In Defense of Willie Revillame – An Analysis of the Jan-Jan video

Watch the video again. Again. Closely. Pay attention. Watch the kid. Watch Willie. Listen. Consider the whole situation.

Outrageous, isn’t it? Willie Revillame was actually trying to SAVE the kid from humiliation.

YeahbuhWHAT?

To everyone saying that it’s degrading for the kid to dance like a stripper: you’re wrong.

Can’t blame you for thinking this, especially when Willie likened his performance to the scene in Burlesk Queen where a stripper was crying as she performed her dance, all too aware of the indignity and sexual degradation that she’s sunk into.

But see, Willie was making a joke. Because this is a completely different situation.

The kid’s humiliation doesn’t stem from the fact that he’s pantomiming a risque dance. He doesn’t understand that the act is sexual in nature. Or even what the hell “sexual in nature” means.

Proof: watch his face as he starts dancing automatically every time they start to play the music. Blank. Robotic. It’s Pavlovian how he goes through the exact same motions when that music starts playing.

To him, it’s just a meaningless act he was taught to do. This is what parents do, and probably what your parents did to you too: train their kid to perform tricks for their amusement. Doing a little skit, singing a little song — all so they can show you off to neighbours and relatives.

But for you and a million other angry netizens, because you recognise this particular trick as a risque dance, you imagine with horror what the kid must be feeling: the indignity of having to gyrate like a Babylonian harlot in front of this jeering audience.

But he doesn’t feel that way at all. This is just a cognitive bias on your part. You’re projecting. Because you think it’s sexually humiliating, you think that he also thinks it’s sexually humiliating. But it’s not. HE’S A SIX-YEAR-OLD KID.

It’s just a trick to him.

The kid wasn’t crying because he’s being exploited sexually. He’s crying over something else.

But what? Let’s return to the source.

In the scene where the kid is stepping up to the stage for his first dance. He’s already in tears. If it’s shame at his sexual act, as in Burlesk Queen, then he should only have started crying after he started the performance. But he already had tears in his eyes when he started, so let’s rewind.

You’ll notice that the kid was in a good mood before the performance starts, while Willie was talking to him. Pay attention to how Willie talks to him. He was actually very nice about it. His tone is gentle and earnest, and he would affectionately repeat and refer to to the kid’s name (“Ilang taon na si Jan-jan?”).

He does crack some jokes when he finds the kid’s response funny (like with the Dad owning a parlor.) and he and the audience have a laugh at it, but two things: one, these jokes go over the kids head (like how the sex thing is beyond him). You’ll see him smiling along as the audience laughs about it. Second, he reins in the audience when he senses the kid getting uncomfortable and then resumes his earnest questioning.

Listen to the kid’s voice throughout all this: normal. He even gives Willie some attitude when asked about his favorite singer. “Di po ako kakanta! (I’m not singing!)” he protests, which makes Willie genuinely laugh. This in turn makes the kid smile.

Now pay attention. We’re going to slow things down here because this is where the drama begins.

Willie asks the boy who he’s with.

Tita ko po (My aunt),” he says.

Willie asks where the kid’s mom is.

Sa bahay (At home),” he says.

Bakit hindi ka sinamahan ni Mama? (Why didn’t Mama come with you?)”

This is where Jan-jan’s tone starts changing into a more sombre mood. He explains that his mom couldn’t accompany him because she just gave birth. Willie senses the mood change and tries to disarm it with casual questions.

Eventually, Jan-jan points out the aunt in in the audience and she makes a request to be allowed to come up to the stage and give Willie a hug. Willie lets her and she is so moved that she breaks down in tears. She confesses that it’s always been her dream to hug Willie.

Now to us, this is the saddest and most pathetic thing ever, to actually see someone whose life goals include hugging Willie Revillame, and then see her actually accomplish it.

But to this poor woman, this is absolutely one of the best moments in her life and she is filled with emotion. The 3,000 pesos Willie gives her makes it even tackier for us, but for her, it’s a double rainbow.

After she returns to her seat, Willie turns back to Jan-jan and asks him if he’s got anything to say to his aunt.

This is it.

As Jan-jan begins to thank his aunt for accompanying her here, his voice starts to break. This is where he starts to cry. And this is why:

He watched the genuinely heartfelt emotions that his aunt expressed and as a six-year-old kid who’s watching a loved one cry, he himself was moved. As he starts expressing gratitude to his aunt and to his dad for bringing him here, he finally wasn’t able to hold himself back and starts tearing up.

At this point, what did you expect Willie to do? Can you stop for a moment to actually play out the alternate scenarios in your head?

Did you expect him to stop the live show, kill the audience’s buzz, and delve into why the kid is crying? Should he have cancelled the kid’s performance and asked him to leave the stage? Should he have called his aunt to get the kid from the stage, the same kid who was so moved that his aunt brought him all the way here because his mother couldn’t?

These are all horrible alternatives and would in fact have lead to greater shame and embarassment for the kid.

So Willie Revillame did something beautiful. He actually tried to stop the kid from crying. He gave him a quick pep talk and encouraged Jan-jan to overcome his sadness by going ahead with his performance and showing off his talent to everybody. He was really nice about this and even gave the kid a kiss.

Jan-jan got up there and started to dance.

If Jan-jan instead sang a beautiful slow song, or performed another style of dance, then there would be no outrage. There would be standing ovation at this kid who persevered through the tears and still managed to perform his talent.

But no, it was a lewd dance. What everyone got was a most incongruous combination of crying and hip gyrating.

It caught the audience by surprise, including Willie. Remember, he originally thought the kid was going to sing. Not dance, especially not like this (UPDATE: Commenter bp pointed out that Willie knew what the kid was going to do). It was absurd. And everyone in studio found it hilarious.

To everyone else watching on the Internet, they just focused on the image of the kid, apparently crying over being forced to do these perverted acts. And because this is Willie Revillame, the despicable sleazeball that’s hated by everyone above a certain income tax bracket, everyone just assumed the worst. “Child abuse” was the accusation.

But watch again, and you’ll find there’s no abuse here. The kid’s crying is unrelated to his dancing, and that dance, in turn, has no sexual meaning for him at all.

Beyond the laughter and the outrage, we forget that there’s a kid who’s actually proud to perform his talent, however distasteful this talent may seem to some of you. He stopped crying midway through, neither shame nor humiliation in his face. He was determined to finish this dance.

He pulled it off, and Willie immediately jumped in to heap praises on him. Naturally, he threw in a few jokes about it, but if you listen, he was genuinely trying to comfort and congratulate the kid. And when Willie asked him to perform for a second time, it was clear, Jan-jan was over his sadness–his chin jutting out, steely resolve on his face.

I am not apologising for Willie Revillame’s character. With or without this incident, the guy is still a total sleazeball. There are plenty of good reasons why you should hate Willie, but I believe this isn’t one of them. Sure he and the studio audience got some lulz from the kid, but it wasn’t of an abusive nature that everyone claims it to be. And anyway, that’s the nature of his show, right? He makes fun of all his guests. In fact, given how he usually behaves, I think he was very supportive and kind to Jan-jan already. Relatively.

I may be wrong but please, before reacting, do watch the video again, consider my points, and let’s discuss it.

–Joseph Dent

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