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THE HETERONORMATIVE REPRESENTATIONS OF QUEERS IN THE PHILIPPINE INDIE FILMS
Authors: William Mel C. Paglinawan NOTRE DAME OF DADIANGAS UNIVERSITY General Santos City, Philippines
Films in all genres have always been subjected to heterosexuals which limits the space for the emerging queer characters in the story. The members of the Lesbian, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) community are placed on the smaller surface in the vast film spectrum and are sometimes depicted in unusual views which made a barrier for cultural acceptance. However, there are several struggles that hinder the equality on the portrayal of queer characters on Philippine independent films. How the characters are portrayed films affects perception and culture acceptance of the homosexuals.
As stated by Lee (2017) in a roundtable interview of CNN Life, people forget the sentiment of being closeted in a social standard; and through films will bring hope to which there are underrepresented individuals of the society. Lee (2017) also supposed the importance of figuring out the terms of identity of every person as which the film helps some in coming out. Having portrayal of the different people of the LGBT community onscreen allows audiences to see the characters of them, giving a validation of their existence in the outside world.
In United States of America, specifically in Vanderbilt University (2017), the word Queer is a political statement and also a sexual orientation, which aims to break double-edged ideas and seeing both sexual orientation and gender as circumfluent.
Stereotyping has become the distinction of the homosexuality in the media. In media forms such as television shows and films, whenever homosexuality or queer in the common term is represented, ideas are built in a stereotypical fashion. There will be an automatic expectation from the show or the film (Jones & Gelb, 2008).
In most Filipino films, male homosexuals are always associated with images of a woman and with high regards to fashion. The same with lesbians portrayed in most Filipino films that evoke a woman that acts and dresses like a man. This kind of depiction in films, which is a major influence, makes the society limited and closeted to these images. This presents prescribed attributes of what a homosexual look like, dress like, and act like (Morales, 2004). This is a rare for community to see a cinema in the recent years to risk their sales in order to show exclusive Independent films to the locals of the city. Though, we are able to witness little to nothing queer independent movies land on our local cinemas such as the critically acclaimed “Deadma Walking” which was a participant from the MMFF 2017.
This study on portrayal of queer characters in Filipino Independent Films is conducted for researchers to determine the comparison of characterization and roles and how it affects perception and culture acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. At the end of the study, the researchers will arrive in creating a media tool that will promote the desired result.
Statement of the Problem
This research has intended to analyze and compare the role and characterization of queer characters both in Philippine Indie Films and Mainstream Films and to make a clear contrast of difference in the different film classifications. The research was also bound to trace the plot involving the queer characters depending on the film classification where it belongs. Specifically, this research will provide answers to the following questions:
1. What are the struggles of the queer characters, as portrayed in the Philippine Indie Films using the lens of heteronormativity?
2. Based on the findings, what communication or media tool can be proposed to provide awareness on the images of Queer in Philippine Independent Films?
This study utilizes Descriptive-Qualitative study using Content Analysis anchored on Heteronormativity framework by Seif in 2017. The analysis on the representations of queer analyzes how the film makers represent queer in terms of gendered-stereotypes, sexual depiction, deviant aspects, and depiction of lifestyle.
From the analyzed data or the analyzed representations of queer, the film enthusiasts and experts undertook a debriefing of the analysis on the researcher’s evaluation about the movie. The experts and enthusiasts also analyzed the films that the researchers have analyzed through a criteria set by the researchers. This process was done to ensure the validity of the data gathered.
The selection of the films will be based on criteria as follows.
Plot. The films included in this research should depict storyline which revolves around the life story of the queer characters.
Year. The films analyzed in this study were showcased from year 2008 to 2018. Philippine queer films under the scope of that year were diverse and varied.
Awards and Recognition. The films analyzed were films that are critically acclaimed and were able to bag awards from different award giving body both in the Philippines and in the International scene. It was said that award winning and highly recognized films were best suited for analysis since the story plot and other elements were already proven good for these films had underwent into series of screening and scrutiny.
The primary sources of data as used in this study were the selected independent films. These independent “indie” films were chosen based from the given inclusion criteria which primary includes those awards and recognitions received by the films within the duration of ten years from 2008-2018.
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This research analyzed the representations of queer in Philippine films through Content Analysis focusing on Heteronormativity as proposed by Seif in 2017. Heteronormativity is mainly anchored in four aspects namely, gendered stereotype, sexual depiction, depiction of lifestyle, and deviant aspect. Box 2 summarizes the heteronormativity framework
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Results and Discussion
This research analyzed the images of queer in Philippine films through Content Analysis focusing on Heteronormativity (Seif 2007). This analysis focused on the representation of the queer character in terms of gender stereotype, sexual depiction, deviant aspect and depiction of lifestyle.
In terms of gendered stereotype, queer characters were seen to portray disapproval of equality which was shown when one of the characters from the movie 2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten, there was a repression of acceptance of queer characters which led to subjectivity of the bakla. The struggle of breaking the stereotype was then covered up by a smooth flow dealing with societal approval. Moreover, queer characters also manifest unusual gestures of affection . This was noticeable in a particular scene of the aforementioned film where two masculine figures expressed brotherly gestures with implied inner desires. One of the characters faces an awkward dilemma but managed to conceal the yearning . Crossdressing stereotypes are also identified in the study conducted where it opened another room for norms of what openly gays should be wearing. Gendered Stereotype on Career Preference of Queers was also one of the issues tackled in the films. The society set the stereotype that some career or job should only be applicable to the queers.
