Bato Bato sa Langit, ang Tamaan Bakla
Zombadings as a study of why, and how to promote gay killings
Michael David C. Tan
Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington
Director: Jade Castro
Cast: Martin Escudero, Kerbie Zamora, Lauren Young, Roderick Paulate, Janice de Belen, John Regala
What is most troublesome about Michael David C. Tan’s open letter is his claim that “LGBT advocates do not exist because we want to be tolerated – we actually already are.” This is far from the truth.
Zombadings 1 reminds us that, as Tan rightly (and ironically) describes, we live in a world where homosexuals are killed for being gay, where homosexuals are pressured to act “straight” in order to gain employment, where trannies are ridiculed and barred from certain establishments, where reproductive health and divorce remain a highly contested topic, where same-sex union is still perceived as a lost cause even by the nation’s only gay political party.
We are not tolerated. This is precisely what Zombadings 1 is about.
In his open letter posted on Outrage Magazine, Tan wails that Zombadings 1 engages in stereotypes. Indeed, there is a whole spectrum of LGBT personalities in the world. This is exactly why Zombadings 1 problematizes gender and gender roles. While his focus is trained on the lead character, Tan fails to notice the rest of the Zombadings 1 cast, composed of characters like the female police chief/mother, the sexually ambiguous (butch? male?) mayor, the male best friend who will not hesitate to love and accept Remington beyond what the straight label will allow. Tan fails to see that Remington’s social milieu is as important a character as Remington himself, that one must pay attention not only to individuals, but to the society as a whole.
Tan berates Zombadings 1 for promoting the gay transsexual stereotype—and in so doing, berates transsexuals themselves. He wails about representing gay men who sashay and dress “like women” (do all women sashay in dresses?) as if gay transsexuals do not deserve to be portrayed onscreen. Tan obviously wants to valorize one type of homosexual over the other, the pa-mhin over the pa-girl. Perhaps he is forgetting the T in LGBT.
Tan also criticizes the shallow bits of dialogue promoting “tolerance” from the more heterosexual characters in the film. Which is, of course, the point—they are shallow, and homosexuals deserve full acceptance. The sad truth is that shallow lines like these are still commonly heard in everyday life. Zombadings 1 did not miss this lesson. Perhaps Tan is expecting a politically correct script, but there are limits to political correctness. While Zombadings 1 largely employs fantasy elements, it is really a fantasticizing of a harsh reality which is far from being politically correct.
Zombadings 1 holds up a mirror to the complex LGBT situation of the Philippines. Pa-mhin to pa-girl, urban to rural, wealthy and poor, curious/discreet to unabashedly out. It engages not only gender, but also the regional and class dynamics which are inherent to LGBT advocacy.
There is hatred in Zombadings 1, definitely, in the same way that society still maintains hatred for the LGBT sector. Gay film theorist Richard Dyer, writing on gay films in the 1970s, says: “How homosexuality is thought and felt by heterosexuals is part and parcel of the way the culture teaches them (and us) to think and feel about their heterosexuality. Anti-gayness is not a discrete ideological system, but part of the overall sexual ideology of our culture.”
Bleak as the situation may be, Zombadings 1 is not without resistance and hope, not without critique of this situation. “Gayness always at the very least raises the specter of alternatives to the family, sex roles, male dominance,” says Dyer, and the film certainly makes a great effort to forward these alternatives.
The film acknowledges and shows us that we still live in a harsh world where being gay is, indeed, kasumpa-sumpa. (Not a medical condition as Tan points out, but an imposition of the marginal, in the same way that traditional Philippine cinema’s sumpa is a combination of being old, ugly, poor, animalistic and other difficult social positions which are, in the end, ideological.) Tan reacts with outrage, and rightly so.
It is sad that Michael David C. Tan subscribes to the crude, literal and myopic interpretation that the film “promotes gay killings,” that it “provides mainly heterosexual people a chance to make fun of–or even ridicule–gay men.” It is even more lamentable that Tan calls for Zombadings 1’s creators to stop making films altogether—a totalitarian call reminiscent of how the Catholic Church demanded the “blasphemous” Kulô exhibit to be shut down. Hopefully other viewers will appreciate on the one hand the film’s attempt to engage our notions on gender and society, and on the other hand its satire, dark comedy, and its ability as a gay film to poke fun at its gay self.
Zombadings 1 shows us that there remains much to be done in the long road toward gay liberation. The challenge remains for us to struggle on various levels, whether in Philippine society, within the gay community, and even within ourselves. After all, when we leave the theater, we come home to a society which is, all things considered, nakaka-shokot.#
Full trailer for Zombadings 1: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington
Entry filed under: Edgar Allan Paule, Filipino films, Full length films. Tags: criticism, gay, gay cinema, gay film, gay liberation, gay movement, gay representation, gay stereotypes, gender, indie, jade castro, Janice de Belen, John Regala, Kerbie Zamora, Lauren Young, LGBT, LGBT movement, Martin Escudero, metacriticism, michael david c. tan, michiko yamamoto, outrage, outrage magazine, philippine gay cinema, philippine gay films, Philippine gay movement, philippine zombie, philippines, queer, queer theory, raymond lee, remington, richard dyer, Roderick Paulate, stereotypes, zombadings, zombadings 1, zombadings 1: patayin sa shokot si remington, zombie, zombie films, zombies.