The laughter is the best thing
A large part of the enjoyment of watching “Zombadings: Patayin sa Shokot si Remington” is watching it in a public theater. My daughter, future daughter-in-law and myself went on a “girls’ night out” to watch “Zombadings” and, to our surprise, found Cinema 6 at Glorietta 4 full, so much so that some viewers were forced to look up at the screen as they sat on the front rows.
Almost from the beginning, the entire theater would erupt in laughter, and frequently all at the same time. The audience, a large part of which was composed of groups of young women, apparently all drawn by word-of-mouth promotion, erupted not only into spontaneous bursts of laughter, but also into loud teasing, hooting, giggling and loud commiserating.
The best part of it was that much of the laughter was friendly and sympathetic. You know the difference. Especially while watching a movie about growing up gay—or waking up one morning and finding oneself transformed into a sward-speaking, swishing, fey and sensitive gay young man. You “know” when the laughter is derisive and deprecating. As a woman, you know how male laughter can often sound menacing. But the laughter in the dark theater felt comfortable, sisterly even, and the feeling I got was that we were there laughing with Remington and sharing the hilarity of his situation. Not laughing at his suddenly effeminate ways.
Remington’s story begins in his early childhood when he develops the nasty habit of calling out “bakla! bakla!” each time he spots an effeminate-looking man. In a cemetery, he spots a tearful gay laying flowers at a tomb, and when he starts hassling the man, the gay (Roderick Paulate) curses him, declaring that when Remington gets older, he himself will turn gay.
* * *
Fast-forward to the present day. Remington (played with panache by Martin Escudero) is now a teenager, happy-go-lucky and fast maturing into the sort of provincial hyper-masculine specimen who moreover has lost all will to better himself.
In all honesty, I kind of enjoyed this part of the movie, enjoyed the easy rapport and camaraderie of Remington and his best friend (Kerbie Zamora) and their hard-drinking barkada. It’s not often one sees onscreen the easy physicality and casual cruelty that are so common among straight, young Pinoy men.
So when the “gay curse” starts working its magic on Remington, the transformation is so much more hilarious. One on-line critic complained that the filmmakers make it appear as if gayness is a “curse.” And among many in the straight world and the Christian Right, gayness is indeed a curse from God, an aberration.
It is this concept that writers Michiko Yamamoto, Raymond Lee and Jade Castro (who also directs the movie) play with in “Zombadings.” This time, gayness does become a curse, one imposed on Remington for his childhood rudeness. And we are aware, too, that for many in Remington’s shoes, gayness is not a magic curse that will go away with rituals and incantations. It is their nature and their orientation, and it will not go away simply because they pray it will.
* * *
What I especially loved about the movie is that it has many serious things to say in a lighthearted manner. Much like gay folk themselves. I loved that the film doesn’t preach, except maybe while the credits are rolling. But I also loved that the insights into the gay condition come unbidden and with no need of highlighting.
Especially rib-tickling is the scene between Remington and his best friend, when Remington, just getting used to his gay ways, begins to make out with his friend. The whole movie house erupted into one continuous wave of laughter, as Remington would succumb and then resist, succumb and then resist, the advances of his drunken friend and his own attraction.
I remembered all my gay friends, especially those caught in the “questioning” and “searching” stages, who would one day insist they are straight, and then the next day confess to their attraction to other men or women.
What’s more significant is that it’s the best friend who suddenly regains his composure, not because it’s wrong to be making out with another male, but because the revelation that Remington has turned gay could put him in danger.
Oh yes, the changes that Remington goes through happens to coincide with the serial killing of gays in their home town, a development that the butch mayor decries because gays, she says, “bring nothing but beauty and love in this world.”
The gays—most of them parloristas but also include an upstanding citizen—are killed with the use of a “gaydar,” a metaphor if there ever was one, and the mystery that needs solving is who exactly is wielding this weapon and what can be done to stop him.
* * *
“Zombadings” is a satire, a spoof on all our beloved clichés about male gays, from gay lingo to swaying hips, girlie shirts (Remington even sports one that proclaims “Hot Girl”) to fondness for boy toys.
Remington starts out as a crass and crude young man, who finds that, in turning gay, he has learned empathy and humor, wit and wisdom. When the girl he loves urges him to seek a solution to overcome the curse, Remington hesitates and says maybe he’ll just remain the way he is. But Hanna (Lauren Young) chides him. That is why she admires gays, she says, “because they have the courage to stand up for who they are, but you are afraid to fight for your true nature.”
That was a sobering moment, a quiet pause in an otherwise rollicking experience. I won’t tell you how Remington finally gets rid of the curse, but I confess I didn’t see it coming.
All I can say is that it redeems one’s faith in the resilience of the family and the unconditional love all members share. Give yourself a happy weekend and catch “Zombadings” now!