TV Guide: Plugging the generation gap

2012-12-09 10:00

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This column should start with an appeal not to be judged. I have a confession to make.

Lately, I’ve been finding it hard to rip myself away from the idiot box. I’ve been spending my mid-mornings at the office watching repeats of Generations. Yes, that’s right, the long-running SABC1 soapie.

The scriptwriters seem to have found a way to lift the show beyond what I’ve often found insufferably pretentious. It’s that preoccupation with what we can call a shameless pursuit of middle-class banalities. (Although I must admit the story line has suddenly grown intense and gripping.)

Anyway, I’ve been captivated by the issues surrounding the death of Khaphela (played by Mike Mvelase). The character came to the big city as a domestic hand of one of the rich characters, Tau. He’s since built himself up to be his own man.

However, his rural background is still a big part of his urban life. He is polygamous and still observes his rituals in honour of his ancestors.

So now he’s dead, and his eclectic and delicately balanced world is turned loose. Generations went forth to deal with that tense space where culture and crimes of passion melt into one narrative.

This since Khethiwe, the urbanised young wife in the polygamous marriage, commissioned the killing of her husband.

The theme here is about much more than it seems.

It’s about that tension of tradition and modernity in the new South African black experience.

So when Khethiwe goes toe-to-toe with Sara over the fate of their husband, we witness more than just a catfight. It’s a grand battle to decide just how much old traditions should be kept as Africans march into a new social reality.

We have to ask tricky questions like what happens to a dead person whose organs are donated and so remain alive while they are gone? Do they also become ancestors upon joining the eternal part of their family?

Speaking of ancestors, what are the spiritual rights of Khethiwe’s son, Mpilo, who is not Khaphela’s biological child? Do adopted children have the same rights as biological offspring?

So the soapie here has found an important nerve of debate.

It’s about that grand question: how much can a culture at the crossroads of time allow itself to shed?

These are real modern darkie questions and worth every cent of paying that TV licence.

- City Press

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