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We love TV villains because we are all accomplices

Andile Ndlovu believes our unwavering loyalty to characters like Lindiwe Dikana, Mam’ Sonto & Harriet Khoza stems from the fact that they remind us of ourselves
Fri, Oct 09, 2020

This is part two of Andile Ndlovu’s two-part Phathu’s Angels series, where he unpacks the meaning behind the women of Tshedza Pictures. Watch Andile’s exclusive video interview with Sindi Dlathu and Larona Moagi of The River here.

There was once a mining magnate in Tshwane who, after learning that a miner had discovered one of the biggest diamonds ever unearthed there, killed him. Unbeknown to her, this crime was witnessed by thousands of people.

During the intervening 968 days between her crime and the time of writing this, she also shot and killed her ex-husband-and-now-husband-again, Zweli’s bride, Gail, had her nephew shoot and kill a young man who had evidence linking her to the miner’s murder, and tried to bury a woman alive (more on her later).

Lindiwe Dikana’s myriad misdeeds have been watched by the many viewers of the Tshedza Pictures-produced 1Magic drama, The River.

You would presume she would have been excommunicated by now, yet viewers of this primetime show have remained in her corner in spite of the ceaseless conniving, ala Annalise Keating’s students in How To Get Away with Murder.

For the past 138 weeks I’ve found myself exasperated by her ability to cheat her way out of every situation – even swearing off the show at some stage.

But the Stockholm Syndrome is real! We’ve come back time and again.

In trying to find the answers to how it was possible for so many of us to be in thrall to a villain and still not revolt, I found this quote by a Dr Margrethe Bruun Vaage: “The long timespan of a television series activates some of the same mental mechanisms as friendship.

“In real life, we turn a blind eye to a friend’s moral flaws because we feel we have a connection to them, and we can develop affection for television characters in the same way when we see them week after week. Rationally, we do not condone what they do, but intuitively we engage with them. Besides, we’re all morally flawed in some sense, so it can be reassuring to see someone onscreen who’s even more morally flawed than we are!”

'Gomora's' Mam' Sonto and Thati. PHOTO: Mzansi Magic

This clarifies and alleviates some anxieties I have felt about what embracing Lindiwe Dikana (played by Sindi Dlathu) might mean for my psyche. Whew!

With Tumi’s (the woman Lindiwe buried alive and whom she subsequently learned was the biological daughter she abandoned as a teen mom) extramarital affair dominating the show recently, Lindiwe has suddenly appeared pious in comparison – rebuking her for her cheating and lying. The clip of that scene drew a lot of attention on social media recently, with Lindiwe coming in for warm appraisal.

Speak to many viewers and they will tell you Lindiwe is just a fiercely protective matriarch who is willing to do everything imaginable for her family – an excuse we have attached to countless male leads in the past.

'The Queen's' Harriet Khoza. PHOTO: Mzansi Magic

Look around and you will see the same being said about the gun-wielding gangsters, Mam’ Sonto and Thathi  (played by Connie Chiume and Katlego Danke respectively) on Mzansi Magic’s Gomora, and drug lord Harriet Khoza (played by Connie Ferguson) on The Queen – morally flawed and powerful black women, scamming and getting away with it. How Cherel de Villiers-Haines-Le-Roux-Holmes (Isidingo) and Ntsiki Lukhele (Generations) would’ve killed (ha!) for similar leeway.

Maybe we are better people, after all – we have found representation and equality on our TV screens and we didn’t even realise being accomplices to multiple crimes could feel so exhilarating.

  • Catch Dlathu on The River on 1Magic DStv channel 103 at 20:00 on weekdays.