For Your Entertainment

Written By: Motlatsi Motseoile

What happens when the stories we see on tv depicting the lives of gay men are just a distortion of reality? What if they perpetuate the stereotypes that we are fighting hard to overcome? On the other hand what if those stories are one sided, yet true? Do we care what is shown as being “gay” on tv, through drama series and the like? If we don’t, what have we said about it? I’m a believer in speaking your mind and if you don’t like something, you say so or do something to express your disapproval.

Recent programming has been having quite a number of gay themed shows, whether it be movies or dramas and for a moment the gay circle was pleased, finally we are been given a voice, and a face. The recent shows have been showing the diverse culture that lives within the gay circle and I for one was quite happy about that. That changed when Etv pushed it up a notch. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the creative effort, but when a show comes across as confused, and tries too hard and then you find out that the minds behind it involve a gay man, I was totally disappointed. Well, here’s my review of the world of entertainment when it comes to gay themed shows, and this is purely my opinion, for your entertainment.

Isidingo

The SABC 3 drama in my eyes started the trend, when they introduced Steve, the gay character. I wonder if they knew that “Adam and Steve” would be so popular at some point. The story line around this character was not followed by controversy and he had relationships and a sex life. He was one of the leading characters on the show. The biggest problem for me, the “Dusty and Steve” relationship. It ended, but then I failed to get the point of that. But Isidingo had never gone out to the media and claimed to be advocates of acceptance and the character of Steve was just like any other on the show. His life was normal and dramatic as the other characters. Isidingo remains the only show on SA television to have a gay wedding, right after the passing of the Civil Unions Act. Maybe that’s why I love it so much.

Generations

For me this has to be the worst show when it comes to depiction of homosexuality in SA media. From the joke of “Bradley the gay bartender” to Maxime the designer. As an activist, I feel generations have murdered the PR we do in terms of representations. But then again, they don’t seem to ever get it right with anything. Their attempt with Senzo and Jason was not bad, but the lack of real affection between the two for me is scary. When you are a show that has such blind following like Generations I would think you would try a little harder. The introduction of a bisexual character was new and it was cause for conversation, something that I like, but the relationship for me has been really bad. The only good thing to come from that was showing that even traditional men can change their stance on homosexuality, if it is in their household. The worst? “who’s the pitcher and who’s the catcher?” Sibusiso said that in one conversation with Senzo. In a country that has no business with baseball…

Scandal

They had Jaco, the rugby player now sport journo who eventually came out after a failed suicide. Further from that, nothing happened and the character was written out of the show… as is the case in most shows. Then there was Nhlanhla, who was out to the world except to his mother. A good thought and a good story line in that regard. Then there was Lentswe, the apparently hot stud who tried being gay… or not, but had a one nighter with Nhlanhla and was not pleased by it. That was yet another good story line that was short of proper development. Both characters were subsequently written off the show. My biggest problem with scandal? Great ideas, great plots, no real endeavour to take them to the bank. And actually, they are the one show that had modern depictions of gay men, you can play rugby and still be gay and you can be out to the world and be fabulous and your parents still don’t get what you are homosexual.

The LAB

Starring Nambitha Mpumlwana, Fana Mokoena and Graham Hopkins, Hopkins plays the character of Monty and at the end of the first season of this riveting drama he comes out. At some point in the life of the show he marries his boyfriend of a few months to a year, played by Terence Bridgett (awesomely fabulous soapy slut). Not for activists but it highlights the challenge of running from your sexuality and coming to grips with it later in life, those thinking that they’ll come out when they have that white collar job had better think twice. It was a good show, for the elite of SA, as not that many young people watched, so they missed out on the conversation here.

Rhythm City

Thula the rent boy and Stone the kasi boy, we loved that story line, no one complained about it. We enjoyed the intensity and we were happy when Stone didn’t marry the girl to take a chance with Thula. It didn’t work out and he left with the doctor. He comes back and Thula is now straight (forget that he forced Stone out of the closet) and Stone’s sexuality goes into oblivion. I commend Rhythm City for their attempt and trying hard to do justice to a story often half-baked, but then they have also moved to making the gay man an accessory for ratings, using him when they need an escalation.

After 9

This is the last of my favourites. I loved this show from the first to the fourth (last) episode, and had wished, just like Society, they would give it a full season. For me this was the perfect package and any show that plans on telling the gay story has to compete with this story. The boy who hid it meets and falls in love with the boy who is out and part of the ‘it’ crowd. There are no unnecessary complications apart from the fact that he is engaged to his high school sweetheart. He comes out and is accepted by one half of his parents and eventually marries the girl. Lovely, simple and compelling. This is how you create conversation. Don’t sugar-coat it, don’t exaggerate and keep it simple, and yes,  add a hot man and sexy love scene. Personally I was for the chemistry that existed between Lucky Khoza and Aaron Moloisi. I’m not being paid for this, but this was a good show. It said there are men on the down low, they get involved with men who may or may not be out and sometimes they come out but most times they don’t. Lesson? Gays be careful, girls be careful. But at the end of it ,it did not make homosexuality look like a monster and they were upfront about it. Kudos for the fabulous gay man married to the lawyer, who’s hag was Khanyi Mbau.

Imfihlo: The Secret

This is was a short film from Etv’s Ekasi series of films. For starters, I hate these shows so I was not expecting much. I watched for conversation, to see the cute C-ga Bopha and well, so that I can say yes, its bad but it’s the thought that counts. But really it’s not, this is not a present and as such, the thought doesn’t count, give a good story and be done. Whether it pleases certain people or not is not your problem, but let it be a good story. What did I think of the confusion that was The Secret? It should have been kept a secret. For me I felt I didn’t know what it was trying to say. Was it trying to talk about men on the DL (I think this was the idea), but I also felt it tried to deal with the issue of coming out and coming to terms with your sexuality (I stand to be corrected) and don’t forget the pastoral cure. If I were to rate it, I’d do that based on effort. Nothing more. But my motives for watching were shallow so I don’t think I should critique the show that much, I got what I wanted, proof that C-ga Bopha is cute and attractive, that’s all.

The world of tv is a complicated one. Broadcasters want to make money and they do that by telling stories, sometimes real sometimes fictional. What we expect as viewers are good shows. As a community of gay people, I feel we are sensitive, yet we can never back it up. The same community that goes to pride for the booze can’t complain about being wrongly  represented on tv. Tv is harsh to fat women, white men, very dark black men and gay people are also part of that. If we don’t like the representations, well, let us be credible sources. That said, I have to say that tv has milked the gay theme for all its worth and its time it stopped. What South Africa is producing makes me think back and miss Will and Grace, for the fun and the laughs but also for the truth. Gay men are complex and there’s more to us than pink drinks (most gay men drink beer actually), we are not hand bags (we also buy those) and we certainly exist outside of the straight eye (blame it on the hate/BIOH). What should we do? Maybe it’s time we all just started a gay tv network and have Somizi as president, then we can have what we want, real representation.

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