When people from overseas ask me where I am from, I say South Africa. It is the country at the bottom of Africa. Just like British people would say they are from England, or French people from France. It’s rather a basic concept, you ask where someone is from and they’ll tell you the country. This may come as a shock to some people, but Africa is not a country. It’s a continent made up of 54 different countries.
It seems absurd for a Canadian to refer to themselves as North American or a Russian as Asian…yet if you are from Africa in any movie or television series, you are just African. There are no Zimbabweans, nor Egyptians nor Moroccans…you are simply labeled African.
As someone born, raised and living in South Africa, this is extremely frustrating. Instead of being seen for its unique and diverse countries, Africa is just seen as one land. And a stereotypical land at that.
Take the movie Blended for example, it is a comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler where their families take a trip to South Africa…also known in the film as Africa. Hollywood movies have made a single African country synonymous with an entire continent.
Blended was filmed in Sun City, which is a resort in South Africa’s North-West province, about 2 hours away from Johannesburg my home city. I have been to Sun City many times and it genuinely is an incredible and beautiful place, but I have never been to the version of Sun City used in this film. As I was watching the movie I could recognize most of the scenes, but the outlandish, stereotypical and rather tacky decor simply doesn’t exist off set.
In addition to that this movie is has one massive flaw: a lack of South African actors. You would think a movie filmed in South Africa would be crowed with South Africans. You would be wrong. Understandably the majority of the characters are foreigners, since they are on a getaway vacation. Surely the staff in the hotel should be at least be South African? Apparently not. One of the main ‘Africans’ in this film is Terry Crews, a famous American actor. The other central ‘African’ character is Abdoulaye N’Gom, although he is from Africa he’s just from the wrong part. N’Gom was born in Senegal, but has lived and worked in Hollywood most of his life.
There are only two roles played by actual South African’s, a massage therapist and a cricketer. Now the fact that Dale Steyn, one of South Africa’s best cricketers, is in this film is a joke probably lost on most Americans. In spite of this film being set in an African country, it is remains completely Americanized, stereotypical and Hollywood-washed.
Saying all of this doesn’t mean I don’t like the film, the films is a sweet family comedy that will make you smile. My issue is with movies and series repeatedly portraying Africa as a country rather than a continent. It a problem and it needs to stop, because Africa is a massive and diverse place, and it should be seen for 54 the beautiful countries that make it.