|Picture Credit: ESSENCE|
Hey! I am not discriminatory. This includes ZeeWorld too!
But first, let me start at the beginning.
I always say that those of us that are millennials had the best TV time. We had a variety of shows that were enlightening and in some aspects, deliberately weird. We had black people, white people, Asians, Latinos, and even really good Nigerian movies and TV series on TV. We also had super heroes, weirdos, anime, scathing comedy and Sci-fi movies. In essence, almost everyone from Generation Y had a plethora of good television from around the world. What is most impressive however is that we all had the same TV exposure! Most people who had TV and cable watched about the same things and for those who only had NTA, the wait for 4pm for broadcast to start is something we all remember with a bit of nostalgia. So if I mention 7 Lucky Kids, Burning Train, Snake in the Monkey Shadow, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Power Rangers or Things Fall Apart, most millennials would smile and have something to talk about.
The game changed however when more cable companies came into play and more TV channels popped up. Nigeria alone has more than 10 cable TV providers, with DSTV, StarTimes and HiTV being the most popular. With these cable TV providers, there are all kinds of things on television for all kinds of audiences. The common thing between these cable TV providers is that they understand the basic genres and provide them across board. These genres includes news, sports, music, religion, film, local content and Telemundo! Yes, I just classed Telemundo as a genre!
Telemundo is an American Spanish language terrestrial television network owned by Comsat. They provide films and TV series centered on the lives of Latin Americans with story lines following love, enmity, betrayal and eventual triumph. Telemundo is one channel but like most things in Nigeria, we have made one thing the generic name for things in the same category. It is like how we call all detergents ‘Omo’ and all toothpastes ‘Maclean’. So for this article, the term ‘Telemundo’ is used to refer to any film or TV series that is centered on the lives of Latin Americans.
Telemundo probably has one of their biggest markets in Africa and a lot of that from Nigeria. The question that bugs me is how
the fracking hell Telemundo became so popular?!
It probably has a lot to do with the Africa Independent Television. AIT was the first to introduce Telemundo into the Nigerian scene. Who remembers when Cuando seas mia was on air? Translated to English, ‘When You are Mine’ was a big hit across the country and almost every Nigerian followed the lives of Diego and Paloma as they tried to find love in spite of the difference in their social status. I will admit that I watched every episode but the grand finale and it broke me that I missed that.
What came on next was Second Chance (or El Cuerpo del desio) and by that time, I was bored with telenovelas.
Soon came StarTimes (for average Nigerians) and DSTV (for ‘rich-er’ Nigerians). Men flocked to the Super Sports channels and somehow, of all the channels to choose from, women chose Telemundo. In time, it became a fad. Women who spent more time at home seemed to fill their hours with telenovelas.
After a while, ZeeWorld became the very attractive sister of Telemundo. ZeeWorld is a channel that follows the same themes but with emphasis on Indian people. Because some of India’s culture is similar to the Hausa/Fulani culture in Nigeria, ZeeWorld caught on quickly.
So we had ZeeWorld controlling women in the North and Telemundo controlling women in the South. This was in addition to the variations of Africa Magic that each geopolitical region is attuned to. In time, the barrier broke. Almost every woman watches either ZeeWorld or Telemundo. It doesn’t even matter what the status, tribe or religion these women are.
What then is the problem with Telemundo and ZeeWorld?
Looking at it plainly…nothing much. It is good entertainment (I have heard) and can be packed with some life lessons.
I am however worried about the addiction many women have to these channels.
Stories have been told of women burning food, leaving their houses dirty, refusing to go out for days and even running through the rain to catch an episode. Most of these stories come from men so I tend to take it with a pinch of salt.
I believe most men want to be the center of attention of their wives’ lives and seeing her so deeply immersed in something that isn’t them may not be good for their ego. I will go further to say that men don’t think anything is wrong with their own addiction to football and they expect women to deal with it. Double standards, right?
Anyway, I am worried about the addiction to Telemundo and ZeeWorld because it seems to be a result of some other underlying factors.
For centuries, black women have been told that they have nothing that can be defined as a beauty ideal. From skin tone to hair texture, we have been told we aren’t good enough. So here we are with two channels providing stories about women that have called beautiful and exotic. And even though India and most of South America have dark skinned people, these people never make it to these shows and if they do, they are cast as poor and unappealing. In essence, we have two channels showing thin, light skinned women with long, straight or wavy hair who get the guy they want because of these qualities. This subliminally makes the African woman perceive herself as less beautiful and less important. It is then no surprise that more and more women are bleaching their skin and wearing Brazilian weaves and Indian ‘Human hair’. This makes it harder for the African woman who loves herself just as she is to fit into our society.
Another aspect is the effect on the intellect. Most of the storyline for the film/series shown on Telemundo and ZeeWorld are basic and unintelligent. They do not inspire any self-improving thought. You almost never learn anything new from these channels. While I love entertainment, I never watch anything I can’t learn something new from. That is why I watch a lot of murder mysteries, Sci-fi, discovery and tech based shows and films. I want my mind to be improved every time I watch, listen to or read something. Sadly, many women do not care about these. They just want to be entertained and that is why we have fewer women contributing to the quality of our society. Almost half the population is content with simple things and basic entertainment. Is it any wonder then that our country isn’t developing as fast as she should?
Now this point is a bit controversial. I believe that many women watch these channels to drown away their sorrows at being married to the men they are with. It is no secret that many women settle when they marry. They probably wanted a much more interesting man but because of age, peer pressure, family and societal demands, or other circumstances, they settle for someone who isn’t quite that. This leads to immense boredom and some form of disappointment. As a result, they fixate on any other thing but the man they have to wake up to everyday. I have come to this conclusion by observing certain friends, acquaintances and even strangers.
This is why, among other reasons, I think we should consider banning Telemundo and ZeeWorld. Okay…I don’t really mean ‘ban’ in the real sense of the word. Yes I believe that everyone has a right to watch whatever the hell they want. I just wish that women didn’t focus so much on programs that do not improve the quality of our minds.
This is where African programming needs to step up a notch. The only channel that comes close to these two channels is Africa Magic. Even that has her many flaws. Women are portrayed using warped standards. A woman isn’t beautiful unless she is light skinned, wearing those human hair weaves, with overly made-up faces, speaking in those fake accented voices and being forcefully sexy. We need more channels to celebrate our intelligence and coarse hair and our strides. That is why I am such a fan of the content NdaniTV is putting out. We need more films, TV series and content that celebrate our beauty.
South African films and series are good examples to emulate. They show women who are dark-skinned with dreadlocks, natural hair, low cut and in whatever body size. They have rewritten the beauty ideals and the successes of series like Generations tell of a group of black Africans who are confident in themselves and are unashamed about it.
Other people to emulate are Ava Duvernay, Shonda Rhimes and Justin Simien. And the Oprah Winfrey Network.
In the end, we are what we fixate on.
In my view, I think that is about time that we – and yes I mean we women – shift our lenses away from the mediocrity that is Telemundo and ZeeWorld.
What do you think?