Rick Grimes parks the truck at a makeshift camp in the middle of the forest outside Atlanta. He comes out of the truck; three buttons of his uniform unbuttoned from the heat and exhaustion escaping the walkers from the city. His heart hasn’t stopped racing. He has yet to find any hint of his wife and son. If he’s ever going to see them again, this place would be it.
Then he hears a voice. A child shouting…
He looks up and he sees his family, Carl and Lori.
“Carl!” he shouts in return as he run towards them, devoid of his southern drawl.
“Akala ko napano na kayo.”
And then I thought, “Dem, kulang na lang yung ‘Wag Ka Nang Umiiyak’ ni Gary Valenciano.”
That is an actual scene from The Walking Dead currently airing on TV5. These last few months, TV5 has made a strong push introducing dubbed US TV shows like Supernatural, and Arrow and possibly, The Flash and Scandal to free local TV. It’s a tried and tested formula from the early 90s that has been generally received positively.
However, this may not ring true with the new wave of dubbed shows as some Filipinos on the internet are rolling their eyes with disapproval. Common complaints on these dubbed shows involve watering down a show’s authenticity (i.e. “may mga bagay na hindi matatranslate into Filipino!”), quality (i.e. “ang panget ng boses ni Rick!”) , and perceived prestige (i.e. “dubbed in Filipino? Jologs amputa”). Although some of these arguments are valid (perceived prestige as a reason is just yuck), I believe that dubbed shows are a necessary step in enriching and educating the Filipino viewer.
Before we were all so proud of consuming Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and The Walking Dead, back in the 90s and 2000s, we all tuned in to local TV networks. Cable TV wasn’t as accessible to the common Filipino as it is today. But surprisingly, primetime line-ups of networks were far more diverse compared to now. After the 6pm news, you can choose to whether watch Japanese anime, or Latin American or Filipino telenovelas. Then after primetime (around 9 – 9:30pm), networks served weekly Filipino comedy shows. A few years afterwards, when the F4 fever hit our country, Chinovelas (and eventually Koreanovelas) invaded late afternoons and late nights. As with everything with our childhood, these early shows built the founding definitions of what we believe is entertainment.
These shows presented to us the potentials and limits of what TV can be. Japanese anime showed us that animated shows can mean more than the slapstick humor we can find in American cartoons like Tom & Jerry or Looney Tunes. Latin American telenovelas laid down the groundwork for the tropes and storytelling devices networks use in our local teleseryes (e.g. rich guy-poor girl, amnesia). Chinovelas and Koreanovelas taught us that TV shows can run 26 episodes or less and still feel complete and engrossing.
And if that wasn’t enough, these shows also became our gateway to other forms of entertainment. The surge of Asian pop music (Japanese, Chinese or Korean) had their roots in early asianovelas.
Nothing rings truer than what Nelson Mandela once said, “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.” These TV shows had so much impact on us because they were dubbed in Filipino. It made things easier to understand than just using subtitles. Subtitles would have been a two-step process: reading and then comprehending—that's brainwork. On the other hand, understanding dubbing is pretty straightforward. Sure, there are things lost in translating (a criticism of dubbed anime) but at least dubbing makes it easier for the common Filipino to understand what they’re watching. Communication is much more personal when it is in your native tongue. Kapag Filipino, mas tagos.
So what is it with this new wave of foreign shows that deserve disdain from the same people that grew up watching dubbed foreign shows? Is it because these shows are in English, a language that is believed to be understood and spoken by most Filipinos? Real talk: it’s lofty to assume that all Filipinos would be able to comprehend English. More so, when colloquial English is used in TV shows rather than textbook English. Distinctive American language expressions such accents (like Rick’s southern drawl), idioms, figures of speech and slang aren’t part of the English lessons taught in public schools.
And really why should we even care? We're not even the intended audience of these dubbed shows? Dubbed Walking Dead is for those who don’t have the capacity or means to stream or download The Walking Dead. It’s for those without access to the same-time airing of Walking Dead on the Fox cable channel. Dubbed Walking Dead is for the broad majority of Filipinos--the masa. Is it such a problem for us that US shows are "masa-fied"? Why wouldn't we want more people enjoy the same entertainment that we enjoy?
Instead of judging this initiative by local TV networks (ABS-CBN a few months ago released a dubbed version of Jane The Virgin) I encourage everyone to support it. These western dubbed shows are helping a new generation of Filipinos broaden and enrich their definition of entertainment; much like how the Voltes Vs, the Maria La Del Barrios and Endless Loves of our childhood opened our eyes more than a decade ago. If you know someone who honestly loves watching these shows, it’s better to engage with them rather than ridicule them. Help them deepen their understanding of Dubbed Walking Dead, Dubbed Arrow or Dubbed Supernatural. In the end, when more Filipinos have a broader and deeper understanding of entertainment, the more we become critical of our local TV shows—the more pressure for local networks to create quality entertainment.