Trends of the year

Team Supreme - The Philippine Star

From JaDine, to Taylor, to feminism, to our ‘booming economy, ‘Supreme’ takes a look back at the issues that defined pop culture in 2014

Every Saturday at Supreme, we cover pop culture with a forward-looking view. This week, however, with 2014 coming to a close, we’re taking a look back at the last 12 months to make sense of the trends that have shaped society.

2014, to us, was tame. There were no big movements, no watershed events, no large-scale disasters — a relief, perhaps, considering that 2013 closed with a painful national trauma in typhoon Yolanda. This year, it seems society took a deep breath and coasted — as our economy reportedly boomed, we continued our addiction to TV series, kept listening to a lot of pop music, and developed an addition to teenage love stories. On the downside, however, our problems got bigger at the same time — corruption in politics escalated to new heights, Manila plunged into new lows of decay, and the struggle for gender equality turned deadly with the murder of a transgender woman.

Which of these issues have transformed Philippine society? Will their effects continue as we begin a new year? And, what do they all mean? Our answers below, in Supreme’s trends of the year. — With Pepe Diokno

Wattpad takes over the entertainment industry and makes 2014 the year of the teen star

Scoff all you want, but Wattpad, the website where anyone can “find any story and write any story,” transformed the local entertainment industry this year. In July, She’s Dating the Gangster, which was posted on the site by Bianca Bernardino, became a top-grossing movie starring teen superstars KathNiel (that’s Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla, for those of you over 30). In April, the adaptation of HaveYouSeenThisGirl’s Diary ng Panget became a sleeper hit, turning its leads, James Reid and Nadine Lustre, from relative nobodies into household names, and breaking established thinking that star power alone sells tickets.

Wattpad isn’t exactly a hotbed of literary writing — this is where regular folks share their stories, grammatical rules be damned — but the fact is that people resonate with its content, and that must count for something. We once saw teenagers at a National Book Store gather around the Wattpad novels section and discuss how they’re going to buy a book. “Pasa pasa na lang tayo,” we overheard one of them say. For these Internet kids to go to a brick and mortar store for their literary (again, we use this word loosely) fix means that while many Wattpad stories may be poorly written, it’s a potential tool to introduce well-written, talented pieces of writing to these kids. — Irish Christianne Dizon

Women rule pop music — and we aren’t just talking about Taylor

How many times can Taylor Swift play the lithe man-eater in her discography? Apparently, a lot, and she earns a platinum certification while doing it — the only artist this year to do so. Swift stood by her switchblade-wielding cutesy kitten (fully realized in Joseph Kahn’s clip for Blank Space) and became 2014’s best-selling artist, but at the top of the barrel were other ladies — from Nicki Minaj waving her booty like it’s nobody’s goddamn business, Ariana Grande with her pint-sized lyric-mangling, and of course, Beyoncé with her feminist-flag bannering Queen Mother.

Girl power didn’t stop there. Two of this year’s finest pop moments didn’t come from any of these towering acts but from artists who have been forging defiantly different paths: Jessie Ware’s Say You Love Me was this year’s propulsive torch song, and FKA Twigs’ ‘Two Weeks’ was a sublime fantasia that burns with the act of consummation, imagined or otherwise. It seems only fitting that the year is coming to a close with the return of another queen. Madonna recently dropped her new single, Living for Love, and if it’s any indication of next year’s pop scene, ladies are still going to rule. — Don Jaucian                                                                                               

‘Golden Age’ of television continues with niche new shows

TV was still at the forefront of pop culture consumption in 2014 — so much so that pretty much every barkada disussion these days involves what we’re watching or should be watching. While continuing series still attract hordes of followers (Game of Thrones, we can’t wait for you to return), it’s the new shows that caught our attention this year. There are hilarious debuts like Jane the Virgin and Silicon Valley, niche-crowd favorites like Transparent, and big bold shows with crazy fan bases in the making, such as How to Get Away With Murder. These shows bring the medium to places it hasn’t been before, and we bet that the so-called “Golden Age” of television shall carry on well into 2015. Score one for the couch potatoes! — Carina Santos

Metro traffic redefines hell, clogs even social media feeds

Going by the deluge of rants posted day after day online, Metro Manila traffic achieved a new low this year. This would sound less impossible if you imagine hell as an ever-expanding metropolis, where there is always room for a new circle beneath the last one, like shopping malls and condominiums that somehow find space from which to sprout. In this hell, all the horizontal spaces have already been exhausted, so the expansion proceeds vertically in the name of an alleged “booming economy,” choking roads and train systems to death in the process, and crippling whatever economic activity was supposed to be booming. The result is a highly strung-out populace capable of beating up traffic enforcers who may or may not have bullied them and an MMDA that is powerless to clean up the mess left by generations of abominable urban planning. We greet the new year with no signs of things getting better. All we can really hope for is that they do not get any worse. Our best case scenario is a hell that has a bottom. — Alex Almario

Memes take on corruption, but the same old politics lives on

The year saw history being made. For the first time ever, three senators were arraigned and jailed after being implicated in the pork barrel scam. Also, a new bullet point was added to the Vice President’s otherwise boring job description of waiting for the President to die: Defending himself from said President’s attack dogs in the Senate. True, it was a good year for politics and politicking.

Filipinos jumped on these events, posting memes, hashtags, and the incessant satirical article. We were right, of course, to press on the corruption allegations against Vice President Binay, but at the same time, we think that a doubtful cloud still hangs over President Aquino’s hopeful news of reforms. The Bilibid raid shows how so much corruption still goes on under the administration’s own people, and as we’ve mentioned, continued non-inclusive growth still plagues the country. If prison was a small paradise and the world outside was an infernal traffic jam symptomatic of the many ills of living in the third world, then we must be mad to call ourselves sane.

