Showmax stokes public ire with new dating show

Published May 13, 2023


There is something enthralling about how people can get enraptured by a television show that gives them a glimpse into the lives of random strangers or prominent people.

There's also something absurd about production companies coming up with new reality shows to increase viewership, even if the concept is mind-numbing and provocative.

On TV or streaming websites, we watch worldwide reality series like Netflix’s “Love is Blind”, “The Bachelor” and “The Real Housewives” franchise. “Living the Dream with Somizi”, “Makoti: Are You the One?”, and “Uthando Nes'thembu” are some of the local ones.

Hopping onto that wave is Showmax Online. It has introduced a new dating show to its viewers, calling for South African women to audition to find love. The kicker? The show is called “I Want a Naija Boy”.

When Showmax announced the show on social media platforms, the trailer looked akin to another call-up for “Love Island”. Instead, the footage was of a black woman in a pool with a black man nearby in his swimsuit and a call for women to sign up if they're looking for their own “Naija boy”.

The caption read: “Entries are officially now open until 21 April 2023. If you’re a down-to-earth South African girl with a passionate desire to date a Nigerian guy, or you’re a Nigerian-based man looking for a hot Southy girl, check the details in the video and send us your details. Who knows? Maybe this could be your chance at finding true love on the other side.”

First-generation Nigerian-South African Deborah Aderibigbe said the entire concept was ill-thought and reinforced South Africans’ wilful ignorance – something that is detrimental to everyone.

“It’s infuriating to see that, given South Africa and Nigeria’s strained relationship after the first xenophobic attack back in 2008,” Aderibigbe said.

“The show didn’t have to capitalise on the country’s negative image, feeds into misogyny, the fetishisation of Nigerian men, and fuels the ‘slay queen/jollofina’ narrative in relationships. It doesn’t help anyone.”

She said the streaming platform missed the opportunity to make it an educational platform that could erase the stigma attached to Nigerians.

“This is not to say that they are all good, as there are women who have been victims, but Showmax’s reasoning for this show didn’t convince me that they had good intentions,” she said.

“It borders on cultural appropriation instead of cultural appreciation because it’s a cheap stereotypical shot by them riding on the wave of Nigeria’s global cultural capital.

“But when the next inevitable cycle of xenophobic attacks occurs, the same energy required to defend and protect Nigerians is suddenly gone.”

When approached by the “Sunday Independent”, Showmax said it was aware of the mixed reactions but would proceed. Aderibigbe was told by producers that they wouldn’t cancel the show because of the high volume of entries.

“Dating shows have become a staple across various viewing platforms and have garnered a significant following. These shows vary from people dating across continents or people looking for love across the colour line,” Showmax said.

“ ‘I Want a Naija Boy’ is a dating show that promotes inclusivity and diversity, particularly for Africans. All contestants of the show are consenting adults looking for love.”

Showmax’s response did not sit well with viewers and begged the question of how the show’s creators did not apply critical thinking skills to the show’s concept.

“Why perpetuate stereotypes when it’s not empowering women in South Africa? Why would they reinforce the discourse around ‘jollofinas’ and transactional relationships?” Aderibigbe asked.

Furthermore, viewers asked Showmax why it only opened applications to women if it believed that the show was meant to promote “inclusivity and diversity, particularly for Africans”.

Considering the country’s gender-based violence crisis, existing xenophobia, and the discourse around intercultural relationships, the show is considered rage bait by Showmax to increase subscriber numbers.

“We live in a country where South African men are some of the main perpetrators in both GBV and xenophobic attacks, with Nigerian men as most of the victims. This does nothing to grow that pan-Africanism they supposedly want to promote,” she said.

Sidebar Glossary: Jollofina – A public definition of a South African woman who is well-known for dating Nigerian men. She even uses words like Wahala during conversations, and she calls other men broke because she benefits financially from the ill-gotten riches of her Nigerian man.

Example: “That Jollofina from campus was warming up Jollof rice for her Nigerian man last night.”

Slay Queen – A term inspired by slang unique to the drag world and the LGBTIQ+ community, intended to positively affirm those around them. Now it is defined as young females who aim for luxurious lifestyles through wealthy men, and pretend to afford a lavish partying lifestyle.

(Note to online editor:

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