TL;DR: Kwentong Jollibee video “Vow” isn’t romantic, it’s toxic.
Social media erupted yesterday and still hasn’t recovered. Jollibee released three short videos specifically designed to tug at heartstrings, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Titled “Vow,” “Crush,” and “Date,” these videos were emotional manipulation at its finest. The ad agency should be proud. I’m not being sarcastic; that’s award-winning stuff. One of the videos, however, also serves viewers a side of the very toxic ‘nice guy syndrome’ to go along with the hugot.
I’m talking about “Vow,” the first video in the series, which features a guy doing a monologue about the girl he loves, starting from the day he met her to all the times he’s sacrificed his time, emotions, and resources for her, up until he watches her walk down the aisle to be wed to another man. To her, he is her best friend, but to him, she is the love of his life.
The point is that the main dude pining for his best friend isn’t a hopeless romantic, he’s a toxic idiot.
I asked two people, a gay man in a relationship and a married straight woman, what they thought of the video and people’s reaction to it.
“The wedding and friendship montages were beautifully shot to deliver maximum misty-eyed wedding feels. Not my thing, but hey, it's Valentine's! I didn't think the storyline was a huge deal at first—I mean we don't know if they are best friends by choice or not. Love isn't only romantic, maybe they are fine with this arrangement,” says Corina Pettyjohn, an ESL teacher.
Ian Carandang, gay rights activist and owner of Sebastian’s Ice Cream, disagrees. “This (is) Toxic Nice Guy syndrome hitting critical mass (a commercial on Valentine's day by the most popular fast food chain in the country). And [as] Filipinos [we're] going to eat this up,” he says.
According to geekfeminism.com, “the terms Nice Guy™ and Nice Guy syndrome are used to describe men who view themselves as prototypical ‘nice guys,’ but whose ‘nice deeds’ are in reality only motivated by attempts to passively please women into a relationship and/or sex.
If you think that taking the definition from a feminist website is too biased an opinion, please know that I did it to spare you what was written on the more hip urbandictionary.com’s definition:
“An annoying mental condition in which a heterosexual man concocts oversimplified ideas why women aren’t flocking to him in droves. Typically this male will whine and complain about how women never want to date them because he is 'too nice' or that he is average in appearance. He often targets a woman who is already in a relationship; misrepresenting his intentions of wanting to be her friend and having the expectation that he is owed more than friendship because he is such a good listener. He is prone to brooding over this and passive aggressive behavior.”
See? The feminists were being gentle.
What interested me is that a lot of the status messages that showed up on the feeds of straight men painted the guy’s love interest as the real villain.
A meme (that I am guilty of posting) even went as far as comparing her to Assistant to the US President and Chief Strategist Steve Bannon with the caption “The new faces of evil.”
And though there aren’t enough of them to overcome the overwhelming flood of #hugot, some people, including Ian and Corinna, have voiced their disappointment over the values that the ad promote.
“He was an idiot. He met this girl he was instantly infatuated with and NEVER told her how he felt, even as he watched her get courted by someone else, fall in love, get engaged, and get married and never ONCE took the risk to tell her how he felt,” Ian says. “[Or maybe] he DID tell her, she turned him down, and he STILL has these feelings for her, and so now it's no longer about her happiness but what HE wants, which makes him creepy.”
He adds, “He’s very presumptuous and arrogant to consider himself her Best Friend because her ACTUAL best friend is the Man she is marrying. He may not accept or realize it but there are sides of her (not talking about sex) that she has shown her husband that she has NEVER shown him, and never will.
“The look in his eyes in the final shot which was anything but platonic tells of COUNTLESS nights of his friends trying to talk sense into him a thousand different ways on how he should let her go and move on for his sake but he always goes ‘But.... I love her!’ I have both been AND consoled That Guy so it's all very familiar to me.”
Corinna takes a softer, but similar stance. “I don't have a problem with the way the guy behaved IF HE WERE OKAY WITH THIS ARRANGEMENT. BUT if he wanted or expected something else, he should have let her know (who knows, maybe he did, maybe they ultimately agreed to be friends?)”
Both noticed the amount of straight guys putting the blame on the bride on social media.
“My problem with the ad started when I saw all the reactions, mostly from dudes whining about being friendzoned by evil user women,” Corinna says. “My reaction… was ‘What, so we can't have friends of the opposite sex, because one of them might secretly be in love with us? And if we assume that they are, then OMG your ego?’”
Ian echoes this:
“Very telling about how casually sexist we are as a society. If the girl is nice, she's stringing him along. If she rejects him and doesn't encourage him so as to push him away, she's a bitch. If she doesn't realize how he feels, she's self centered and oblivious. If she suspects, she is feelingera. The girl simply cannot win in this scenario.”
“My husband and I DID start out as friends,” Corinna says. “One day, I decided it might be fun to flirt with him and I did. But because of this we have always been very honest with each other emotionally, and we don't use jealousy as a ‘cute’ way to flirt. So we do have friends of the opposite sex, this is not a problem. This is also why I have little patience for the ‘friendzone’ narrative. What's so bad about being friends anyway? And if you don't want to be friends with someone, (whether because you have other ideas or because they are just not nice people who use us for whatever reason), there is no reason to remain friends with them.”
A straight guy who requested he not be named explained that his gut reaction was to blame the bride because it felt similar to a past experience of him being told ‘no’ but still being led on anyway. He says he was bitter for a long time, although he learned from the experience and the second time it happened, he was smart enough to NopeNopeNope his way out of toxic city.
The conversation made me realize that if this is where a lot of straight men are coming from—from past wannabe relationships where they were told ‘no’ and actively flirted anyway after (being told ‘no’ but continuing to pine away anyway is another story)—then no wonder their reaction was so visceral. And in instances like that, yes, it is the manipulator’s fault.
Straight man’s wife, who agrees that the bride’s last look was one of ‘sorry,’ and hence, reeked of at least some emotional manipulation, made an even more interesting comment: that in the videos, it’s always the guy chasing the girl.
Isn’t it 2017? Why do guys still have to do all the chasing?
I realize that we’re putting a lot of meaning into a three-minute video, which is exactly what Jollibee and its ad people want. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that the videos, as successfully heart-wrenching as they may be, push stereotypical gender roles, and not for the better. As the straight guy observed, “Those Jollibee ads create a dialogue about a topic that we should have moved on from already. Given the more progressive stories coming out now, putting men and women in those two roles should be stopped.”
Enough of the hugot, guys. Move on na.