The Representation of the Working Class in the Media: Nollywood Case Study


The Virus:
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 exchanges 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- hahaha. 

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 themself, 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 or have a good life as members of the working-class in those films.

Peasant with a Wheelbarrow by Jean Francois Millet

“Peasant with a Wheelbarrow” by Jean Francois Millet

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 and be harassed by the rich in many plays, until they become rich towards the end. Their own achievements- no matter how “little” or “basic” they might seem to members of the upper class- are never shown/celebrated, until, of course, they become members of the upper class.

The Effect:
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 or injured in a road accident. 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 dealing with one negative issue or the other. 

It does terrible things to the subconscious in the long run- feelings of worthlessness and inferiority complex, to begin with. 

The Result:
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, whether the levels of wealth that they display is real or not, zealous to be like them at all cost.

Even the mainstream music industry is not helping. There is this sudden “be rich, no matter what it takes” message in the air, and many vices are the result. Online scamming and drug (ab)use are almost literally being celebrated in songs now. 

The general media (in the world at large) is becoming more race-conscious and class-blind, and it’s not okay at all. There is a lot of greed in the world, a lot of falsehood in connection to what reality is and what it should be, and the media is not helping at all. The media is making matters worse.

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