Saw several Hollywood teen comedy films with my youngest sister Azalea and girlfriend Sheila when I visited my family back in Cebu for the Christmas vacation. Objectively, these films serve to mold the tastes of viewers to crave for the newest products and conform to the latest fad. Nevertheless, you can still find redemptive aspects in the kitsch films I saw last month:
She’s the Man is about a sporty teenage girl who pretends to be her brother in order to join his high school football team. This film is a wacky paean to gender equality.
Pitch Perfect revolves around a college acapaella girls group and its members’ trials in the course of competing with other groups. This film plays on the contradiction between the old and the new, between tradition and innovation.
Bring it On: All Or Nothing presents the racial and class tensions felt by a white girl from an exclusive school who transfers to a public school. Her haughty manners do not endear her to her new colored and working class schoolmates but she eventually joins the cheering team against her former exclusive school peers.
Of course, whatever progressive elements exist in the films are detached from their crucial class dimensions. Issues of gender, race, and inclusion are tackled but are almost always resolved through the celebration of “individuality” and “difference.” Political and economic oppression are ignored in the surprisingly commonplace chorus for tolerance of “other ways of life.”
While crassly entertaining they are popular only because they are repeatedly shoved at our throats. “I saw the sign,” the girls from Pitch Perfect sing. Indeed, we see the signs, and having developed a preference for them from the continual bombardment on our screens, we become the justification for the massive marketing of more of the same. It is a vicious cycle.
By propagating a rabid individualism and a consumerist lifestyle, they are effective and insidious agents of US imperialism. A more comprehensive elucidation of the real role played by these films is offered by the following documentary produced in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea: