Nollywood and Women Profiling: A Case Study of Two Nigerian Home Videos Films
Adefolaju Eben ADESEKE
Department of Theatre and Media Arts
Ekiti State University
Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State
There is no doubt that the Nigerian home video has become a phenomenon as it has received accolades and backlash from audience and critics as well. It has remained a major export of Nigerian culture thereby having great influence on its audience both within and outside the country. It has been observed that some home videos portray women as inferior, second class and sex objects which has dragged the lofty image of the country in the mud and has influenced the audience negatively, especially young women. This has, without doubt, thwarted our cultural heritage and the country’s image. This research aims to protest against such immoral image construction, deep-seated discrimination, under-representation and widespread hyper-sexualisation of women and girls. We shall examine and analyze two Yoruba-language video films in contextualizing this discussion. The films are: Posh and One Million Boys produced by Yemi Terry and Omogoriola Hassan, respectively. Since Nigerian films fall within the realm of popular culture, we will employ feminist criticism in the analysis. This is appropriate since feminist criticism gives women a voice where they have been negatively represented as this research will help to reposition the Nigerian film industry for better performance, right women profiling that coalesce in a better image and etiquettes for video film audience, especially women.
Key Words: Nollywood, women profiling, ethical relativism, feminist criticism.
Nigeria home video has become a phenomenon and has received accolades and backlashes, positive and negative criticism and appraisals. One important function of the media, especially the home video is that it remains the major export of our culture, customs, values and traditions; by so doing, it exercises a measure of influence on its audience both within and outside the country. Such influence or impact is profound because the home video engages the sight and hearing, therefore has much effects on peoples’ attitude. Behm Morawitz and Mastro confirm this thus:
Research examine the effect of media exposure demonstrate that media consumption has a measurable influence on people’s perceptions of the real world, and regardless of the accuracy of these perceptions, they are used to help guide subsequent attitude, judgment and actions (131).
Other scholars (Payne page; Ekwechu, Adinum & Uzuegbenam page; Adeseke page) have argued the veracity of this claim.
The emergence of the “popular Nigerian film industry” (Osofisan v), also known as, Nollywood, has brought a combination of cultural and economic fortune on the Nigerian community. Osofisan gives a vivid description of this phenomenon, its scope, acceptability and economic potentials in the following words:
… the emergence of this industry has been a unique cultural and economic phenomenon. Completely home-grown, developed out of the resourcefulness and ingenuity of mostly half-literate artistes and marketers, the Nigerian video films have blossomed into vast global commodities, now avidly sought by consumers not only here on the black continent, but all over the black Africans in the Diaspora, including non-Africans (Osofisan v).
In terms of output and audience patronage in Africa, the Nigerian home video films, referred to as, Nollywood, first by Financial Times of New York to describe the Nigerian video film industry (Onishi 1) has become a remarkable venture. As far back as 1997, Haynes in his book, Nigerian Video Films, said that the Nigeria home videos,
are dramatic features shot on video and marketed on cassette (now CDs and VCDs) are sometimes also exhibited publicly with the video projectors or televisions monitors on the average home videos are being produced at a rate of nearly one a day” (Haynes 9. Parenthesis and italics mine).
Recent research shows a conservative estimate of at least one video film per week (Aihe in Okunna 24). Aihe further states that in a single year, more than three hundred local films had been pumped into the Nigerian market (in Okunna 24). Its popularity keeps on rising by the day (Domkap 26). When one considers its popularity, patronage and economic viability, one would be correct to say that it is a major contemporary art form. This is incontrovertible because there is no home, especially in the urban centres without CD players. In addition, the cable television networks such as DSTV, GOTV, STARTIMES, ORISUN TV, DAARSAT and others have made it more convenient to watch Nigerian home videos up to at least five different films in a day at the convenience of our homes.
According to Haynes, it is only the daily press that rivals the videos as a medium for telling the story of Nigeria (9). Since inception, through the humble effort of Kenneth Nnebue in 1992, the Nigerian home video films has become a veritable and viable instrument in propagating and preserving our diverse and vibrant cultural heritage as well as aiding interculturalism and national cohesion.
Conversely, some Nigerian home videos’ portrayal of our cultural ethos and of women is inappropriate, misleading and therefore unacceptable. In an attempt to ape the Hollywood, some Nigerian home videos could be accused of “projecting intentionally or ignorantly an image (of women) and even men that contains old myths, misconceptions, and even distortions of true images” (Cantor 76). It is an unpardonable error of ignorance on the part of some video producers or directors not to know that “black aesthetics, black values, tastes, norms and culture are different from the Caucasians that we can decide on the necessity and desirability, or otherwise of bringing these traits to the Nigerian cinema and home video” (Opubor & Nwuneli14). In actual sense, some Nigerian home videos could be described as “anti-life,” using D.H. Lawrence’s words. He further described that anti-life art “are full of a corrupt brightness of improper appeals and moral evasions” (in Hutchison 19). It has been observed that some Nigerian home videos have failed to portray the country in positive image. Bloodletting, violence, female armed robbery gangs, murder, illicit and provocative sex, provocative and near-nude costumes, pornography, assault, witchcraft and occultism, ritual killing, get rich quick syndrome have been substituted for good morals, mores, social values that originally characterize the Nigerian culture. In effect, the country’s high moral standard and values have been thrown into disrepute.
