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UZONDU, Ifeyinwa: Pornography in Nollywood: An Aberration in Nigerian Culture

Pornography in Nollywood: An Aberration in Nigerian Culture

Ifeyinwa UZONDU

Department of Theatre Arts

Alvan lkoku University of Education

Owerri, Imo-State, Nigeria

Email:

GSM: +234-806-513-3779

&

Ikechukwu EJELONU

Department of Theatre Arts

Alvan lkoku University of Education

Owerri, Imo-State, Nigeria

Email:

GSM: +234-806-426-9922

Abstract

The level at which Nigeria movie industry (Nollywood) has continued to churn out pornographies, in exchange to educative movies in Nigerian market is worrisome. In the good old days of the industry, movies were directed towards societal norms and ethics of African culture and tradition. Presently, film producers, directors and actors are expressing gross lack of cultural values and discipline in their artistic creations and representations, which this paper identifies as counterproductive to the society, as the value attached to the industry is depreciating gradually. Investigations have proved that the availability of sophisticated equipment and materials in this 21st century, the introduction of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) and the quest for stardom by some nascent artist have contributed immensely to the production, distribution and viewing of these destructive contents. Movies have great influence in the moral behaviour of the society, especially on the youths. Therefore, Nigerian movie practitioners should not feign ignorance of the fact that they are empowered to set agenda that will help shape the thought pattern of the public. Suffice it to say that, when movies are bereaved of moral and educative values, the adverse effect cannot be farfetched. This paper uses some selected movies for illustrations. Thus, Pornography has no place in Nigerian culture and must be expunged from the industry irrespective of Western influence. As such, Government and its various film regulatory agencies must stamp their fit on the ban on pornographic movies in Nigeria. 

Introduction

In some years past, pornography was not an issue of contention in Nigerian society; the act was terribly perceived as an abominable display that assaults the senses of sights and reasoning. In those good old days, pornographic materials from Western world are viewed in secluded places with low patronage. Presently, the reverse is the case; the sophisticated technological equipment of the 21st century and the introduction of lnformation Communication Technology (ICT) have given prowess to the acceptability of pornography as a nascent culture in Nollywood. Thus, the divergent and vast technological innovations have also aided the production, distribution and consumption of these harmful products.

The word pornography stems from Greek words, porne which means a harlot or whore, and graphos, which means, a writing or depiction. The combination of this two words give the meaning as, “a depiction or description of the activities of whores or harlots.” The Wikipedia defines pornography as, “a depiction of licentious or lewdness, or a portrayal of erotic behaviour designed to cause sexual excitement.” An online encyclopaedia defines pornography as, “the collection of pictures, writings and other materials that are sexually explicit, and sometimes equate sex with power and violence.” For the purpose of this study, pornography can best be described as those sexually explicit materials intended to create unnecessary sexual arousal, capable of mis-directing and undermining the value of sex to the viewers.

Pornographic materials are classified into hard core and soft core. Hard cores refer to those materials that expose the human organs in their natural state so provocatively, while the soft cores refer to those indecent exposures of half nakedness or nudity. These two divides of pornographies are also interpreted as violent and non- violent in nature. Hard cores are perceived as violent in nature because they involve the use of sexually explicit portrayals that operates beyond the boundaries of decency for consensual and non-coercive tendencies. While soft cores are seen as non-violent because it is the opposite of the former, it involves a tactical submission to sexual advances by positioning some of the models; especially women as weaker vessels thereby, wantonly exposing some sensitive parts of the body all in the name of sexual gratification.

No matter the colouration given to the types and degrees of pornography, it violates public morality. The values expressed in pornographic movies in particular tilts towards the destruction of the cultural values of a people, as their potentials undermine the traditional values that favour marriage, family and child’s upbringing. Pornographic movies create the impression of a man and woman that just met and want to gain sexual gratification by throwing themselves so carelessly at each other without caution. This animalistic display is devoid of love, care, concern or any emotional attachment, and holds no hope for a continuation after they must have satisfied their uncontrollable libidos. These acts obviously lack artistic interpretations and alter perceptions of sexuality. It is only a deliberate act of deception, characterized with illicit sexual practices that breed contempt and disdain with the nude images of the parties involved. Pornography has in no small measures trivialized rape and child abuse as criminal offenses and promotes man’s insensitivity towards victims. Studies have shown causal link between pornography and social crimes, as most sex and violent crime offenders are proven to have had high exposure to pornography at their adolescent stages of life. The range of problems associated with pornography is wider than it seems, everything pertaining to the negative and immoral behavioural tendencies which the youth’s exhibit today, can be directly or indirectly be attributed to their constant viewing or exposure to pornographic movies, taking into cognisance the unseen powers of motion pictures. In the view of Opubor and Onuoha:

