As the first teaser for upcoming Metro Manila Film Festival entry Partners in Crime dropped, netizens began to criticize the film over star Ivana Alawi's appearance.
Directed by Cathy Garcia-Molina, the movie follows an ex-couple, played by Alawi and Vice Ganda, who reunite before figuring in a crime.
The first footage showed the actress-vlogger sporting a darker complexion and curly hair, a departure from her usually fair skin tone and long, straight hairstyle. This has led users online to call the movie out for colorism, with some worried the character's appearance would be used as the butt of the joke.
"Idk but I believe Ivana Alawi can be funny without changing her skin tone. If you want to have a morena character then hire someone with that skin tone," one user wrote.
"As a curly-haired morena, I pray na walang part sa movie na gawing katatawan ang looks ni Ivana. Otherwise, it's gonna be offensive for me. And disappointing towards Vice Ganda," another said.
One user was concerned about whether Alawi's character would undergo a makeover to straighten her hair instead of embracing the curly locks.
"Pag eto nagkamakeover tas naging straight yung buhok... Lord nagsstart pa lang ako makakita ng maraming tao na inaaccept yung curly hair nila, step backwards na naman po ata magaganap," they said.
"Let me guess Ivana here will have a 'glow up' in a Pinoy perspective in the later part of the movie by whitening and making her hair straight. It's 2022 and PH media is still doing this sh*t? No wonder a lot of Filos are colorists and damn racists," another tweeted.
Colorism is a form of discrimination based on skin tone, perpetuated by the global beauty industry. Author and activist Alice Walker, the person most often credited with first using the term, defines it as "prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their color."
Addressing these concerns, Vice Ganda took to Twitter to defend the movie and their co-star.
On people getting makeovers, the comedian said, "Anung mali pag ginusto at pinili ng isang taong kulot ang buhok na ipaunat ang buhok niya? Walang mali sa kulot. At wala ring mali kung gusto nyang ipaunat ito. Ang mali ay ang baluktot ang pananaw mo at nagpapanggap kang tuwid! Ang mali ay ung ang nega nega nega mo!!!"
They also reassured netizens that there won't be any scenes in the movie poking fun at Alawi's appearance: "Makakaasa kang walang ganun."
Vice further clarified that they have only shot four sequences. "Don't stress [yourself]," they said.
Partners in Crime hits theaters in December.