The World According to Willie Revillame
Here is the world according to Willie Revillame.
In a recent PEP.ph article, the host of “Wowowee” seems to have made up his mind to leave, after a very public spat with Jobert Sucaldito and the many issues and scandals that hounded Willie Revillame. Willie Revillame still remembers some of them: “Wilyonaryo,” the ULTRA stampede, comments about the Cory Aquino burial shown on his TV show. Willie Revillame didn’t go as far as to apologize or mention the patronizing treatment Willie Revillame has for the poor who watch the Willie Revillame show, but I’m pretty sure Willie Revillame has that in mind.
The contrite, humble Willie Revillame is no stranger to the average Filipino viewer. Willie Revillame has apologized one too many times for the one too many mistakes that’s reasonable for a top talent of a television network. Never mind the lumalaki ang ulo, never mind the day-to-day pambabastos, never mind the audacity of Willie Revillame to challenge the Willie Revillame employers on national television thinking that the Willie Revillame show is the center of the universe.
The whole Wowowee universe, made and created by Willie Revillame on waking hours on a daily basis, is about Willie Revillame’s portrayal of sympathy to the poor, framed by Willie Revillame songs and games and the occasional personal rants on scandals, issues, and showbiz controversies. While other celebrities have the weekend showbiz show to do that, Willie Revillame had Wowowee. There was nothing wrong with it, in the world according to Willie Revillame: it was celebrity.
The big idea is Willie. The executor is Willie. The core of the show is Willie. Willie gives, Willie takes away. Willie begins, Willie ends. Willie is the light of a contestant’s life, Willie is the fire of the dancers’ loins. Willie to the right of them, Willie to the left of them. The Willie Revillame CD, the Willie Revillame jacket, the million peso “Pera o Bayong” prize: maraming salamat po kay Kuya Willie. It was the Willie Show, first of all, the one that put a struggling and repeatedly-suspended actor on a pedestal, the one that gave a comedian of humble beginnings yachts and cologne endorsements, the show that allowed an employee of a network to “sacrifice” so much yet reap the rewards on the very moment of self-mortification. There was nothing wrong with it, in the world according to Willie Revillame: it was dedication.
The Willie Revillame Machine kept churning mileage, controversy, and profit for ABS-CBN, but it wasn’t ABS-CBN anymore. The Willie Revillame Machine is the core. It is the center, it is the axis. It didn’t matter what other people said in curt and fair warning: it was all paninira, that Willie Revillame worked night and day to bring you the best show even if Willie is sick, tired, and sick and tired of it. Willie Revillame was entitled to walk out on “Wowowee,” to spend 15 minutes in a commercial-free rant against the competition, and to slink away from the stench of ULTRA to give joy to people willing to sing and dance for a few thousand pesos on national television. There was nothing wrong with it, in the world according to Willie Revillame: it was charity.
It didn’t matter that someone brought out the possibilities of the game being rigged: it was Willie Original Flavor, saying that he has no other intention but to help the poor. It didn’t matter that the most condescending comments to contestants were called out by Willie Revillame’s critics: it was Willie Hot and Spicy, who points out that the show’s ratings and popularity saves everyone and earns for the network. It didn’t matter that the network starts imposing sanctions and ponders axing the host and the show altogether: it was Willie Sour Cream N’ Onion, apologetic for all his errors, saying that it will never happen again. Every flavor is recycled through years, with every indiscretion, stampede, cheat, and rig buried under the next single on the radio or the next sob story on television.
When people saw right through it, it all went haywire. The meltdown began. It was all show, hype, spectacle. The machine, successful as it is, blew up and all questions of sincerity and accountability and generosity came crashing down on the debris, that Willie Revillame cannot answer for. The controversies can no longer be dammed and damned by celebrity appearances, by politicians, by pyrotechnics, by increasingly complicated game rules. It was over for Willie Revillame. The buck stopped somewhere, somehow, on the demand for respect.
That the employee that hosts Wowowee cannot take criticism from another employee and makes a show of it on national television demanding respect and giving his own company an ultimatum shows the world according to Willie Revillame breaking down because it became one: Willie Revillame the creation, and Willie Revillame the person.
Maybe it’s a classic case of advertising that actually succeeds, or a lesson on what happens when you believe in your own hype. In the world that’s not according to Willie Revillame, the “celebrity” is notoriety. The “dedication” is leverage. The “charity” is greed. For years, however, Willie never saw this: it took a Jobert Sucaldito to finally point it out. In that instance, the machine broke down again, and it’s a choice between continuing cycles, and stopping it altogether.
The world according to Willie Revillame is precisely that: show, hype, spectacle. The plexiglass house, the Willie Revillame show that works even without him, is proof of execution and concept that the world according to Willie Revillame is no different from the object: dispensable, replaceable, subject to change. That maybe in leaving – the act finally culls Willie Revillame the showman and redeems Willie Revillame the person – can the spectacle end. That the world according to Willie Revillame becomes one with the world we all are in.