Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope in a scene from 'Scandal'. The writer says South Africa should produce more TV series such as 'Empire', 'Suits' and 'Scandal (the Fixer)', that are about black excellence. Picture: AP
The TV series we consume never portray a strong black marriage or black success without shady dealings, writes Kabelo Chabalala.

Johannesburg - It is true that as a people or society, we gravitate towards our highest values. This thought was sparked by a four-year-old boy who shouted to his mother: “Mommy, mommy, it’s time for The Bold and the Beautiful. Let’s hurry up and go watch TV.”

I wasn’t shocked at what I was hearing. However, I was very disturbed and angry at this continuous cycle of children being subjected to TV programmes that are way beyond their age.

I was eight or nine years old when I attempted to kiss a girl at school because of the content I was exposed to as a child.

You come back from school, go play with other kids, and you are expected to be back in the house before 6pm in summer to avoid getting a serious hiding – only to bath and watch adults’ stuff like Days of our Lives, The Bold and the Beautiful, Generations and so on.

These TV programmes weren’t suitable for a child my age. They had that PG13 screaming on the screen, but that was always disregarded. Even though seeing a couple kiss got me curious about people locking lips, that never bothered my parents. The sex scenes also sparked further thoughts.

Even as adults we are caught in the same cycle of gravitating towards our highest values.

The TV series, Telenovelas and dramas we consume on SABC channels, and Mzansi Magic never portray a strong black marriage. They never portray a successful black businessman who doesn’t do shady things. They never portray a strong feminist who is a successful businesswoman.

They never portray a healthy relationship between two black people that doesn’t fall into the silly and normalised challenges such as cheating and abuse.

I don’t want to see a fairytale. Nonetheless, it would be refreshing to see something solid and positive.

Do you know why this concerns me so much? It is very disheartening that consciously or unconsciously as blacks (speaking from where I come from), we find validation and vindication of our failed relationship on what we consume on TV. We find consolation that for a black man or woman to be successful, they have to commit crimes.

We find comfort in that cheating is a norm, part of our DNA. We don’t believe otherwise because if we did, we wouldn’t be consuming this content so religiously.

If we did, we would demand stories on our TV screens that inspired hope.

We would boycott the mediocre negative portrayal of black people on TV. We would not gravitate towards Muvhango, Generations, Isidingo, Isibaya, Saints & Sinners, The Queen, Scandal, Rhythm City, etc. Can you mention one character that is ethical, uncorrupted and successful from our local screens?

It’s less than 10% of the content that inspires good things in us as a society.

We are a society in denial.

I have little respect for most South African story writers. They cannot capture our minds with positivity. They have mastered the art of capturing our minds with so much negativity. We too believe that to some extent, the exaggerated scenes are nothing but not far fetched reflections of our reality.

In hindsight, America has got TV series such as Empire, Suits and Scandal (The Fixer). They are about black excellence. You see both black and white leading actors and actresses living successful, ethical lives on the telly. Such is the reflection of a great America.

Social media goes abuzz between 6.30pm and 10pm. This is due to the soapies and dramas we watch daily.

They get people talking. If we want to be successful and incorruptible, let us start seeing that on our TVs. We need progressive television shows. Until then, we shall continue to gravitate towards values that delay our progress as a black nation due to the shows we religiously consume on TV.

* Kabelo Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement. Email; [email protected], Twitter; @KabeloJay, Facebook; Kabelo Chabalala

The Star