March 09, 2011
REUBEN RAMAS CAÑETE
Gone are the amorphous bodies draped in flat, nondescript clothing of the previous generation, replaced by designer outfits, buffed physiques and polished faces. The bad boy, street-tough cowboy of the golden age of Philippine cinema has been replaced by a working/professional-class young male with a complex psychological, sexual, and social status, and imbued with a softer, more considerate attitude among both women and gays. The new macho is a metrosexual, characterized by a diverse range of talents: singing, dancing, modeling, cooking, and maintaining a household through their own income. Crucially, this is not attuned to a specific audience, like ’straight women,‘ but to any public who sexually desires him, which would include the Filipino gay, or bakla. The increasing emergence of Filipino gay culture, in the fields of film and television directing since the mid-‘80s, has impacted upon the cultural construction of the macho.
The macho is a descendant of the Hispanic majo – late 18th century Madrid street toughs famous for their outlandish costumes, exotic blend of Spanish and gypsy culture, and assertive violence. The macho is assumed to be a heterosexual male who fathers children from multiple women, fraternizes with other males in public displays of masculine bravado (like drinking, gambling, and fisticuffs), and establishes their social status through dominance over other sexes and genders, such as women and queers.
This macho as an aggressive, petulant, and ’irresponsible‘ male who inhabits the center of the social stage – and has defined for its popular audience what ‘being a man‘ is – has been reinforced by novels, films, plays, music and dance. It reached a plateau of sorts through the various filmic characters (particularly the American cowboy) of the post-World War II period. It has since expanded to such disparate cultural manifestations as the glamour spy (James Bond), the scarred war hero (John Rambo), or the hip hop gangsta (Eminem). The Philippine cultural construct of the macho can be seen, on its surface, as a confirmation of these Western models of machismo, perhaps because of its unique historical position as a Hispanic-American colony until 1946, and the continuing dominance of ’global‘ (Western) culture through film, radio, television, and the Internet.