The wedding of Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera did not surprise me. Not one bit of it. Neither did it offend me, or strike me as insensitive and tasteless.
I thought in fact, that it was great that these two were finally tying the knot. I couldn’t help but get kilig at that proposal on the show Marian, where she was her signature bungisngis self, and he had to tell her to stop giggling right before he popped the question. There was something great too about all this happening on Marian’s variety dance show, in the woman’s territory, which has been the most interesting revival of the female-starred variety show in the tradition of LoveliNess, but just with better dancing.
It might also be the most successful show of its kind in recent years, and with Marian’s refusal to become what’s expected of her, that’s saying a lot about her own kind of charm, a measure as well of the mass audience’s changing perception about the well-behaved Pinay women they must idolize. In 2010, I had written about Marian’s freedoms, and how refreshing it was that she dared be herself, something that we’ve also seen in her recent stint on Eat Bulaga.
She might be the only actress of her stature who would have the chutzpah to do Bayanihan with Jose, Paolo and Wally, and dare be herself on nationwide TV, getting angry at the every-tambay for depending on his tired old nanay for money.
Dingdong, meanwhile, has distinctly been separate from this image of Marian, which is wonderful, too. His is an icon premised on being the good ol’ mestizo and Atenista, maintaining a distance from the trappings of showbiz, and engaging with the public scrutiny and interest on his own terms. It seemed like an unlikely match, but also one that’s also just so . . . Marimar, yes? The kilig included.
But also I was kilig because they were both so kilig, too. In fact, Dingdong and Marian might be the most un-showbiz couple of recent memory, a rarity given their stature and bankability. Which is to say there hasn’t been a lot of oversharing about their relationship all this time, and they contented their publics with the little they share via Instagram photos and interviews few and far between.
There have been no great controversies, no displays of the lives they live in private. No shameless endorsement deals that bank on their personal relationship (until that Belo Billboard recently), and no movies and TV shows that seem to only be about milking the private relationship all its worth.
Elsewhere in showbizlandia personal relationships are a way to get in the news. Some make it in the news via almost-relationships, if not broken heartedness—and we know which of the President’s sisters we’re talking about. This is also why Dingdong and Marian’s refusal to fall into this showbiz trap, to overuse and overshare their love and relationship, is a wonderful thing. It’s also what to me made the kilig even more real about this proposal and this wedding. It’s also what made it a sincere display of a relationship beyond showbiz.
But as with many things in showbiz and pop culture, we don’t quite get it. Nor do we want to see it.
To say that the backlash against #DongYan was surprising to me is an understatement. I mean what is it that we do not get about this grand event when we have seen the celebrity wedding as showbiz special before?
I mean from Ruffa-Ylmaz to Aga-Charlene, Assunta-Jules to Richard-Lucy, Judy Ann-Ryan to Claudine-Raymart. Not to mention magazine and newspaper features on the weddings of our elite, political and otherwise, including Mar-Korina of recent years. And who can forget the surprise proposal and wedding of Zoren to Carmina, which was (surprise!) turned into a TV special.
My tendency is to think that the backlash is borne of social media kuyog, the kind that’s about thinking we are right because so many others agree with us. That it has stretched on for this long is a measure of Pinoy social media and the kind of noise it can generate. Never mind that it does not necessarily engage in a relevant discussion about celebrity and pop culture, if not the culture industry. The dismissals are aplenty: how offensive, how tasteless, how insensitive! So soon after Typhoon Ruby, at a time when so many are in need!
Mainstream columnists and academicians who would otherwise not talk about popular culture weigh in: The display of this wedding for public consumption is one that is about profit for the network #DongYan is part of; it is about continuing to feed the mass audience with pomp and pageantry that distracts them from the real state of nation. How sad for this mass audience that certainly deserves better than this shameless display of wealth!
And yet one can’t help but ask: aren’t all weddings in fact shameless displays of wealth? As are debuts (which are of course turned into TV specials in this country too), and parties and partying (which fill our showbiz magazines and talkshows), and travel and cooking (which is all that is in the daily morning show of the President’s sister)?
And if we are to contextualize this wedding in Typhoon Ruby, then really, I think no one should’ve gotten married at all post-Yolanda, the magnitude of which should have required no parties or celebrations for the first half of 2014 at least.
But of course we’ll say the #DongYan wedding is different because of the amounts we’ve heard was spent on Marian’s wedding gown and the #DongYan cake. #TheRoyalWedding is different because it’s meant to earn money for the network that #DongYan are part of, if not for the couple itself.
But isn’t that how the showbiz cookie crumbles? Everyone before #DongYan were forgiven for the display of wealth via the wedding. Why is their celebration of love and romance not being given the same kindness and respect, as say, Ruffa-Yilmaz? That wedding gown worth half a million pesos (in 2003, compute the inflation rate), P12,000 bottles of champagne, P2,500-per-head menu! Where the florist was quoted as saying that the amount spent on the flowers was enough to fund a separate wedding altogether!
And no, this is not about having short memories. It’s about not caring enough really about pop and celebrity culture, until it becomes fashionable to care.
Trolling pop culture
Which does not necessarily mean we get it, really. In fact if there’s anything the backlash against the #DongYan wedding has proven, it’s that the class divide is alive and well.
And it’s one that we do not want to bridge. Because I abhor the thinking that the masses who love #DongYan, or any other showbiz personality for that matter, are unthinking, gullible victims of popular culture. To refuse to give them the agency to think is not only unfair, it can only be a measure of deafness and blindness at this point.
Because fans are online, and if we spent time listening to what they say, it’s clear that idolatry and fanaticism has gone beyond just who’s pretty or well-packaged, and into what these celebrities say, who they are, what they stand for. Of course these fans might say it differently from Pinoy social media’s (self-)righteous indignation against #DongYan, but is it not our responsibility to engage them in discussion as well, speaking as we do for them?
Alas, the tendency has been to dismiss these fans as mere trolls on the comments threads. Certainly there are paid hacks, but if we can’t tell the difference between trolls and #DongYan fans engaging us in discussion, then we should be reassessing why we’re writing about pop and celebrity culture at all.
And this wedding, which to me is still and ultimately a celebration of love and romance. Marian and Dingdong would’ve gotten married regardless of the pomp and pageantry. That the latter has been interwoven into the narrative of their wedding was a choice they had the right to make. That their network gave them this choice is the culture industry as we have allowed it to become. And unless we know to critique that industry, including our complicity in it, then we are doing nothing but missing the point here.
The worse kind of trolls are those who don’t realize they’re doing it.