Of all the media of mass communication, the motion picture has perhaps the most universal appeal and impact. Properly conceived and executed, a film can rise above the limitations of language and cultural barriers by the power of its visual images, its use of music and sound effects can succeed in conveying much the same message to the audiences of heterogeneous backgrounds…. Because of films’ potential effectiveness in communicating emotions and ideas, V.I. Lenin, the Soviet leader, referred to film as the most important of all the arts for the construction of socialism (quoted in Ndubuisi 102). 

Nollywood has in recent times tilted their themes towards pornography, which ranges from soft core to hard core. This has caused a withdrawal syndrome from the patronage of movies from the industry by decent individuals, leaving the movies at the mercies of the adolescents who are the greatest consumers of the media. Pornography is a poor sex educator; most of them are too explicit for younger children who out of mental immaturity could adopt such behaviours to the detriment of the society. The fact that today’s children have unguarded access to the media is an issue of great concern. Sexual tendencies are portrayed in such an unrealistic and tempting manner that neglects intimacy and romance. Duruaku recognized the power of art when he wrote:

There is hardly anything in the world with power to turn or bend this way and that way the morals of men than art. It has a secret power to move our heart in one way or another. Therefore, we must be more diligent in ruling it in such a manner that it may be useful to us and in no way pernicious (16).

This paper therefore with no hesitance, is of the opinion that for children to be taught by these media, that sex is public, commercial and divorced from any degree of affection, love and commitment is injurious to their morals. The impact of pornography on a child who grows up, develops, and learns about relationships through the cultural lens of pornography is not a healthy development. The images in these movies increase their vulnerability to victimization and mis-direction. It is on this wise that this paper attempts a critique on the introduction of pornography in Nollywood.

Nollywood and Pornographic Movie Trends

In recent time, one can seldom find a Nollywood movie that does not contain explicit sexual affairs of varying degrees and nature. The level at which amorous scenes, indecent dressings and vulgarity has dominated the industry is an issue of great concern, particularly in the area of nudity. Obscenity is now a virtue and well celebrated, as some of the actresses are seen juggling and hawking their cleavages shamelessly before the camera, and equally denigrate their womanhood by exposing their organs to the full view of the public. These notorious actresses are stereotyped into indecent roles where skimpy, transparent and other sex arousing costumes are richly propagated. They wilfully show their breast, hips, thighs, and other sensitive parts of their bodies to the detriment of the young ones who look up to them as role models. Uto-Ezeajugh posits thus:

Debased, provocative and indecent costumes have become the hallmark of the Nigerian film industry. There appears to be a conspiracy by costume designers, film directors and actresses to lay aside artistic considerations in favour of creating a sex symbol image for the female stars (74).

            Several factors have been identified by this paper as the reasons that spur the production of pornography, this include but not limited to, the lucrative nature of pornography, the inordinate love for money by actors, script writers, producers, directors, marketers, free access to internet and most importantly, the institutional weakness and corrupt practices of the censors board and other regulatory bodies attached to the industry. For these reasons this paper questions the competence of the censor’s board; an institution charged with the responsibilities of ensuring that obscene movies are regulated in Nigeria. If one of the policies of the censor’s board is to ensure that video contents are not blasphemous or obscene; or denigrate the dignity of womanhood, then the leadership of the board leaves much to be desired. The emergence of nudity in Nollywood movies suggests a sinister and an unpleasant future for the young ones.

The trends of immoral representation in some Nollywood movies are evident in movies such as, Black Berry Girls, Room 027, Bedroom Assassins, Dangerous Games 1 & 11, Computer Girls, Abuja Big Girls, and many more. In these films, there are gross abuses of human bodies, with languages that promote obscenity. For instance, Cleo’s private part was been referred to as a borehole in Abuja Big Girls. Indeed, this is an indecent manner of communicating to the public, creating gaps for a wild imagination. According to Lawal:

Nollywood movies are concerned with transmitting detailed images of coitus and naked genitals for sexual stimulation, without artistic or education aims. The negative implications are that the exposure of very sensitive parts of the female body and the use of vulgar language in our African movies are injurious to morality ( 128).

