Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Psychoanalyzing Vice Ganda

A blogger friend (AJ) has made some interesting observations/psychoanalysis on the popular noontime host. If this article reaches your attention, I would love to hear your answers on AJ's tough questions. It's show time!

Coming home for the holidays gave me the chance to catch up on my old TV habit. Watching the local noontime TV shows and nighttime telenovelas on free TV, I was blown away not only by the variety of fresh young faces, mostly with hybrid looks, but most especially by the popularity of one variety show host named Vice Ganda. He's/She's/They've certainly the top draw of the ABS-CBN program Show Time, which ironically includes a leader of a band called Itchyworms, which spoofed with brilliant satire the very idea of a noontime TV variety show. Next to Willie and the Wowowees, Vice Ganda is perhaps the most popular show biz figure in the country today. Unlike Willie Revillame, however, who according to a media survey cited by Inquirer columnist Neal Cruz is the showbiz personality perceived to be most conceited, Vice Ganda oozes with truly tantalizing talent, one that's natural and seemingly effortless. Therefore, I can't help but want to know more about him/her/them.

One thing most amazing of Ganda is his/her/their verbal wit. The way she disses or puts down anyone she finds deserving is out-of-this-world funny. It's the kind we haven't encountered on TV or anywhere else except in gay comedy bars. Unsurprisingly, Vice Ganda is ostensibly a product of that night-circuit culture of laughs that preys on the slow, the shameless, and the clueless -- though alas also on the weak. And s/he apparently continues to haunt Manila's night life with her shtick, together with undoubtedly equally talented people.

If anybody wants somebody too puffed up to lower his or her self-esteem a bit, one does well to invite him or her to do karaoke at the comedy bar. There, he is sure to be reduced to shame for whatever mistaken or overblown beliefs he may have in himself. Nothing is left sacred -- voice, looks, complexion, height, civil status, sex life, weight, leanness, fatness, gender, family, name all potential areas of weaknesses. Maybe only religion is exempt, except probably when putting down the dominant one (which can afford it; Roman Catholic in these parts). I've tried a comedy bar out of curiosity back in the day in Malate, by the name of Basilica, and I can only tell one thing: I won't be able to endure all those balahuraan and panlalait. I doff my felt hat to anyone brave enough to be publicly insulted that way all in the spirit of naughty fun. They are a brave, strong, humble bunch.

And was I admittedly impressed by the show hosts's sense of humor. The wild entertainment ethos somewhat opposed my cherished personal beliefs, but even though I came home quite guilty that night, nobody exercised my laughter muscles like they did.

The gay impersonators and transvestite comedians have a talent that's impossible to resent, even as we get envious. That kind of giftedness can only be received with much appreciation and gratitude. The enviable part is perhaps the fact that they deliver so well with so little, but no way will anyone envy the tremendous amount of pain involved in the business of funny-making. For this brand of stage actors capitalize on so much pain, particularly by making fun of their own weaknesses and suffering as a ploy to make fun of others' in return.

Their brand of comedy celebrates human frailty not so much by lifting it up to virtuous status as by accepting its unavoidable reality. Their success commands high ticket price even as it exacts such a high price on their offstage lives.

It is thus easy to imagine Vice Ganda to run the risk of being tempted by success. It could go to his fabulous, high-maintenance head so easily, for who is not prone to it? But we can rest assured by the fact that her brand of jokes constantly demands that she reminds himself of his own foibles and frailty. Can Vice Ganda handle her case over the long haul? Can he handle the sudden fame and wealth?

Who is s/he anyway? Where did he come from? What is his real name? The screen name Vice Ganda must be a pun on Vice President or Vice Mayor, and with the word "ganda" meaning "beauty" or "beautiful," his screen monicker could mean Vice President of Beauty or Vice Mayor of the Beautiful. How did he hear her calling to entertain? These are nice questions to ask Vice or Ms. Ganda.

But beyond the merrymaking and quick background check are additional issues to raise that are mainly tangential but equally important. Let's face it: Vice Ganda single-handedly normalized the transgendered or androgynous version of gayness. He made it acceptable to the point of making it mainstream. Is he willing to be questioned for this new role, albeit an accidental one? Will s/he react violently and defensively just like the rest?

