Storyline Changes to Raise Awareness

Moitheri Khabele

Seeing an educational yet taboo topic like Sexuality exposed to viewers on national television has been viewed as educational, and misleading with potential to cause harm to the young audience.

Rhythm City is a South African drama series, one that “prides itself on telling current and socially relevant stories” revolving around black lives in their communities. Recently, the show has shifted direction towards exposing its viewers to two young female characters, Keabetswe (played by Kamegelo Mdlatlhoe) and Zinhle (played by  Kealeboga Masango), exploring their sexuality. According to Zelipa Zulu, head writer of the show, it is evident that women have been sidelined concerning topics where patriarchy is deemed out of place for them. “Choosing female characters for this story arc was an effort to show that females also face the same challenges as males, be it sexual or otherwise,” she said.

The subject of sexuality of any nature in the world is quite taboo, more so in Africa. Most writers run the risk of offending, alienating, or completely misrepresenting a group when telling such a story. “When one does get the opportunity to tell this kind of story, caution, sensitivity and authenticity are a few key factors that you always have to be aware of. The challenge is balancing all these factors whilst telling a story that audience with find compelling and entertaining,” mentioned Zulu. Technology has made everything accessible and this could contribute in misinformation on such topics. “As a parent, I think it’s important to be aware of what is out there so that I can be in a better and more informed position to protect my child,” she said.

While teenagers the same age who watch the show hope that the storyline brings about awareness to issues of gender and sexuality, the elderly believe the show is misleading the youth. Zulu believes that having elders and the youth have an open and honest dialogue around the so-called taboo topics would equip the youth with the arsenal they need to face the world. “”I understand why they would view it that way. They come from a different time to ours. In their day, sex and a whole host of other behaviors was considered taboo, blasphemous even. But the world has moved on,” she continued.

The team hopes to shed some light on aspects that are murky or confusing about gender and sexual identity. “Mostly, we hope our viewers can come away with a little more patience for their children and those that they consider different.”

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