Pinoy baiting – the practice of foreigners exploiting Filipino culture for easy views – has long plagued YouTube. But the release of new clickbait prey reveals these creators’ persistence. With Michelle Dee now competing in Miss Universe 2023, pinoy baiting has found its next target.
This “react genre” initially ensnared Filipino audiences by dramatically exaggerating responses to staples like adobo or halo-halo. Now Dee receives the same treatment as creators who leverage her global spotlight. Though subtly disguised as cross-cultural connections, the underlying motives remain profit and clout above respectful representation.
Tropes over context
Pinoy baiting broadly refers to the amplification of Filipino cultural elements into shocking spectacles for foreign consumption. Mundane aspects of local pop culture, cuisine, and slang get reframed as bewildering exotica. This frequent lack of context serves up tropes over nuance.
For example, films of chicken adobo tastings get portrayed as alien cuisine to entertain viewers. Meanwhile, the dish’s historical significance as a fusion comfort food gets ignored.
This pattern continues as Dee becomes clickbait fodder. Interview clips turn into shareable soundbites, devoid of a wider perspective. Her earnest comments transform into provocative captions and thumbnails.
Ultimately, click-chasing leaves no room for nuance. Participating respectfully in Miss Universe as a Filipina gives way to meme reactions for content filler. Like adobo, her deeper values melt into hot takes.
Short-term gain or long-term strain?
At first, this strategy seems harmless, even beneficial – views and subscribers grow as creators purportedly promote Filipino culture internationally through reactions. Their blend of shock and awe arouses intense curiosity.
But in the long run, relying on cultural exaggeration risks straining relationships. As tropes dominate over authenticity, representations become more akin to caricatures. People known for kinship and hospitality feel reduced to commodities.
Additionally, continually signal-boosting surface exaggerations may prevent earnest mutual understanding. If global viewers never move past initial shock value to engage meaningfully, progress stalls.
Unbalanced incentives driving clickbait culture
There are compelling incentives driving pinoy baiting’s prevalence that cannot be ignored. In the influencer age, views equate to influence, popularity, and concrete revenue. When outrage and exaggeration drive profits, creators react accordingly, even if unconsciously.
Likewise, novelty and exaggeration provide momentary thrills that generate shares and comments. For creators and consumers alike, the cycle becomes addictive once it captures attention.
However, thoughtful voices on both sides can push back by emphasising truth over tropes, even at perceived short-term cost. Seeking authenticity and balance provides meaning beyond each click. Progress happens gradually.
While pinoy baiting persists and mutates into new forms like Michelle Dee, conscientious digital citizens still have power – the power of the click. If we demand increased understanding over ongoing exploitation, the story does not have to end with adobo.
But change requires vigilance and sacrifice. As long as hollow engagement thrives, depth suffers.
Pinoy baiting throughout the years
Looking back, pinoy baiting emerged years ago but has constantly shifted forms. In the 2000s, exaggerated reactions focused on halo-halo as a bewildering dessert. Then balut became a clickbait favourite as a “crazy Filipino egg”.
But chicken adobo rose to prominence as the ultimate Filipino-baiting jackpot. As a pop culture touchstone, adobo allowed maximum exaggeration. Creators could use the shock factor while also demonstrating “knowledge” of an iconic dish.
Now, in 2023, the hype machine turns to Michelle Dee as the next culturally-symbolic click factory. But the playbook remains the same: latch on to symbols of Filipino identity and transform them into shareable hype devoid of context. Rinse, repeat, and monetise.
From memes to meaning
These trends spotlight social media’s tightrope tension between nuance and clickbait. Short attention spans incentivize tropes and exaggeration. But gradual resonance arises when creators and communities prioritise depth, even at perceived superficial costs.
Platforms like YouTube will keep rewarding flashy exaggerations in their algorithmic quest for “engagement”. But conscientious digital citizens can nonetheless demand more responsible storytelling simply by shifting their own clicks, comments, and shares. The road is long, but worth walking.
Michelle Dee herself exemplifies graceful navigation of this tightrope – embracing heritage while avoiding tropes. She resists becoming a meme, even as others memeify her. Perhaps her demonstration can enlighten other representations.
There are no perfect solutions in the social media economy, where creators fight for ever-fleeting attention. But vigilance and care allow humanity to emerge between cultures, if we let it.
Bridging divides in the digital age
While the lure of tropes persists, hope lives for digital media that enlightens more than exploits. Platforms that dissipate division rather than widen it for quick clicks. Progress inches along when even a few receptive minds expand – both creators and consumers alike.
The road ahead remains long. But conscientious voices can gradually demand increased resonance over reactivity and empathy over exaggeration. The story always contains more chapters, as long as we turn the page.
Perhaps with vigilance, the Michelle Dee chapter can close with mutual understanding instead of memedom. Only time will tell where the pinoy-baiting chameleon strikes next. But through thoughtful clicks and caring courage, we can steer culture towards connection over exploitation.
Stephen Mariano is a passionate Filipino content creator seeking to connect cultures through thoughtful digital media.