CCMS Doctorate Graduate Examined Interpretations of Masculinities in SA Soapies

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Interpretations of masculinities presented in three South African soap operas: UzaloImbewu and Isibaya by Zulu male audiences living in KwaZulu-Natal were the focus of a doctoral research undertaken by Dr Melba Nzimande who graduated with a PhD in Media and Cultural studies.

Nzimande says research contributes to African masculinity studies, especially those in soap operas in terms of representation and audience engagement in a “post” era from the perspective of the global South.

Her study found that contemporary South African soap operas uphold and subvert dominant discourses of Zulu masculinities that are fluid and influenced by social and cultural factors. This articulates the complexity of these masculinities, thus working against stereotypical representations of Zulu men.

Nzimande identifies the significance of this finding. ‘Firstly, soap opera producers are creating narratives that no longer conform only to traditional soap opera codes and conventions. They encode messages through narratives that draw in male viewers and use the power of cultural proximity in representations, meaning that there is a move to the indigenisation of settings, storylines and languages to attract audiences.

‘Secondly, male audiences decode the messages through parasocial relationships and cultural proximity,’ she said.

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