After her impassioned May 8 statement, Chiu's likeness has been multiplied into memes, her quote spliced, transformed into beats. Photo from @chinitaprincess on Instagram. Art by Mia Villareal.
Culture Spotlight

OPINION: The celebrification of Kim Chiu and the unstoppable force that is “Bawal Lumabas”

The Kapamilya actress’s May 8 Facebook Live statement has brought her fame and influence to a different plane altogether. And media scholars have a name for it. By EVELYN O. KATIGBAK
ANCX | May 18 2020

Whatever your stand is on the Cease and Desist Order (CDO) issued against ABS-CBN, over the past week, you have probably deliberately looked at a meme or watched a TikTok or music video about the “Law of Classroom” or “Bawal Lumabas” statement of Kim Chiu.

Chiu was one of the ABS-CBN actors who appeared on May 8 at the Laban Kapamilya Facebook Live, a campaign to support the network that shut down, following the CDO issued by the government through the National Telecommunications Commission.

An excerpt of Chiu’s statement has since gone viral: “Sa classroom may batas. Bawal lumabas. O bawal lumabas. Pero ‘pag sinabi, ‘pag nagcomply ka na bawal lumabas, pero may ginawa ka sa pinagbabawal nila, inayos mo yung law ng classroom niyo at sinubmit mo ulit, ay pwede na pala ikaw lumabas.”

Delivering her impassioned statement via the Laban Kapamilya Facebook Live last May 8.

The excerpt’s notorious popularity was triggered by trolls who coined its title, “Law of Classroom.” In one of the first memes created just hours after the Facebook Live, Chiu’s “Law of Classroom” was juxtaposed to Albert Einstein’s “Law of Relativity,” Charles Darwin’s “Law of Evolution,” and Isaac Newton’s “Law of Gravity.” The intention was clearly as it was, to troll. It was malicious as it was obviously an effort to humiliate and harass Chiu.

(This particular meme, smart-shaming Chiu for expressing her opinion on the shutdown, was itself erroneous. Those should have been: Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Isaac Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation, and Kim Chiu’s Law of the Classroom – with the article “the.” Such errors would have #triggeredt Dr. Sheldon Cooper!)

Leveling: one of the first memes Kim's statement gave birth to. 

It was also the trolls who immediately uploaded on social media a transcription of the excerpt.

But the incoherence in the excerpt has taken a life of its own past the trolling. “Law of Classroom”/ “Bawal Lumabas” produced the celebrification of Chiu.

Scholars on Celebrity Cultures, such as Chris Rojek and Olivier Driessens, explain celebrification as a process, a transformation. Driessens further refers to it as “migration of celebrity,” where celebrities transfer their celebrity to another field.

Chiu is already a well-known and top-selling actor in television and movies, as well as a huge celebrity on social media platforms. She has large followings on Instagram (8.5M followers), Twitter (1.6M followers), and YouTube (1.56M subscribers). Her personal social media accounts showcase her self-brand. But the ill-famed “Law of Classroom”/ “Bawal Lumabas” made her the accidental current queen of parodies on social media.

While the gibes at the incoherent – clearly muddled – statement are still evident, Facebook users, YouTube vloggers, and TikTokers have lent pleasant amusement to Chiu and her “Law of Classroom”/ “Bawal Lumabas.” At present, Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok content producers have uploaded parody videos using either the clip of Chiu giving the statement or the statement itself as lyrics for music videos. There are “Bawal Lumabas” videos now for most music genres, including jazz, pop, acoustic, rock, and rap. There is even a “Bawal Lumabas” choral acapella version. There are also “Bawal Lumabas” dance challenge videos on TikTok. There are also a number of spliced videos that make Chiu appear to be interacting with other personalities. Chiu’s face, name, and voice are practically everywhere.

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These social media content producers have – perhaps unwittingly – commodified Chiu in their parodies, further proving the celebrification or the migration of Chiu’s celebrity status to a new field. Chiu’s being a celebrity on social media, which was a product of her self-brand, has now transformed into the blockbuster reception of the sense (or the non-sense) of her “Law of Classroom”/ “Bawal Lumabas” statement. Uploaded contents have been viewed or shared on multiple social media platforms by the thousands. Many have gone viral, with millions of views. The success in this celebrification of Chiu is likewise evident in the huge income earned by these content producers.

Indeed, as media scholar Angela Cirucci aptly states it, “Social media platforms are celebrification utilities.”

With the current existing legislative bills granting provisional franchise for the network, ABS-CBN may soon be back on air. Trolls may soon forget about the Laban Kapamilya Facebook Live. Bashers may look for other issues to hate. But it is certain that many people shall have an LSS (last song syndrome) of “Bawal Lumabas” in whatever genre for a long period of time. Many people would still find amusement reciting the “Law of Classroom”/ “Bawal Lumabas” prose, as it has now assumed an extremely popular rhythm.

Since this COVID-19 pandemic, both the national and local governments have called on the public to stay at home to be safe from contracting and spreading the virus. It is, after all, the essence of declaring a policy on quarantine. But it is not the government officials that the public remembers. For reminders to stay at home, people say, “Bawal lumabas, sabi ni Kim Chiu. (It is not allowed to go out, said Kim Chiu.)”

Like it or not, this celebrification has increased Chiu’s celebrity capital.

 

Evelyn O. Katigbak is a doctoral student of Communication at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication and her research interests are Journalism, Media and Politics, and Popular Media.