Sovereignty of Hope

Ms. Soberano, by releasing that vlog, simply announced to the whole world her epiphany after years of living as other people’s puppet.

Out of curiosity, I watched young actress Liza Soberano’s viral vlog, “This Is Me,” where she speaks of finding herself and her personal and artistic freedom after ten years of being under contract with Star Magic, the artist management group of ABS-CBN. After having criticized her many times in the past for her “woke” support of everything Yellow/Pink, I was deeply impressed by her 14-minute video.

Being a newcomer to the entertainment industry as an independent filmmaker, I was genuinely happy for her.

I watched the video again after it created a firestorm, after violent reactions from some executives of ABS-CBN, coworkers in the industry, particularly a chronically obnoxious creature called Ogie Diaz, her former manager. The divine Ms. Soberano was branded an ingrate, misguided and her refusal to renew her contract with Star Magic was called a monstrous mistake.

Rewatching the vlog, I saw nothing of the sort. Here was a young woman speaking with an intelligence beyond her years, baring her soul about her trials, triumphs, and regrets in a most diplomatic and circumspect manner. Far from being ungrateful, she expressed her gratitude to her former management (Star Magic and Diaz) but said that, at her age, she wanted to be her own woman, personally and artistically, and that she had found potential for this with her new management team.

The brickbats flew thick and fast. Diaz, who must have felt alluded to when Liza mentioned some woes about not being allowed to have her own identity in the decade that she was under his wing, made coarse references to her having been given a concessional loan by Star Magic so she could build her house as if that was done out of the goodness of her manager’s heart. But of course, she had to pay for it out of her earnings, being practically an indentured servant of Star Magic for ten long years, working (as she says) almost continuously in all that time, losing her childhood, among other things, in the process. Diaz’s mosquito brain is not supposed to know the concept of debt slavery, but having earned oodles of money from commissions taken out of Liza’s paychecks (40 percent is the usual rate), he has no moral authority to upbraid her about money that one has worked hard for. Managers such as Diaz do not do ten percent of the work done by their artists but get a third of their wages.

This scenario is nothing new in showbiz, to be sure. In fact, as early as the 1920s, a group of great American actors such as Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Buster Keaton and legendary director D.W. Griffith banded together to buck the system of the big studios that emasculated their artistic freedoms to put up United Artists, the first production company owned and operated by actors themselves. Freed, it produced such iconic movies as “City Lights,” 12 Angry Men”, “The Magnificent Seven,” The Gold Rush,” The General,” “Some Like It Hot” and “West Side Story,” among many others.

Ms. Soberano, by releasing that vlog, simply announced to the whole world her epiphany after years of living as other people’s puppet. In that, she should be praised, rather than vilified. In so doing, however, she had embarrassed anentire organization that has thrived on full personal and artistic control, and that treats talents as commodities to be exploited, rather than as human beings and artists.

Let Ms. Soberano be! The significance of her choice to henceforth use her real first name “Hope,” rather than the contrived “Liza” manufactured for her by her previous studio, is deeply symbolic as well as cathartic. She is entitled to her sovereignty, in the sense of being independent. Those who stand in her way are hopeless.

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