Believe it or not, we still see "blackface" and "brownface" on Philippine TV, especially when it comes to stories about indigenous Aeta groups. In 2018, a Maalaala Mo Kaya episode called "Equal Rights" featuring the life of Aeta Norman King gained backlash after it starred fair-skinned actors with makeup to make them appear darker. In 2019, ANOTHER MMK episode called "Busilak Na Korona" did the same thing. Blackface has also been used in Filipino variety shows and teleseryes like Bubble Gang, Your Face Sounds Familiar, and Nita Negrita.
In case you know someone who needs a reminder, blackface is not just about makeup. According to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, blackface traces its roots to Minstrelsy in the 1800s, where white actors would put on "comedic performances of 'blackness' in exaggerated costumes and makeup." These skits portrayed African Americans as "lazy, ignorant, superstitious, hypersexual, and prone to thievery and cowardice."
More recently, an upcoming Viva Films project called Gluta gained backlash on social media because it stars Ella Cruz as "an indigenous Aeta who has always dreamed of being a beauty titlist despite all the discouragements and ridicule she's been getting because of her dark skin." When asked if he considered casting an Aeta instead of having the actress darkened for the role, Gluta's director said: "Political correctness is b*s*. If people will say that I'm problematic for making Ella as a black person, then that's their opinion, I won't consider that as a fact."
Many people on social media pointed out that if creators really want to tell inspiring + empowering stories, they should cast dark-skinned actors for dark-skinned roles. In the PH showbiz industry, sadly, it still seems like actors with brown and darker skin are not given enough opportunities.
In a TikTok video called "Colorism In Showbiz," content creator and Morena The Label founder Ayn Bernos addressed the ~trend~ of darkening an actor's skin for the sake of a role. (Merriam Webster defines colorism as "prejudice or discrimination especially within a racial or ethnic group favoring people with lighter skin over those with darker skin.")
Ayn shares: "Sa tuwing mayroon tayong empowering story ng isang maitim na tao, hindi ko maintindihan bakit ang kinukuha nating artista para sa role ay kailangan pang paitimin. Bakit hindi nalang tayo humanap ng maiitim na tao na kayang umarte? Bakit hindi sila bigyan ng pagkakataon? Nakakalungkot lang kasi na sobrang daming gluta endorsers sa showbiz industry. Yung mga artista, ang dami, puro mapuputi. Tapos yung kakatiting na opportunity na mayroong maitim sa TV screen, maputi pa rin yung kina-cast. Tapos pinapaitim lang ng makeup. Bakit naman ganoon? Hindi po trend ang kulay ng balat."
Ayn clarified that she doesn't aim to spread hate towards actress Ella Cruz: "Alam ko trabaho lang 'to and she did the role."
In a follow-up video, Ayn added: "Philippine showbiz be like: 'Brown is beautiful!' Sige nga, mag-cast kayo ng mga Aeta para sa Aeta roles. Sige nga, ilang maiitim na artista ang binibida ninyo?"