Unprogressive: Nigerian Christian Movies

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Family Watching TV – Nick Banks

 

I, just like several other Nigerians my age, grew up watching Christian movies. Critical-thinking and inquiries that may come off as a rebellion towards traditions are not necessarily welcomed in African societies, and more specifically, Nigerian ones, especially the ones that are religious, so I kept many things to myself. I was a very repressed person until a few years ago when I engaged more actively in analyzing several things that have barely been questioned, although they reek of myopia. The rest they say is history. I am now more willing to address issues without a fear of rejection or rebuke, more free-thinking too, and I am grateful to God for that.

Yes, Christian movies are unprogressive. Before I express why I have stated so, let me say this: please note that this is not an attempt to bash any religion or rubbish anybody’s work in any way. I was a drama minister for a short time and I respect the good morals that Nigerian Christian movies teach. Respect for parents, reverence for God, kindness to others (especially when it is to result in “winning” their souls for Christ, humility, and the importance of obedience are taught, but these movies are not perfect, especially the ones that are evangelism and soul-winning driven. The narratives are often narrow-minded, inconsistent with the times, and unfair to people of a certain gender [there should be very little or no confusion as to which is which if you are familiar with these movies], but that is okay because many religions are laced, if not thoroughly soaked, with misogyny, all under the guise of doing “God’s will” and following His or Her or Their plan, as the case may be.

Religion is the opium of the masses after all. Religions give people reasons to live and guide them through how to, and in most cases, even offer the promise of a better world if one does well in this one, and that’s awesome. The not-very-awesome part of a religion is that it can make multitudes close-minded, stupid, unkind to certain people, discriminatory, and point-blank ignorant. 

First of all, think of the way rape is portrayed in the scene that I’m about to narrate. I will not name any movies throughout this piece except I really have to. Then you can be thoroughly certain that I will list several. A young lady in secondary [or high] school, I’ll call her Lady X, sneaks out to a house party. Her mother is not in the city at the time and she does not know about the party. Lady X meets a few guys and she is drugged. She is carried into one of the rooms and is raped, terribly raped even, as we got to know later. It’s a Christian movie; of course, that part was left to the imagination. A few people visit Lady X and tell her that God can forgive her and restore her back to who she was, put pieces of her “shattered life” back together and heal her. That is very nice. Indeed.

“So, what happened to the rapists?”, you might ask, if you have not been too desensitized against this form of sexual violence. In a very brief scene, police officers arrive at the school to take some students who knew about the party as well as the rapists away. “At least they are going to get some punishment,” you would think. What is the problem here?

When are Christian filmmakers (or those who practice any religion at all, or those who are concerned about morality whatsoever) going to start addressing the fact that rape in and of itself is bad, since the mainstream ones are not doing it? Let’s take it that rape is not too much of a consequence for a person who has snuck out of their home, who has disobeyed their parent, for the purpose of the movie, since realistically, it could happen. Females are being raped by people in their own homes, by their own relatives [heck, by their own uncles and fathers] in Nigeria. These include less-than-ten-year-old girls, children, even babies, who grown-up men should not be attracted to at all, let alone heartless enough to rape or sexually assault in the slightest. Christian movies are not portraying that dressing is not the major factor, as far as rape is concerned- dressing, disobedience or anything else. It’s quite unfortunate that I even need another paragraph to explain this further.

“Dressing well” as a means of avoiding/escaping being raped is quite unfair. In Saudi Arabia, for example, where most of the women are so modest in their dressing, as much as it is pushed under the rug and inaccurately reported on, rape is very prevalent. Rape is entirely the fault of the rapist, entirely. Anything else is just a justification for the wicked act. The marital and statutory rape of females are not being addressed yet in these movies, let alone the sexual abuse of young boys and men, which are happening, as ugly as they are. These things are happening on a daily basis and a blind eye is being turned to them. For how long are we going to wait before Nigerian filmmakers at large properly address it?

So, when I say narrow-minded narratives are being published, and the same matters are being excessively re-addressed and recycled, so much so that most of these movies are flat-out boring, in all sincerity, don’t look at my article funny.

The one that is more or less the ‘cancer’ of things is the distrust that is created among people. Many times, when a woman befriends another woman, and the other one is not married, you can be sure that the non-married [single, previously-married, divorced or widowed] one would try to seduce her friend’s husband. It must be in the Christian-movie constitution. She starts by helping her friend with house-chores and whatnot, especially when the married friend is at her lowest or just very busy, and soon enough, as expected, she bewitches her friend’s husband. It’s a very frequent narrative that is not very healthy.