Already, he has appeared in a major phone card (or something) ad. I believe that his case is not the first, and there's that little indie film by Michiko Yamamoto (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros) that, I surmise (because I haven't seen it), made gay teens lovable onscreen for the first time. But Vice Ganda must be the first transgendered-looking gay guy to dominate ordinary Filipinos' lives, paving the way for a new stereotyping of the homosexual person.

How he catches their attention almost every single day on her show. Showing an extraordinary intelligence that combines a way with words and a top-notch sense of dark humor, what's not to like?

Others may be turned off by it and the other gimmicks, though, as when a youngish boyfriend (boylet in gay lingo; isn't he the lead of a pop rock band called Calla Lily) pops up now and then to utter sweet nothings and confess his jealousy and displeasure over Vice Ganda's constant flirting with handsome and muscular male guests. The little gimmick works with the audience obviously, finding the ruse amusing. But there is something else at work. Either the gimmick pokes fun on the tragic gay life for the sake of a thousand bucks per laugh per minute or, through mass indoctrination, makes that tragic life attain a level of lovability and hence acceptability. The whole thing could be seen as a ploy for a massive or mass-based peddling of that subliminal message.

There are so many other questions I want to ask Vice Ganda, given the chance. Is he really happy and satisfied with himself after the show, after sizing up game contestants on TV in a ridiculously funny way (he is the main judge in a talent contest too) and depositing piles in his bank account? When he looks at himself alone in the mirror, does he really like what he sees? Why does he constantly refer to himself as being horse-faced? Where is the tremendous self-deprecation coming from? Has he really accepted the gay life as the life? Would he be open to views other than the wildly popular and officially accepted as orthodox? Does he ever shudder at the huge influence he wields on the nation's populous gay boys community, which threaten to be a steady source of drag queen talents?

I would like to administer to her the psychotherapist Richard Cohen's multifactorial test for gayness as a neurotic syndrome, if he'd display some willingness and total honesty. How was he when he was growing up? Did he have an emotionally distant, strict, disciplinarian, militaristic, or absentee father or father figure? Did he have a dominant, overbearing mother or mother figure? Who has or have been his model of sexuality? Has he ever been sexually molested? If so, by whom and how many times?

Without a question, his IQ must be above-average, but what interests did he gravitate to? Was he around little girls a lot from boyhood to puberty? Has he been traumatically rejected by peers in any way?

What kind of personality does he have? (Several theories of personality may be applied.) Does he exhibit proneness to phobias, fears, anxieties? What are those, and how might he have acquired them? Is he obsessed with anything? Why?

Did he have a traumatic birth (e.g., a premature birth)? Did he have any other kinds of trauma growing up, such as any life-threatening disease, accidents, encounters with bizarre persons, adoption, abandonment, etc.? Was he an abused child in any way, other than the sexual (emotional, verbal, physical, psychological)? Were all his essential needs met? Was he traumatically neglected in some way?

How is his sex life? Does he have any kind of sexual addiction? What are these? Any fetishes? Any strange compulsions? How are his romantic relationships? Do they survive for long?

Was there ever a time he wished he wasn't gay? Is he somewhat angry that he is, his acceptance more of a hidden, bitter resignation? Might he have expressed any defense reaction in some way that exhibits diagnostic defensiveness?

Does he feel insulted, offended, demeaned in any way by any of the questions above? Is he angered violently, irrationally, that he'd want to kill whoever is asking? Does he compulsively feel the need to rebut at all costs and in all possible arenas?

Etc. etc.?

In the end, whatever any sector would say about Vice Ganda's runaway popularity and influence, the gay agenda that he knowingly or unknowingly embodies has effectively won the pop culture war even without a single piece of legislation. One thing I'm sure of is that the old marginalization argument by the progay camp must be retired.

Meanwhile, the public amazement over a prodigiously amusing talent lent to us is very much legitimate and deserves to be enjoyed and perhaps even applauded, even as it comes with some reservations.

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