We are not arguing that some of the above mentioned vices are not occurring but we argue that they are over portrayed as if those are the only issues that pervade the society. The reason for this is due to the vigorous competition the industry has entered into in copying the western culture through its films. This undue competition confuses its primary audience rather than enlightening, informing and educating them. The deliberate distortion of image, cultural heritage and values of Nigerian people found in recent Nigerian home videos, which inevitably instil in or induce its audiences with anti social and immoral behaviour is quite disheartening and unacceptable.
It is good to note that some home videos have portrayed women negatively as voiceless in the society, sex objects, vulnerable and weak, always at the mercy of men. Some videos praise male sexual and social pride over women. Some video films see nothing wrong with polygamy and leave women to struggle and survive in a survival of the fittest atmosphere. Most times, their lives and dignity are controlled and soiled by established patriarchal system. Men are sometimes portrayed in the old culture of overtly domineering posture with extreme uncaring and unfeeling attitude towards women. Sometimes, men are portrayed as flirts or womanizers who see women as “commodity money can buy” and ready to sacrifice anything to become rich. Such portrayer is insidious because the tenet of cognitive theory “expected that consumption of teen movies would have an analogous influence on audience members’ gender-based attitude and believe” (Ekwechu, Adinum & Uzuegbenam 131).
The question now is that, if culture is dynamic, how has our home videos reflected the progressive changes in our culture for adequate, appropriate and wholesome propagation as well as preservation for the next generation? We share Haynes’ sentiment (in Okome & Haynes 19) that, “film is not supposed to do anything within society except make it generally better through the gentle suasion of noble examples.” Some home videos perpetuate the stereotyping of women characterizing them as essentially dependent, by portraying them only as spouses, mothers and sordidly, as sex objects. They are sometimes portrayed as irrational, inactive or hyperactive and indecisive members of the society. Such profiling is obnoxious, outmoded and ignoble examples.
Ethical Values and Morality
Ethnical relativism suggests that something is morally right for a person if the person’s society thinks that it is morally right. Therefore, if society’s belief and moral acceptance determine morality, it them means that we must conform to the moral standard as suggested by the society. Morality then is conformity. It then follows that the only moral standard to be adopted for moral judgments in a society would be the moral standards of the society, expectedly within the Nigeria society, our sense of morality is embedded in our culture (Opubor & Nwuneli page; Billington, Strawbridge, Greensides, & Fitzismons page). Those cultural traits are held in high esteem, observed religiously and jealously too. Any aberration to such traits is always frowned at and those involved in such act are usually labelled black sheep, dissidents and regarded as immoral and wayward. Ekwuazi mentions such immoral acts as “bloodletting, murder, sexual perversion, pornography, witchcraft, violence and ritual killing” (36). Mgbegume includes the following in the list of what Nigerian society abhors and considers immoral, “armed robbery as a means of livelihood, occultism, gross disobedience to parents, greed and corruption without enough emphasis placed on virtues” (3). Portraying such negative traits in our home videos as normal can render our society decadent and pervert.
In any developing nation like Nigeria, entertainment and education through films “should be for the ultimate purpose of facilitating the exchange of information that would engender the cultivation of new attitude, norms and values, such communication will depend on its lucid exposition of the benefit inherent in such exchange” (Ibagere 139). Such endeavour is expected to be a “potent tool for mass mobilization and nation building … would also help in repairing the maligned Nigerian image abroad, check the damaging cultural invasion of this country by negative foreign films and even foreign exchange for the country” (“The Cradle of Film" 3, 4).
Marshal McLuhan professed in the 1960s that communication and technology would turn the whole world to a global village, truly “communication technologies has collapsed the boundaries and territories of the world to bring information and entertainment to people in their homes at all times” (Ayakoroma 23). What makes the situation more precarious is that people can watch video films at the convenience of their homes without any check since viewers must have agreed on what to watch. Due to such convenience and possibility of choosing what to watch, people prefer to remain at home to watch and it is made much easier because it could also be watched on handsets and iPhones thereby making the world a global hamlet.
