“The sexualization of children is something that is happening worldwide without really coming to grips with it,” wrote Australian child-protection activist Bernadette McMenamin.
This was cited in an article by Emma Kate Symons in The Australian, a news website based in Australia.
Willing Willie, a variety and game show on TV5, faces huge controversy after Jan Jan‚ a six-year- old boy‚ did a “macho dance” in an March 12 episode of the show. A macho dance is composed of sexual gyrations usually associated with male performers in gay bars.
The host, Willie Revillame, encouraged the child by having him repeat the dance at least five times, and giving the child P10,000 as cash prize. The live audience, which included Willie's lawyer Boy Reyno, cheered.
The episode elicited passionate and angry reactions from private personalities and government functionaries.
At press time, the show has chosen to suspend its airing for two weeks.
Meantime, investigations by the Commission on Human Rights and the Movie Television Review and Classification Board are ongoing.
The issue has gone beyond local shores. Articles in the foreign media have appeared.
The article by Emma Kate Symons in The Australian picked up on the reaction of a gender expert‚ Carina Chotirawe from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University‚ regarding the Willie Revillame issue.
According to Chotirawe‚ having children act in a sexual manner is already a form of child abuse. “Depicting them in a sexualized manner is a form of child abuse and it is very worrying to see children appearing in such lewd ways.”
Chotirawe expressed her opinion directly about the TV5 show: “The Revillame show was despicable. It felt like he was prostituting poverty‚ making the poor pander to him for quick cash fixes‚ as he does on a daily basis‚ and never mind if it entails a kid being sexed up and crying as he [Jan-Jan] does so pitifully.”
Chotirawe went so far to say that Willie has been playing God. “Willie was acting like God‚ dispensing patronage to parents inured to the poverty they see as their lot in life—and if lewdness gets them instant cash‚ then so be it.”
A Washington Post article posted last April 11 also tackled the subject of Willing Willie. It quoted a post by Monique Wilson, who has some presence internationally, having appeared as the female lead in the play Ms. Saigon in London.
The article said, “Philippine-born theater actress Monique Wilson‚ in a widely circulated email carried by local media‚ argued that such TV shows 'dumb down audiences (and) disempower them by creating a mendicant society with game shows that promise quick money.’”
Meantime, Willie Revillame's camp has been arguing that the six-year-old boy came to the studio to audition, chose his own dance, performed it of his own free will, and did so with the express consent of his parents.
The camp has also explained that the boy was crying, not because he was forced to dance in front of an audience, but because he had been frightened earlier by a huge fellow whom the host trotted out just before he performed.
The boy's parents have issued affidavits saying they allowed the boy to dance in the program. They have also sued a psychologist and two bloggers for libel for saying they allowed their child to be abused.