pop goes the world: kc and piolo – should we care?

POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  1 December 2011, Thursday

KC and Piolo – Should We Care?

So this is what happened – a weepy actress/model KC Concepcion went on a popular showbiz talk show, “The Buzz”, to announce the end of her year-long relationship with actor Piolo Pascual, who is rumored to be homosexual.

My first reaction after hearing about the KC-Piolo flap was, “Why should we care?”

“The Buzz” program host Boy Abunda has a talent for making the most trivial issues seem relevant. Of course, the breakup is important to KC, and she looked heartbroken, but should someone’s personal life be fodder for our entertainment? In a newspaper interview, Abunda said, “She thought about it for a long time. She did it to express her pain, but not to the point of hurting other people…Like all of us, she has the right to express herself.”

KC has a right to express herself, and if she wishes to do so on mass media, who are we to stop her? But what does it say about us when we lap it up and feed on the artificially-cultivated frenzy, on the self-exposed misery of celebrities fighting to stay in the lucrative limelight?

“It’s a case of schadenfreude,” is my 20-year-old daughter Alex’s opinion. “Taking pleasure from the misfortune of others.” Just before the KC-Piolo flap, there was the Ramgen Revilla murder, with his siblings blamed for the crime. There’s also the ongoing medical-political drama starring former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her halo brace, enduring with a stiff upper lip and intimations of persecution her “hospital arrest” in the luxurious suite of an upscale medical establishment. We lap it all up.

So when we see famous and wealthy personalities suffering as we ordinary people do, from heartbreak and illness and sudden tragedy, we think, oh, they’re not so different from us after all. But for accident of birth, or the vicissitudes of life, they could have been us, we them.

Modern celebrity culture is based not so much on merit or accomplishment, but upon constant and aggressive self-promotion. Talent or virtue are not required, just a genius for creating a personal brand and building upon it by fair means or otherwise. The objective is to turn one’s self into a commodity that can be sold.

Think Kim Kardashian and her 72-day marriage, a farce put on to generate millions in revenue from sponsors – or so the cynics say. And I’m a cynic. So KC’s televised pagsusumbong sa bayan seems a promotional gimmick, a devise to attract attention, gain sympathy, exact revenge. Where has delicadeza gone, of keeping one’s troubles one’s own, or shared only with family and close friends?

The talk has segued from the breakup itself to the cause of the breakup, which, cannily, neither KC nor Boy revealed – adding to the feel of the episode being scripted. Rumors are rife that it has to do with Piolo’s sexuality, that he is gay. If so, did it have to take KC an entire year to pick up on something that has been tabloid fodder for the past several years? It makes her seem clueless and unobservant, and I don’t want to be disabused of my notion that KC is in fact an intelligent young woman.

Why should we care whether or not Piolo is gay? Is that not his own business? How is it ours? If he is, and has not come out of the closet yet, how does that impact our own lives?

But then, we the masses have a craving for drama and spectacle, no different from the gladiatorial circuses of ancient Rome. Wasn’t it Chuck Palahniuk who said that a celebrity is our own creation of a god-like figure, to be shamed and destroyed in extreme ways later on? The king of ancient seasons sacrificed to ensure a good harvest is reborn in modern celebrities, immolated on the same gossip shows and tabloids that built them up as idols.

Yet what does it mean when someone goes willingly into the fire, like KC or Kim? Does it show a lack of taste on their part, a narcissistic bent, an eager embrace of the celebrity culture by which they live and die?

Piolo has remained silent on the matter, except to apologize “to the public” – not to KC, as everyone has pointed out. One good thing that has come out of this is that the discourse on LGBT matters continues to bloom – to result, we hope, in a more understanding climate of acceptance for every individual regardless of sexuality.

Whether the information about the personal lives of celebrities is willingly given or obtained through intrusion, there will always be an audience hanging on to every revelation. That is how we have constructed our culture; whether the reason for this is rooted in myths of the past or is a modern phenomenon is now moot, as we struggle to make sense of it all, in the face of information overload.

So, should we care? KC and Piolo broke up. It happens. Life goes on.   ***

Crying KC here. Arroyo with halo vest here. Kris and Kim here. Piolo and KC here.

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