The Exclusion of the Bakla in Philippine Contemporary Cinema

Abstract

This paper explores representations of the bakla (a Filipino gender category that conflates sexual orientation and gender identity through the performance of the four components of effeminacy, cross-dressing, same-sex sexuality, and lower class status) and gay globality (which emphasizes hypermasculinity, desiring sameness, and upper class status) in contemporary Philippine cinema. A multimodal critical discourse analysis of five films makes apparent a subtle exclusion of the more traditional bakla performed by both members of elitist gay cultures (upper class, urban gay men) and heteronormative people. This exclusion can be linked to aspects of social class, normative conceptions of masculinity, and the exercise of male (homo)sexuality. The bakla is often portrayed as a low-income beautician whose economic status denies him entry into urban gay landscapes. Ironically, what little income he has is often shown being spent on sexual dalliances with purportedly straight men. The bakla is also portrayed in manners that resemble western conceptions of transgenderism; cross-dressing and hyperfemininity are part of his standard repertoire – two things which further alienate him from the community at large, which treats his gender-bending as comic relief. This association with feminine aspects codes him as backward and passé, while the hypermasculine gay is considered modern. The root of his social exclusion is perhaps his sexuality, which when directed toward the otherness of the lalake (straight, masculine man) must be policed and controlled through any means necessary, and unequivocally denied when directed toward other gay men.



Author Information
Mikee Inton, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: ACAS2014
Stream: Asian Studies

This paper is part of the ACAS2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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