Obviously these negative portrayals in Nollywood movies do not in any ramification depict African culture and moral value, but expose our society to ridicule and contempt.

            The movie titled White Hunters is a story of young and beautiful girls who believed that they can only attain sophistication by dressing half nude to attract white men with a lot of money to shower on them. In a bid to succeed in attracting these white men, sex appealing costumes that reveal their anatomy was worn by these characters. White Hunters featured lni Edo, Mercy Johnson, Funke Akindele, Halima Abubakar, etc. Mercy Johnson and Ini Edo were top contenders who went bizarre in seductive dressings and sexual acts to beat each other in the game. Black Berry Girls is yet another immodest movie where the characters such as Oge Okoye and Tonto Dike were contesting on who will use the latest black berry mobile because, the latest blackberry mobile happens to be the parameter to judge ones sophistication. As such, in order to attract their “Mugu’s,” they wore costumes that expose their breast, thighs, stomach, and generally transparent dresses to enhance their personalities they equally submitted themselves to sexual overtures to accomplish their missions. In some of the scenes in the movies, these characters were seen in hot romance with their male counterparts.

The production of hard core pornography such as, Destructive Instinct, by Nigerian born American actress, Judith Opara, popularly known as, Afro Candy, is the greatest shock Nollywood fans have received so far from the industry. In the movie, Afro candy played the role of a seductive mistress and was seen in one of the scenes in a steamy hot sex with a male actor fondling her breast and bare buttocks to the full view of the public. In one of the scenes also Judith was seen completely naked on top of her lover boy. This display of gross lack of decency and value for our culture before the camera is not a true representation of Africans.

Tonto Dike stared in soft porn movie, titled, Strippers in Love. The film centres on the act of lesbianism; Tonto was in one of the scenes kissing another female cast and went almost nude in the process. Tonto also featured in another pornographic movie, titled, Dirty Secret, where she went nude while in a hot romance with her male lover. Late Muna Obiekwe also featured in Dirty Secret and was involved in serious nude romance with his female counter part, where her breast was so revealed. In Benjamins, Collins Onwocheiwas seen making love with his house girl in his sitting room with his bare buttocks to the camera. The analysis of these films are not just a make-belief kind of scenes as it were, but true life situations that send shivers to the spines as to what these actors are set to achieve with their devilish acts.

The Image of Women in Nollywood Movies

It is imperative to unequivocally state here that, Nollywood film makers have done more harm than good in portraying the image of women negatively. Some of their movies have always concentrated in projecting the women folk as gossips, cheats, drug pushers, cheap sex merchants and host of other criminal obsessions (Onogu page?). It is quite disgusting that movies that should be an effective medium of behavioural change, has been turned to an abode of immorality, and the ideas of women being used as culprits to perpetuate these vices is equally a very serious issue to be broached. In the views of Salami:

Movies are engaged in propagating such vices as marital tensions, crises, divorce, exploitations, nudity, prostitution and pornography. In the process, women are mostly used as protagonists and a victim of wicked scheming’s to destabilize the society (61).

The greatest harm Nollywood has done is on the image of women in Nigerian society. This can be substantiated from the fact that cameras are been focused mainly on female genitals more than their male counterpart in pornographic movies. For instance, in the movie Destructive Instinct, Afro Candy’s body was so revealing in the sex scenes, while the face of the male counterpart cannot be clearly identified. In Dirty Secret where late Muna Obiekwe featured in hot romance with his female lover, the camera caught only the back of Muna, while projecting the naked features of the female with focus on her breast. Generally, in every sex scene in Nollywood movies, emphasis must be on the woman who happens not to be the only culprit. Women have been obscenely portrayed as objects of gaze and consumption by men; their bodies are objectified as spaces for acts of sexual pleasure or objects of abuse. Pornography shows significant positive association with attitudes that support violence against women. This paper therefore is of the views that women should not be made to appear as sex toys that can be manipulated without bounds. In support of this opinion, Aondowase posits that:

Nollywood should rather present women as being ideal in tradition, devoted wives, mothers of children and the epitome of enigmatic beauty full of feminine attributes. Womanhood should be that which accepts other people as human beings. The portrayal of women in the extreme as pimps, prostitutes, murderers, power mongers must give way to the positive roles women play to advance the country and the world (139).

