Eva Fonda: Too adult, too violent for TV

Students’ Choice of Soap Opera criterion:

A good dramatic show blends all the technical elements of television in order to depict realistically and critically the human condition, its struggles, its highs and lows. Christian dimensions are intrinsic in such a meaningful depiction. Therefore, between technical excellence and significant content, the latter should carry more weight.

A TELEVISION remake of the 1976 movie, Eva Fonda tells the story of Eva (Cristine Reyes) and her beauty, which causes her suffering. Living with her mother in a fishing village, she gets unwanted attention from the menfolk. She is raped by Val, a rich kid from Manila. Her lust for vengeance only makes matters worse, as she ends up in jail. One catastrophe leads to another, a seemingly endless chain of tragedies for Eva.

Since the original was one of the landmarks of the 1970’s “bold” or sexy movie genre, it is expected for the TV series to have sexy scenes. Considering the show is on primetime, the material is hardly suited for TV. Aside from sex, the series has a disturbing amount of violence—a lot of blood gets spilled onscreen and violent situations are commonplace. The trials and persecution of Eva are melodramatic; the viewer is given one walloping emotional attack after another. Reyes’ acting leaves much to be desired. She is very wooden for someone who is supposed to be a young girl full of sexuality. But Reyes can’t be faulted, especially when the characters are poorly written stereotypes. Eva Fonda is a mere skinfest and violence spree, nothing more, nothing less.

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Luna Mystika: Silly, nothing mystical

(Editor’s note: Students’ Choice of Soap Opera criterion applies here.)

Deviating from Western myths and fantasy, Luna Mystika focuses on the engkanto, otherworldly creatures from Philippine folklore. In a place called Barrio Mausok, people still believe in the engkanto. A beautiful young girl named Diana falls for a disfigured man named Simon, who is rumored to be an engkanto, and she unwittingly gives birth to twins. Luna takes after her father, and Celestina, her twin, is literally her shadow. One day Luna stumbles upon a strange fruit in the forest, and she eats it. To her and Celestina’s surprise, the fruit turns Celestina into a beautiful woman at night, when the moon is shining—and Luna becomes her shadow. At day, things go back to how they are.

Although concentrating on Philippine folk literature is notable, the engkanto story seems more like an excuse for the twins to fight. There is little revealed about the culture of the magical people in Luna Mystika. The research on engkantos should have been more exhaustive and significant.

There is nothing really new in the plot: two girls fighting over the same boy. The producers should have chosen a more compelling conflict, or presented the sibling rivalry in a manner that is less tiresome. Despite the loud claim by the network that Luna Mystika is original, one cannot help but compare it to other productions that work along the same lines: flawed girl becomes beautiful by magical means. The plot is as silly as magic.

I Love Betty La Fea: Inner beauty or stereotyping?

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Students’ Choice of Drama Mini-Series /Situational Comedy criterion

(Editor’s note: The criterion for Students’ Choice of Soap Opera likewise applies here.)

A good sitcom is an artistic and instructive narrative in any of the comic genres such as satire and farce. Comedy as a genre is to some extent a simplification: it shows either the lighter side of life or the twisted side of things. However a simplification, a good sitcom is not a distortion: it should not present a distorted view of existence and values. A good comedy should be a reaffirmation of life and values, not a negation.

Based on a popular Colombian soap, ABS-CBN’s I Love Betty La Fea focuses on Beatriz Pengson, or Betty, a young office girl determined to make it big in the corporate world. Betty is an Ugly Duckling, but otherwise intelligent, positive, and kind. But in an industry where looks drive everything, she is derided and looked down upon. Things get more complicated when Betty meets Armando Solis (John Lloyd Cruz), the president of Eco Moda. Betty has a crush on Armando, but she knows he probably wouldn’t even give her a second glance.

Liberties have been taken by the writers to make the show more “Filipino.” The writers have written a world that Filipinos can relate to. For instance, Betty is given a younger brother to stress the importance of familial bonds to the Filipino. Also, Betty is shown to be a fan of Bea Alonzo. In addition to this, the show also makes use of the Internet.

I Love Betty La Fea is part of networking site Multiply.com, where it serves a dual purpose—to make the events on the show readily available online, and to get instant feedback from viewers. However, innovations should not take place of good old-fashioned storytelling, and this is where the show’s producers start to falter.

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The powerhouse cast, which includes ABS-CBN’s top young actors and actresses, deliver good, but not exactly memorable, performances.

The show is more humorous than the original. But it should be noted that a good number of the jokes on the show are rooted in Betty’s supposed lack of aesthetic appeal. Granted, Betty also makes digs on her looks, which says well of her character. But for a show to make fun of ugly looks in extended length—this is a daily soap opera—may just abet stereotyping. There’s also a point in the story when Betty joins a contest whose winner will be given a makeover. She wins but refuses the prize, but with all the talk of real beauty being inner and not mere surface appearance, it seems contradictory for Betty to have joined the contest in the first place. It sends the message that it is okay to be less than gorgeous because with modern technology, no one who can afford it—or who can risk the ridicule of joining an uglyfest–will stay ugly for long.


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