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‘Fan Girl’ shatters our ‘leading men’ obsessions

[Warning: This article contains spoilers.]

“Ibang-ibang Paulo po ang makikita niyo dito,” Paulo Avelino (played by Paulo Avelino) tells the crowd in his mall show with Bea Alonzo in “If We Fall In Love,” their upcoming rom-com. There’s an ear-splitting mob noise that validates Paulo’s stardom—and Jane (Charlie Dizon) contributes to this. 

(“You’ll see a different Paulo in this film.”)

Her Paulo Avelino Defense Squad energy is palpable in how she’s ready to fight: snatching a thrown poster off a fellow fan’s hands, shouting with another stan to prove that it was her whom Paulo winked at, and shamelessly disapproving a stranger’s comment that the actor is… overrated. Jane’s intense devotion stems from the thought that she does know the “leading man” of her life from head to toe. 

This is why, mainly driven by youthful impulsiveness (and probably the failure to score a poster for her wall), the 16-year-old high schooler hitches on the back of the heartthrob’s pickup truck. 

Sometime during the trip, Paulo gets called out by a traffic enforcer for swerving. But instead of letting him face the consequences a typical citizen would, the enforcer presents a deal: Just sign my poster with my daughter’s name and it’s all good. 

The dark side of this special treatment gets more evident as the sky turns dark. And Jane is the only one who’ll witness this. 

They soon reach an abandoned villa in a remote barrio, a place where Paulo spends most of his days alone (or not). Packed with a tight, intimate aspect ratio, horror movie-esque lighting, documentary-like shot treatment and creepy slowness, Jane soon realizes that her hero is a totally different person: a drug-addled alcoholic whose curses could build a fucking drinking game. 

With her fantasies in tow, she lets these things pass. Jane even tells Paulo that she braved death just to be here. In the public eye, it’s easy to blame Jane and her naivety, ridiculousness and jadedness. However, “Fan Girl” isn’t just a reminder not to be blinded by the persona our idols show. 

It should also be a bigger conversation for these narratives; the way Paulo was volatile when he met Jane but suddenly became a little gentle when he found out she’s obsessed with him; the way Paulo could’ve called someone to fetch Jane that night. Or he himself could help her get home but he insisted on letting her sleep in his place.

With her fantasies in tow, she lets these things pass. Jane even tells Paulo that she braved death just to be here. In the public eye, it’s easy to blame Jane and her naivety, ridiculousness and jadedness. However, “Fan Girl” isn’t just a reminder not to be blinded by the persona celebrities show. 

It’s the way Paulo tried touching Jane’s tickle spots to stop her from being grumpy, and told her “kung hindi ka lang bata, hinalikan na kita,” after hearing compliments from her. 

(I would’ve kissed you if you weren’t a kid.)

It’s the way he offered her firsts: her first bottle of beer before asking her age, and also letting her drink (“‘Pag nalasing ka, bahala ka”) even after she insisted that she’s “almost 17.” He also let her smoke her first cigarette and snort her first cocaine, just because they were both in a supreme state of fragility. It’s in the way—thanks to the century-old sickness of power dynamics—he emotionally manipulated her being at the cusp of womanhood. 

(If you get drunk, it’s none of my business.)

It’s the way he never even asked her name, so we never knew about it until the ending. Was Jane just a blip in his history, a feeder to his ego—reflecting how women are continually treated as objects in our macho-feudal society?

It’s the way he never even asked her name, so we never knew about it until the ending. Was Jane just a blip in his history, a feeder to his ego—reflecting how women are continually treated as objects in our macho-feudal society?

Jane’s phrase bank of “hindi na ako bata,” “sorry po,” and “alam ko ‘yang iyak na ‘yan” is just the tip of the iceberg of how difficult it is for women to have their place in a patriarchal country.

(I’m not a kid anymore.)

(I’m sorry.)

(I know what that cry means.)

 

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A post shared by Antoinette Jadaone (@tonetjadaone)

It took a lot of potent slaps for Jane to wake up from her fantasy. What pushed her to the limit is seeing Paulo mirror the root of her suffering: her mother’s present boyfriend who treats them like shit. 

Paulo was Jane’s escape from the harshness of reality, but he turns out to be another one of them. With truth in her hands, she tries to fight back. 

When Jane tells the sari-sari store vendor that she’s 16 and not “almost 17,” maybe she’s trying to tell this: that she is young and the world should quit taking advantage of her. 

The redemption starts with her voice. The literal one, first of all. “Putangina mo!” she shouts at Paulo, her mother’s boyfriend and a catcaller all in a day. It was the same voice that squealed in blind admiration for her favorite “leading man.”

When Jane tells the sari-sari store vendor that she’s 16 and not “almost 17,” maybe she’s trying to tell this: that she is young and the world should quit taking advantage of her. 

 

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A post shared by Charlie Dizon (@charliedizon_)

“Fan Girl’s” sharp edges bow to its A+ team. Paulo Avelino’s bravery in portraying himself brewed a nightmare that’ll last for days. Antonette Jadaone’s subversive direction makes us trust her to take Philippine cinema to more surprising routes. Charlie Dizon’s nuanced take on Jane—complete with her disturbing trembles and loud stares—gets us excited for the future.

In the end, Jane calls the police. Will it be Paulo or her mother’s boyfriend whom she’ll try to put behind bars? It’s honestly not the most ideal move out there, considering the cops’ reputation in our country. But maybe that’s who she is right now: a kid who’s just started to open her eyes. Here’s to hoping she seeks more truths after this.

And maybe that could start with tearing posters—not only Paulo’s but also of politicians she passes by. Society has put them on a pedestal for too long now; that blind fanaticism has even made celebrities out of them.

And maybe that could start with tearing posters—not only Paulo’s but also of politicians she passes by. Society has put them on a pedestal for too long now; that blind fanaticism has even made celebrities out of them. How many excuses should people offer them everytime they do things worse than a swerve? Worship towards these misogynistic “leading men” could viciously take lives, whether you’re a fan of them or not. 

Read more:

Meet Charlie Dizon, Paulo Avelino’s Y/N in ‘Fan Girl’

To prep for ‘Fan Girl,’ the cast listened to Billie Eilish, Børns and Sistar

Antoinette Jadaone tackles Filipino boldstars in her upcoming film

Still from “Fan Girl”

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Jelou Galang
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