            Women have suffered certain dehumanizing situations in the past and even at the moment as a result cultural orientations of Africans. In this era of modernity, the stereotypical images of women as weak, docile and object of sex satisfaction should not be the pre-occupation of Nollywood themes in order not to perpetuate the impressions. Rather, Nollywood should function as a channel of communication through which the positive views and desires of Nigerian women are properly articulated. Nollywood as a powerful medium that has the capability of stimulating social change and development should capitalize on their strength to project and chant a positive course for women who have contributed immensely to development of the families, societies and nations.

The Effects of Pornography on Children and the Society

There is no doubt the fact that pornography is malevolent to the development of children who are still at the primary levels of socialization and learning. This study has observed that the category of people that make up the majority audience members of Nigerian movie industry are mostly children, adolescents and youths. The older people are in the minority as they are challenged with the responsibilities of going to work, earning a living and planning a home. Apart from sleeping, watching television is the most time consuming activity of young people. By the time a child gets to eighteen years of age, he/she must have spent more time in front of the television than anywhere else including school. Since children constitute more audience membership and the media very influential, it is capable of mis-directing their focus towards negative attitudes that may be injurious to the society. Due to mental immaturity, children are highly vulnerable and prone to adapting negative attitudes by mere observation. Most studies based on social learning theory pioneered by Bandura, particularly the principals of observational learning, called, “modelling” posits that,

Modelling can be physical involving real people, or symbolic involving verbal, audio or visual representations, or a combination of these. Therefore, modelling is hereby recognized as one of the most powerful means of transmitting values, attitudes and patterns of thought and behaviours (34).

In furtherance to his views on modelling theory, Bandura posits that pornography has negative effects on children, particularly when the perpetrators are attractive characters and are not punished, or when there is little pain or suffering by the victims. Such extreme and extensive exposure underscores the question of media power in shaping the perceptions and attitudes of the public. It is worthy to state here that most children cannot distinguish between fantasies and realities as a result of mental immaturity. Hence, creating a more susceptible misunderstanding of the tenets of morality is highly detrimental to the society. In support of this view, Griffin argues that, “adult and children acquire attitudes, emotional responses and new styles of conduct through filmed and televised modelling.” He reiterates that, the highest level of observational learning is achieved by first, organizing and rehearsing the modelled behaviour symbolically and then enacting it overtly.

The use of internet has become one of the most important aspects of human life. The internet has numerous advantages and disadvantages. While it has eased business and communication, it has also created easy access to sexually obscene contents or pornography. Nollywood film makers have often resorted to the use of internet, You tubes and other available media to propagate pornography. According to Uko-Aviomoh:

Access to internet facility is now at the household level. Commercial internet houses popularly known as ‘’cyber café’’ also offer internet facilities to members of the public at affordable prices. Internet facility has numerous advantages. A typical example of the disadvantages is the case of pornography… it shows sexual acts and images in a way that is intended to make people feel sexually excited. It creates appetite where none existed before and cravings that should never be satisfied (68).

Pornography on the internet is readily available in different formats, these ranges from pictures and short animated movies, to sound files and stories. The internet also makes it easy to discuss sex, see live sex act and arrange sexual activities from computer scenes. There are also sex related discussions on the internet Relay Chat Channels (IRC) where users in small groups or in private channels exchange sex messages and files (internet source – URL?).

There seem to be no effective solution to the regulation of this illegal and destructive content on the internet because, film producers increasingly rely on the internet as a means of promotion and ensuring that these movies reach wider audience as quickly as possible. Some of the movies run full length, while some cuts have been pasted on You Tube trailers. Unfortunately, most youth have unchecked access to internet, so even when the censor’s board tries to protect them from acquiring the hard copies in the market, they cannot prevent them from online viewing. According to the deputy director of National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB), Abdullahi, “the jurisdiction of the Censors Board does not cover movies released online, our mandate is only limited to classification of movies that are going on the televisions and on the pay channels” (internet source - URL?).

