Whether you believe them to be a vehicle for pure mindless escapism or a well of pedagogic take-home lessons, we need to remember having a critical eye is always of importance. There may be problematic ideals our favorite clichés and stereotypes actually reinforce. So here you go: a non-exhaustive list of teleserye tropes we really need to ditch, asap.
Nothing quite screams “inferiority complex” like our female lead’s awaited “transformation” from an “ugly” brown-skinned plain Nene to one with Belo-touched skin and an existence where she suddenly knows how to use make-up. Clearly a byproduct of The Artista Look, where the fair-skinned, doe-eyed, able-bodied leads are the rule, not the exception.
(Not that there’s anything wrong with looking like someone right out of a Vanity Fair spread per se, but last I checked we live in a tropical country, and most of us bear the sun-kissed signs to prove it. A quick glimpse of any drama airing right now will tell you our obsession with Eurocentric standards of beauty remains as strong as ever. It’s also interesting to note that this emphasis is usually, if not always, on women, not men; it’s almost as if a woman’s worth hangs on her ability to look desirable! Groundbreaking!)
2. Filthy Rich, Morally Bankrupt
Ah, Rich People. The spawn of satan himself. Typically portrayed as lazy, conniving, wears-jewelry-even-on-the-breakfast-table, flanked by a squad of gun-toting evil henchmen to back their sneaky little plans. They most likely tried to kill off your mother, your father, your lola, yaya and you. Apparently, they’re financially secure only because they’ve managed to pull some strings, not because they worked their asses off for it. Contrast with Jesus Was Poor, So All Poor People Must Be Saints – the logic of which is – astounding. The world isn’t just black or white, folks.
3. The Mara Clara Model
Checklist includes agreeable, approachable, meek, and perpetually smiling. Which is all good, but once these qualities are exclusively associated to being a Good Person – now there’s our problem. Contrast with My Kontrabida Speaks English, where the typically female antagonist is vilified for being at odds personality-wise with our protag, by being stern-faced, assertive, competitive, and “spokening in dollar.” Which, surprisingly, all happen to be traits praised when they’re possessed by a man, but socially improper in a woman. And when did the ability to speak English translate into being haughty? Did I miss the memo?
Nothing like a third party to shake up some drama. But the cringing starts once the characters’ individualities are thrown under the bus in the name of lurve. It’s always ugly, in the end. Characters leave the triangle despised and irredeemable. Or dead – literally, so the main couple can get their mandatory happily ever after. Yet again, two females are pitted against each other over the attention of another man. That, or two guys start roughing each other up to win their shiny trophy wife-to-be. Our teleseryes can fail the Bechdel Test so hard, it’s almost painful. Simple solution? Starts with a p and ends with a mory!
Sure, marriage can be magical. But why is it the go-to ending in most teleseryes? Framing marriage as the end goal to aspire to, putting it on a pedestal and seemingly highlighting its importance above all else as some magic eraser to all problems is a trend writers have to think over.
6. Aggressive Heterosexuality
Does this even need an explanation? In the world of teleseryes, everyone is straight. All of them. Every single one. From your long-lost twin to your step-mother in Poland. All natural, 100% hetero. And probably cis, too. If they’re not, they’ll most likely be...
7. The Gay Sidekick
...is basically the only means writers use to include the LGBTQIA community into their work without going through the pains of fleshing them out. 24/7 they’re either cracking jokes, comforting our bida, or offering love advice, but never once given the chance of their own relationship. Not only does it perpetuate the wildly inaccurate notion of every gay person being a flamboyant, boy-hungry, slapstick-joke machine, but it limits the roles created for non-cis, non-heterosexual people in dramas, forever exiled to a caricature hovering by the sidelines.
- Andrea Lopez
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