Even as I was in a frame of mind to completely immerse myself in the revelry of the Sinulog Festival in Cebu last week, social media was incorrigible. No. It was persistent in its barrage of messages.
There were all these tweets about the interview.
People wanted to know what I thought and felt about that now legendary four and a half minutes face-to-face encounter between veteran entertainment journalist Ricky Lo and allegedly Oscar Best Supporting Actress shoo-in named Anne Hathaway for her portrayal of the Mother of all miserable mothers in, what else, but Les Miserables.
At this point too late in the game, what else can I say that has not already been said?
Jim Paredes (in his tweet) hit the nail right on the head: a difference of cultures. One of my favorite people, the unflappable and unstoppable Jessica Zafra in her article in Interaksyon.com also had everything neatly packaged in a box with a ribbon: the few minutes when one experiences absolute cringing and embarrassment is also the sum total of so many factors that should not warrant any surprise whatsoever. But we still are.
Well, not surprised. Just ... uhm, nanliit.
It is not as if this were the first time Mr. Lo asked these kinds of questions to Hollywood A-Listers. He has done it before ... except that with Anne-turned-Fantine, the results were more dismal.
Social media was meaner maybe because there is empowerment to wield all sorts of sharp objects and hurl them at Mr. Lo as if those five minutes with a Hollywood actress could cause national or international havoc. It was if that those five momentous minutes would result to the hastening of global warming or create a complete reversal of all the trends that show great economic promise for the republic.
After all, despite how much we loved (or hated) Toby Hopper's cinematic interpretation of a popular musical, let's admit the fact that --- uh, it was just a movie. And this not-too-pleasant clip was just part of a press junket where everyone gets a freebie and the lead actors are subjected to torturous rounds of pocket interviews.
In short, it was really no big deal.
Well, yes, it was some big deal ... for the more sensitive among us, it was a face palm moment.
Some people felt that whatever success Janine Tuganon brought to the country by giving that all-too-crisp-and-intelligent reply to the Q and A portion of the recent Miss Universe Beauty Pageant, suddenly went down the drain when Mr. Lo asked Anne to send some greetings to Lea Salonga and the people of Las Islas Filipinas.
Upon hearing Ms. Hathaway's retort to that request, one of my more eloquent and verbose friends simply blurted, "A-waaaaaaaaaaaard!" (Then we started discussing how lovely her restyled hair post-on-camera-scalping matched her lace dress --- arguing it if were Dolce and Gabbanna.)
When that specific question was asked ("Having lived a life of luxury and privilege, etc. etc. ... did you ever become poor and hungry?" ) and the smiling Ms. Hathaway knitted her brows, stared at Mr. Lo for a grand total of 1.5 seconds then dissed, "I think that's too personal", my friend screamed, "O-kraaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!" as he ran around the living room looking for any sharp object to slash his wrist.
Pero naman ...
It was as if at the end of the interview, dear Ms. Hathaway would make a public announcement or worse ... write a fatal Facebook shoutout to the effect that: (a) Filipinos ask such silly slumbook questions and (b) she wants to talk about herself as an artiste in her interviews and not about Lea Salonga.
It was not as if this dismal encounter is reason enough for national embarrassment. The whole incident was as significant as a bad hair day. Or the kind of unpredictable experience one would have accompanying a major bout of menstrual cramps.
Maybe what made matters far worse for Mr. Lo was when the locals had a chance to view a similar press junket interview of Ms. Hathaway with Fil-Am Manny the Movie Man.
Admitted, watching this interview was like seeing a completely different Anne Hathaway. This was not the smiling acerbic biaaaaaaaaaatch that people perceived in the Lo face-to-face but an amiable, intelligent, self-effacing and even sweet (yes, my dear --- she was sweet)girl who volunteered more information than what was requested by the interviewer.
So we ask, "Bahketttt??" Is it possible that all that dieting and hair-chopping has made the actress bipolar?
Wait, wait: further research reveals that there is now a growing population called the Hathahaters who were dedicated to online bashing the actress for one reason or another.
If she was really, really mean to Mr. Lo, then this new group is extraordinarily picky about Miss Hathaway to the point that they are bashing her for her acceptance speech in the Golden Globes saying that it had all the spontaneity of the directions on assembling a bookshelf from Ikea. Apparently, despite those saucer-sized eyes emphasized by thick mascara on her lashes, Ms. Hathaway was not one to vie for Miss Congeniality as far as the press is concerned.
