Monday, October 3, 2011

Women are from Venus and Men do not Watch Television

Many Kenyans, I have come to note, share my frustrations with our sometimes errant media. Here is Steve Biko Khatayi exercising his freedom to express...

The rather absurd title for this post is not original. It is a blatant rip-off of Dr. Gray’s famous 1992 book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. The main argument advanced by Dr. Gray was that men and women had different communication styles and that these differences resulted in communication break-down between the sexes. Dr. Gray asserted that improved relationships between the sexes would come about when these ‘innate’ differences were acknowledged. The book, while very influential, has had its fare share of critics. Critics accused the author of engaging in reductionism and of needlessly simplifying sexual differences. At some level, one wonders if the management of most Kenyan television stations swallowed Dr. Gray’s book and misapplied its tenets to their choice of the programs.

An evaluation of the programmes on offer on the country’s major television stations, Citizen TV, KTN and NTV, leads to one inescapable conclusion. That seemingly only Kenyan women habitually watch television and that men have no interest in television. The worst culprit in this matter is Citizen. The station, from sunrise to sunset, almost exclusively caters only for the female gender. Waruru Wachira and other senior Citizen executives seem to have come to the earth-shattering conclusion that Kenyan men do not watch television!

For almost the entire day and late into the night, viewers of the station with a purported vision for us are treated to a standard fare of one dimensional, lachrymose-inducing soap operas of the Philipino, Mexican and Brazilian variety. In between this fare, one is regaled with a daily dose of boring Nigerian movies whose main focus is witchcraft, romance and marriage. No prizes for guessing which gender finds itself glued to these movies from Naijaland. Honestly I ask myself, how can any so called fair-minded person consent to the following arrangement on almost a daily basis. A Philipino soap opera at around 6pm, a Latin American soap opera at around 8 pm followed promptly after the 9 o’clock news by another soap opera! The dessert to all this mushy spread arrives at around 11 pm and is none other than one of the latest Nollywood productions whose storyline is again geared towards women. Little wonder that in many Kenyan households today the missus holds the TV remote firmly in her perfumed and well manicured hands. The only time Kenyan men can prise the remote from her grasp happens to be at 9pm during the prime news. However even in this regard, Citizen TV seems to have thrown us a curve ball with their bizarre decision to append the bore fest that is Slimpossible to the only watchable thing on TV! Again, honestly whose idea was it to air such a dreary reality show that is geared exclusively to Women during the news? Which guy honestly cares about the battle of 5 strangers against the flab? Should we empathize with these women even as they aim to make that cool one million shillings? What is the raison d’ etre of this show and more importantly why bore countless men in the country with this vapid stuff during the 9 o’clock news?

One can only imagine the impact of this situation in many Kenyan households where a single television set is the norm. How will Kenyan couples communicate at the end of the day when the missus is firmly concentrating on the plight of Theresa until 11 pm when she turns her attention to the plight of Val Vicker, Mercy Johnson or Ini Edo? Communication is one of the pillars of marriage, you know.

Those with a healthy memory may remember what happened in Kenya during the 2006, FIFA World Cup in Germany. Back then KTN and KBC won the rights to televise the tournament. Nation Television (NTV) came up with an interesting gimmick, the ‘women’s world cup’. The executives at NTV sought to appeal to women with the idea that since they had no interest in the world cup, the station would provide them with a ‘women’s world cup’ a cocktail of soap operas and related shows. The gesture by NTV, other than being just business-savvy, was a noble gesture that recognized the television needs of the other gender. Alas! In a bizarre twist of fate the honchos at Citizen TV have decided to impose on Kenyans their version of the ‘women’s world cup’. Worse for the men is the fact that unlike the real World Cup which ends in a month the fare at Citizen Television has been going strong for over one year!

It does not take a rocket scientist to know what men would prefer to watch on television. Men would not mind football from any league in the world once in a while. They would not mind Rugby, Wrestling, Boxing, Basketball, and Formula One among other sports. Men also want to watch television shows with a great deal of suspense and action such as 24, Prison Break and Break Out Kings. All we ask is that the same effort that is made scouring the globe for the latest Latin American soap opera is made to secure the rights to televise a football league, the NBA or an action-packed television series!

Indeed it seems rather odd that Citizen Television trumpets ad nauseam the fact that it has been fair to local producers, actors and actresses by televising local programs. The question is why such justice for local artists should be trumpeted while injustice against an entire gender persists on a daily basis.

By some bizarre logic it is almost like the executives at Citizen are hell-bent on not televising any football. Any knowledgeable football fan will tell you that some of the best games in the Spanish and Italian league are televised from around 10pm Kenyan time onwards on weekends. That the folks at Citizen see fit to televise Afrodizzia, a soporific show about African Music that could otherwise be televised any other time other than on Saturday nights tells you all you need to know about where the sympathies of the station’s decision-makers lie.

Do Kenyan men even exist according to Citizen television? More importantly do they even matter? Are their TV needs even important? While the folks at Citizen television mull over these questions, many men I know have already lost patience. The wonderful and affordable packages on offer from Dstv, Zuku, and Smart TV just to mention a few have never had more appeal. An adequate provision of sports, action packed series and movies are the norm among these cable and satellite providers. My advice to anyone who can afford it is to invest in the package that suits them and bid bye bye to the morass that passes for entertainment in most of the local television channels. Contrary to what the honchos at Citizen TV seem to believe, Kenyan men also want to watch television. It turns out that Martians just like Venusians watch television! Over to you, Mr.Wachira Waruru.

By Steve Biko Khatayi