Gay TV for straight people

2013-11-17 14:00

When SABC1 premiered After Nine six years ago, the gay audience relished the opportunity to see themselves on primetime TV for the first time.

Conservative viewers were shocked at the sight of men kissing.

The second season could not rely on newness to succeed. The story lines must be engrossing and resonate with audiences, whether straight or gay.

As the latest season draws to a close, I keep asking myself: Is it not genuine because it’s made by straight people – and a sprinkling of gays – who don’t know the life they’re writing about?

For me, the drama must portray the truth of the homosexual experience in South Africa – even if the focus of the second season is the woman (Bokang) who knowingly marries a gay man (China).

But it is simply not authentic. It’s a pity, because After Nine is a vehicle to inform us about homosexuality, to normalise the issue in a nation where the rape and murder of lesbians is rife.

If this production was dedicated to telling an authentic story about gay men and the women who marry them, would Bokang really co-own a gay club? Would she really push China into the arms of his ex (Hector) to steal ideas for a big tender? Is she that naive? Is she actually a manipulative vixen? Either way, the character is impaled by dodgy story lines.

Ultimately, Bokang is shown as a victim of her husband’s homosexuality and not a woman who makes serious errors of judgement.

The club wants to be a central location in the story, but it seems to be used mainly to show gays in their “natural habitat” and to tap into the torch song cliché, with strange, dislocated opening soliloquies delivered by a drag queen.

And where’s the chemistry between the actors?

There’s an awkward distance between the gay characters.

It feels to me that the rules for relating in heterosexual relationships have simply been applied to homosexual ones.

We don’t need more bedroom scenes; there are plenty of those.

What we need is the truth of the characters to shine through.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community get to see that their lives matter enough to be on primetime TV. However, what we’re being told about who we are is another matter.

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