Why local isn't lekker

2008-10-10 11:17
The entertainment industry is difficult to explain, so let's do it this way: imagine you are watching two trains colliding at high speed and you are eternally frozen in the moment just after recognising the mind-numbing disaster you are witnessing, and just before realising its consequences.

Now imagine both trains are made of pure gold. One is packed with a cargo of glitter, fireworks and birthday cakes, and the other is full of vomit.

In the resulting explosion there are babies having babies so they'll have something to sing about on their next record, A-listers who won't even talk to their own parents attempting to adopt entire African countries, and rockers going out with models skinnier than their favourite heroin syringe.

There's breakdowns, break-ups, overdoses and under-eating - and that's just when things are going well.

It's easy to forget that show business is, in fact, just a business. Everything you see, hear, dance to or lust after when you have a private moment is a product designed purely to get you to part with your money and make you come back again when you've earned some more.

It gives you what it thinks you want over and over again, until you actually do.

Much like objectivity in the media, originality in entertainment is just a superficial illusion to keep you from feeling cheated. Consistency is the only real magic they won't stop, because that's what keeps us coming back for more.

So no matter how crazy things get in the next 10 years or so, remember: we asked for it. We're living in a consumerist society, and if you don't believe that, try getting out of a supermarket without buying anything.

Reality

Before the essence of evil that is Idols and its many diabolical clones attached itself to our cultural cervix, the local music industry was little more than a cluster of drunken garage musicians fuelled by the scars of adolescence and their own virginity, a couple of disco super-queens with more money than the pope, and of course kwaito's pseudo-gangstas fighting it out with Pieter Torien-style (ie, cheap) musicals to see who can produce the most derivative, cheesy drek as stupid as the people who pay for it.

There's a reason why the saying "local is lekker" has survived for so long: because the local music industry is anything but.

You don't see similar slogans from the Russians about their ability to churn out above-average chess players, and French winemakers don't have to be constantly reminding local enthusiasts that France makes some pretty decent wine too.

Reality TV has changed popular music into something you can now safely watch with your parents - and that's not a good sign for the future. Today's squeaky clean TV show contestants seem to be where the local music industry is headed.

Even local hip-hop musicians are thanking Jesus on their CDs now. That's just not right!

But like the 80s icons they look up to, the real entertainment will only come years later after they've fallen from grace.

The Idols-winning mallrat Jody Williams may be boring us all to death right now with her no-hit wonder CD, but in a mere decade's time, if she's still following her heroes Celine and Whitney, she may very well be married to a man 30 years her senior and addicted to crack. That would make for some fun headlines in Heat.

Maybe Mandoza will take the whole "gansta" thing one step too far and wind up doing life after a drive-by shooting attempt. And since we're being optimistic, maybe someone will sit down and have a nice long chat with Kurt Darren, and tell him to please, please stop. And then jam a butter-knife in his windpipe, just to be sure.

Darren's latest CD makes me want to crawl up to Steve Hofmeyr on my hands and knees and beg him to forgive me for ever calling him a talentless hack.

Fakery future

So what's in store for the next 10 years? Ultimately, we can expect more of the same. Reality TV will get even faker as it gets even more popular, edging out real talent to create prefabricated Fassies, Kramers and Masekelas, who were not built to last much longer than their two-year guarantee.

TV is already becoming a wasteland of soulless reality shows, which is actually an improvement on any local English language sitcom ever made, or ever will be made. Soap operas everybody knows are irredeemable, but watch anyway, will continue to be produced, watched, and complained about.

Derek Watts and Noleen Maholwana-Sangqu will unite to form a single, un-killable reptilian entity that talks like an ANC supporter, but votes for the DA, and feeds off the souls of "special" children and unwanted animals. OK, maybe not, but if it did happen I wouldn't be too surprised.

And for another decade at least, local filmmakers will once again fail to pull their heads out of their asses and make a decent movie. South African film is divided into two categories.

On the one hand we have the hand-wringing, politically sensitive flatulence that wins awards and empties cinemas, and on the other there's Leon Schuster, a cynical, opportunistic fart-monger, wallowing in all that is vapid, cruel and bigoted for an audience of boneheads.

Sitting somewhere in the middle is Hansie, in which we once again prove to the world that we as a nation are incapable of letting go of our fallen heroes, no matter how low they go.

Coming soon: Thabo, Winnie and Wouter. I'll watch, of course, but for all the wrong reasons.

  • Chris McEvoy writes a twice-weekly column on Channel24.co.za, 24.com's entertainment destination.

    Send your comments to Chris.

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