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Breaking up with the love team

By Andi Osmeña Published Feb 09, 2020 5:00 am

An establishing shot shows the exterior of a McDonald’s branch in the evening, logo glowing proudly on display. Cut to interior.

Sharon Cuneta is seen, seated, with her fried chicken, rice and fries, when a familiar face approaches her. It’s Gabby Concepcion, her first husband. He asks her timidly if he could join her at the table, to which she graciously responds, “Ikaw naman, parang wala tayong pinagsamahan.”

The two sit in silence sharing awkward glances. They’re both eating the exact same meal, eventually laughing at the situation as they begin to mirror each other's actions.

Gabby even goes so far to wipe the corner of Sharon’s mouth with a napkin. She’s taken aback, but ever endeared as she jokingly tosses a napkin back at him. They’re last seen laughing across the table, as the camera pans out to the exterior, once again revealing the same golden arches the video started with.

As you might have guessed, this was a McDonald’s ad for their Valentines 2018 campaign. If we were anywhere else in the world, likening a showbiz couple that annulled their marriage in 1993 to a fast food meal would be totally bizarre — but it’s our decades-long obsession with celebrity drama and hugot culture that made it work.

Love teams have been a cultural fixture in the Philippines ever since we realized we could profit off of (usually) real, romantic relationships. The McDonald’s ad epitomizes this, showing a long-gone love team that’s as classic as, well, fried chicken and rice. 

We love drama, just as much as we love monogamy. It’s only natural that a country that refuses to legalize divorce will fully invest in marketing and merchandise for our favorite pairings. 

While relationships becoming a function of capitalism should come as no surprise, the Philippines does it particularly well. We love drama, just as much as we love monogamy. It’s only natural that a country that refuses to legalize divorce will fully invest in marketing and merchandise for our favorite pairings. 

What I actually learned while writing this was that the term “love team” isn’t completely synonymous with “celebrity couple.” “Love team” mostly refers to the onscreen duo, made to be the pull of the chain of films they’re likely to release.

It was intended so that, once you see those two names on the top billing, you know it’s about to go down. KathNiel did this with She’s Dating the Gangster, The Hows of Us, Barcelona, and several others.

But really, it’s the expected off-screen romance that tends to blur the line between the external and internal lives of these people. Tabloid news and social media exacerbate our indulgence in celebrity drama, now especially that everyone can tweet a hot take on a public figures’ behavior.

At the turn of the decade, there began whispers that the local entertainment industry’s most beloved love team had finally split up.

JaDine had dominated our cultural landscape for the latter half of the 2010’s. I remember watching Diary ng Panget for the first time (and crushing hard on James Reid), and how every episode of On The Wings of Love was a talking point in my high school classrooms as they came out. They even released their own official book, Team Real, just to chronicle the ins and outs of being James and Nadine. 

When they released the official statement about their breakup, people were quick to point fingers at an alleged homewrecker, along with the usual “LOVE IS DEAD” quote retweet.

After six years, the cultural monolith that was JaDine officially becomes an artifact of its time. Both parties have made quite a name for themselves, and are making their own pivots towards the music industry. The changes brought on make it seem inevitable. 

The fallout that came with JaDine’s alleged breakup — whatever the truth of it is — can actually serve as a lesson of the pitfalls of rabid fandom, and just the strangeness of the whole love team thing in general.

Maybe as the new decade rolls in, people will start to examine more closely the relationships they have with their idols. With a new generation becoming more wary of how late day capitalism pushes us to our limits, maybe we don’t need people to sell us love. I for one can see how more modern thinking would make the love team obsolete.

Or who knows, in a couple years, they might have their own McDonald’s ad, too.