Editorial: Shipping lessons from KathNiel

BE SENSITIVE. Digital media transform pop culture into a crucial space for expressing and testing identities, realities, and consciousness. Netizens must be sensitive to others and not spread hate.
BE SENSITIVE. Digital media transform pop culture into a crucial space for expressing and testing identities, realities, and consciousness. Netizens must be sensitive to others and not spread hate. ENRICO SANTISAS

Last Thursday witnessed unusual barrage of social media posts about an event that began in celluloid make-believe and then terminated on social media but for 11 years represented a corporeal reality for many Filipinos.

On Nov. 30, actors Kathryn Bernardo, 27, and Daniel Padilla, 28, confirmed separately on their Instagram accounts that they ended a relationship that began when they were still teenagers paired in a movie and later became an actual romance.

Modeled on Hollywood’s capitalization of youth and romance, Philippine movie studios have long used the romantic pairing as a strategy to groom young actors to become celebrities, as well as the generally young fans supporting these “love teams.”

Beyond the contrivances of developing commodities for the market of “fandoms,” many couples cross over from the “reel” to the “real,” whether by their own volition or through their fans’ imaginations.

“Shipping” is urban slang for the imagined relationSHIPs that fans create between fictional characters or the actors playing these characters in movies, drama serials, and other forms of popular culture.

Powered by the digital media, fan fiction is the fans’ self-created mass-communicated content centering on narratives of the fans’ own imagining.

According to Thomas Baudinette of “The Cambridge Companion to K-pop,” the term “idol shipping culture” does not only suspend conventions or actualities by imagining for instance a homoerotic or homosexual relationship between two real or fictional characters who manifest heterosexual orientations or preferences, but more significantly, exercise agency or the power of the fan to create his or her meanings regardless of the intent of the original writer or creator.

By enabling fans to express emotions or ideas that are not sanctioned or encouraged in society, shipping transforms fandom into a safe space on the digital portal to enable fans to connect with others of similar inclinations.

Analyzing the K-pop fandom in Anglophone societies such as those in the Philippines and Australia, Baudinette noted that these are distinct for using shipping to “overtly deploy LGBT identity politics.”

Identity politics associates certain groups as being marginalized because of their sexuality preferences and thus, are more vulnerable to stigma and oppression from dominant groups in society.

Following Facebook posts about the breakup of KathNiel, as the tandem of Bernardo and Padilla was popularly known, several teachers posted that despite the “national grieving,” they would still be holding classes and exams as scheduled.

Passing no judgment was important for the teachers, who do not look down on “fangirling” as “baduy (low-brow)” or shallow.

To avoid condoning or circulating identity politics, one must refrain from creating or sharing social media posts that reinforce stereotypes or discriminations targeting gender, race, age, and class.

Marj Ramos-Clemente, editor of “Preview” magazine and Head of Content for the Women’s Titles in Summit Media, called out in a Dec. 1 article on Preview.ph the comments made by entertainment columnist Cristy Fermin.

In her YouTube channel, Fermin and fellow hosts body-shamed Bernardo and made other personal attacks, comparing her to another actor gossiped as the third party in the KathNiel split.

Ramos-Clemente questioned the media veteran’s lapses in journalism standards and ethics, highlighting the potential damage Fermin and co-hosts create in audiences who are young and vulnerable to biases that superficially assess a woman based on her physical and sexual “assets,” and pit one woman against other women, using these “standards.”

Given the power of digital media, netizens share the responsibility of the professionals and veterans of legacy media to weigh carefully the possible consequences before circulating one’s content. A culture of raising each other up empowers every person to face and overcome setbacks and challenges, real or virtual.

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