Generally, people are disgusted with plagiarism—which is why Cherie Gil is so famous for this little scene in a film called Bituing Walang Ningning (A Star Without Shine). Even after more than two decades now, the snippet is still being replayed on TV, winning over younger fans whose primary influences include Naruto, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Bob Ong, and Dr. Hayden Kho.
Each time Cherie Gil splashes her goblet of wine against Sharon Cuneta’s face, we reaffirm our commitment to originality. Ah yes, we feel bad for Sharon for a split second, but only for a split-second, and then we double-back and rally our forces behind the more formidable character. It isn’t Sharon’s meek silence and submissiveness that startles us. It is Cherie Gil’s aggressive defense of her originality. She’s not flattered that someone is copying her—she demands that no one should copy her.
I think it’s all because we fiercely defend what we possess—including our own identities. Capitalist society teaches us that we each need to have our own territories to avoid going bonkers: I am me, you are you. This is mine, this is yours. Understood? If someone tries to steal someone else’s stuff, we are trained to remember our pre-historic animal tendencies and bare our fangs.
I remember Aeon Flux, a friend in grade school who went on to become class valedictorian. He was 12 then. And he was already a plagiarist. At that time, Milo commercials on TV are a hit: Great things start from small beginnings. In Aeon Flux’s case, I would not dare disagree. Not that he is now behind bars for plagiarizing someone obscenely famous. But through the years, as he butchered other people’s work and reconstructed them as his own, he has perfected his style and strategy that virtually no one but the very keen would have a stinking clue.
Aeon Flux is one of two types of plagiarists: the kind who truly writes well but is lazy and unimaginative.
On the other hand, the other type is altogether a different story. This is someone who has a very specific standard of good writing. This one knows what works and sticks to it. He believes there is only one single way of writing certain ideas. When he comes across, say, an exquisite line in a poem, he recognizes the beauty, the wisdom in the words, that he would realize it is what he had always wanted to say and he himself would not have written it another way. And so he, uh, plagiarizes.
I have never copied someone, but if I would, I’d be perhaps “Plagiarist Species Number Two.” Maybe because I truly love writing, and passion does not always come with skill. There had been uncounted times when a poem, a story, an essay would overwhelm me so completely, that only my bloated ego got in the way of any plagiaristic tendencies I might have.
I have been blogging for many years now and have been lucky to read (and meet) other bloggers who are exponentially better, wiser, and funnier than I could ever become. I am taking on this ambitious project as my way of a lame tribute to these buggers who never fail to make me feel insecure, competitive, and, ultimately, inspired, not to become a “second-rate, trying hard copycat,” but to find other ways to write whatever it is that we all ever wanted to write about.
*photo is from “Tour Eiffel,” a short film in the collection “Je T’aime Paris”