The Subversive Mr. Suabe: Representations/Constructions of Masculinity in Pinoy Rock Music
October 12, 2010 by reefer
(a conference paper presented during the “Gender and Sexuality in Popular Culture” conference at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in September 4-6, 2007)
This paper provides a postcolonial, semiotic, and textual analysis of constructions and representations of masculinity in selected Pinoy Rock novelty songs that recently gained mainstream popularity in the Philippines. It explores the subversive quality of the self-deprecating humor that makes these songs reflections of distinct Pinoy popular sensibilities. Following the tradition of Pinoy popular novelty ballads and folksongs dating back to the ´70s, these rock songs that are mostly cultural productions of male-dominated bands, employ humor to soften the edge of gender distinctions in the guise of negotiation, resistance, and indirect confrontations of imposed masculine cultural norms. Paradoxically, these subtle attempts at blurring the gender boundaries have constructed a variety of recurrent masculine categories, such as the Casanova, the torpe or emasculated male, the romantico, and the gullible straight man who gets duped by a homosexual, among others. These categories, in a way, validate existing Philippine gender constructs. This paper also illustrates that these songs, using the element of humor, also conceal or mask serious issues of anti-gay and sexist sensibilities even as it renders these issues as seemingly trivial. Such masking can function as a tool to further construct definitions of masculinity and, as a result, perpetuate the marginalization of other genders as well as challenge gender distinctions in Pinoy Rock music.