‘Fan Girl’: Why you should never meet your heroes
Have you ever met your favorite celebrity? Have you had your favorite singer acknowledge you? Has your comment been liked by your hero on Facebook or YouTube? Today, we must accept that one-sided parasocial relationships with talented actors in front of the camera are not a fantasy–they are very real. But to what degree are we able to distinguish our views on celebrities as authentic? Director Antoinette Jadaone’s pulse-pounding obsession thriller Fan Girl shows us how dangerously close we can fly to our stars.
Charlie Dizon plays Jane, a high school student obsessed with the real-life “love team” Paulo Avelino and Bea Alonzo who play fictional versions of themselves. When an opportunity arises for Jane to see the stars in real life, Jane drops everything to see her idols in person. Ecstatic, Jane takes the chase even further and jumps into Avelino’s truck, setting into motion an increasingly lurid series of events.
Something that’s immediately apparent is how quickly we are put into Jane’s headspace. We begin the film associating her identity with her undying love for Paulo. Her bag is full of magazines and photos of him. She competes for his attention when he’s up on stage. She tumbles into the back of his truck covered in sweat and an uninhibited smile, unaware of the invasion of privacy she has embarked on. By the time she takes unsolicited pictures of him and sneaks into Paulo’s residence, we have no doubt that this is the definition of the modern-day “stan.”
But this is not a romantic film. Upon discovering her, Paulo is volatile with Jane–hurling expletives and insults that cause her to retreat, but never for too long. Jane keeps pushing the envelope which inches her closer and closer to an inebriated, toxic, and unstable celebrity. During select interactions with Paulo, the film makes drastic stylistic shifts in lighting, framing, and production that put us into Jane’s storybook perspective.
And we are violently yanked out each time to reveal the stark naked reality that Paulo is not who he is marketed to be. This is not Paulo’s home. This is abandoned property. He is not the hunk groomed by Star Cinema. He is a brutal, conniving, and vindictive man that inflicts his internal pain onto those around him. The film’s actors get progressively dirtier and unkempt as Jane gags on cigarette smoke, bottoms down several beers, and jumps into a filthy pool.
“I am no longer a kid,” Jane tauntingly recites to Paulo as she desperately tries to prove it to herself. The film forces us over the line with Jane to several points of no return. As much as we want Paulo to resist and salvage any sense of decency, he does not. Jane doesn’t leave and still wants a sexual encounter with him. All the damage she sustains is negligible if the dream of being with him is guaranteed. We are left to witness raw wounds.
As we learn more about Jane’s home life, we start to see evidence of her actions as literal escapism. Her justifications for Paulo’s cruel behavior mirror her mother’s tolerance of abusive boyfriends. However, there’s no chance these backstories to appeal to our sympathies. Paulo continuously takes advantage of Jane’s vulnerabilities and ropes her into the most egregious final act I’ve witnessed in a long time. We are left with a physically and emotionally torn Jane as her dream man drives away.
By the film’s end, Jane has lost all of her innocence. In a tale too old and too frequent, the coming-of-age story concludes with Jane becoming a self-actualized character, but rarely do we see the trauma strangling the roots in detail. Fan Girl is not a film everyone should see. It does more than make your skin crawl. It may trigger you because of its commitment to depicting violent truths. An easy comparison to this film would be Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue, but even there we can establish some distance to the animation.
Fan Girl makes an extended commentary in terms of our relationship with media figures. Jadaone’s particular context of actually producing the sanitized, idolized “love team” films that dominate the Philippine film industry makes her perspective even more fascinating. I would say Paulo Avelino takes a moderate amount of risk by depicting himself in this way. In actuality, the most important takeaway is sitting with the idea that Jane’s character exists among us. We have to take time to inspect why we care so much about the exponential grooming of stardom and how we exist in its context. Because certainly if stars can be our heroes, undoubtedly they can be our villains.
Film pages: IMDb
Fan Girl was covered as part of San Diego Asian Film Festival’s Spring Showcase 2021.