Wednesday, August 30, 2006

from Christina DeHaven

This was taken from here.

Dear Community,

As one of the producers on the BEBOT and APL Song videos, I would like to respond to the recent comments circulating about our work. If only the writers of this 'open letter' knew how hard Patricio and his team worked to make even ONE version of the video come to fruition.
People in our community are notorious for expediting their criticisms about one another, usually before knowing all the facts and what lies beneath the surface.

First off, our efforts with this video are over a year in the making. When we first pitched this project to the Black Eyed Peas, Patricio had one treatment in mind, "Generation One", based on the historical manongs of 1930's Stockton, California.

Since it is a pop-dance song, the suggestion was to create a more contemporary alternative. Something shiny and sexy, typical of other videos and similar music. What people do not know is that he initially passed on the project because he could not find it in himself to objectify Filipinas, by doing your average 'booty-shaker' video.

Patricio was able to strike a compromise by doing two versions: his 1930's period-piece, and a contemporary dance video done with as much subtlety as possible.

Nevertheless, people are bound to criticize our work, especially for the things that it lacks. As a member of the community, involved with a non-profit organization that seeks to promote the positive image of Filipino/Fil-Am women (, I do not take offense to the video and its supposed portrayal of Filipino women as 'highly sexualized'. I just don't see it. Have these people really seen the true definition of 'highly-sexualized'? Have they seen MTV lately? These videos performed by artists of color (I won't single out just one), singing about their 'ethnic pride', while standing in a sea of greased-up, bikini-clad women. And while we haven't come close to mimicking these videos, why are we being criticized for exhibiting even a drop of sexuality?

Though I understand some of the argument posed in this complaint, I think that most of these comments can be aimed at all men and women, and not just Filipinos. In fact, I don't see anything in this video that can be classified, by a mainstream audience, to be just 'Filipino'. Why can't we argue that the behaviors in this video can be applied to all people? Or is it just because the faces are our own?

Anyone who is familiar with our work has seen our dedication to Filipino American History. Not only are we comprised of artists and musicians, but we are also active participants in the community; serving as educators, activists, and in other leadership capacities. But while we strive to be a voice for the community through our work, we still have an equal amount of loyalty to our personal endeavors as artists, and as filmmakers.

If anyone sees this video as an example for the community, then they have completely misunderstood our purpose. It is a music video for a popular dance song called BEBOT. We chose to use an all Fil-Am cast because the song is spoken in Tagalog and it involves Filipinos. It was not our intention to make a statement or representation on behalf of the entire Filipino/Fil-Am community. If it were to serve this purpose then it would be a completely different project.

I doubt that a mainstream audience will view this video as an explanation of our culture as a whole. I also don't think it is right to put that responsibility in the hands of one filmmaker. Perhaps if there were more artists putting out an abundance of work for the mainstream, then we would have more out there to compare and contrast all the different aspects of our community.

As artists, criticism comes with the territory. But I can't help but find some of these accusations to be unjustified. I hope that the people who wrote this statement are not making their life's work out of criticizing each and every Filipino artist. Because if they are, then let's go after other artists for their supposed exploitation of Filipinos and the hyper-sexualization of Filipino women. How about Nicole from the popular burlesque-show-turned-pop-sensation the girl thingycat Dolls? She's Filipino. How about 19 year-old Cassie, who sings that song with actual lyrics that boast "...They heard I was good, they want to see if it's true...". She's Filipino too.

Here's a project: I would like to see these academics write a dissertation that compares and contrasts all Pinoy artists that are out there today, and see what they come up with. I think it is unfair to single out the efforts of one person, like Patricio, who has done so much over the years to support this community.

Their criticism is heard, but not supported by me.



Blogger ver said...

I think it's great that Christina took the time to write such a thoughtful post. If I can get my act together, I'll respond more fully, but for now I want to say that the reason I, personally and frankly, don't care how the Pussycat Doll woman or the other woman mentioned are representing themselves and that I do care about the work of KidHero/Xylophone is that the latter's body of work shows that they are capable of much, much more than the Generation 2 video (that's why the Open Letter ends the way it ends, no?). The fact that people are getting so upset over others pointing that out is...strange. Don't artists create work so that others will engage with it?

8/30/2006 6:37 PM  
Blogger Gladys said...

i agree with ver. we wouldn't have written the letter if we didn't care about and already admire the work the director and producers were doing elsewhere. we tried to be very clear about that. also, neither cassie nor nicole from pcd, nor for that matter foxy brown or jay-z, claim to represent their filipinoness, which is why we didn't address them. kidheroes, apl, and xylophone came to the little manila foundation to get filipino support, didn't they? why aren't we allowed to respond to the videos with criticism if we feel it warranted?

but another thing that i find troubling about arguments that go "well, look at what mtv puts out! we're not even as bad as that!" is precisely this reliance on problematic mainstream representations of women to shape the way we understand our communities and represent ourselves. the one thing i worried about in addressing the letter the way we did was that our criticism would be construed as merely a criticism of patriarchy in the filipino community, when actually we are also disgusted by such mainstream images. just because the "girls gone wild" culture is the norm in today's television/cable programming does not mean i have to agree with it. in fact, there are lots of other people, non-filipinos, who don't agree with that kind of representation of women.

8/31/2006 12:44 AM  

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