Celebrity ‘moment of truth’ drama is sometimes too close to the fierce and felt emotional moment
Real-life dramas based on celebrities’ “moments of truth” have become popular on TV, due to their unique combination of viewing “hooks”—innate dramatic value, stellar cachet and controversy. The recent “Maalaala Mo Kaya” episode about Charice Pempengco’s self-transformation into “Jake Zyrus” has turned out to be particularly contentious due to its generally negative characterization of the stellar protagonist’s mother.
Expectedly, she has publicly made known her objection to such a downbeat depiction, debunking some of the “issues” raised against her. Not being privy to the Pempengco family’s internal and internecine conflicts, we can only hope that their “blame game” will eventually get sorted out and resolved, because when all is said and done, after all the sensationally combative sturm und drang (storm and stress), “family is family.”
Having said which, we can more productively discuss the celebrity conflict as dramatic depiction: Our initial impression is positive, due to the production’s spot-on eye for judicious casting: Sharlene San Pedro was exactly right for the role of Charice, because she sang well and looked a lot like her.
Later, however, the “transitioning” character was played by Charice herself, and things got more complicated. On the plus side, Charice knew herself best of all, so her emotional scenes were painfully real.
On the other hand, she was sometimes too close to the fierce and felt emotional moment, so it came off too harsh and unbridled, unleavened by more objective insight and artistic “distance.”
All told, however, we were still glad that Charice was playing herself, because it was a rare advantage, despite the pitfalls involved.
The turbulent thespic situation became even more problematical when Charice more fully transitioned into the “transman,” Jake Zyrus. Too much screen time was taken up in “explicating” the technical and surgical process involved, to the disadvantage of the anthology episode’s dramatic development.
We also felt that the production “defended” Jake Zyrus’ actions and decisions too much and too long, at times turning it into a subjective and hortatory exercise in self-serving polemics.
We understood where Jake Zyrus was coming from—but we wished that the production hadn’t been as unquestioning as it was in upholding his perspective, to the general exclusion of other points of view.
After all, if the enlightenment of the viewing public is what’s key, a less black-and-white production would be in order.
With viewers’ enlightenment still in mind, we also hope that the internecine controversy that the drama has stirred up won’t end up upstaging and detracting from its ethical value.
Beyond gossip and scandal, Charice’s transition and “self-liberation” into Jake Zyrus has a lot to teach viewers about gender, identity, acceptance, self-knowledge and other important issues.
Their own personal conflicts and conundrums may not be as telegenically melodramatic, but the lessons they learn can inform and enlighten their lives, and how they relate to themselves—and others.