audience wants to see. If the zombie glued to the tube is dumb then what comes out of it is dumb. There are those who argue that television producers have the moral duty to educate the great unwashed but that’s like telling Colonel Sanders to stop making finger-licking, ticker-busting fried chicken cooked with eleven secret herbs and spices and start serving rabbit food instead. That’s how the rock rolls, ladies and gentlemen; and to survive in the game I had to learn to tone down the badassmotherfuckery and inject it in scripts only in small, almost subversive doses. Characters cussing in Norsk and screwing with speed metal scoring, I reckoned, will have to wait.

I’ve lived with this cruel reality these past few years and, with much pessimism, thought that this is about as awesome as Philippine television will get. With poverty steadily increasing and parents sending their kids to work in the streets instead of schools, education is fast turning into a luxury and the entertainment industry is inheriting a whole new generation of Filipinos even dumber than their parents. As the audience gets duller the box gets smaller for mainstream wordslingers.

And then something unprecedented happened.

Despite the poor continuing to be poor and the rich watching cable TV instead of local shows, there arose a demand for awesomeness. Poor young Filipinos might not be learning quantum physics or speculative thought in school but it seems their minds are nevertheless getting filled by seemingly everlasting mead from another source, a source deemed a curse by the entertainment industry but is ironically widening the tastes of the masses: bootleg.

Consider. Little Jhun Jhun is growing up on pirated Bleach and Naruto Shippuden episodes and knows what awesome looks like even if he doesn’t know how to read yet. His Kuya Bhoy has recently turned emo with banketa haute couture after finishing Death Note in a marathon run. Ate Ederlyn and Aling Bebang can’t stop gushing about Korean soaps. Mang Ambo devours 17-in-1 martial arts discs like peanuts and knows Kung Fu kicks major ass. Freeloader Tito Dexter thinks himself cultured because of all the arty foreign movies he’s seen on his brother’s Sany DVD player. Piracy may be killing local movie companies but it’s also kick starting the evolution of Philippine television, primarily the largely ignored Department of Awesome.

It’s not just pirated movies either. Videogames, especially MMORPGs like Ran, Mu, and Ragnarok, are giving kids a steady diet of coolness. A stinking kid who sells sampaguita during the daytime knows what a fucking zanbato looks like because it’s become a standard face-rocking weapon in the videogames he plays at the seedy internet shop down the road.

Suddenly, it’s a great time for geeky television writers. Producers who once drew instinctively away from concepts inspired by anime and videogames because the audience wouldn’t buy what they don’t understand are now urging wordslingers to draw inspiration from these sources. Network bosses are finally being receptive to awesomage. Fantasy shows are showcasing costumes and character designs that seem to have leapt out of Animax. And the masses are buying it. If television can only be as awesome as the people who watch it then things are looking up because the taste of the masses has been getting pretty cool lately. All we need to do now is bring down Jurassic writers whose sense of kickass stopped evolving around 1986 and who are desperately trying to hold on to the dusty old ways of telling stories. To quote Optimus Prime:

"You’re old, Megatron. Yesterday’s model. Ready for the scrapheap."

Anyway, pimp time!

Watch it or get bent.


  1. "If the zombie glued to the tube is dumb then what comes out of it is dumb."

    I'm not dumb! You're DUMB! SO THERE! HMF!

  2. You've read my mind. I've been lamenting on how depressing those local TV soap plots can be. May the force be with you, Squid. Here's one for change. Cheers!

  3. @ pau

    D'OH! Lost another customer.

    @ fritz

    While cartoons aren't anything new in the world it is a new frontier in Philippine mainstream television. I have high hopes that this is where change would be felt most.

  4. I love the first picture, And yes, Filipino TV really needs a revamp!

  5. the group 'emo' pic! Haha.

    They had their group pic scanned in our internet cafe. I never thought I'd find it here.

  6. Just when I thought local television was stuck in a cul de sac, it starts evolving.

    The mushrooming of internet cafes with their pirated software opened the doors to the untamed frontier of cyberspace; that chaotic realm where governments and churches have no power.

    Curses! Foiled again!