THE kiss between two men on popular soapie Generations has the country in a frenzy.
Viewers weren’t expecting their beloved Senzo to lock lips with Jason this week and emotions have been running high since.
Thami Mngqolo, the actor who plays the role of Senzo, admits that he has been keeping a low profile since the scene was aired.
“I don’t want to stir up reaction. I am generally a private person. I’d rather not have to deal with people’s opinions. It’s not like I am paranoid or on tenterhooks. I go to work and then straight home,” says Mngqolo.
Although he hasn’t been physically attacked or threatened, Mngqolo (26), from Galeshewe in Kimberley, says he’d rather not deal with a mob mentality.
He says besides the odd snide remark here and there, like a group of men who called him “this gay”, he hasn’t lost any fans.
“A lot of the time people can’t tell the difference between Senzo and Thami. This is a job that I am doing. Acting is my talent and I’m lucky to get paid while I do what I really love.”
However, Mngqolo admits that he was initially reluctant to take on the character of Senzo, given the stigma attached to gay characters. But he soon realised that acting fulfils his passion.
“I knew a year ago already what Senzo would end up doing so I was able to prepare my parents, family and close friends.
“Life imitates art and art imitates life. We’re not sucking our thumbs here. These things are there and they should not be treated as taboo. They need to be destigmatised.”
Mngqolo has a steady girlfriend whose name he doesn’t want to reveal. He adds that she couldn’t watch the controversial kissing scene.
For Zolani Xaluva (Jason) it has been a well-balanced reaction of shock and excitement.
“I have been getting around and people do give me an odd look here and there but generally they have been quite nice, both young and old. A man at the Spar in Melville said to me that as black people we shouldn’t be doing these scenes.
“People are still in the shocked stage. There’s more to come when the two characters come face-to-face and settle this matter.”
He argues that as an actor he wants to tell stories that are based on the truth and reality.
“I am not on TV to be popular. It’s a calling. I am liberal and accepting. I am a straight guy and this is all in a day’s work. My girlfriend knew about the scene and she was also very accepting. In fact she wished the kissing scene was a bit longer.”
But many fans are unforgiving. A Facebook group called “We will stop watching Generations if Senzo and Jason continue kissing” was formed on Wednesday and by Friday night it had more than 8?200 members who petitioned the producers to scrap the gay storyline.
They have nicknamed the soapie Gayerations and Gaynerations.
Some of the commenters include Thembeka Ngcobo who says: “If you are gay it’s fine but don’t publicise it because it’s disgusting. It’s worse than animal behaviour. I hate gays. I get goosebumps every time I think of them. My days of watching Generations are numbered.”
Another fan, Mpho Motloung, remarks: “If people don’t wake up and see that the world is coming to an end they are real fools. Just because this filthy act is happening in night clubs, toilets and everywhere out there doesn’t make it right. If something is wrong it’ll always be wrong and it becomes a problem when it has to be shoved down our throats like that and be taught to the children we are raising.”
Others have been a little more understanding, such as Sabatha Khambule, who remarks: “One would expect you all to be used to this by now, besides they’re just acting. Someone has to put bread on the table for their respective families.”
Steve Cross scribbles: “I just hate it when a group of people who were discriminated horribly against then think it is their right to discriminate against another group.
“I’m gay and my friends and I attended every anti-apartheid rally that we could. To read this is pathetic. So all the black people who scream racism whenever they are the minority are now willing to discriminate against another group. You disgust me.”
Others even threaten violence. Bulelani Dada writes: “I f*cking hate that Jason guy. I don’t care whether this is all an act, but if I bump into him one day I will give him a good klap across the face.”
But Generations is not backing down. Mark Graham, the show’s artistic director, says the storyline was created to educate, enlighten and inform.
“It reveals that a character who the audience has come to know, respect and love is homosexual and that this does not change who he is as a person in any way whatsoever.”
Graham says Generations challenges its audience to examine its prejudices and beliefs about people who are different.
“Hate is one of the root causes of any discriminatory behaviour, be it racism, sexism, xenophobia or homophobia. If, through Senzo, one person stops hating another simply because they are different, Generations will have achieved what it set out to do with this storyline.”