I saw in the news today that fastfood giant McDonald's pulled down their new ad after receiving flak from Church leaders, particularly, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
The advertisement (as shown above) shows a young girl asking a young boy if she is his girlfriend, to which the boy answers, “Ayoko nga. Hindi pa ako ready. Demanding ang mga girlfriend. Gusto ganito, gusto ganyan (I don’t want to. I’m not ready. Girlfriends are demanding. They want this, they want that)."
In a statement from Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, he said that “[the commercial gives] the wrong message to children that it’s all right to enter into courtship, and it could pave the way for the very young to be lax and carefree.". The CBCP, through its spokesperson Father Melvin Castro, said in an interview over Radio Veritas, that the ad must be replaced because "it plays with kids’ emotions and cheapens relationships."
Now, I've watched this commercial for the nth time and everyone would agree that the commercial is really cute. Who wouldn't chuckle at the sight of two kids mirroring in a cute and cheeky way what adults find difficult to talk about? But from a moral perspective, the Church does seem to have a point. A young girl asking a young boy if she is his girlfriend does promote entering into early relationships which the Church finds as a dangerous precedent for young kids. From a gender sensitive perspective, it also connotes that women are demanding when it comes to relationships and that men are afraid of commitments.
But, reading between the lines, the advertisement also sends a more positive point -- a point which I think the Church and other detractors of the commercial seem to be missing out. “Ayoko nga. Hindi pa ako ready. Demanding ang mga girlfriend. Gusto ganito, gusto ganyan." Could it be that the young boy is also promoting physical and emotional readiness before entering a relationship? Could it be sending a message to young kids like them that they shouldn't enter in a relationship when they are not yet ready? Could be. But the point has already been missed and the ad is now off-air.
What complicated the matter for McDonald's is that the storytelling of the advertisement itself is misleading. It wants to impart a good message to kids, but the ending imparts an entirely different one. If the commercial could've ended by showing the two kids, all grown-up and now in a relationship, sharing in a heap of McDo fries, it could've have been a happy ending for the company and for the CBCP. The message they'll be sending therefore is that true love waits. The message would have been entirely consistent if closed in a such a way.
But another interesting matter in this issue is the Church being vocal all of a sudden when it was entirely quiet throughout the recent Janjan Controversy in TV5's Willing Willie variety show. It's also surprising that Church is speaking out against early relationships and yet continues to disapprove the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill, when the latter is also against early relationships through promotion of sexual education. I am aghast at this somewhat double standard on the part of the Church. It's good that the Church spoke in this issue -- and made a point -- but looking back at their stand against the RH Bill, do they really have the credibility to make such point?
In the end, an advertisement, no matter how short, can convey a variety of values to its viewers. As I've said in my previous article, the responsibility of extracting values from what we see on TV does not only lie on the viewers and their parents but on the producers themselves, who must ensure that they are conveying the right message on air. TSS