PATRIARCHY IN NOLLYWOOD MOVIES

Photo by Niklas Weiss on Unsplash

I once wrote an article titled ‘How Nollywood Movies Almost Ruined My Life,’ sounds a bit dramatic I know, but it’s not quite far from the truth. As a child, my mother used to rent out Nollywood movies and so my love for Nigerian movies was formed when I was basically a blank slate that absorbed everything that I saw — in this case, everything that I watched and all was cool until I became a feminist… ghen! ghen!

These days it’s like Nollywood is not even trying anymore, especially with Yoruba movies. I am still watching movies with the exact storyline as the movies I watched when I was a child. I want to be able to watch movies in my native language without having to gag at the disgusting patriarchal plot they force down our throats, I don’t want to watch movies where the wife has to forgive an abusive husband or a cheating husband or a movie where a woman has to give up her wealth so that she can gain a husband because no matter how rich and successful she is without a husband or children she is considered not only useless but a failed woman.

As if it is not bad enough that they keep pushing the narrative of marriage as the ultimate goal a woman must achieve, they also promote rape culture, take for example this one movie I watched; a Yoruba movie. I can’t remember the title but it was about a mother-in-law giving her son and his wife (her daughter-in-law) hell, she made things incredibly difficult for them. At the end of the movie, it was revealed that her son had come home drunk one night and had raped their housemaid, the maid had gotten pregnant and had to leave the house, which was why the mother was angry.

The man was forced to marry the housemaid and accept the child and his wife wasn’t allowed to divorce him because according to the ‘prophetess’ that was brought in to settle the dispute, it was the wife’s destiny to be married to him (a rapist) and if she ever left him, she would roam the earth as an unmarried woman without a purpose. The movie ended with the wife accepting the housemaid as her sister-wife and the mother-in-law forgiving them both.

In just this single movie alone there are so many problematic themes, the husband was a rapist but his crime was excused because he was drunk, the rape victim’s emotions were not put into consideration after all she was getting a husband, the wife was tied down and manipulated by culture and religion and the mother was placed in the position of an infallible god.

Like haba, so much toxicity in one movie alone. If it was just this one movie or maybe a couple of movies I probably won’t be so triggered but ninety per cent of Nollywood movies have very serious patriarchal plots, they glorify rape, glorify abuse, promote toxic masculinity, are terribly homophobic — the only time they talk about the queer community is when they are being used for money rituals.

Everything with their movies must involve one absurd moral lesson that involves being used for money rituals — don’t be a sex worker or you will be used for money rituals, don’t be gay or you will be used for money rituals, don’t walk in the night or you will… I think you get the idea already and oh, don’t do money rituals or you will run mad!

Sadly, I’m in my mid-twenties and I am still trying to unlearn all the patriarchal toxicity I took in as a child and yet I am seeing the cycle repeating itself. Just the other day, while watching a movie with my family, my six-year-old cousin made a comment that reiterated that we have a serious problem with the type of movies Nollywood keeps producing for us to watch.

In the movie we were watching, a man’s wife was harassing him, she was an abusive wife who was also cheating on him, the movie ended with the husband parting ways with her, which is also hypocritical because if the roles were reversed, we all know the wife is definitely going to forgive her husband. Anyway, during one of the scenes where the husband was getting yelled at by his wife, my six-year-old cousin said:

This man is not a man, he’s a coward,” I was like wait, what? First of all, you are six years old, you should not be concerned with “men not being men,” you should be watching Dora the Explorer or Sophia the First or whatever cartoon they watch these days. But then, I was curious, I wanted to know what she meant by that comment and I asked her and response was:

If he was a man, he would beat her for shouting at him,” At this point, she had everyone’s attention and we were all staring at her open-mouthed but the truth is we can’t really blame her, we let her watch these movies and nobody really bothers to explain or even educate her afterwards. Although, that night we did explain to her that abuse is not a show of strength or bravery.

That night, I saw my younger self in my cousin and it made me wonder if my daughters (when I do have them) will have to watch these type of movies or will I have to keep them away from watching movies made in their language and by their own people because I don’t want them influenced by such nonsense? I truly hope that Nollywood movie producers can take their time to give us movies worth our time and money and stop recycling movies with the same old misogynistic themes, except they only care about their patriarchal audience and if that is the case, it’s good riddance.

Novelist. Feminist. Creative Writing Teacher. Lawyer