The Wheel and Axle

Time For Some Decouplings?

by on Oct.17, 2017, under Film & TV

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Recently, eating lunch as the household help watched Eat Bulaga in the background, and with another AlDub event on the horizon apparently, I came to realize just how creatively stifling the local phenomenon of “love teams” truly is.

I understand this is what the masses want, whether it be AlDub, KathNiel, or JaDine. In the past, it was Claudine/Rico, Bojo/Mylene, Bobby/Angelu, Aga/Lea, Juday/Wowie, Romnick/Sheryl, Lotlot/Monching, Maricel/William, Albert/Snooky, Sharon/Gabby, Guy/Pip. That’s Entertainment and even AngTV thrived on love teams. It’s not really a new phenomenon in the Philippines; it’s probably just been magnified with social media and the predilection these days for silly portmanteau nicknames.

A young matinee idol nowadays who has no viable” ka-love team” seems doomed to failure. It took Enrique Gil several pairings (Kathryn Bernardo, Julia Montes, Julia Barretto) before he hit the jackpot with Liza Soberano; only with LizQuen did his career go to the next level after hitting a bit of a slump in his rise. Even Alden Richards, a very good actor on his own (watch The Road and other earlier films), struggled before serendipity and chemistry paired him up with Maine Mendoza; only then did his stardom truly shoot up.

Obviously, the fans eat it all up. They can be crazy – on all sides. Often they forget this is usually make-believe. They cry foul when their idols date other people, thinking these celebrities actually owe them their personal lives.

Social media has also brought the worst out of fanatics. I’ve seen kids threatening other kids from “rival” fandoms with acid on the face. Actual adults are wishing rape or death upon parties they perceive as “threats” to their idols’ partnership. Many of these people live in a fantasy world where they can no longer distinguish the reel from the real.

Of course, the big studios take advantage of this and milk their talents even past the point of expiration. Money is money, even if it means repetitive movies or shows starring the same pair of lead stars every single time and always following the same basic formula. This is what I mean by the stifling of creativity.

This is also why I appreciate the smaller studios, i.e. indie filmmakers. They cast based on talent, not stardom (and, just to keep it real and honest, based on budget also). The focus is still on the quality of the work, not on the people behind it. This is why we are getting better quality films outside the mainstream.

Taking chances outside the expected is also good for the big studios. For the longest time, they had John Lloyd and Bea all over the place. Then they went for the unexpected with John Lloyd and Sarah, and they hit the jackpot with an insanely entertaining film. (Of course, unfortunately, they had to milk and milk that new cow until it died.)

By allowing our young actors and actresses to grow outside their assigned “love teams,” I also think we would be helping them develop their craft much better. Take them out of their comfort zone and see what they can do with other performers.

I cannot say if this is a distinctly Filipino thing or if it is similar with other Asian entertainment milieus. I rarely watch Korean/Japanese/Taiwanese soaps. I only recently got into Thai series, so I can’t say (yet) if Thais also have an obsession with repeat love teams on successive shows or movies.

However, I’m pretty sure this isn’t common in Hollywood. Yes, there are celebrity couples, but typically those fall outside work. How many times did Zac Efron partner with Vanessa Hudgens outside High School Musical? Brangelina exists, but did Brad and Angelina star in a movie together after Mr. and Mrs. Smith? Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan paired up in a couple of different romcoms, but they were never expected to be a “love team” for every single movie in their career. How many leading ladies have Chris Pine and Chris Evans had in their movies? Anne Hathaway and Amanda Bynes had different leading men in their various films during their teen/tween years and beyond.

So Hollywood for the most at least mixes and matches their film casts, presumably based on who are best fit for the role as opposed to forcing in a certain pairing over and over again. When they do reunite certain partnerships, it’s more of an “oh, they’re working together again!” as opposed to it being an expectation.

I have no idea what the root is of the Pinoy fascination with “love teams.” It probably won’t go away any time soon, but I hope our producers reconsider. The masses may shape what the studios do, but I also believe the studios can shape what the masses may want.

Perhaps it’s time to think outside the box.

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