The Hate Toward Liza Soberano Just Reeks of Internalized Misogyny
Philippine show business is as dangerous as it is fickle for actors and actresses who dare to be something else. You can have all the talent in the world but if you don't fit the "Filipino celebrity prototype" (the usual Eurocentric features or variations of the Filipino-next-door persona, the cutesy PR answers, the basic branding package, etc.), then you're likely going to be typecast or relegated to the background. Even if you did have the looks, the charm, the potential, and everything else in between, you can still get boxed by certain roles expected of you by fans and executives. Don't get me started on love teams. If you're not in one, you're screwed, too. Of course, you should also give full control of your life to your network and talent manager, right? To hell with your vision. We own you. If you don't play along, you should know that there's the door.
You'd be damned to take any form of agency over your decisions, especially if you're a woman. That's what's happening with Liza (Hope) Soberano now. In her latest vlog, "This is Me," Soberano reintroduces herself to the business.
“I’ve sacrificed myself, I’ve sacrificed my freedom, I’ve sacrificed my happiness to present Liza Soberano to the world, and I think I’ve earned the right to finally be me,” she said, “to finally be able to do things for myself as Hope Soberano... I’ve embarked on a fresh new chapter, and I’m finally taking control of my life, pursuing dreams that I’ve always had to hold off."
She continued: “It’s exciting, terrifying, anxiety-filled, and confusing, but what I know for sure is that for the first time, I’m finally living my life for me."
The (unsurprising but still infinitely disappointing) response from some industry insiders, veterans, and fans, however, takes away from this new chapter of hers. Soberano's comments are an anomaly in the business. Stars like her, for the longest time, have been boxed in by networks and by the loveteam matrix. It's the same system that produced tandems like Maine Mendoza and Alden Richards or Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla, and, of course, Nadine Lustre and James Reid (who famously escaped it), which value commercial success over everything else. Unfortunately, this can stifle growth, and we can't blame those who want something different for feeling like they could be so much more.
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Lustre and Reid, together with Mendoza, have each decided that they wanted out of the Filipino mainstream. Soberano is next. And like Lustre before her, Soberano is getting flak for being an "ingrate," as certain naysayers will point out. When a Reid or a John Lloyd Cruz wanted freedom, we sympathized and applauded them. When a Lustre or a Soberano does it, we rage. We always pull this card when a woman decides for herself: if she speaks out, she's become arrogant and ungrateful, but if he speaks out, he's empowered and brave.
We tend to get caught up in the semantics, as well. "Oh, she could've said it better" or "Why didn't she do what [X] did when she left?" We always tend to give men the benefit of the doubt while women have to constantly prove that their decision is "justified." We always criticize women for doing the littlest things while we let men get away with far crappier statements and attitudes. How interesting that double standard works.
And then there's the misguided use of the Filipino concept of utang na loob again. While there is something to be said about this virtue, it, in the wrong hands, is often weaponized to fit terrible narratives. Here, the narrative is that Soberano is apparently rude and selfish now. Yikes.
The way some people have responded to this "rebrand" is emblematic of how we treat someone who—justifiably—chooses themselves: we suddenly implore them to pay the dreaded moral debt. That's utang na loob done in bad faith, which defeats the overall purpose. She's repaid that kindness and then some.
The hate just takes away from Soberano's efforts to become a better actress and advocate over the years. I mean, what more do we want from Soberano at this point? She's done the movies. She's done the shows. She's gone through the loveteam cycle and crushed it. She's said all the right things. Newsflash: she's also actually a decent actress now and someone who donates and gets involved with charitable causes. She, too, was one of the most vocal defenders of ABS-CBN during a state-sponsored crackdown.
And she's been doing all these ever since before she was a teenager for Christ's sake.
A friend asked me if I was hurt by Liza’s insinuation that we boxed her so hard that it drove her away from our industry. That’s a horrible take. What I got from the vlog was a person trying to figure herself out. To be fair, she’s only “starting to dip her toes into writing.”— mark duane angos (@markangos) February 26, 2023
All this criticism is just internalized misogyny, the toxicity of the local industry, and outdated boomer concepts of employment coming to ahead. The outrage from self-professed "stakeholders" is a little out of hand for my liking. What she wants to do career-wise doesn't justify this type of slander.
We often think of the celebrity as a public commodity, I know. Business-wise, sure, and we indulge in the finished product. The bosses earn and so do they. But their celebrity shouldn't dehumanize them. They signed on to appear in movies, teleseryes, and brand deals. They didn't sign over the rights to their personhood. It's not a deal with the devil.
I know it sounds like a ton of champagne problems and celebrity bootlicking (which I loathe), but it can feel somewhat relatable to the common young person out there. To tell you the truth, situations like these happen every day for people who want to zag when everyone else is zigging. We shouldn't have to feel bad about exercising our autonomy. We shouldn't have to feel bad about exploring or finding new ways to develop our skills. We shouldn't have to feel bad about growing as people. Soberano simply said that she wants to take a chance. And she has every right to do so.
Whatever happens to her career moving forward, whether that's directing or experimenting with newer roles, that's on her. And that's kind of the point. It's a high-risk, low-reward gamble that we should respect. At the end of the day, it's a decision she can say is entirely hers. The power of choice is at play here. So all we can do is wish her well and, ick, Hope for the best.