The Willie Revillame Show
Where there is a stink of shit
There is a smell of being.
– Antonin Artaud, The Pursuit of Fecality (1947)
It was essentially the same kitsch and kaboodle of dancing girls and free money, the game show antithetical to the whole idea of the game. The Willie Revillame Show is back on air, as with the poor old people given P500 bills and the down-on-their-luck placing all their hopes and dreams on live televised parlor games.
Somehow, The Willie Revillame Show has perfected the science of spectacle. Theater is a recreation of life, but as Artaud posits it, it’s a recreation of that center that fragile center that forms cannot reach. Therefore, everything is exaggerated, idealized, and even distorted; in a word, spectacular. Theater and spectacle is not confined to the stage, but it extends to the viewers as well.
That’s where The Willie Revillame show succeeded in, and perhaps where it is most powerful and even at its most dangerous: that the stage is not that glimmering plexiglass floor, but society itself.
No other show has exploited the plight of the poor and the oppressed more successfully than The Willie Revillame Show, transforming itself to the theatrical embodiment of hope. It puts the seal of approval on false consciousness: that being informed (for all its flaws) should only be secondary to saya and pag-asa, with all the frenetic and frantic frivolities of families popping balloons with their butts – and with hooks while dazed and blindfolded – for cash prizes.
The people in the balconies wave tarpaulins and signs, going chutchurutchurut for every tantaran, with yet another hope of being there. Not much different from rapes and murders on the six-o-clock news, but more “positive.”
Make no mistake about it: it is garbage. It is not good television. It does nothing more than mire the poor deeper into the hallucinogenic effects of The Willie Revillame Show, and of course, make The Willie Revillame Machine run again for the benefits of celebrity and ratings. The fireworks, dance steps, and games of the new and improved Willie Revillame Show obscure the acts and incidences that preceded the here-and-now.
Every balloon popped for a dream should underscore 71 others, crushed by the ULTRA stampede. Every dance step is to dance to the tune of impunity and ignominy. Every clap is to raise the level of barrel-scraping hope among the poor: that education, good governance, and sound economic policies matter little to them, so those above should instead give them game shows for sustenance. Every dancing girl wipes clear the pornographic lens by which some of us view women. All this, on a pilot program that featured and highlighted seas of garbage from past memories.
It is a misuse of hope that is damning and almost criminal, that a concept that led to homicide still lives in the airwaves. The powerful feed on the powerless by feeding them ideas, notions, and hopes that keep them there.
In a society where the television is on for 18 hours a day, where it is the centerpiece of the living room, the return to dominance of The Willie Revillame Show is not surprising; in many ways, it indicts our relationship with the TV set. Somehow we are petrified by what is shown, we consent because it is shown. It only takes one well-informed decision from the big TV stations to stop showing The Willie Revillame Show, and one well-informed decision from the viewer to stop watching it, for those who have options.
Until then, the stink of shit will always be the smell of being on primetime.