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Why Filipinos’ obssession with Marian Rivera mirrors Philippine politics

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Why Filipinos’ obssession with Marian Rivera mirrors Philippine politics

February 25, 2015 by Kate Natividad

Contrary to popular belief, [CROUCHING-TIGER-DISAPPEARING-SPOILER][/CROUCHING-TIGER-DISAPPEARING-SPOILER]I don’t believe Marian Rivera fantards are “doing anything wrong”. They’re just being themselves. And we have to respect that. They’re sort of like scorpions. They sting because that is what scorpions do. There’s really nothing wrong with stinging if you have the brain of a scorpion.

Fantardism is an interesting social phenomenon to study — because, in the Philippine setting, it is a microcosm of the sort of politics Pinoys suffer. Marian Rivera’s is a great case study of an ancient archetype that legions of Filipinos adore in much the same way Jose Rizal described it in his writings. Adoration of characters like Marian Rivera seem to be driven by the same motivations that drove Indios of the 19th Century who aspired to move up the social ladder. In the society of the time (which, as it turns out, really isn’t that much different from Philippine society of today), the portraits of power were overwhelmingly mestizo in nature.

But the adoration Marian Rivera is a bit different. Her fans don’t seem to aspire to be like her — because not too many people can be as fair-skinned and pointy-nosed as Marian. Rather, the thing that seems to fascinate Marian’s fantards seems to be her representing an accessible idol — one who speaks palengke.
So unlike Rizal’s Doña Victorina de los Reyes de Espadaña who desperately took extreme measures to fit in with Spanish society in the colonies, Marian fantards have taken a smarter approach by finding an idol who has cut herself down to their level — or so they imagine.

Marian’s natural palengkera way of talking, however, is really all that her jeje-fans can hang on to. Beyond that, she is still, in reality, beyond their reach. She wed showbiz star Dingdong Dantes in a spectacle that reportedly cost 100 million pesos to mount. That’s quite an in-your-face message Marian sends to all — whether jeje or sosyal — that she is, at the end of the day, still up there in the clouds, to be looked up to but not touched by the masa. I mean, c’mon, putting up roadblocks all over Quezon City during the wedding? Seriously?!

The impressive thing about all this is that this does not deter Marian fantards from idolizing her nonetheless. Despite their idol rubbing it into their faces that she can throw mega-bucks into a one-day wedding and still come across as someone that could be related with by the masa is no mean feat — which is why advertisers and marketers stumble all over themselves to sign checks for the privilege of seeing their products endorsed by people like her.

The power of fantardism may be a laughing matter for cases such as Marian Rivera. But the laughing has all but stopped when it comes to regarding how it is wielded as a potent political weapon. Fantardism is the same perverse psychology behind the fatal ascent to power of people like President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino. I mean, BS Aquino was clearly the Marian Rivera of presidential candidates back in 2010 — except that rather than represent a manicured mannequin to look up to, he was the awkward, slouchy, smelly guy who tardic Filipinos could quite easily relate with. If I am to write a book about the rise to power of the Son of Cory, there’d only be that sentence in it. And maybe an appendix on my thoughts on Marian Rivera fans to provide some scholarly reference.

Like Marian Rivera, BS Aquino routinely insults the intelligence of Filipinos. But because many Filipinos suffer from the fantard disease, they let him get away with murder and plunder. The power of celebrity nga naman talaga. The real big mystery here is why Filipinos continue to be baffled about why the Philippines remains such a wretched country, when the answer, really, is staring them in the face.

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