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Filipinos Love Crazy Rich Asians, Why Not The Real Life Rich?

The internet's beef with the rich, explained.
by Ara Eugenio
Oct 22, 2020

Crazy Rich Asians is the second most streamed title on Netflix this week. Filipinos still love the film about the scandalously wealthy two years after its release. But to the real-life millionaires, especially on social media, extravagant displays are met with vitriol.

What riled Twitter and Facebook during the seven-month-long quarantine? Face masks and bikes with designer logos. Criticism of the working class who can't afford to stay at home because the family needs to be fed.

Why do the real life crazy rich get no love online?

People have different thresholds as to how much display of wealth is offensive or obscene, said Peter Sy, a Philosophy professor at UP Diliman. To those with a socialist view, riches must be distributed evenly. To them, a Chanel logo doesn't belong on a face mask.

"If you're appalled by conspicuous display of wealth, probably you just don't share the 'taste' of the displayer," Sy told reportr

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Social media influencer Cat Arambulo was pilloried by netizens for her Instagram video where she appeared to mock working people who refuse to stay at home. Those who have bills to pay need to go out to earn, dangers of COVID-19 notwithstanding. She apologized for her remarks.

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Actress Heart Evangelista met a similar fate when she donned designer masks and posted them on social media. People are dying from the virus, people said on Twitter, even referencing the execution of Queen Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution.

"I remember thinking, “we are in the middle of a pandemic. People are dying," Twitter user @jubi_lance nicknamed, Ube, said. Evangelista saw the tweet and posted about on Instagram stories. She said she was just happy to share her blessings on social media and did not deserved to be criticized that way. 

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Why is Manny Pacquiao an exception?

Filipinos love Manny Pacquiao, the street vendor who was the world's greatest boxer during his prime. So much so that he's now a senator with an eye on the presidency. He was once a common man. It's the rags-to-riches story that endears people like him to the public, said Samuel Cabbuag, a sociology professor at UP Diliman.

Pacquiao still eats boiled bananas dipped in bagoong on YouTube. However, his wife, Jinkee, was criticized when she posted a picture of their couple Hermes bikes. Actress Agot Isidro asked for her "sensitivity" amid the coronavirus crisis when millions of Filipinos are losing their jobs.

Those who were born to privilege and continue to flaunt it during the pandemic, are seen as "inconsiderate" especially when people are losing their jobs, Cabbuag said. 

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"When you have these images and juxtapose it with what's on the other side, one can easily see the discrepancies in wealth, that really, some are just living the life while others are struggling to live," said Cabbuag.

What's next for 'eat the rich'?

But while extreme views like "guillotine" or "eat the rich" are normalized on social media, the more accepted view remains that the rich should instead use their privilege for the common good. 

"It could well be that those who flaunt their wealth just do not know how to truly use it or do not really understand the meaning of wealth," said Sy, the philosphy teacher.

In a country of 100 million where some 9 in 10 live below the poverty line, the internet can really be a cruel place for those whose display of wealth highlights what others lack. 

"One needs to be aware of such privilege especially for those who are not aware that they are using such privilege and putting it all on hard work. This is why the responsibility of influencers (including social media influencers) is big as they are the ones who are always in the spotlight and many young people are looking up to them and following in their footsteps," Cabbuag said. 

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