In addition, hardly do you see men in the kitchen in these movies, except they have done something wrong and they are doing housework as a means of apologizing or fostering reconciliation. “Let me help you with the dishes” as a line from the husband is not a very good line. If the housework have been assigned, and although it is the woman’s turn to sweep the floor, he decides to help, that is fine. If that is not the case, how is it “help”? These narratives are not very good, but they are convenient for a few, very convenient, and so there is little or no change. In most of the movies in which women are given strong roles/presence, they usually end up crying and asking God for forgiveness because they have deserted their families or done something wrong. Hardly do you see a Christian movie in which a female character is presented and maintained till the end. If her daughter does not die as a result of neglect, her husband will run mad. How unfair.

Then this one; a man beats his wife till she’s black and blue after coming home drunk. She reports to the pastor of her church or whatever. He tells her to continue to pray for him or change the way she dresses. Then she starts to cook more (or do something else very lame). One thing leads to the other and the man “gives his life to Christ” or something at the end. God “takes control”. He becomes “a new man”. Ha. The lingo is laughable. Is anyone going to address the fact that domestic violence is not right, in detail? If the mainstream ones will not do it, is anyone going to Biblically or “whatever-on-earth-cally” talk about that mess? No? It’s very pathetic. Wife-battery, rape and other assaults are just casually glossed over. The Christian movies are not standing out in any distinct way, as far as all of these are concerned.

I’m not going to make this an “everything that is wrong with Christian movies” article, although there are a lot of things that I will repress for now. There is one last thing that I want to mention, something that I greatly detest, something that hurts me to the very core, something that makes me wonder if a good number of people who are involved are sociopaths.

Little research is done about people and cultures, and a lot of disrespect becomes the result. False “Nollywood facts” are used in the depictions. A man lives in America and sends money to his mother in Nigeria for the Egungun festival. As the Egungun costume is being flogged by the followers in Nigeria, the son who sent the money feels all the pain in America. Ha! E beru Olorun, eyin filmmakers yii, now! I mean, how desperate can you be for soul-winning? Who has that ever happened to? How dirty are you willing to get to rubbish other people’s beliefs and paths? The Egungun festival may not be Christian, quite alright, but it is not evil in and of itself. False narratives have been pushed since the days of old, “old” being “colonization”, and certain sects have suffered a lot of direct and indirect misrepresentation for refusing to accept that Jesus is the lord of their lives. Se won bi sori meja ni? It is interesting how not being a Christian can make one appear like a lesser being in the eyes of one. I will leave it at that.

In another scene, a challenge-like scenario is created between a priest and a Christian, and you can be sure that the Christian “wins”. Such love! A Babalorisa is depicted as being smitten by God, and in that scene, you see that he is sick to the point of death until he receives Jesus as his lord and saviour. As soon as he does, he becomes whole. He is then made to emphasize the powerlessness of deities and the supremacy of Jesus. I’ve never really understood it, to be honest. I’ve never really understood such wickedness, such violence, such sick ego.

The media is a dangerous tool. The narratives that can be created with it can heal, stabilize or very completely destroy. When you give this tool to unreasonable crusaders who rise by wrongly depicting others, as if to make their propositions better, you give them the power to create death itself. All of it is just as laughable as it is sad.

One thing that I appreciate is the fact that child battery is not often depicted or encouraged, because if it was, it would have been quite unfortunate. If there is anything that I have observed, and I greatly love, it is the fact that children are not beaten black and blue the way they usually are, in reality, especially in working-class settings where there is a lot of survival-based tension and frustration. It would, however, be nice to see movies correcting that, encouraging individuals to teach their children in love, instead of fostering fear in them and growing a new generation of parents who do not know how to engage in a decent two-way communication with their children.

What am I saying in a nutshell is this: there is a lot going on asides the “evil” that non-Christians do. Christian filmmakers, pay attention and keep up with the things that are going on around you.

This is it, for now. I will make a video about this in the future, and I will go into more detail. 

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What the Hell is “Womyn”?

WomynWhat is that? The truth is, feminism is so broad- there are a thousand kind of feminists- that two feminists may not necessarily fully agree on one thing. 

When you come up with this kind of mess that bluntly says “dissociation from men”, you’re not really addressing the equality aspect of the cause. You’re not saying “I want to be equal to you and have the same opportunities that you have, dear men, because I’m a separate being too”.

Instead, you’re saying “I don’t want to have anything to do with you”. Women and men are separate entities but neither of the two sexes can survive or keep the earth alive without the other; that’s besides the point. The word “woman” isn’t equivalent to “half-man”; that is basically what the cause originally sought to emphasize.