Still, all the talk on the web, especially among the country’s millenials, makes us feel like we’re on to something big. As the world turns both bigger and smaller online, there’s something out there that’s making its presence felt — and it’s not just vitriol from the comments section anymore. — DLS Pineda                                              

Feminism makes a comeback as gender equality struggles

It didn’t seem possible to redeem the word “feminism” from its bra-burning, man-hating reputation. Even women who cared about living empowered lives wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. But 2014 was the year the old message finally broke through walls of misconception on a wave of clarity and simplicity. Feminism is about men and women being equal. Nothing more, nothing less.

And through Emma Watson’s groundbreaking speech at the UN, and further demonstrations such as the UP Pep Squad’s routine where women carried men, we got to see how much more there was to redefine. How much imbalance there still is, and how much release there is to be had if we were allowed to just be ourselves and lift each other up, minus the confines of gender norms.

There is still much to be tackled, though. The controversies around Bill Cosby and Vhong Navarro this year show that rape victims are still shamed and shat on with a questionable eagerness and satisfaction. And we rush to defend the perpetrators, solely because they’re well-loved and powerful. We would rather have their victims lose their minds in the dark than see their downfall.

An even bigger challenge is fighting for transgendered women. You know the bias against a person is heavy when she can be killed and still slapped around for being a freak and “manloloko ng lalaki.”

The idea of regarding people equally regardless of their gender has come far this year. And like anything that travels, it’s bound to come up against new walls. But that’s what the privilege of being alive is all about. To have cause and opportunity to keep on pushing, for ourselves and each other. — Cate de Leon                                                        

The walls of online privacy break down

No one is safe. That much can be deduced from the deluge of private content that rained down on the Internet this year.

We’re used to sex video scandals, but nothing of the magnitude that we’ve witnessed recently. Where there were once little trickles of people we didn’t even want to see disrobed (Wally Bayola), 2014 brought in an entire slew of Hollywood actresses’ explicit photos, with Hunger Games lead, Jennifer Lawrence headlining the iCloud leak.

Locally, there was certainly no shortage of that, with the likes of Paolo Bediones, Chito Miranda, and even a non-celebrity college couple, who managed to make enough rounds on the Internet to be news for a while.

Then there was the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack in November, which forced the company to cancel the release of the movie The Interview.

These scary new developments have us nervously thumbing our smart phones. From private conversations, personal details, browsing histories, to our own NSFW images, is being utterly naked (both figuratively and literally) in front of the world just waiting to happen to each of us? And is there nothing that can be done about this? — Cate de Leon

‘Ice Bucket’ raises awareness, but selfie philanthropy is hardly a challenge

Despite the seeming novelty of selfies last year, technology didn’t actually invent narcissism. All social media has done over the years was to appeal to people’s basest impulses — to congratulate, celebrate, and aggrandize oneself.

So there was really nothing new about this year’s leaps in selfie activism and selfie philanthropy. What the Ice Bucket and Feeling Nutty “challenges” did show us, however, is that the vanity once reserved for celebrities has now become fully available to the masses. In the old days (which is any year between five and 200 years ago), you had to be invited to things like Band Aid or USA for Africa before you can publicly congratulate yourself for being so good. Now, all you need is social media: our ongoing collective fantasy that we are all celebrities in our own personal reality TV shows. — Alex Almario                                                                            

Gobal brands invade Manila

From H&M and Joseph to Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel, Cath Kidston and Hamleys to Dean & DeLuca and Tim Ho Wan, a succession of established names opened their Manila outposts this year. Slowly but surely, everyday shoppers can now help themselves to retail experiences that were once only reserved for well-traveled Filipinos.
While expansion to our shores may imply that these international companies have already saturated their home markets, their presence confirms that the Philippines, as an emerging economy, is a safe place to invest and grow their business. It also means that there is enough of a demand for their goods and services — from a well-targeted segment of the population — to justify this investment.

To ascribe this influx of foreign brands to colonial mentality would be passé (everything is global today, not provincial) and inaccurate (they want that Filipino niche just as much as that Filipino niche wants them). In addition, the groups that brought them in — with the exception of H&M, which was set up directly by the Swedish fashion retailer itself — are local.

With more choices for consumers, the onus is now on homegrown labels and establishments to lift the quality of their offerings to even higher standards. It’s not fair to demand that Filipinos support something just because it’s Filipino-made if it’s nothing short of excellent. — Gino de la Paz                                                

Is religion getting better or worse? It’s not clear

In the growing divide between liberals and conservatives, Pope Francis continued to be a beacon of hope, reason, faith, and the meeting of extremes. His work certainly didn’t slow down this year, as he tackled head on controversial issues that the church has stayed mum over for centuries.

He established a single office to handle business, administrative, and personnel management, thus avoiding the easy pocketing of wealth that the church has long been guilty of.  He personally met with victims of clerical sexual abuse. He humbly extended an invitation to unity to orthodox churches, promising that neither submission nor assimilation would be insisted. He also went about appointing both liberal and conservative cardinals into position, forcing people of varying dispositions to find a way to work with each other. And for a minute there it looked like the world might actually start coming together.

Enter ISIS and the Taliban, beheading, slaughtering, enslaving, and raping practically anyone who holds a difference in belief from their very specific version of Islam—even if they happen to be innocent Pakistani school children.

It is deeply saddening. We thought we were finally (albeit very belatedly) learning to move past our religious differences. But now we wonder if this is meant to be a perpetual human flaw, and if we will ever truly evolve out of it for good. — Cate de Leon

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