Reality (TV) bites

There’s no point in fighting the fact that reality TV is here to stay. Ever since Mark Burnett dumped a couple of Americans on an island and left them to fight over food and friendships while the cameras rolled, television viewers have been transformed into voyeurs, and the real-life breakups and breakdowns of the rich, famous and frightful have become prime-time gold.

Until now, South African audiences, while happily lapping up international reality TV with the rest of the world, have been largely shielded from the army of instant celebrities that has been created through the medium. We are happy to keep up with the Kardashians as long as they stay far, far away. But all that is changing.

Our home-grown reality shows are reminders that, when it comes to shameless self-promotion and becoming famous for nothing in particular, we are rich in local talent. Not that “talent” is particularly relevant in this context.

What’s in a name?
Voltaire said: “What a heavy burden is a name that has become too famous.” But what did he know? Last week it was revealed that three of Nelson Mandela’s granddaughters would be starring in their own reality show, a show that would focus on their role as young African women. They have said that they are not focusing on their links to the one of the world’s most-loved men, and will “not be wearing ‘I’m a Mandela’ T-shirts”, which seems a pity, seeing that most people have no idea who they are, and T-shirts would be a useful way of identifying them. They aim to be role models for young African women, and highlight the fact that women can have successful careers and families. The three women, Dorothy Adjoa Amuah, granddaughter of the late Evelyn Mandela, Swati Dlamini and Zaziwe Dlamini-Manaway, granddaughters of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, grew up in the US, which may explain why they thought it was a good idea.

They filmed Kenny! The bastards!

Kenny Kunene’s reality show KK - So What debuted on last week. The business tycoon, ex-prisoner and lover of fishy snacks celebrated its launch with a party that was every bit as excessive as his lifestyle, with free sushi and champagne for all. The show itself is described as “focusing on his business and social dealings while providing insight into his rags-to-riches story”. Pure Dickens, I’m sure you’ll agree. But the focus, predictably, is on the “riches” bit, with the first episode seeming to be an excuse for Kunene to show off his fleet of exotic cars. There are 25 more episodes to go—as if South Africans didn’t have enough to worry about already.

Blame it on stupidity

Hlelo and Ntando Masina are twins (twinz, sorry) and Yfm DJs who are also the subject of Blame It on the Fame, a “blazin’ hot new reality series” (to quote the press release) that focuses on them as they “high-heel their way through everyday life and mingle with Mzansi’s rich and famous”. If that description didn’t leave you salivating, be sure not to miss next week’s episode, which is described thusly: “The twinz go shopping, when tension starts to mount and a fair bit of sulking happens and results in the shopping spree ending badly, so the twinz call on Fortune and Letitia to join them for a drink to try and help them resolve the tension but what advice will Fortune and Letitia give the twinz?” I’m sure you’re dying to find out.

A non-event

It’s probably not a good sign when you have to start off your reality show with an episode devoted to explaining who its star is and why we should care. Such was the case with Nonhle goes to Hollywood, which followed former Vuzu presenter Nonhle Thema’s attempts to make it big overseas. Not much came of her efforts, and Thema has since returned home, where she remains in the spotlight by using Twitter to remind others that she really is a Rich and Famous Person of Enormous Importance.
She has managed to attract over 85 000 followers on Twitter. Some may love her (“Nohnle’s angelz”), and some may not, but it doesn’t seem any amount of criticism will have any effect. “When u at the top and dont have haterz. Truth be told u probably SUCK”. Such wisdom is rare. Her constant tweeting has become a reminder of one of reality TV’s flaws—unlike the characters in sitcoms or drama series, these people do not cease to exist when you switch off the TV. And Thema has the lawsuits to prove it, as some have taken action after being the target of defamatory tweets.

Lisa Van Wyk

Lisa Van Wyk

Lisa van Wyk is the arts editor, which somehow justifies her looking at pretty pictures all day, reading cool art and culture blogs and having the messiest desk in the office. She likes people who share her passion for art, music, food, wine, travel and all things Turkish. She can't ride a bike, but she can read ancient languages and totally understands the offside rule. Read more from Lisa Van Wyk

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