We argue that it may be true that the Nigerian home video industry has become highly engaging (Ayakoroma 21), considering the number and level of discussions it has engendered, but it is not true that it contributes to the positive image of Nigeria in the global arena, rather most of the films have succeeded in wrecking havoc on the image of Nigeria abroad. Such negative profiling of women earlier mentioned is deliberate because modern technologies afforded film producers to preview and make adjustments where necessary (Ayakoroma 22).
Since the home video has the “potential of positively influencing and moulding end-users to cultures, ideas and values” (Ayakoroma 23), it can also influence its audience negatively to imitate vices shown in it. The attitudes of young ones today are a true reflection of what our films propagate. For instance, a Yoruba language film, titled, Ibale, could be said to glorify rape. A male student drugs himself, rapes and deflowers a female student and throughout the film, there is no legal action instituted against the culprit and no punishment meted on him. This could be interpreted that rape is a normal thing and anyone who commits such atrocity would also go scot free. This without doubt, could be responsible for the soaring rape cases and violence against women in the society. This goes to show the “link that exists between violence in media images and violence against women, and violence in the society” (Nicholson, Walker & Wedderburn vi).
Content and Costuming
The content of some Nigerian home videos are sordid and some incomprehensible. What some producers do is to concoct stories and add irrelevant issues to the main plot in order to achieve a full or complete film. Therefore, the contents sometimes do not cohere or align with the main plot. They also add pictures to ‘kill’ time and to attract the audience.
In costuming, the home videos have not fared better. To use Utoh-Ezeajugh’s words: “costume designers in Nigerian video films are deliberately costuming to corrupt” (65). The type of costume portrayal in some Nigerian home videos is further described by Utoh-Ezeajugh as:
A provocative costume culture ranging from skimpy dresses, see through blouses, too short and too tight skirts, to strapless dresses/blouses, breast exposing, public hair exposing, bum-exposing trousers, skirts and blouses have become the hallmark of the Nigerian film production (66).
This is accentuated by Nzekwue that:
In today’s cultural milieu, a cursory observation reveals that video films highly influence young lives. The media affects their dress sense, hairdo, make-up, love and choices of music, walk, talk and thought. Sadly, the video film, much giving to slavish copying of society instead of positively altering these negative stereotypes has rather reinforced these negative stereotypes (in Utoh-Ezeajugh 66).
Due to such portrayal, the audience becomes vulnerable; they see the actresses as role models that must be emulated. There are styles and dresses named after actresses by the Nigerian audience not because they were the first to wear them but just because the audience feels it is a way of identifying with them. Therefore, the influence of the actresses may be corruptive if negative and may be encouraging, if positive.
Wood encapsulates our discussion so far and position in the following long but germane quotation:
All forms of media communicate images of the sexes, many of which perpetuate unrealistic, stereotypical, and limiting perception. Three themes describe how media represents gender. First, women are underrepresented, which falsely implies that men are cultural standard and women are unimportant or invisible. Second, men and women are portrayed in stereotypical ways that reflect and sustain socially endorsed views of gender. Third, depictions of relationships between men and women emphasize traditional roles and normalize violence against women (page).
The two films to be assessed are Yoruba language films, which refers to “films produced in Yoruba language, with religious and metaphysical imaginings; drawing its compositional elements from the past and present realities of the Yoruba universe; folklore, mode of governance, family institution and so on” (Adeoti 12). The films are expected to “fall within the purview of Yoruba video film genre … to interrogate … Yoruba history, culture, religion, politics and social order” (Adeoti 12); but unfortunately, the two films misrepresented all these and dealt a blow on the Yoruba highly esteemed social order, moral and culture.
A Critique of One Million Boys
The film, One Million Boys, was produced by Omogoriola Hassan in 2013 featuring, Omogoriola Hassan, Cossy Orjiakor, Murphy Afolabi, Murphy Adeniyi and others. The film revolves around a young boy, Sultan who constantly receives ill treatment from the grandmother. Though brilliant and ready to learn in school, the grandmother refuses to allow him attend school regularly, she subjects the boy to all manners of ill treatment through hawking and peddling. One day, a bike hits the boy and destroys all the food he is selling and plates, when he gets home, instead for the mother to pity his condition, she attempts to whip him and the boy escapes and runs away from home. He later grows up to become an armed robber, a kidnapper and a tout. He is later caught after committing lots atrocities and jailed.
In our opinion, the film employs naturalism in all its pictures. This is because it promotes lesbianism openly; girls are seen kissing and romancing more than once in the film, the film glorifies rape which is done repeatedly for a long time with serious abuse of girls. It is almost showing as pornography, girls are molested and maltreated, turned to punching bags without any repercussion, this shows scenes of perverted sexual activities without constraints, kidnapping takes place without reprimand. The governor’s son’s birthday is characterized by corrosive and suggestive dances that render the girls as pun in the hands of men. The dancing girls at the party appear almost nude, wearing bikinis and perforated swimming trunks exposing almost all part of their bodies. The boys in the films appear cantankerous, wild and infamous. They behave indecently.
