In 2014's That Thing Called Tadhana, a sarcastic JM De Guzman, asked Angelica Panganiban's character why John Lloyd Cruz's appeals so much to women. Angelica, while starry-eyed, gave a comprehensive answer:
Si John Lloyd kasi para siyang hindi artista, para siyang normal lang na tao. Parang pwede mo siyang maging kaibigan. Parang pwede ka niyang mahalin ng buong-buo. hindi ka niya lolokohin. Hindi ka niya paiiyakin. Siya ang iiyak para sa 'yo.
I agree with Angelica's first statement. We've already discussed in our podcast on how his seemingly un-matinee idol looks make him easily relatable and an attainable ideal for males. I also agree that JLC's always willing to show his love, no matter how creepy or romantic his gestures are. However, she needs to backpedal a bit on the whole "hindi ka niya paiiyakin" thing. Being the current girlfriend of JLC, she must be pertaining to the REAL JLC than REEL JLC. Because quite frankly, REEL JLC turns out to be a douche.
I've first noticed it in his iconic role as Popoy in One More Chance. He was controlling and possessive in the relationship but in the end, it was Basha (Bea) who practically begged Popoy to take her back.
Then I noticed the same pattern in his film with Toni Gonzaga- My Amnesia Girl. Apollo (JLC), left Irene (Toni) at the altar without any explanation. They meet again after a few years and it seemed like Apollo is still interested. To guard her heart, Irene faked having amnesia. She stood her ground for quite some time but the film ended with Irene having to take care of an amnesia-stricken JLC.
From those two examples, it seemed like John Lloyd's characters were so charismatic/persuasive that even if he treated his female leads awfully, he still won their hearts in the end.
I went back to his other romantic films from 2003's Now That I Have Found You to 2013's It Takes A Man And A Woman to check my hunch:
Out of all his main romance films, the JLC Charisma Hypothesis came true in eight of JLC's ten films. You can't consider eight out of ten as just some coincidence. Eighty percent is a good enough chance for me to bet that he'll do this again in A Second Chance and he'll still get Bea in the end.
It's not unusual in romance films that the pursued, after a grand epiphany, realizes his/her mistake and attempts a last ditch effort to get back together with his/her pursuer; often at some transportation terminal ('cos you know, moving on and stuff). What made JLC's situations different was how grave his offences were. Leaving your one and only love AFTER you popped the question because you suddenly weren't sure? That's nasty! Being overly possessive and controlling? That's nasty! Disrupting your girl's stable life in Malaysia after you left her hanging in the Philippines? that's nasty! But no matter how awful his actions were, his female lead often surrenders and decides to be with John Lloyd. Is it some kind of magic? Why do audiences find nothing wrong with it? And why do guys, including me, give props to John Lloyd? Is John Lloyd secretly Kilgrave?
To understand how he does it, we need to assess the background of the characters he plays
WHY THE FREE PASS?
Let's take a look at the characters he played in the films the JLC Charisma Hypothesis held true:
In general, it seems that his characters are often emotionally dependent- their self-worth tied to the approval of other people, usually of his romantic interest or parent. It's as if he can't function properly when he's not pining for someone.
Don't believe me? Let's take a look at his work performance in these films:
Two things we can get from this table:
- He can't work properly if he has issues with his love life
- He only works well when he works with his love interest
Note: Based on the A Second Chance teaser they released three months ago, it seems like Popoy still sucks at doing his job. In the verge of losing the only client they have. lol
So what's wrong with being emotionally dependent? Isn't that romantic? That his life is a mess without his love? Romantic? definitely. Realistic? not quite. Do you seriously want to be the guy or be with a guy who doesn't have a definite sense of self? A person with a volatile ego that can explode any moment? A person you can't breakup with because you'll feel guilty because you know he'll be devastated by it. Then you'll realize that you're being kept hostage in a relationship that you're not happy with anymore. JLC's characters are usually a whisker away from being the crazy-ex. No one in their right mind would provoke a Derek Ramsey in peak physique to a fist fight. NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WILL KEEP YOU FROM ENJOYING FRIED CHICKEN SKIN.
