Of course I am frustrated.
You ask me if I am still happy with the things I do and I replied, "I am happy with what I am doing ... but I am not necessarily happy with what they expect me to keep on doing." And you said that I did not make sense. So for the umpteenth time, let me try to explain.
It is easy for you to pass judgment, to criticize and to even make fun of not only what I do ... but what others are doing. That is because you are not in here.
It is easy to exist on two separate planes of reality: you sit and watch while I sweat and make sure that things are moving. You grab your remote control, turn on your tv set and punch on the digits to change channels while I am out there with more than fifty people braving winds, rains, hailstorms and studio executives trying to deliver a piece of work on time, within budget and for airing.
You sit back, snicker and feel holier than thou while reading cheesy stories, absorbing rancid gossips about television stars and personalities while I have to deal with them. You know them from what you read about them or how they are presented or sold in showbiz talk shows ("Now na!". On the other hand, I see them face-to-face. I know the press release from the truth --- the marketing strategy from the bare and raw essentials of who they truly are. I can provide a more valid estimate not only of their intelligence quotient but the quality of their personality as well. And these are things you can never really know by just watching them in films or on tv, reading about them in tabloids and fan magazines ... or absorbing an opinion sputtered by showbiz talk show hosts.
You think that I lead a glamorous but empty life because I abuse whatever intellect the Creator of the Universe has given me. You say that I promulgate predictable dramas, encourage mediocrity and standardize vulgarity. You say that my sole purpose in this present reincarnation is to provide you and your Balikbayan relatives with the best seats in the live performance of next Sunday's A.S.A.P.
But then again, it is not your responsibility to understand what people like me go through.
You are there to receive whatever it is the networks have to offer, that's all. Yours is the choice to be bewitched, bothered and/or bewildered. Or to throw up. And you are not under any obligation to understand why things are the way they are. You are there as part of the multitude of consumers, validated by your patronage and exercising your right to be critical. You are merely a statistic on the AGB and TNS surveys.
No, I am not about to make excuses. I am neither going to apologize for being part of television.
Neither will I be heroic to assume that this is entirely my fault. Of course it is my fault because not only have I chosen to work for media ... but because I have chosen to remain here. If there is a far greater sin, then maybe it is because I love working for media not only because the pay is good ... but because this is what I have chosen to do. And despite all these invectives you hurl at my direction ... and more so ... all I have to endure while dealing with the pantheon of gods of various degrees of power in the network, I know there is still so much work to do.
Yes, I can almost hear you snicker and call me a sell-out. You tell me that I know what is being done is unforgivably wrong --- that encouraging more of the same is a bigger sin than skydiving into sure failure. You tell me that by even being polite to people who continue to mummify the brains of the masses with formulaic trivia, that I, too, have become an enemy. An enemy of the thinking people.
Perhaps you are right but I have chosen to stay in television. I am happy in this world where in a span of two hours, audiences can have an audio-visual feast of a great variety of facts and misinformation, illusions and delusions, important details and downright trivia.
For it is only in television that in a span of three hours, you can get lurid accounts of politicos beating up their mistresses, learn about the latest variations of government abuse and corruption, appreciate the aesthetics of Carlo Caparas as preached by Manoling Morato --- then swing straight into the world of flying heroines whose mammary glands are popping out of their sculptured brassieres or special children who call the Son of God --- "Bro".
( I remember that right after that long argument of ours ...I had this strange compulsion to sing Bayan Ko and make a vow that I will only watch cable channels where they show True Blood and Gossip Girl. You made me feel ashamed to have obtained a graduate degree and still work for Philippine television.
But then again, after watching a couple of reality shows on cable, I have come to realize that foreign networks may not be as bad as the way you describe our stations ... but they aren't that much better either. The only thing you made me realize is that junk comes in a variety of flavors. )
Well, my friend, I could have been so high and mighty too. I could have gathered the courage to barge into an executive committee meeting where the demigods and demigoddesses of the network cluster and determine the fate of their version of mankind. I could have given a speech as well- worded as yours in the process of accusing them of being bureaucratic, manipulative, exploitative.
I could have charged them with abuse of power because they have used their skill and expertise to perpetuate the shallowness of thought in the programs being designed, in the shows being aired. I could have told them that they have turned television not as a medium for information or even self-examination but as a syringe containing the most lethal dosage of anesthesia called senseless escapism.
Strange enough I would have done all that even without your prodding if I had not known the real score. Let me just remind you (again) that those who populate the most sacred quarters of these networks are not imbeciles you perceive.
These are smart people --- some even smarter than you and all are better-dressed --- who are just playing the rules.
Like any cog in the machinery of the bureaucratic structure, the survivors are not necessarily the most intelligent and most informed but the most resourceful and pragmatic. And there is not a single one of the commandments hand-chiseled on the tablets from Mount Sinai that pinpointed to ruthless economic and capitalistic considerations as a sin. Nowhere did God ever include "Thou shalt not be ambitious" in His Great Instruction Manual. Neither did God say, "Thou must be loved for thy work in order for thou to work." Whatever.My friend, I have chosen to stay because I love my work, I love making stories. I have chosen to stay despite the fact that even if the demand for greater production value has made tv shows look more fabulous and expensive, the substance of programs have gone from bland to tasteless then to downright devoid of nutrition.
I never argued with you when you accused Pinoy tv shows of being beautifully-wrapped garbage. But remember that I clarified that even if you called these works trash --- they have remained recyclable. Why? Because you see the same stuff over and over again. Isn't that what you call recycling? Does that make tv programs eco-friendly and biodegradable?
Yes, I have chosen to stay.
Now even if you have accused me of selling out, prostituting myself by associating with mental trollops and not being able to extend my growth as a media practitioner, I never refuted your allegations.
In a way, you are correct. There must be that very fine line that distinguishes someone who is simply compromising from someone who has sold his soul to a Platinum Visa Card. There must be that lofty differentiation between the Child of Art --- from someone who willingly plays the buffoon to entertain people in order to serve his personal interests.
That is why there are the aesthetes as there are the plebeians, right? The aesthetes are obsessed with Aristotlean unities, allow literary theories roll so comfortably on their tongues ... while the plebeians are gratified by the sheer volume of applause received or measuring the sheer extent of the popularity of their works. Now charming the masses must be no greater sin or sanctifying grace than say ...whacking off via mental calisthentics.
What you (as well as all of the remaining Unreasonable Idealists) do not see (whether out of choice or as a result of intellectual snobbery or myopia) is that television is first and foremost a business. Uhm, you hear that there is a difference between films and movies, right? Cinema Paradiso is a film; GI Joe is a movie --- a bad movie. City After Dark is a film; Gingangooley-Giddiyap-Giddiyap is definitely a movie.
Unfortunately the medium of television offers no distinctions. They are all just programs. They are all shows. This is a medium that will not make any pretense nor attempt at art because this is only a function of economics --- pure and sure money, that's all. So don't expect anything.
Despite all claims, my friend, television shows carry the maximum nutrients offered by junk food. And the way that programs are being prepared and cooked nowadays, there is no longer anything organic about the process. Everything depends on recipes ... and preservatives. That is playing it safe. That is a strategy for insuring a higher chances for profit. That's all. Anything else is all for show.
So do you understand why I am still here? And can you also see why I am trying to find a way of quietly slipping away ... and perhaps finding a better way to validate my life?