Whether you call women “womyn” or “mynwo” or “wurjdhdggd” isn’t the point. We want to be separate entities that co-exist with men in a society that respects everyone equally, irrespective of their sex. 

“Women” is one word. A “woman” is a “womb-man”. A separate entity; the other kind of man, not a subordinate. When you come up with this kind of sentimental mess, “womyn”, you’re messing everything up. You’re drifting far away from the cause. You’re not saying what you want.

Are “womyn” a better kind of women now or something?

Nigeria’s Only Problem

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“Old Oshodi in Lagos” (600×600)  by Ayeola Ayodeji 

What is Nigeria’s Problem?

When you invite a Nigerian to describe what the country’s problem is, get ready to die of boredom, because they’ll go on for too long, in an attempt to describe things that aren’t close to being problems. “Bad roads, bad classrooms, corrupt governments and greedy officials, bad power supply, bad this and bad that, ba—” It’s okay, my brother. Let’s breathe.

Most of us Nigerians don’t even know what Nigeria’s problem is, and that itself is a problem.

Bad roads, bad classrooms, corrupt governments and officials, bad power supply, and whatnot, are not problems. There are bad roads in Northern Canada, and poorly-built houses and classrooms in Flint, Michigan, and bad power supply in Cameroon, and corrupt governments and officials in Russia, Israel and North Korea. Well, they are everywhere, even in the United States- the “most democratic” of them all. The secret handshake deals that take place between and among public and private interests would take more than a fortnight to analyze.

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“Procession” (20 x 16 x 2 inches) by Tunde Afolayan Famous

Bad facilities and all that are mere consequences of Nigeria’s only problem, or second problem, the first being the one aforementioned- Nigeria doesn’t know what its problem is, and that’s a problem.

Nigeria’s only problem is that we Nigerians have a wrong sense of entitlement, and we can be quite aggressive and close-minded, even to change and development. It is not that we sometimes do not set our priorities right, or something else that you probably anticipated, if you did.

By a “wrong sense of entitlement”, what do I mean?

From the mechanic that is willing to beat you up or yell “ashewooooo!” [prostitute!] at you if you refuse to give him your number, to the policemen and soldiers who expect you to treat them like demigods when your paths cross, and offer your sacrifices in naira notes when applicable, to the local and state government officials who find it okay to steal from the people (after all they’re in charge) instead of getting things done with the resources available, to the pastor who deems huge offerings his right, regardless of the means of survival of the donors, because he is God’s mouthpiece, to Alhaji, who doesn’t really care if his car is packed in your driveway or the sound from his speakers is giving you a migraine- you must be Beelzebub’s girlfriend for not liking noise pollution- to Mummy ‘Dekola who deems your business her business and will die of high blood pressure if you don’t kneel before her properly, to our street men and roadside NURTW tax collectors who do not mind breaking windows and removing doors if they do not get a chance to extort drivers, even when the union dues have already been paid, to the drivers who think it’s okay not to pay their union dues, to Yahoo boys and men who think its okay, and even necessary, to make someone else wallow in depression, for their own survival and well-being- the interesting thing is, the rich almost never fall into their traps; it’s people like their own mothers or other members of the working class who do, to everything and anything else you can think of.

Whew! Yes, it really is that stressful- all of it.

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“Fulani Ladies” by Ayeola Ayodeji 

Inadequate infrastructure and corruption and whatnot all stem from the root- the devil itself- having a wrong sense of entitlement. The bloody Nigerian Assembly is a mess for the same reason. Climbing fences. Throwing chairs. A mess.

The interesting this is, a wrong sense of entitlement might develop in someone because someone else has it: “You think it’s your right to block my driveway with your car, and I will show you that I have a right to break your glass.” What does it all result in? A mess.

Unfortunately, a wrong sense of entitlement and the “me first” approach to things is not just a Nigerian problem. It’s the problem of the world. However, in places where it is less dominant in the culture of the society, there have been lots of infrastructural, economic and social success. They are the “better” societies.

Let everyone, that would include me, and you, stop thinking they own or deserve to own the things, or the extra things, that they haven’t worked for and/or simply don’t deserve, and watch the nation, and the world, heal and grow.

It’s okay if my wife doesn’t want to cook today. As the “head of the house”, if the title matters so much to my ego and self-esteem, I should be able to fix something for myself and my family. I am not automatically superior to anyone because I belong to a certain ethnic group. When I use words like “aboki” and “mola” [mallam] or “omo nna” in derogatory ways, I must know that I am wrong. It’s okay if I don’t win someone’s soul to Christ or to Allah; why am I so obsessed with winning it, like a trophy? It’s okay if I don’t get your number; you don’t need to be insulted or disgraced for it. The money in the public purse is not mine, and I don’t deserve more than what my allocated salaries and benefits are.

