MZANZI MAGIC- Isibaya 14/01/2019

Date: March 28, 2019
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Name of monitor: Sandiswa Manana
Name of television station: Mzansi Magic
Name of Programme: Isibaya
Date of broadcast: 6 June 2018, 14 Jan 2019, 15 Feb 2019
Time: 20:30-21:00
Genre: Drama
Theme: Social, Relationships, Infidelity, Age, Power dynamics
GBV focus explicit or implicit? Implicit
GEM Classification: Subtle Stereotypes

6 June 2018:
15 Feb 2019:

Description of scene: The scene we have chosen to focus on is a scene in which a couple, Lillian and Saddam, is having an argument over explicit pictures of young women found on Saddam’s cell phone. Lillian is rightfully angry, and Saddam responds, first by defending himself and then conceding to the end of the relationship. Lillian and Saddam’s relationship will also be examined in relation to other scenes (linked in article and provided in links above).

Context: In order to accurately assess the stereotypes that are being conveyed in this representation, it is important to look at multiple scenes and sources to determine the origin and outcome of Lillian and Saddam’s relationship. In this case study 3 scenes and multiple sources will be examined to determine how a relationship between Lillian, an older Christian woman, and Saddam a young man embroiled in a life of crime and killing is portrayed.

Lillian is an older, successful businesswoman and Saddam was hired to be her bodyguard. Initially their relationship began as a flirtation and was portrayed as an unlikely partnership and often their sexual and flirtatious encounters were made to seem comedic in the shows use of music and dialogue and Lillian’s exaggerated characterisation. The official Mzansi Magic page even refers to the pair as “our favourite and unlikely couple.” Lillian’s age and status is highlighted in the portrayal of the partnership and it is made to seem funny and almost ludicrous that an older and successful woman would be dating a younger man and her feelings would be reciprocated.

Why this classification:

Initially Saddam and Lillian’s relationship and the storyline that follows it is framed around Lilian’s age. Another character, in reference to their relationship, describes it as “not right”. Often, when male characters date younger female characters their relationship is not framed this way but is more accepted. This can be seen in the show’s portrayal of another relationship between two characters of the same age Cebisile and Fezile.

Relationships between younger men and older women are often negatively received by other characters or made to seem comedic. As Lillian can be said to hold more social capital and thus power in the relationship, the portrayal of this as comedic undermines the strength of Lilian’s character. Are relationships between younger men and older women only acceptable when they are used as comedic devices on the show? With this in mind scenes focusing on the beginning of their relationship could be said to convey subtle stereotypes around age and power dynamics within relationships.

There is a shift in the portrayal of the relationship in later scenes. Eventually Saddam proposes to Lilian and pledges his devotion to her and their unborn child. The use of comedic devices to ridicule the relationship stops. Although their partnership is no longer framed around age and made to seem comedic, there are still subtle stereotypes conveyed in other ways.

When it is discovered that Saddam has been unfaithful in keeping pictures of other women on his phone, Lilian is empowered in the scene where she confronts him. She does not accept his excuses but dismisses him and is allowed to express how much damage his infidelity has done. However Saddam does not address the hurt he has caused Lillian, but attempts to push the blame onto her and becomes angry about her going through his phone. Lillian tells her grandson about what she’s seen, and he tries to brush it off and says that it is what men do. This is to say that African men normalize cheating in the name of ‘culture’. Eventually Lillian takes Saddam back despite his infidelity and treatment of her and their relationship continues. This also conveys subtle stereotypes in the normalising of infidelity and emotional manipulation of Lillian by Saddam.

Conclusion: Lillian and Saddam’s relationship initially conveys subtle stereotypes around Lillian and Saddam’s age gap by framing it as comedic. Subtle stereotypes are also conveyed around cheating men and how women often accept their infidelity without consequence.

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