Petersen Vargas’ Hanging Out

 

Middle-class, millennial Philippines at its best.

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After stumbling across a random (but cute) dude’s party, David (Paulito Del Mundo) realizes that no, this is not the apartment of his Grindr hookup. (At least it’s not an orgy, either.) Plans canceled for the evening, David’s more than ready to go home; but random-birthday-boy’s friends are apologizing and urging him to tag along for the celebration, and what’s more, random-birthday-boy-Adrian (Jox Gonzales) himself is asking him to stay. Sige na lang, David figures. What harm could it do?

_ _ _

So goes the plot of the first episode.

This web series is very much character-driven, and cool and quiet David’s slow-burn blossoming relationship with kind-hearted and friendly Adrian is a joy to watch. Their hesitance around each other is not caused by external factors, like a socioeconomic gap or the teleseryes trope favorite, a controlling mother. There’s no convoluted miscommunication either that, if only it got cleared up, they both would be blissfully happy. It simply stems from that, in their own ways, both aren’t ready. They expect different things from each other at first. David doesn’t understand how to warm up to people in general. Adrian isn’t quite willing to take a risk yet on someone who’s emotionally unavailable. Character development was required for them to grow to a point where romance was even possible.

My absolute favorite part of the series wasn’t said romance, though.

‘Cause here’s the thing. It would have been so easy for the characters to fall into that sweet but cliché rom-com plot trap of codependency. Mysterious Person™ finds Manic Pixie™ to talk and open up to; Mysterious Person™ and Manic Pixie™ dive into a happy relationship (unless one of them dies of cancer) and rely on one another for validation and support and blah blah blah 100% of the time. Again, it’s cute, but it’s been done before, and in my opinion not a very healthy narrative.

Hanging Out knows this and subverts it. The drive for David’s character development doesn’t come from Adrian. It’s from Adrian’s barkada; the colorful cast of characters who’d dragged David into the apartment in the first place, who’d yanked the stiff and uneasy protagonist into a happy and loving and caring environment that he doesn’t quite know what to do with, at first, but can’t help but react to. The series acts with friendship as a baseline, and uses that rather than romance in examination of the adult themes of trust and growing apart and being there for one another and resolving conflicts. It’s this that remains the backbone of what helps Adrian and David grow, and I’ve seen that so, so rarely.

I suppose it’s also nice to be able to see the Philippines in the perspective I’m in. The series is very obviously directed to the progressive, upper/middle class. All the characters are well off. There are LGBTQ themes that are non-stereotypical and go beyond families graciously accepting you, and I love that.

There’s the teensy, cynical part of me that raises an eyebrow. Cute fantasy land, she says, but it’s not an accurate representation. You live in a place with so many people stricken by poverty. Acceptance of the LGBTQ community is partly stifled by the grip of conservative Catholicism. Or if it is accurate for some people, then only that lucky, privileged few; and in turning the camera towards them, isn’t there an ethical issue that they’re ignoring everyone else?

[Maybe that’s the director’s point? I argue back to myself in a small voice. Maybe he just doesn’t to tell that story. Maybe he wanted to show what we all could be.]

So okay. There’s so much negativity to be said about blotting out the social realities of the Philippines, which this web series kind of does sometimes, and limiting the viewer’s eyes to the privileged group that only has to deal with ‘first world problems’. But. Well. I am part of the progressive middle class this series is aimed at, and aside from it being truly entertaining, it was just so nice to see Filipino media that was personally heartwarming and relatable; especially since so much of Filipino media I consume makes me feel like an alien trying to navigate volatile terrain. This series grounded me, and I appreciate it for that.

Comm major bonus: It was beautifully shot and did well in its choices for OPM songs. 😀

To conclude, this was a fascinating and enjoyable series that would not feel very out of place on Netflix. My only criticism is that it somewhat (and probably unintentionally) blindsides you. Also the subtitles. The subtitles suck.

Other than that it was a humorous and sweet look at being a Millennial in the Philippines, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has time to watch a lovely story unfold in twelve-minute spurts. Watch it now here:

 

[Cover image from www.psst.ph]

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