That's JLC's con right there. He'll shower you with grand gestures and kilig one-liners. He'll tell you that he's ready to take things to the next level. But once you decline, he cries and whimpers. And then you'll eventually agree with his offer because fuck, you're a good person and it's uncomfortable for you to make another person feel like crap. Like a grandmother who stuffs you with so much food, but once you refuse the next serving, acts like she's hurt and subtly forces you to have another serving.
BUT WHY DOES HE STILL GET AWAY WITH IT? WHY DO WE STILL ROOT FOR JLC?
You have the writers to thank for that. They've been using a narrative device as old as The Bible. To make JLC's characters more compelling, they're often pitted against bigger adversaries. Don't believe me? Here's another table to show proof!
With this in play, the narrative then looks like:
- JLC likes a girl
- Girl isn't interested because she has someone else or just not into JLC
- JLC then proves his love, adversary surrenders
- JLC wins and gets the girl's heart as a reward
That's why it's understandable why JLC resonates with male teenagers. JLC in his films portrays a regular guy, a guy not exceptionally good-looking but has the most golden of intentions. Regardless of his odds, he's still determined to win the girl's heart. When you're a male teenager going through all the physical, mental and sexual changes that come with adolescence, that narrative speaks so much to you.
And another, he makes full advantage of the traditional belief of ligaw; that he should be a rewarded by your love because he's invested so much on you. Ligaw still happens. On The Wings Of Love had a month-long story arc on that with James Reid proving to Nadine's father that he deserves his approval. Ligaw is well in-good, but do remember what's more important is to fully know and understand the other person first before going into a relationship.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER? JLC'S POST-LIGAW PERFORMANCE
This wouldn't be a grave of an issue if he lived up to his pitch after the ligaw. But if we take a look at his relationships with the non-lead females, his standing isn't quite bright:
- In One More Chance, became a controlling boyfriend to Bea. Practically used Maja to forget Bea. He wasn't as controlling but he broke it off in the most awful and awkward way possible.
- In Miss You Like Crazy, instead of working out his growing dissatisfaction with his relationship with Maricar Reyes like an adult, he spontaneously demanded to breakup with her after realizing he's projecting his Manic Pixie Dream Girl thoughts on Bea Alonzo.
- In It Takes A Man And A Woman, Isabel Daza willingly let herself be used as a security blanket after JLC's life crumbled while Sarah was abroad. He then left Isabel Daza when he realized he still had feelings for Sarah.
What we're seeing here is that JLC's good at proposing a deal but not fulfilling the contract. It's all about the chase. A thrill seeker looking for the next new girl to 'invest his life in'. Adding insult to injury, Star Cinema, the people responsible for JLC's characters and movies coined the term NaBasha. Feeling special ka pa rin ba?
Oh and just going back to Angelica's hindi ka paiiyakin claim, ALL of JLC's leads cried because of the emotional crisis he put them in.
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US?
Honestly, when I first noticed this, I was just surprised that their was a pattern. A good conversation topic when I'm out with my friends. But after sinking my teeth into all his films and analyzing the data, two things came to mind:
- Kids who haven't have a firsthand experience of love would vicariously learn about it from media. Hence, it's best practice to always have a critical stance on media. And what I have found out, JLC's films have a passive perspective of women. Women are challenges he must overcome. They're hostages to John Lloyd's characters. That's why, in my opinion, out of all of the films, The Mistress, had the best ending. Bea's character didn't take JLC's shit sitting down. John Lloyd made Bea feel like she didn't owe his father anything and should choose to be with him instead. Bea wasn't frazzled by this forced binary pair question. Instead of choosing JLC or his dad, Bea chose to be independent. She knew being with John Lloyd would just complicate rather than simplify things. Of course JLC, not losing easily, tried a last ditch move of sentimentality and Bea successfully fought it. Considering all the things that happened between Bea and JLC in that movie, the ending felt grounded and logical.
- A call for better writing. We've had years of films that focus on the thrill of the chase. We've had a bajillion of films fantasizing, idealizing and romanticizing love. The focus on the grand gestures and the one-liners but bereft of characterization. Hence, no matter how entertaining the story is, it's still not grounded enough. Don't get me wrong, I still admire John Lloyd Cruz as an actor. He has acting chops that hasn't been replicated by any other matinee idol so far. I just hope he just demands more in the roles that he plays.