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On the hatred that is Zombadings…

In this analysis of Zombadings, Michael David C. Tan says that films can help define the way people perceive other people, so that when LGBTs and their allies make films representing the community, it ought to help spread awareness, not hatred.

Zombadings as a study of why, and how to promote gay killings (Or: When gay men or gay “friendly” people discriminate – and promote their discrimination – of gay men)

When Auraeus Solito gave life to Michiko Yamamoto’s Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, it was well lauded for its affectionate portrayal of a young gay guy named Maxi (played by Nathan Lopez), who may have been ridiculed by society at large, but is accepted by his father and two brothers. With shots said to bring back to the mind Carol Reed’s 1949 noir film The Third Man, and even the grit of Lino Brocka’s obras, Maximo was able to come up with a character who – while it can be argued, was still playing at stereotyped ways of seeing gay men – was, in the end, empowered.

Raymond Lee was credited for helping bring Maximo to life.

Seven years later, when you’d think the world would be a somewhat better place particularly for gay men (and LGBTs, as a whole), then a film like Zombadings 1: Patayin Sa Shokot si Remington comes along.

This time directed by Jade Castro, the screenplay was done by Raymond Lee, Jade Castro, and, again, Michiko Yamamoto. This was again produced by Raymond Lee.

The premise of the film is simple enough: a young heterosexual boy, Remington (Martin Escudero), who likes ridiculing gay men was cursed to become gay when he grows older. Fifteen years on, that comes true – just in time when gay killings were happening, so that the rush to find a “cure” becomes necessary (also because Remington fell in love with the daughter of a deceased man he used to also ridicule for being gay). For supposed spice, add the stories of: the gay man who cursed Remington; Remington’s best friend, who became his other crush when he started liking men; the closeted homophobic godfather; and, as the title of the movie suggests, gay zombies back not to avenge their deaths, but simply be pestilent.

In a line, the film provides mainly heterosexual people a chance to make fun of – or even ridicule – gay men.

Here is a point-to-point discussion of what makes this film abhorrent.

