By Motsi Macheka
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 1 of VARSITY News.
Gone are the days of the classic South African soapies such as Generations and Isidingo. Unlike our parents, the South African youth are immersed in Western television series as opposed to local favourites. Our media networks continue to localise foreign TV shows like The Voice, MasterChef and Real Housewives due to more interest in these franchises. In 2019, the popular reality show The Bachelor hit the sunny shores of South Africa. After achieving commercial success, the second season is well underway with handsome hunk Marc Buckner gracing our screens as the new suitor. However, such Western/American shows reveal themselves as disingenuous when adapted to the South African cultural context.
The issue of race has always been present in the dialogue of The Bachelor (USA), with the first black Bachelorette only appearing on our screens in 2017, after 15 years of the show. Likewise, this issue has translated onto our local screens with the Bachelor himself and majority of the contestants being white. After episode three of the current season, tensions in the house escalated as The Bachelor contestants engaged in an altercation to which Nolo, a black contestant, apologised twice. Although the beef seemed to be squashed, racist undertones were revealed in the house’s dynamic as white housemates continued to exacerbate the problem and gang-up against her. This speaks to the issue of the racialised portrayal and the caricatures made of black women as angry, ill-mannered and ill-tempered. It can be said that M-Net is partly to blame for this as all appearances of Nolo in the show exclusively display these characteristics.
Overall, it is evident that this portrayal has raised red flags for many South Africans – not just because of the offensive undertones within the show but rather the distasteful effects of American/Western TV shows when translated into our context.