It does seem like a brave new world out there, doesn’t it? One that is no longer bound by old conventions or even old sensibilities. It seems like the world has found a new normal, and many of us are floundering.
Take Rustom Padilla, f’rinstance. He’s gone from matinee idol, to husband of one of the most attractive girls in show business, to estranged hubby, to showbiz exile, to a wannabee come-backer, and finally to re-emerge again as – he says – a brand new person who wants to be called Bebe Gandanghari.
I have to admit, I was one of those at a loss at what to say when I saw Padilla – Gandanghari – sashaying onstage with all the trappings of a woman, but still being quite unmistakably a man.
Was it noble self-actualization – as one netizen put it?
ang galing niya, siya na ata ang pinakamatapang na taong nakilala ko ngayon. hindi takot na magpakatotoo. mas mabuti ng magpakatotoo kesa ang maging hipokrita.
Or was it a last ditch attempt at reviving a career which – while not exactly moribund – was certainly on the skids? So hard to tell, and so easy to heap accolades on someone for doing something different simply because he did something different. Just as it is incredibly easy to brand as bigots those who refuse to embrace Gandanghari as unquestioningly as Oprah might.
Here’s what I think: I think Rustom Padilla might’ve been heavily influenced by drag queens in the States. Seeing the lack of serious drag queenery in Philippine show business (the nightclub circuit of course not being considered showbiz in this discussion), seeing the lack of any serious chance of him standing out in the biz as yet another pigeonholed gay actor, and finding in himself both the predisposition and the courage to be Priscilla Queen of the Desert for this country, he took the plunge.
But could it really have been as mercenary as that?
He is, after all, an entertainer and all entertainers need something to set them apart from the crowd. Without the comedy chops of the other gay entertainers, without any stellar acting skillz to speak of, what else did he have going for him except his willingness to dive into the outrageous?
Of course, he’s not likely to admit to such a base motivation. Knowing our penchant for drama, the emergence of Bebe Gandanghari will evolve into some self-affirming act, complete with complex psychological underpinnings, butterfly imagery, and a Danton Remoto-esque social agenda. But in the end, I think it will all be revealed to be more a fabulous fight for continued relevance in a business that seemed on the verge of forgetting him, than anything else.
The bravery of this new world, we will find, is nothing more than an act of desperation.