  • Being gay is not a sumpa. The entire movie was actually based on the premise of Remington being cursed to become gay for ridiculing gay people, so that it highlighted what is believed to be the worst thing that can happen to any person: to turn gay. In doing this, the film – even if arguably not intentionally – promoted that homosexuality can be “cured”.
    The American Psychiatric Association states that any efforts at “curing” homosexuality is premised on the assumption that “homosexuality per se is a mental disorder or based upon the a priori assumption that a patient should change his/her sexual homosexual orientation”.
    The American Psychiatric Association, with the American Psychological Association, of course, does not consider homosexuality as a mental disease – what this film debunked in over an hour through its contention that, if one really wants, one can find ways to be un-gayed.
    Remington, with his would-be girlfriend and desired best friend, even went to a witch doctor to seek help – a scene that everyone involved in the film would not have found funny if they knew (or even just read from the Web) of gay men in Africa, among other countries, where literal dragging of LGBTs happen to bring them to witch doctors who are expected to drive away the “evil spirit of homosexuality” believed to possess them.
    That this film believes homosexuality is curable is ignorant. And, as the cliché goes, ignorance is never an excuse.
  • This film focuses on the supposed predatory nature of gays – e.g. Remington unable to work with men when they started taking their shirts off because all he wanted was to idolize their male bodies; and Roderick Paulate’s character groping young Remington. Note how even the sex maniac character of Bayani Agbayani was saved, so that while bad acts from heterosexual men are just accepted, gay men’s acts (even if proven to be non-existent) are pinpointed. By highlighting this, the filmmakers chose to ignore the fact that nearly two-thirds of convicted sex offenders (and of children at that) are heterosexual-identifying (go check the US Department of Justice’s records).
    Gregory M. Herek, Ph.D. earlier noted that “members of disliked minority groups are often stereotyped as representing a danger to the majority’s most vulnerable members. For example, Jews in the Middle Ages were accused of murdering Christian babies in ritual sacrifices. Black men in the US were often lynched after being falsely accused of raping White women.” Similarly, gay men are portrayed as sexually predatory in nature. This is the very portrayal that Zombadings had of gay men – that we cannot be trusted (particularly when around men), since we always have intent to have sex with them.
  • Stereotypes promote hatred – e.g. pilantik of fingers, catfights between gay people because they are too weak to fight, transitioning into transsexualism as soon as gender-identification happens.
    In their attempt to simplify their storytelling, the filmmakers lumped all gay men as all “wanting to be women”, yet again an ignorant assumption that promotes the heterosexist belief in the existence only of dualistic tendencies (i.e. male and female/man and woman). Your characters did not have to dress like women or put on make-up like women or sashayed while walking like women – acts deemed that only women should be doing – just so they can be identified as gays. Knowing your errors of assumption is as simple as Googling to know how the likes of boxer Marc Leduc, rugby player Ian Roberts, footballer Olivier Rouyer, and wrestler Orlando Jordan highlight how diversified gay men can be, and actually are.
    In the Philippines, just read Michael L. Tan and J. Neil Garcia to best understand gender notions. It is actually the existence of the stereotypes that is why gays are being targeted in hate crimes, e.g. we straddle the dualistic gender divide, so we don’t deserve to exist; and since we’re too weak to fight back, anyway, it becomes easy to prey on us. Heck, even Imee Marcos wanted for gays to be trained in combat to protect themselves! We are stereotyped by the heterosexual community, as it is, we don’t need gay people (or supposed gay “friendly” people) to further the heterosexist narratives.
  • Homophobia may be because of homosexuality itself, this is true – a theme not only scientifically considered (for example, American Psychological Association), but repeatedly used as storylines by such popular shows Glee and MTV’s The Hard Times of RJ Berger, among others. What is reprehensible in Zombadings’ case is the filmmakers’ belief that there is no salvation for those who are self-hating, and they deserve nothing less than death.
    In a way, the filmmakers showed their own internal homophobia – kill the pa-mhin who kill the pa-ghirl. There is a neglect in understanding why the phobia exists to start with, sans the closer scrutiny of heterosocial expectations. Without this, the film simply kept homosexuality and the continuing hate of it as only “our” issue that the heterosexuals do not have anything to do with, even if, largely, our existence is premised on their dictates.
  • LGBT advocates do not exist because we want to be tolerated – we actually already are. We exist to push for acceptance/respect. This is a lesson Zombadings missed – e.g. Remington’s father saying that gays are also okay at times; and a drunkard saying gays are okay because, the uncle who sent him to school being one, they can be useful too. When gay people and gay “friendly” people involved in sending out “lessons” that films like Zombadings actually believe we only deserve to be tolerated, there is a need to re-learn lessons of self-acceptance.
    LGBTs deserve no less than the treatment heterosexuals get – LGBTs, themselves, should realize this; and when the same is not given, should demand for it. Acceptance, not tolerance, is the goal.
  • People may like Zombadings, claiming the movie is funny. But laughing at other people’s misfortunes is in no way funny. In case you haven’t read in the news, or maybe even heard through second-, third- or fourth sources of information, gay men actually get killed simply because they are gay (or in some cases, even heterosexual men because they “look” gay).
    You are not laughing with us but at us when you mock, or even ridicule us – even sadder when those who do so are actually also gays, or consider themselves as gay “friendly”.

This film – through its title – preempts the possibility of a sequel, meaning we have to brace ourselves for more hatred to be spewed by gays and/or the gay “friendly” to gay people.

When both Herbert Bautista’s Jill and Sharon Cuneta’s Jack turned straight after “realizing” hetero-identifying is what they “really are”, it was actually not forgivable, as it stressed how we can just change who we are. But Jack & Jill was a product of its time, when ridicule of LGBTs was what was more accepted due to lack of education and awareness of LGBT rights even by LGBTs themselves. These are supposed to be better times, arguably supposedly represented by the likes of Maximo seven years ago.

Zombadings proved Maximo to be a fluke, and it just showed the times are still as bad, or even worse.

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If this is the kind of film you will be producing after Maximo, please stop making films already. You shame your lessons of acceptance by promoting ridicule, and even hatred this time around.

Pinoy pop culture plays a part in the difficulties that gay men (and the entire LGBT community) continue to face. “Multong bakla” and “‘Di ako bakla” became, for Filipinos, ways to put down gay men through disassociation with them – both phrases actually derived from pop songs that did exactly this: put down gay men.

With Zombadings’ expected wide release this August, “zombadings” may actually start being used to – yet again – derogatorily refer to gay men.

And for this, Zombadings’ filmmakers should be ashamed.

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan completed BA Communication Studies from University of Newcastle in NSW, Australia; and Master of Development Communication from the University of the Philippines-Open University. He grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City), but he "really came out in Sydney" so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing, and a developed world". Conversant in Filipino Sign Language, Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, and research (with pioneering studies under his belt). He authored "Being LGBT in Asia: Philippines Country Report", and "Red Lives" that creatively retells stories from the local HIV community. Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism, and Art that Matters - Literature from Amnesty Int'l Philippines in 2020. Cross his path is the dare (guarantee: It won't be boring).


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