25 Cents’ Worth: Killing pride, dropping prejudice

Renielle Rebadomia

The unspoken rule in keeping cultured: choose indie — or at least, the lesser known. For example, between the mainstream theater and local film festivals, the latter is the obvious choice. And it is with good reason — art here thrives in small and exclusive spaces like competitions, exhibits, and holes-in-the-walls.

I held on to that belief like a religion. I imagined the better things in this country to come in the form of either something as trivial as Lily’s peanut butter or as grand as MANILART and indie films. What I believed to be better were those that were less appreciated and, to others, seemed cliquish.

Of course, if I had to choose among Richard Curtis’ About Time, Wenn V. Deramas’ Momzillas and Janice Y. Perez’s CineFilipino entry The Muses, I would catch the one with the shorter life span at the theaters. And so my friend and I ended up watching Perez’ s film.

The Muses turned out far from being inspired by notions of beauty; it became every indie nightmare we didn’t expect it would be. It was plagued with a narrative that confused unconvincing sibling rivalry for thematic complexity. It also suffered from an influx of scenes that needed justification for their existence and inclusion. But what we can’t forgive was its script where thoughts and actual lines were as mismatched as Ben Affleck and his newly granted Batman title.

In my 19 years, I have never felt this cheated by art. Or at least by something I thought is art. While our premature exit should’ve been a sad departure, doing so became the only wise action that night. The words of my GREATWK professor finally rings their truest at that point in time: “hindi porket indie, maganda na” (just because it’s indie doesn’t mean it’s good).

To cleanse me of the memory, I made it a point to watch a different film (read: at the very least, good on a Ghibli level) the following day. My other friend, teasing as she was, insisted that I watch Olivia Lamasan’s The Mistress. Out of desperation and a soft spot for John Lloyd Cruz, I gave in even when I knew saying yes meant allowing clichés and cheesy lines to seep into my system. Agreeing to that film, however, turned out to be an even better choice than the one I made the previous night with The Muses.

The Mistress was the typical run-of-the-mainstream-mill, complete with the familiar rich-boy-poor-girl storyline. Despite its formulaic nature, the film surprised me by its masterful use of subtleties; it’s masterful for pulling the audience into a promise of mystery while still maintaining its characteristic predictability as a mainstream film.

I was never a fan of the latest querida films but I surprisingly enjoyed it. And my enjoyment is a stab to what I thought was the foundation of my taste. How can something I’ve learned to dislike become the very source of a temporary high? But these varying cinematic experiences are an even bigger blow to my elitist belief that anything that isn’t on the local mainstream airwaves always guarantees more superior quality. Indie film is just one of them.  Indie music, the visual arts, and the tight-knit culture of ‘hipsterism’ — all of which are similarly unpopular among the masses, but deemed as better alternatives to today’s mainstream junk-fest.

Those who exercise this kind of pride also practice ignorance of the existence of anything mainstream. This, I think, is where I (or we, if I’m not alone in this) go wrong. In shunning off mainstream, I agree to being blinded by anything less than mainstream, even when the latter becomes nothing but disappointing. But then, of course, I wouldn’t know it is.

Most of the time, judgment is quickly passed on to what’s popular. There exists exhaustion from seeing slapstick humor, mindless stories, and over-all sensationalism reign for profits’ sake. A tendency to reach age-old generalizations about mainstream has kept me from paying attention to it, let alone looking or listening.

It is easy to fanaticize what we have learned to admire, and even easier to continue hating things we don’t. But I’ve realized we have to remember that even, or most especially, in the realm of culture, there are gray areas. Unlike words like ‘good’ and ‘better,’ categories like indie and mainstream aren’t always used to suggest comparisons. They exist to mark differences and celebrate what each is worth.

Like what individuality fights for, we have to give differences a chance. One way would be by letting go of prejudices, and welcoming possibilities. An example: welcoming the notion that anything less than mainstream isn’t always better. In this case, seeing how an indie film can go wrong means finally appreciating what a mainstream film — and other articles of popular culture — can do right.

Chryssa Celestino

By Chryssa Celestino

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