December 29, 2020 (8:03 PM)

5 min read


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Is Paulo Avelino’s frontal nudity real? 

This might have been one of the most google searched questions in the Philippines after Antoinette Jadaone’s Fan Girl made its online premiere. It’s unfortunate how the film trended for all the wrong reasons. Who cares about the authenticity of Paulo’s genitals when the film has so much more stimulating meat to offer? 

It was thrilling, disturbing, and everything that the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) would not have approved of. Good thing we have online platforms for movies now because surely you wouldn’t want to miss Jadaone’s arguably most personal film yet.  

Although Jadaone’s previous works such as Alone/Together and Never Not Love You also presented social realities, Fan Girl is undeniably the closest to Jadaone’s truth considering that the story took place in an arena she knows too well, the behind the scenes of showbizness. Apart from this, hints of Jadaone’s political stand screams subtly throughout the film.   

Fan Girl follows the pervasive devotion of the 16-year-old Jane (Charlie Dizon) for Paulo Avelino who is played by himself. Dizon played the role with vigor tantamount, if not more, to that of a typical celebrity fangirl—owning matching celebrity items and eyes gleaming with admiration. However, things began to complicate when Jane snuck into his pickup truck after a mall show and dared to explore her idol’s reality, a realm that fans dream of but could never prepare themselves for.

Jadaone has already talked about the film’s intention to break the reality of idolatry in the Philippines, to show that the heroes we admire are not always who they seem to be. But, the real gem of this film are the foreshadowings, ambiguity, and the flavorful symbolisms that are screaming the truth that idolatry is simply a host that feeds the real parasite of the society, the machismo culture.

Paulo, unaware of the unwanted guest hiding underneath a tarp, carefreely drove away from the rapids of fans. Paulo was caught swerving but was instantly dismissed after the traffic officer learned of his status, a clear demonstration of a bias that favors the people we put on a pedestal. But, this is simply the tip of the iceberg. Paulo’s reality shifts to even darker tones as Jane climbs up the iron gate that divides her reality from Paulo’s rundown life hidden behind the glamour of showbiz.

If we single out the movie’s plot, one could say it was straightforward. Heck, it was even comedic in the first half with Jane’s all over the place admiration and Paulo’s hot and cold behaviour. Fangirl meets idol. Idol disappoints fangirl, end of story, or so I thought. But Fan Girl was ambitious enough a film to portray a multitude, if not all, of idolatry’s nuances.

“Titirahin ko ang gusto kong tirahin.”

Paulo was the obvious embodiment of all that is wrong with idolatry and the machismo culture. A man who puts up different faces depending on personal gain. One who breaks laws but still walks freely. One whose ego feeds on dominance anchored on violence. 

And then there was Jane. Despite Paulo’s storm of ‘putanginas’, Jane remained deluded by her version of Paulo as depicted by the skillful change of tones and sound in the film, denying the ruins that Paulo was. This makes Jane a character worth dissecting. She presents two sides of the same battered coin, a victim intoxicated with a culture that shackles women below men and a woman cursed with apathy.  

This duality confuses the audience whether to feel uncomfortable with Paulo who symbolizes the evils of machismo or Jane who may be a victim but feeds the practice with her blind adulation for Paulo and seemingly apathetic behavior.

Jane, however, snapped back to reality when Paulo hit a woman he supposedly loved.  It was the same scene that caused Jane so much pain while growing up. Only then Jane felt the need to break her illusions. 

With this acceptance, her fantasies gradually metamorphosed into realities of a home, a government, and a society pestered with Paulos.

Dizon exquisitely played the ambiguity, innocence, and rawness of her character. The best actress indeed. One can even say she overshadowed her co-star Paulo. 

But to Paulo’s credit, it really took courage to put his name on the line. Such a controversial character could mean risks for both his career and personal life. Apart from this, Paulo did a great job in portraying his role but perhaps it became one-dimensional throughout the film with the same patterns of aggression. Yes, there were attempts to make his character as multifaceted as Dizon’s. But those were only enough to establish his toxicity as a man, nothing more.

Overall, Fan Girl is a refreshing yet equally disturbing film to watch. One that is relevant in a time where people yearn for a savior to cling on. 

Meet your heroes. Question your heroes. Who is saving who? 

End the silence of the gagged!

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