Nollywood & the Portrayal of Domestic Violence

Nollywood and Toxic Masculinity

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Many of the films created in Nollywood promote toxic masculinity as an essential characteristic for men. Men are intentionally depicted as know-it-all, incapable of hurt  and women are available purely for male pleasure.  These films reflect the way our society is, but Nollywood has the capacity to shape society by creating stories that offer hope, start necessary conversation and offer possible solutions to some of the problems in our society.

 

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One way the film industry has not explored stories on the contact of men and women is in how stories of domestic violence are being told. Stories of domestic violence often feature the problem and employ the tactics of pitiable men to excuse abuse.  In a society filled with violence and with attendant grief, we have watched so many stories of women being beaten to death and their men going to jail for it. In such cases where the men are violent, women are showcased as venomous creatures that frustrate their men to violence. Creating foul-mouthed female characters, suffering violence from their husbands affects the viewer’s perception of the whole topic of violence. It is so easy to watch a woman share a different opinion from a man on screen and then call her rude, for daring to talk.

Women are continuously trained to massage male ego.  We compensate male crime with abominable women, so that in the long run, it looks okay for violence that should not take place in a relationship.

 

 

 

“In Sickness and Health”, a new film by Muyiwa Aluko, explores domestic violence in a different way.

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The film basically preaches the message – damaged people should stay out of relationships or they will damage those they go into the relationship with.

Many men that are violent were not born violent. Family and the environment of growth socializes them to the habit. It was important that a filmmaker goes into such a story with a different dimension.

“In Sickness and Health” features Priya Martin (OC Ukeje) and Tinuke Atanda (Beverly Naya) two young people in a toxic relationship. Their relationship struggles because Priya has not confronted important and damaging aspects of his childhood. As an adult, that aspect of his life affects him so badly that the only way he knows how to feel better is to abuse his wife. Priya had no business going into a marriage but he goes into it hoping that it will heal him. His unusual behaviour comes as a result of shame from experiencing his parent’s marriage.

A bad family structure socialised Priya to silence. He went into marriage with unresolved issues and expected the love he thought he felt, to solve problems that had existed for many years. When the marriage does not comfort these needs, he becomes extremely abusive.

As a grown man, he is unable to talk to anyone about those damaging experiences, not even his wife – of course — pride.

Stereotypes have been instilled in us so deeply: Women should conform and men should show nothing less than strength. Priye did not have all of that strength to give. When he needed to grieve, he showed frustration. When he needed to talk to someone, he used his fist.

Deranged emotions that are often shown on screen as normal are being explored in a meaningful context – in “In Sickness and Health”. People go into relationships damaged and expect their experience in the relationship to transform them. Nobody can repair anybody. The only person to make the decision to go through the difficult phase of change is the damaged person.

In stories like this, the usual escape for the filmmaker will be to send the couple to Church, for counseling with the pastor. A pastor with no concrete psychological background will only give a pamphlet containing bible verses to the couple to work out their issue. After that, they will appear in Church to give testimonies and the end credit will roll with TO GOD BE THE GLORY.

Muyiwa does more than bring a Church or a pastor to the topic. We meet a psychiatrist that helps Priya through some of his mental challenges. Priya makes the decision to become a better person after seeing the therapist and it was important for such a story to be told.

For Tinuke, who faces violence from Priya, the filmmaker toils with the option of self-defense classes as an essential skill for women. If more young girls are trained to defend themselves, they will be able to show the same level of strength used in attacking them.

Getting the opinion of a real-life psychiatrist to share experiences on violence makes “In Sickness and Health” a progressive statement on the topic of abuse.

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4 comments

  1. This is amazing write up. I love how you write your reviews @Nollywoodobserver I think that we need to write about Nollywood in this way. This producers do not understand damage they do with their movies.

    I come here to read about films that I don’t even watch because you bring insight by comparing these films to real life situations. These films can affect our perception of life and some people will watch how violence is excused and they will go and beat their wives.
    I am so happy because I am studying a communications course and was thinking about writing something on Nollywood, I will take this article as example. Where can I watch damages and In sickness and Health? pls reply

    PS. Correct “as a species that cannot show hurt”. It is in the first paragraph, second line.

    Like

    1. Hello Diane,
      Thank you for leaving a comment.
      You’re totally correct, Nollywood can do better with their stories and how they choose to tell them.
      You can watch both movies on IrokoTV (ROK on dstv) or the online streaming site.

      P.S We’ve made the correction you pointed out. Thank you

      Like

  2. Kudos on your refreshing take on a movie that has dared to be different. I actually just saw the film and must confess i’m one of those people who usually changes the channel whenever a Nigerian movie comes on. I do this because as you alluded, most of the stories provide trite, unrealistic and certainly unresearched solutions to real world issues. Thankfully I sat through this one.
    I love how well Beverly Naya played the role of Tinu;an empowered,capable young woman. A lot of millenial women can identify with her. She was a victim but only for a short period. Women nowadays are more likely to resist oppression and for those that don’t, I really encourage them to get with the program because nobody can make you feel small/unworthy without your cooperation.(I will avoid going down the path of ‘whataboutism’ and refrain from talking about how men are also increasingly falling victim to domestic violence these days.) I also applaud the fact Tinu’s inner conflict was plain to see; just because her husband apologized and explained why he mistreated her, it didn’t make things right. Throughout her husband’s contrition, attempts to win her back and proclamations of love, a voice in my head kept saying ‘you should’ve thought of that before hitting her(even though I know It may sound judgemental and dismissive of the obvious psychological challenges her husband had).
    Personally I think she shouldn’t have taken him back partly because as her sister said, abusers rarely change and he could easily find another reason to hit her tomorrow(e.g unemployment) and also because real life events have converted me from a Love Disciple to a Love Cynic. However,as is a producer’s wont with most fiction that aims to make a profit, the movie needed a happy ending. Muyiwa Aluko,Beverly and the rest of the cast can feel proud of their Opus; I most certainly am.

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