Comedy, obscenity and sexuality

Comedy, obscenity and sexuality

Media research doesn’t always have to investigate serious matters. The entertainment side of the media, whether sport, film, music or comedy also needs investigation as it forms such a large part of the viewing choices of most audiences.

Three students from the University of Namibia decided to look at some of these issues in their fourth year research projects in the Department of Information and Communication Studies.
Courage Gondo looked at The Function of Comedy as a Broadcasting Genre in Namibia. He found that 22 out of 60 Windhoek residents watched comedy only once a week. Even fewer were those listening to comedy on radio, with 29 saying they only listened once a month.

The most popular comedy genres were comedy drama, followed by stand-ups and political comedy. But his findings also showed that most local audiences still prefer to access their comedy live on stage, or, alternately, via social media, rather than on television or radio. Namibian and African comedy was by far the most popular.
He recommends that local comedians improve their acts, have more diverse content and encourage greater competition. He also challenges local broadcasters to have more comedy content, and in particular to realise that comedy is not only for entertainment but can be used for other functions as well.

Of course, some comedians use obscenities in their stage shows in order to obtain what some would call ‘cheap laughs’ from an audience. David Lyimo looked at Sexual Content and Obscenities in Namibian Media and how such content was perceived and how sexual content in broadcasting should be regulated, especially when taking into consideration the constitutional imperative of ‘freedom of expression.’

He notes the guidelines in many countries (also now being proposed by the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia – CRAN) for warning symbols on television programming with obscene language (‘L’), and the so-called ‘watershed period’ that allows broadcasters to show more ‘risky’ content after 21h00 each evening.
His findings revealed a more tolerant Namibia than perhaps many might expect. 47% of his respondents (male) were not bothered by obscene content and 49% of the female respondents were similarly not fazed by such content.
However, when it came to obscene lyrics in music, his findings showed a more polarised response, with 19% ‘strongly agreeing’ that obscene lyrics should not be censored, but 17% ‘strongly disagreeing’ that these lyrics should not be censored.

Finally, his research showed a clear disparity in attitudes towards pornography between female and male respondents. Whereas 63% of male respondents thought pornography should be censored, when it came to female respondents, 85% of them were in favour of such censorship.

Masiyaleti Mbewe, in her paper on Heteronormativity in Namibian Film and its Impact on the Progression of Feminist Ideals took this idea further and focused not only on gender issues, but, importantly, looked specifically at the burgeoning Namibian film industry and its approach to these issues.

She found that all the Namibian films analysed portrayed heterosexual relationships and only two (Love and Respect and My Beautiful Nightmare) examined the issues of gender, and violence against women in particular. “Gender as an identity issue was not addressed in any of the films but power dynamics between men and women were.”

The local filmmakers themselves were sometimes unsure about the term ‘heteronormativity’ and therefore found it difficult to reflect these issues in their films. Her findings were that “marginalized groups are not represented well in [Namibian] film thus affecting the progression of an intersectional feminism that caters for all genders and sexualities.”

• Robin Tyson is Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Namibia.

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