I Am Not Big Bird: An Escapade and an Exposé

Screengrab from ANIMA Studios’ I Am Not Big Bird trailer/YouTube

TO EXPOSE a part of oneself is to accept the consequences that come with it. To let ideals take over is to distort what is real, a result of flawed notions spawned by the unnatural.

Director Victor Villanueva gathered all that cannot be discussed out loud: the ones that beg for a certain type of discourse in a showcase of insecurities, stripped off entirely for the world to see. Stuck between heaps of vulgarity and vibrancy, there is more to I Am Not Big Bird than meets the eye. 

Recovering from a failed engagement, Luis (Enrique Gil) discovers his shortcomings  — literally, as his girlfriend Cathy (Ashley Rivera), cites disappointment for his shorter-than-average appendage. Luis then seeks the companionship of his long-time best friends Macky (Nikko Natividad) and July (Red Ollero) on an escapade to Thailand for what was supposed to be a laid-back vacation for the three. Intending to pursue thrill and pleasure, they remain oblivious to the misadventures waiting for them in the foreign land. 

Things suddenly took a turn for the chaotic as Luis is mistaken for a popular Thai adult film star “Big Bird” (also played by Gil), known for his unusually long appendage. The storyline poked fun at this contrast, given that the two are identical but completely different in one area. 

Big Bird’s character represented what the film unconsciously touched upon. It explored sex through the media content that idealizes it (adult films). It subtly showed the destructive effects of this type of media on how people perceive sex and body image. 

Big Bird’s large phallus inspired all of the male characters in I Am Not Big Bird. As portrayed in the film, one of the running stereotypes among Asian men is a shorter-than-average phallus. Big Bird was someone who broke that stereotype among Asian men, giving them a “good reputation” to all who patronize his explicit videos.  

In the film, Big Bird’s large phallus is brought up at every chance possible, somehow sharing the limelight with Luis. This depiction was very telling of the film’s surface-level characteristics. It was somehow reminiscent of its slapstick comedy predecessors, wherein main characters often find themselves in unrealistic situations, leading to a series of comedic scenarios wherein the main character’s struggle is the selling point. 

Screengrab from ANIMA Studios’ I Am Not Big Bird trailer/YouTube

However, all of this, while humorous, allowed interpretations of the film’s presentation of sex and body image. Beneath the comedic facade was a platform for criticism of how media content distorts views on sex and body image in general. The men in the film, seeing Big Bird as an inspiration, were quite reflective of how men perceive their insecurities about their bodies, specifically how they look and perform sexually. 

Big Bird’s character imposes unrealistic standards. His adult films are the media that act as vehicles for these misrepresentations. Luis’ insecurities about his phallus represent the cause of these portrayals. 

In real life, consuming adult films or explicit content influences perceptions of sex and body image. These influences often stem from something already clean-cut and curated, knowing that these contents are simply made for profit. Those who work in this industry see it as nothing more than a job that pays the bills. 

What is supposed to be real instead turns into what needs improvement or change. In the avenues of sex and body image, this becomes destructive. 

With sex and body image being its central themes, it was also worth interrogating why a film with the theme of men confronting their insecurities and masculinity still had to rely on exploiting women for the sake of a shock factor. A club scene where Luis, Macky and July had their first night out featured strippers; one showcases her ability to shoot whole bananas out of her nether region. This scene strengthened the film’s slapstick comedy theme and added shock value.

Screengrab from ANIMA Studios’ I Am Not Big Bird trailer/YouTube

True to its nature, the contrast between Thailand’s scenic spots and vibrant nightlife defined the film’s presence, synergizing with the storyline’s diversion to an eccentric trajectory. Due to the sudden turn of events, it is no surprise that the film’s nature tends to overshadow whatever valuable message one could learn from it, causing the film’s attempt at a self-discovery arc to feel out of place among the unrestrained showdown of profanity and obscenity. Despite this, Gil, Natividad, Ollero and Pepe Herrera created an unlikely dynamic so striking that it was impossible not to commend.

It takes time to eventually get past I Am Not Big Bird’s raunchy dialogue and scenarios. While the film stood tall as a meaningful watch, its disadvantage was its scandalous presentation. Its rambunctious nature was exhausting to numerous audiences, and its entertainment value remained rooted in exploiting insecurities that do not need more fueling. F


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