By now the buzz from Mama Hope’s latest video, “African Men. Hollywood Stereotypes” has sufficiently bubbled over. We like the video. It is direct, it is different and, most importantly, it is not a reaction to some media stunt, which is always awesome. Stylistically, too, it has all the makings of a wonderful, viral video.
That said, we find it reductive and a little off. For example, we can’t tell if the four men actually wrote the script (the men plus the “Mama Hope Team” are credited) or if their quip about “shirtless Michael McConaughey” was thrown in there to try and connect with the audience. Which leads to questions like: who’s the intended audience? and what will they ultimately take away from the video? That some Africans meet the Western benchmark of middle classness (they’re even on Facebook!) and therefor deserve accurate representation in films? It misses the mark a bit. Also, Africa is still presented as an entire entity in this video. The glossiness of it all reinforces the myth of a monolithic Africa, leaving no room for nuance among Kenyan Africans or Ethiopian Africans or Nigerian Africans and so forth.
Africa Is A Country‘s Elliot Ross sums it up best:
“do we really need this kind of “positive image for Africa” stuff? At best it can be framed as a necessary corrective, but the whole PR “brand Africa” shtick is boring, patronising, and finally insubstantial in its attempt to transform the West’s time-honoured way of imagining the continent, ideas that are thoroughly tangled up with ingrained – and much beloved – supremacist notions of Euro-American culture and identity. This isn’t all going to go away because you pointed out that there’s a bloke in Nairobi called Brian who works in HR.”
We expect to see more and more retellings of 21st century Africa in greater frequency after the Kony 2012 debacle. And we hope as they come, they are more and more genuine, accurate and layered as we know they can be.