After a month of hiatus, Maine Mendoza returns to the longest-running noontime show, Eat Bulaga, which delighted fans as it was a form of New Year’s treat for them. Maine, whether you like or not, is the country’s undisputed Phenomenal Star. She is arguably the queen of social media. In Twitter alone, she has more than a million followers, who wait for her every update as if it’s oxygen that allows them to breathe.
In reality, Maine is a breath of fresh air in Philippine show business, where celebrities try too hard to be liked even at the risk of forgetting their own identities. Maine, on the contrary, effortlessly tries to be her own person amidst all the pressures on her shoulder. Certain reports claim that she has an unlikable attitude in real life. Still, that does not stop fans from patronizing her brand. Because, truth be told, a celebrity who shows her bad hair days without pretenses is more desirable than somebody who, as Katy Perry labels, a Regina George in sheep’s clothing.
But why do people intently await the return of Maine in Philippine television through Eat Bulaga? After her rise to fame in 2015 due to the phenomenal AlDub love team, Maine steadfastly rose to higher grounds by starring in movies, television series, commercials, and magazine covers. Her Instagram posts are so news-worthy that major networks devote minutes of airtime just to update fans of what she is doing.
In the Philippines, fandom is an essential facet of our culture. It, in one way or the other, defines who we are as people. It’s a polarizing aspect of our society that we can be categorized depending on who we support.
Fandoms have a long history, too. The Nora-Vilma fandom feud created decades-long debate on who is the better actress. Sharon Cuneta would not be known as the Megastar without the support of her fans. Angel Locsin, Marian Rivera and Katrina Halili would not have cemented their presence in Philippine entertainment without the fans who are willing to spend it all just to support their idols.
In this generation, we have Maine Mendoza. She, a successful social media sensation, was able to cut across fan bases from different age brackets and social status. She, a force to be reckoned with, was able to tame the most difficult of fans. To even say that she is phenomenal is an understatement.
She is Maine Mendoza, with or without labels. But she was liked because she is a superstar; yet, she does not have the diva aura other superstar-wannabes tried too hard to exude. Instead, Maine maintains an aura of an ordinary person that makes her more relatable to her supportive fans.
In a third world country like the Philippines, supporting a celebrity is tantamount to life support. It is a temporary escape from the inescapable depths of poverty. It is a fantasy away from the realities of everyday forms inequalities. Supporting a fandom is like holding on to a faith that will make a difficult life bearable. Idolizing a celebrity is a ray of light amidst the darkest corners of abandonment.
That’s why Maine’s return to Eat Bulaga is important. Ask ordinary citizens and they are nonetheless delighted that she returned. She has triumphantly made herself an icon of the masses. Although her economic status is a far cry from most of her supporters, she speaks the language of everyday circumstances. She is attainable; a persona that appears to be within reach when necessary.
Critiques and the academe would explain this idolatry as an escapegoat to the harsh realities of life. It is not always the most desirable defense mechanism, because it does not make people confront the issues they face. Instead of addressing their issues, they hide and escape in the guise of fandoms.
But the desperate situation of majority of Filipinos is not something to be looked at from an Ivory Tower. If properly immersed with the most marginalized, we would realize that their situations are so devastating that even the dimmest light could not penetrate their vision. Thus, seeing a personality full of hope could be the only reason why they struggle to survive. Hopelessness requires a bright hope to transform. That could be the role of Maine for some, and that is something to be taken seriously.
Fandoms, however, is not the solution to the burdens of our society. To claim this is rather fallacious. But, this is an potential instrument of mobilizing the people to a greater cause. Remember when AlDub campaigned for the displaced Lumads of Mindanao? Or when Maine stood against Joey de Leon after he bastardized depression? Fans followed her lead and talked about these issues too. These are some magnificent examples of how fandoms could transform the most apathetic of individuals to becoming advocates of pressing issues in our society.
The return of Maine in Eat Bulaga, summarily, means certain things depending on who looks at it. For instance, it is a welcome change in Philippine show business. Meaning, we, as audience, are ready to embrace back the rebellious one, or somebody who does not conform to the standards of popularity. In some cases, Maine’s candid personality is refreshing in a way that, finally, the audience loves someone who is not afraid to speak her mind. That’s the Maine people loved; a celebrity who stands her ground amidst potential backlash.
In the ever-changing landscape of the Philippine entertainment industry, celebrities also evolve. Some are placed in pedestals and treated as demigods, while some remain with the people.
However, the meaning of Maine and fandoms still relies on the power of the people to decide. The people give these celebrities power; therefore, these people also have the capacity to take the power away from them. They are given the privilege of support because they are the hopes against hopelessness. If the celebrities show their true colors and become the personification of hopelessness, the people can become merciless and abandon who was previously idolized.