Bad boy and his problematic battle vs stereotype


Before Robinhood Padilla turned into a senator battling a foreign action movie, he was Robin Padilla, the action movie star, box office draw of the ’90s.

He was ‘Bad Boy’ of Philippine cinema, a toughie with a good heart fighting bigger baddies, winning the audience over with rugged charm, patented sneer, the street-style braggadocio and ‘angas’ delivery of one-liners.

Typical of our culture, the ‘Bad Boy’ persona crosses over real life. Padilla romances his leading ladies despite being a married man.  He got caught for gun possession, got jailed, found redemption in Islam and found a presidential pardon.

Typical of our way of voting popular figures, Padilla the ‘Bad Boy’ was elected senator, and topped the senate race like the way he topped box office in his prime.

Now he is taking a new role in a bigger stage with our future — and our culture — at stake.  Now he is battling… a foreign movie.

Senator Padilla pointed out that the action movie Plane stereotyped Filipino Muslims in Jolo as violent and branding the island as being ruled by “separatists and militias” where “the military won’t even go there anymore”, these was instead greeted with flak.

Perhaps the problem is with Padilla, whom the public sees as a stereotype of another action star getting elected senator based on popularity.  We already had two Revillas, two Estradas, Lito Lapid and now, a Padilla.

The public also wonders why Padilla, an action star, doesn’t seem to understand that action films are entertainment often chock-full of stereotypes.

But the senator does have a point after all about the misrepresentation of Filipino Muslims in that film. The baddies are portrayed here as the typical ultra-violent, trigger happy villains whose reason for being in the film is to beat up, hack and scare the victims to justify that they need to be exterminated in the end.

Padilla initially wanted the film banned from screening. As head of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, and a Muslim convert, he believes this is within his role.

The movie producers offered to release a new version that will edit out those dialogues found to be discriminating. That’s actually well and good. But this is not the end of this story.

The problem is that Plane is not the only film that has stereotyped Filipino Muslims.

In the aftermath of the Marawi Siege, a movie called Ang Misyon: The Marawi Siege Story was released, which was panned by critics for its stereotypes on the Moro people. (Read Oggs Cruz’ review here)

Padilla himself initially planned to produce another movie on Marawi, but plans didn’t work out.

Besides that, there has been so much propaganda that show the Philippine Army as heroes and liberators, but what has been said about the people of Marawi, who have lost homes, livelihood, lives and their future?  Can the senator, as head of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, do something about it?

Padilla said the film is damaging the reputation of the nation.  But netizens challenge that idea.  What has been more damaging in our film culture are the films made by Daryll Yap such as Maid in Malacañang (where Padilla had a cameo as a loyalist soldier) and Martyr or Murderer that twists history of the people’s struggle against the Marcos dictatorship.

I may also add that Padilla himself has produced the documentary Memoirs of a Teenage Rebel which has been used as propaganda to red tag activist groups.

Another point raised is that Padilla should look into the film industry especially one production outfit that has been releasing sex-oriented films that enforce stereotypes and exploitation of women.

Actually people also raised this point: Sa daming problema ng bayan na gutom, isang pellikulang pantasya pa ang inaatupag.

But films and media mold our culture in the way we think, and the way we identify ourselves. We have often said we have a damage culture. Film industry is down and social media is flooding us with not so healthy content.

We do want change in our movie culture by fighting the stereotypes and finding relevant stories. But this change needs more input not from politicians, but rather from filmmakers, the academe that can provide deeper understanding of cultures, the sectors who have been victims of stereotype, and the audience itself.

Robin Padilla once said in an interview: “Kailangan hindi ka lang action hero sa pelikula. Pag sinabi na action hero ka, kailangan sa totoong buhay.”

In this time where we need solutions : from food to film, it doesn’t seem that he can deliver real action. (RVO) (

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