A reorientation is needed, and I am fully aware that a reorientation is easier said that done, but we can try, at least. We can start from the elementary schools. There should be subjects/courses like Ethics, for instance. I don’t know how algebra has contributed to my existence, in the way that I interact with the world. The schools barely prepare us for the real world; I’ll discuss this some other time.

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These are some of the things that should be considered:

The spirit of volunteerism has to be encouraged among Nigerians, and in the world, to begin with. Also, I don’t know what has happened us-  sympathy and mutual respect melt in online communities and spaces. The wrong sense of entitlement gets worse when you give people Internet privileges.

1. Throw your thrash away properly. It’s not your street, you only live there.

2. Driving is a privilege, not a right. A little patience could save your own life.

3. I don’t deserve every woman and everything because I have a penis. My masculinity is not an egg; it shouldn’t be so fragile.

I’ll leave 4 and 5 and 200 to you to come up with.

Let me know what you think. 

I’m Not Your Little Negro Girl

He wants to be my knight.
I have noticed his random displays of might.
He gazes at me seductively whenever I’m in sight,
but all I can predict is a sorry plight.
How can you be the one that I’d keep warm at night
if you don’t think everyone should be treated right?

The Representation of the Working Class in the Media

Peasant with a Wheelbarrow by Jean Francois Millet

“Peasant with a Wheelbarrow” by Jean Francois Millet

Nollywood movies, to begin with, are now increasingly becoming movies for the rich, in a sense. Look at the “normal”, sophisticated settings that are used for the produced plays- beautiful sofas, expensive paintings, large compounds, one or more workers, expensive clothes, suggestions/mentions of easy access to foreign countries, to mention a few. I don’t need to keep counting. The actors, who often are members of the working class when they are not working, tend to promote the upper-class as ideal.

The realities of working-class families are barely represented, and when they are, they are presented as comedies- situations to be laughed at or mocked. You tend to see lots of children, dirty wives, and numerous exchange of words. Housemaids [or live-in caregivers], gardeners, gatemen, and security guards, in Yoruba Nollywood movies, to be specific, are represented as extremely retarded. Life is sometimes a little better for the drivers [40% of the time, let’s say] but they tend to suffer all kinds of injustices too. Even when these domestic-staff characters suffer gross levels of workplace abuses, the audience is tempted to even insult them more, and laugh- “ha ha ha”.

When these realities don’t appear as comedies, they are presented as pitiful. A character is presented as either suffering so terribly, experiencing an illness or the death of a loved one, or being very close to death, and suddenly, by the end of the movie, they would “magically” [usually by some sort of unrealistic luck] become members of the upper class. Basically, no one ever seems to live well and have a good life as members of the working-class in these films.

"Bouquet' by an unknown artist

Being a member of the working/lower class is seen as extremely pathetic; something to be avoided at all cost. No honest, hard-working member of the working class is ever presented as truly happy. They never enjoy the joys of being with family. They never go to parties as normal people or possess dignity in their labour. They are only made to serve the rich in many plays; their own achievements- no matter how “little” or “basic” they might be to the members of the upper class- are never shown/celebrated, until, of course, they become members of the upper class.

Even when the working-class members of the audience can relate to the produced stories, they often find it really hard to relate to the rich settings and everything else that they are presented with. No one takes the bus except the plot involves them being kidnapped. No one goes to the local market to buy foodstuff or anything else except they are poor. No one wears simple clothes and uses regular/affordable cars except they are experiencing an issue or the other. It does terrible things to the subconscious in the long run- feelings of worthlessness, to begin with. 

The following is not an attempt to make excuses for evil-doers, but if people are going to extra lengths to engage in questionable activities, which include and are not limited to online scamming, duping and killing people, bribery and corruption, to mention a few, for monetary rewards, it must be that they feel there is something wrong with them and their ways of life. They must be comparing themselves to some others, zealous to be like them at all cost. 

The general media (in the world at large) is becoming more race-conscious and class-blind, and it’s sick. It’s quite sick. There is a lot of greed in the world, and the media is not helping at all. It’s making matters worse.

The Society’s Guide to Being a Man, 101.

The only way to be a man
is to not be human.
Don’t cry;
be sad, but don’t say why.
Don’t feel;
hurting someone is the best way to heal.
Don’t express yourself when you do feel,
and if you must,
do it with clenched fists.

The only way to be seen as strong
is to insist that you’re never wrong,
and if a woman isn’t under
your absolute control,
you can’t be a man on your own-
you can’t possibly be whole.