Everybody Wants It ‘Instant’

To anyone who observes Philippine television close enough, it is fairly easy to summarize the usual plot which the writers feed the audience. While romance is always a must, there is another storyline which always appears at these shows, namely, that the lead character is of course poor but will eventually discover that he or she is the lost son or daughter of someone very rich and powerful.

We have seen this type of storyline play out on our tv screens ever since television has become popular in the country — I am pretty sure of that, but as for me being conscious about it, I recall the same plot in the drama series “Mara Clara” from when I was a younger kid.

If television does indeed reflect real life and that television writers are simply feeding the audience with stories that are familiar to the latter, then we are actually witnessing a culture that is fond of escapism. Yes, everyone all over the world is guilty of fantasizing an escape from the barrenness of everyday life but I don’t think it’s as worst as the kind we have here in the Pearl of the Orient.

The basics usually goes this way: the protagonist of the story is usually a heroine who grew up poor with either a kindly mother-like figure who raised her or an evil aunt who made her life a living hell; then this heroine struggles with her everyday life trying to get by as best as she could until she bumps into the leading man of the story who is, if not the rich Prince Charming, then an equally poor bestfriend who grew up alongside her. As the heroine continues with her adventures, the antagonists of the story appears in the form of the aforementioned evil aunt, or the cruel rich girl who has nothing better to do than make the poor protagonist suffer, also worth mentioning too is that other poor girl who’s jealous of the beauty and kindness of our heroine. These antagonists are wont to be physically taller than the protagonist with a more sophisticated look than the latter — something that’s specifically done by the writers so as to convey to the audience their pseudo-Communist preaching that there is class warfare in the society we live in.

The lead character, comparable to fan made fiction the likes of which permeate the parts of the internet inhabited by unreasonable fan girls, is almost always a so-called “Mary Sue”.

A “Mary Sue”, if memory serves me right is a fictional character that is perfect in her imperfections. She is of course good-looking, smart, gentle, kind, and all the men in the story go crazy for her. Add to these the fact that she can never do any wrong exactly because she was designed to be just that: perfect.

This same “Mary Sue” may have physical flaws but as I’ve said she is supposed to be perfect in her imperfections, so despite these flaws she is able to have other girls jealous of her because she gets to have the affections of almost all the male characters in the story.

In the internet, the “Mary Sue” phenomena became one because the writers of this kind of fiction feel the need to have an alter ego as an escape from harsh reality. These “writers” need to assert themselves in a way that their nondescript selves are redeemed by their fantasies of being better than they actually are in real life. I am by no means a psychologist but I don’t have to be one to be able to discern that these Mary Sues are the product of insecurity and a need to amplify the good things about oneself, all the while minimizing the bad characteristics until these are molded into the flaws which make the alter ego “Mary Sue” even more perfect. Such is the mindset of the writers behind this phenomenon and they are scattered across the internet thereby manifesting that the internet itself is a form of escape. A kind of reality, a virtual reality that they are able to control with their bare hands instead letting themselves suffer from the kind of reality which they exercise no control over.

In real life, it is exactly the opposite in that we are imperfect even in our slight perfections.

In real life, we are subject to failures and no one can be truly the “best” if they sit around doing nothing. There is competition in this kind of reality and if “Mary Sues” were real they’d be swallowed up whole by this cruel world. Bottom-line is, we are but specks in this universe and it is irrational that we convince ourselves that we are otherwise. We cannot defy reality just because we want escape.

Television seems to pick up on this and offers the audience a form of escape.

In television dramas we are bombarded with “Mary Sue” characters, and even if this type of character is getting old to the intelligent observer, its effect is the opposite on the dreamy-eyed female population who dreams of a medium wherein they can live out all their fantasies.

The protagonist in true “Mary Sue” fashion would later find out that even her life would turn out to be perfect because of what I mentioned earlier that she would discover that she turns out to be the long lost child of a business tycoon or whichever character it is as long as they are rich and powerful.

This is a culture of escapism at its most obvious.

It paves the way for us to witness that we live in a society yearning for quick solutions to problems which can be solved in the long run — that is, if one is patient enough and is not afflicted with the vice of being lazy.

Through these television soap operas, in particular those plots that involve becoming “instantly rich” by way of suddenly waking up one day and finding out that one is in reality the missing son or daughter of someone in the higher levels of society, the poor population can live out their ultimate fantasy of becoming rich — to suddenly and instantly find a way out from their dissatisfying reality.

And this culture of escapism is not just limited to television dramas; it could also be found in lotteries and sweepstakes which promise of an “instant” escape from poverty.

Television is a medium of information that is not exempted from being perverted by ill-willed individuals who wish to attain power over the population. Through shows which have the kind of plots discussed in this post, they are merely covering up the problems of society without solving it. If the poor population are fed with their fantasies through “Mary Sue” characters, then they are no different from pigs that are fattened to be eventually butchered for the feast — I say this in light of this question: how can they be able to face up to their challenges in real life if the people which are morally obliged to help them are making them suffer further by burying them in fantasies which no matter the rhetoric, stay as nothing more than empty fantasies?

While it is by no means harmful to dream for a better life or an “instant” escape from everydayness, the same should be done in small doses. Too much of it will leave us a drooling, invalid who’s unable to accept the kind of reality that we all should overcome. A reality called life.

In real life, success is never instant and it demands of us that we work hard for it. It doesn’t offer us an immediate escape, but if we toil hard and are able to emerge persevering from the challenges of life (regardless of ending up with a few bruises), then victory will be all the more sweeter.



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Aiko Lactaotao

Aiko Lactaotao


Writer whose heart is in the avant-garde, in dire need of therapy for Logolepsy, while being a lifelong hesher living the br00tal lyfe in her parent’s basement.