Looking over the depiction of lifestyle, there were identified Heteronormative discussions in the three Philippine Independent Films presented: the development of emotional attachment towards same sex, family’s upbringing as an environmental factor, career threats causing the character to conceal a romantic relationship, social pressure , and family-driven pressure to start a relationship. To mention one scene from the film Baka Bukas, one of the characters was put into dilemma between relationship and career. This struggle gave the character to weigh priorities in life.
In terms of deviant aspect, the focal topic queers as companions in life was identified. This discussion suggests that the representation being shown in the reality by Mark and John’s character is that the LGBT community makes good friends . Gays in particular are joyful in nature and for sure this is one of the Deadma Walking’s main takeaways for the viewers. The light and comedic presence of the queers is what makes them more interesting. Moreover, Friendship as a Support System was also extracted from the film showing that queers are some of the qualified human beings to be our confidant.
Furthermore, in the depiction of sexual aspects the following subjects were identified: obsession towards same sex , pressure and pleasure of sexual acts, physical expression of sexual intimacy and affection and kissing with same sex. The actions are all plotted by Cook in chapter three and four. The identified topics during the conduct of the study were concrete portrayals of the queer characters in sexual aspect in Philippine Independent Films, and anchored similar struggles with gendered stereotypes particularly the societal pressures and intrapersonal struggles.
Lastly, in terms of the struggles of the queer characters, Philippine Indie Films presents the queer societal struggles , intrapersonal struggles which rooted from family upbringing up to the career threats.
In conclusion the researchers have found out that Queers are portrayed in different representations. Under the Gendered Stereotype, the researchers have concluded that disapproval of equality is one of the realities being portrayed in Independent Films. Disapproval in the means of equality has become a gendered stereotype to test one’s ability. The researchers have also concluded that gestures of affection was used a stereotype when the society builds an impression and finds it awkward and gay. Cross- dressing still exists as one of the stereotypes. The stereotype we conventionally know is that men who are cross dressers are often being the standard of the society to define a gay as “openly gay”, while disregarding those other openly gays that opted not to cross-dress.
Meanwhile, other conclusions are made under another aspect of heteronormativity which is Depiction of Lifestyle. The researchers have concluded that developing emotional attachment towards same sex still remains to be an issue. One portrayal that is hardly seen in any films is that gender is not just something that is born with you instead it could also be that situation in a person’s life to know who they really are. The society still discriminates queer people when it comes to their career path. On the other hand, under the deviant aspect the research concluded the optimistic effect queers can be in someone’s life . Gays in particular are really joyful and a good source of fun.
Lastly, the research concluded under the depiction of sexual aspect is that affection can still be shown towards same sex even without intimate kissing or sex yet depicting deep sexual thoughts that express appreciative yet blistering connection. The study also concluded the importance of physical expression in representation of queers in independent films, a hug, kiss or any type of affection in the hope of minimizing judgements by the presence of queers in the society and this also validates the realistic representation of queers in the society.
The struggles of the queer mostly revolve around stereotypes, such as when characters in the films disapprove someone just because he is gay. Stereotype was also evident when the society builds the standard of affection for femininity and if a guy does it, the society judges it as “gay”.
Societal acceptance was also one of the struggles faced by the queers in the films. Expressing who they really are as queers is still unaccepted and degrading especially for a career person. The study also concluded the family’s presence has an enormous influence on queers.
Filmmakers are the most accountable people to look why and how Queers are represented in Philippine Independent Films. They have been very dominant and will always have the lion’s share in terms of influence in Philippine Independent Films as they are the ones who are brainstorming and creating these films. The researchers concluded that the representations being made on Queers by the Filmmakers are true yet somehow lacks in precision. As they say, the devil is in the details, and filmmakers should not steer clear of going deeper to the details when they wish to portray a close to reality film.
Film enthusiasts are the ones who are really the most interested in the details. The research has shows that films are just more than what meets our eyes. Film enthusiasts should give more emphasis to the details and look how filmmakers represent Queers in the Independent Films and voice out their opinions if they find something wrong.
Queers, gays, lesbians, or in whatever ways they would want to be called are the main issue here and the sole reason why this research was formulated in the first place. In the modern times right now where channels for voicing out has been very extensive, the researchers recommend to the Queer community to be vocal and let everyone know how they would want to be represented in films to avoid misconception and further lit up the issue of discrimination in the society and for Queers to be accepted and not just tolerated in the near future.
As researchers we have learned about how Independent Films represents queers, and as an advocate for acceptance and change, we pledge to stand by what is real and true even if it is portrayed in films. This study is very crucial especially for us, researchers. This research has taught us a lot of things and one of this would be to look into details carefully.
For the future researchers, the best recommendation the researchers would like to give is to keep the fire burning and to continue being curios about what or how these details about the films will help us. The researchers are willing enough to lend our results about our study as references for future researchers.
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