Then again, that is another story.
When somebody reaches a certain level of popularity, it cannot be helped that someone somewhere out there in the eternity of the universe will love to hate you and make a lifetime career out of bashing you in the internet. Media people do not get paid exorbitantly without any backlash of sorts. Plus the fact that you are required to do press junkets should be reason enough for people to find reasons for nitpicking and hating you. Some people make careers out of hating others because they find it therapeutic. They believe it gives significance to their lives which really have all the importance for the purpose of statistics. And celebrities are very well aware of that.
Well, Ms. Hathaway certainly loved Manny the Movie Man --- at least for his five minutes. As a matter of fact, no one would be surprised if they even went out for coffee after that tete-a-tete. Ms. Hathaway obviously enjoyed the chat --- and Manny the Movie Man was all over the place gushing, squeezing information from his interviewee with such casualness and aplomb.
Manny the Movie Man was so good at getting Miss Anne in the mood that even the audience was all too engrossed to forget that he forgot to use a face oil blotter to remove that disturbing sheen all throughout the video. The same friend who cringed at the Lo interview just had to bitch by saying that Manny the Movie Man had more oil on his face than the state of Texas. But so what? He did what he was supposed to do ... and he did it well --- facial shine and all. What was important was that he got the work done ... and he ended his five minutes giggling with the interviewee even happier, flattered and ready for more.
Ironically, Manny the Movie Man asked the same question that sent Lo's interview off the orbit: this whole thing about Hathaway's weight loss to capture the anguish of the Fantine. How was it that the actress so categorically brushed off the question with Mr. Lo but then went into an instructional mode with Manny the Movie Man saying that she would recommend the Catwoman Diet versus the Fantine Diet?
How come no question was too personal for Ms. Hathaway when she was dealing with Manny the Movie Man whereas she was on high-defensive when it came to Mr. Lo?
In my Directing for Television class, I showed both videos to illustrate to my students how the whole message of television is not in what is being said but how the message comes across. More so, a greater percentage of the kind of reaction you get from watching a less than five minute video is not in what is being said --- but what you see, the silence that comes in between, the tone of voice of both interviewer and interviewee, the body language.
Oh, I and my class had a grand time analyzing the Lo and Manny-the-Movie Man interviews of Ms. Hathaway vis-a-vis to each other because the camera shots were the same, the lighting used was the same ---- but the conduct of the two interviews was just literally worlds apart.
The conclusion was easy: Jim Paredes was right from the very start. It was purely cultural. Mr. Lo was asking questions for a celebrity selling a movie to a Filipino audience. Manny-the-Movie-Man was interviewing an actress in a specific movie which she was apparently very proud of partaking. Mr. Lo was bringing Ms. Hathaway to the Filipino masa ...something that she did not understand and found somewhat mundane and even offensive. But Manny-the-Movie-Man was milking the five minutes to squeeze every available data on Hathaway's professional and personal dimensions.
After all is said and done ... and a week after the brouhaha, we can all settle down and stop castigating Mr. Lo for what some accuse as a national embarrassment. It was just the truth of that moment. But there are lessons to be learned. And it is in deciphering these lessons that we can make something truly significant of what others feel as such as monumental blunder.
Postscript: Anne Hathaway was great in Les Miserables. She was so good that I was able to forgive Tom Hooper for having Russell Crowe in the same film.
Was she being a biaaaaatch to our dear Mr. Lo? To quote the wise and worldly wisdom of my friend: "Kebs ba niya, ano? If Anna Dizon is Anna Dizon, then Anne Hathaway IS Anne Hathaway, di ba?" My friend even punctuated this with a very emphatic, "Hmp!"
Being the interviewee does not mean you are out there to vie for Miss Friendship and pass around cans of assorted biscuits with your face emblazoned on the labels.
Besides, if you have to sit down and take around thirty to forty of these five minute interviews, even Mother Teresa would have reached her freak-out moment, right. In short, patience is a virtue only to a certain extent. Anything beyond that is at your own risk.
And besides, if she were such a biaaaaatch, then I would love to be Ms. Hathaway. I love the way she smiled and threw the knives. That is called elan, pizzazz, chutzpah, style. That is being vicious while flashing your pearly white teeth, intriguing everyone around you whether or not you are lacerating their throats ... or simply being cute.
I like that, ha?