The issues of churning out pornographic movies in Nollywood have evoked criticisms, condemnations and depression to many citizens of the country. It is now a taboo in many homes to buy or tune to channels that show Nollywood movies. This has reduced the level of patronage and if unchecked, may degenerate to a total collapse of the industry. The industry has since its inception, developed entrepreneurs, qualified artists of repute and standard managers, and stakeholders, with estimated revenue of over $2 billion annually. In effect, Nollywood industry was rated the first in Africa and the third in the world in terms of production (internet source - URL?). Thus, Nigeria has comparative cost advantage in film making over other countries and could be the magic wand needed for her economic stability. According to lzuchukwu,

The principles of comparative cost advantage propounded by renowned economist David Ricardo of the 19th century states that: “a country should specialize in the production of goods and services in which she has comparative cost advantage over other nations of the world.” On the other hand, Adams Smith in his principle of absolute advantage states that: “a country should specialize in the production of a commodity or commodities and services it has absolute advantage over other countries, if she can produce a commodity or service which other countries or most of the countries cannot produce” (actual source page?).

This might be the reason why some of the developed economies have specialisation in their products. For instance, most of the drugs sold in Nigeria and other countries of the world are products of India. Indians are also known for the production of feature films. Brazil is known for the production of Ethanol and building of Marcopolo buses. Thailand is the chief producer of agricultural products and kitchen wares. Nigeria is yet to specialize in the production of any particular product. In essence, since video films have become one of the profits making products which Nigeria is known for presently, it would be reasonable for the country to look into film production processes, put in more energy into the sector, get rid of any form of culture mis-representation, discard pornography and make it a brand for the country, by restructuring its production processes. Suffice it to say that Nigerians are fun loving people and this is the only reason why entertainment businesses are flourishing so greatly in the country.

Conclusion

            No doubt Nigerians are creative people; this can be measured by the engagement of the youth’s population in the entertainment industries, which is said to be the biggest contribution to national economic growth. Indeed many experts have repeatedly posited that the entertainment industry can attain the position of becoming a major driver of economic growth and job creation for the country if properly harnessed. Nollywood can flourish and sustain its global acclaims and integrity without necessarily producing movies that aggravate the act of nudity or obscenity in the country.

            Nollywood has in a bid to represent civilisation lunched an alien culture of defining beauty, humane value, and pedigree towards obscenity. This has created a defective impression on the minds of the citizens, as people are seen exhibiting immorality by dressing half naked on the streets and all corners of our society. This paper urges Nigerian script writers, producers and directors to make the screen a pleasant avenue for individuals to engage in a constructive and meaningful learning. Movies capable of teaching moral lessons are hereby more desirable than that which could imprint negativities into the minors.

Granted the fact that everyone deserves freedom of expression in acting, writing, producing, etc. It is only proper that decency should be maintained in our creative enterprises, to uphold our indigenous cultures as true Nigerians. It is morally wrong for movie actors to view and interpret nude movies as mere professionalism because of the momentary gain they stand to get; the future of our youths should be a topmost priority. They are the leaders of tomorrow who will definitely replicate and interpret what they have learnt from their immediate environment.               

             Nollywood should borrow a leaf from Hollywood whose movies make its viewers believe that Americans are beautiful, sexy and generally wonderfully made, but in reality a good number of them are overweight, frustrated and clueless. They try to portray Americans as rich and happy people, which is not the true picture in real life.  The act of nudity in Nollywood is an aberration culture that is looming large towards damaging the image of the country. The lucrative nature of pornography should not make it a business domicile in Nollywood industry. It is necessary for the industry to return to its original vision of portraying and treasuring the core cultural value system of Africans, regardless of western influence.

Recommendations

Considering the enormous consequences of pornography in some Nollywood movies, this paper recommends thus:

  • There is need for government to re-appraise the duties of the censor’s board and other relevant agencies towards the regulation and classification of films/videos in Nigerian market, and ensure drastic measures are taking towards the perpetuators of indecent movies and decisively implement the ban on nude movies.
  • Efforts should be made by script writers, producers and directors to re-position the identity of Nigerian women as an epitome of motherhood, positive attitude and humane models; rather than using them as sex symbols, this exposes them to ridicule and contempt.
  • Parents should ensure that the classifications of films are strictly adhered to in their various homes, and also ensure that harmful materials are not to the disposal of their children; this includes, the use of high technological phones and computers.     
  • For institutions to remain conscious, government should device a means to hold them responsible for their actions and inactions towards any policy failure

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