Straight News, Smart Views|Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Oprah? More like Luisita! 

Photo taken from the page of Buen Calubayan

The more I hear Kris Aquino talking about herself, the more I think that she’s lost it, all sense of reason, any semblance at all of self-awareness, any notion of self-reflexivity.

Certainly one too many people have said that if we don’t like Kris, stop watching her already! And many others fall in love with her, are enamored of her self-declared notions of openness and honesty and sincerity. But one must know—must understand—that popular culture is such that changing channels to where Kris does not exist, i.e., HBO (haha!) will not make her disappear. Neither will turning off the TV altogether mean not being bombarded by images of her (billboards, magazine covers and ads), or not hearing her voice (radio), or not knowing at all the latest piece of dirty laundry she’s washing, or the utter and absolute atrocious display of wealth.

A career out of mass culture

This is a woman who has made a career out of reconfiguring local mass culture into her very own playground, which makes her the poster child for every product that wants to raise the masses’ needs, every film producer that wants to make money, a network like ABS-CBN wanting to win the ratings game.

This is not about you ignoring Kris. So close to the 2016 elections, realize that her function is now layered with being the spokesperson and pawn of her political loyalties, which just makes her even more dangerous. Realize that throughout PNoy’s campaign she was the distraction that allowed her more mileage on local TV, the kind that the masses watch as she romanticized her relationship with her brother, whose person we did not know about one bit. Realize that there was a stretch of time when Kris had but a tiny TV show in the mornings on ABS-CBN, and she was barely in the news, and things were fine and dandy and happy.

Realize that now she’s back and with a vengeance, there is no blocking Kris-related news on your Facebook or Twitter feeds, you can be sure that she will creep up on you and win an election. Senator? Vice President? President? Take your pick. The more you ignore her, the less criticism she gets, the bigger the possibility that she will fix her eye on a ball and easily score a hole-in-one.

Only the delusional would not be scared.

The Oprah delusion

In that less famous but equally embarrassing interview with Jamie Foxx for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 movie, Kris was her shameless self, comparing Jamie to Oprah Winfrey’s boyfriend Steadman, saying that Jamie can sing and is more handsome. It was clear that Jamie was uncertain about what was going on, especially since this part of the conversation was prefaced with Kris claiming that she is called the Oprah of the Philippines.

Oprah would not be caught dead doing an interview like that. Moreover, Oprah “wants to do good in the world” and “cares about everybody in the world,” as Jamie described her. Kris can only be far far from being anything near that.

I can’t even begin. Oprah has made a career out of doing intelligent interviews, ones that are not merely well-researched, but more importantly are well-thought-out and grounded in the realities of nation. This is a woman whose generosity is premised on having come from a life of difficulty and abuse, from having had nothing and knowing how voiceless one can be. This is an icon of a woman who has created a cultural empire around herself (TV show and network, magazine, website, merchandise), but who does so with sensitivity and propriety, refusing to sell fakery and cosmetic surgery. She engages with politics thoughtfully, and refuses to make a huge thing out of her own charity.

For Kris to even imagine, and then articulate, that she is Oprah in any way was utterly delusional. That she even dared say it in such a global forum as this interview with Foxx was a measure of how she seems to have come to the point of believing her own propaganda and press releases, she has now internalized all of it to be true, so she can say it all without batting an eyelash.

That we shrug our shoulders and say, well, that’s Kris! Or that we think all it takes to stop her is to stop talking about her, she will go away, is telling of why it has come to this. It has come to this because too few of us have raised our fists and called her out on what she says and does, thinking the consumerism she stands for irrelevant and immaterial, the carelessness with words harmless and amusing.

At this point when she is on TV every day, in the mornings talking about love and travel and food, and in the evenings daring to talk about politics, it is utterly irresponsible to even think that we can get away with ignoring her. It is also ultimately dangerous.

Luisita’s spokesperson

Just in case y’all haven’t noticed, in Kris’s new commercial for Lucky Me, she uses her mother and her hacendera roots as context. That is, she shamelessly allows this product to use her childhood memories in the “farm” in Tarlac to sell instant noodles with her son Bimby. There is a mansion brightly lit by the afternoon sun, Kris dropping an egg into the steaming hot soup, Bimby smiling brightly and excitedly. They begin eating when a little girl, daughter or apo of the cook or something, peeks in from the kitchen. Bimby asks the girl if she’d like some and the advertisement ends happily with all three sharing a meryenda of Lucky Me.

In reality, this “farm in Tarlac” is Hacienda Luisita, yes?  That one that Kris’s Cojuangco family owns, that one that has blood on its hands.

Say, the seven protesters killed in the Hacienda Luisita Massacre of 2004, when military and police turned violent on a protest for better wages and farmers’ right to their land.

Say, the countless farmers and their families who have been displaced from the land they’ve tilled all their lives, because Kris’ Cojuangco family has remained as Hacienda Luisita’s feudal lords no matter Supreme Court rulings that order them to redistribute land. Say, the continued violence in Hacienda Luisita, the kind that has put farmer communities through harassment and abuse, that have seen too many of them suffering the death of their community leaders and family members. And I speak of the year 2014.

This same year that Kris had the gall to use Hacienda Luisita as the context of one of her TV advertisements, like it is without the blood of politics and feudalism.

But Kris flips her hair at all this, calling it lucky that her effigy was burned at a recent rally to protest the Cojuangco’s continued hold over Hacienda Luisita land—land that should’ve been distributed to farmers long ago. She denies she’s even part of the Central Azucarera De Tarlac, saying that she has given her space up to her sister Viel, because she just has no time for it. She laughed the effigy burning off, joking that it only means she’s as important as Obama, whose effigy was also burned.

This is no Oprah. This is a monster we’ve all created, Philippines-style. Watch her become President. *nakakatakot*

Better yet: let’s keep her from becoming so. – by Katrina Stuart Santiago / The Manila Times Online

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