It is a fact that the film does not necessarily need to show all those negative profiling of women to show the negative impact of sultan’s grandmother’s attitude on him. It is often said that action (pictures) speaks louder than voice (word). Those inglorious portrayals of women, without doubt, would have negative effect on both young boys and girls, even adults. The boys in the film appear cantankerous, wild and infamous treating women with contempt and ignominy. Youths especially, may feel that such temperament against women’s folk is justified. The girls’ costumes are nothing but rags; they involve themselves in lesbianism, wrong costuming, suggestive dances, selling their bodies for money, getting involved in surprising armed robbery and all sorts of untoward behaviours. This can be a bad influence on women, especially young girls and must have been responsible for the replica of such actions on our streets and our campuses today. In our opinion, the film, One Million Boys, did not pass through the Censors Board or something mischievous must have taken place for such film to be released for public consumption.
A Critique of Posh
The film, Posh, was produced by Yemi Terry Isidahomi in 2014. It centres round Adedire (Fausat Balogun) and Posi (Yemi Terry), two girls from different mothers in a polygamous home. Their father owns an hospital, after the doctor handling the hospital resigned to handle his own hospital, Adedire, a medical doctor is asked to take over the management of the hospital. Posi’s mother, who is always at loggerhead with Adedire’s mother, sees this as an aberration and decides to impose Posi, a graduate of Communication Studies on Adedire as the general manager of the hospital. Being a wayward girl, Posi infiltrates the hospital with many social misdemeanours, she employs her jobless friends as Nurses in the hospital even when they do not have the requisite qualifications, she sends Nurses parking because they bear local names and are ugly. She makes her friend (Nurse) dress in skimpy nurse uniforms, heavy make-ups, wild hair-do as they commit lots of atrocities in the hospitals that turn the hospital into a hotel. The nurses become wild as they caress, smooch and romance sick patients on their sick-beds to the extent that those who heard of this pretend as patients to “enjoy” such unwholesome affair. For instance, they caress a man who faints but later comes round. Posi celebrates her birthday in the hospital amidst drinking, smoking, erotic and suggestive dances and loud music which disturbs the patients. Their father later dies of poison. It is later revealed that Adedire, the well behaved daughter, is an adopted child. She decides to kill those who know about this secret (her father and the lawyer) so that it does not get to the public domain. She succeeds in killing her supposed father but fails in eliminating the lawyer. The whole secret becomes known when the lawyer comes to read out the man’s will to the whole family. Adedire, under spell confesses that the she injects the father and kills him. The play ends tragically with the death of Adedire who vomits blood till death.
Our observation is that this film produced by a woman is not but a misrepresentation and negative profiling of the women folk. It is observed that the story line is good but the picture content of the film is below par and abysmal. Researchers have found out that such films may desensitize parents. According to Catherine Doyce (http://news.yahoo.com) “parents may get so accustomed to seeing sex and violence in movies and television that they end up in lowering their standard for what kids are allowed to watch.” It is unfortunate for a woman producer to present women in this light and even acted such demeaning role. This is demeaning, despicable and totally unacceptable. Media, due to its power of inducement and acculturation and being a tool for shaping public consciousness should provide the needed education for viewers as a “guideline for the individual, the family and community concerning what is good, what we ought to do and how we should do it or else there will be constant danger of moral problems and chaos” (Oyedepo 15).
It has been established that some Nigerian video films portray women wrongly and stereotypically to the detriment of our culture, women image and good morals within the society. Such profiling has translated into “male Chauvinistic tendencies manifested in diverse patrilineal and patriarchal practices against women” (Okunna 23). As a matter of fact, rape cases and other violence against women are engendered and encouraged through those films. If care is not taken, our morals will continue to be eroded and this may culminate in a precarious and chaotic society. This is because what people listen to have much impact on their behaviour talk less what they listen to and see.
Therefore, we suggest that National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) becomes proactive towards its responsibilities in extricating untoward images and speeches from films before releasing them for audience consumption. Parents should inculcate sound morals into their children and monitor the kind of films they watch. Public opinion towards women could be re-shaped through women groups, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and other related parastatals, NGOs, films, broadcast and other avenues. Nigerian women should also shun roles that subjugate and debase them as this will encourage producers to find more suitable roles for them. This means that “our women should re-immerse themselves, rediscover their glorious place and roles and apply this rediscovery in challenging their present predicament and situations” (Musa 17).
It is a fact that our culture has gained strength and has been repositioned through cultural dynamism presented in home videos films but care must be taken so that it does not become a corruptive influence through the aping of the Caucasian style of living.
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