16 March 2017

The Meaning of GC from Uzalo

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A few weeks ago, I came back from work early-ish to catch Hulisani (fka Cece) Ravele on TV in the early evening. When last! It wasn't Yotv -- it's not 2007 anymore or that year we all knew she (and Carly, and Sade, and Sipho etc) was definitely too old to be doing that. Instead, I was just on time to see the last half of Afternoon Express, the cringe-worthy Woolworths-Revlon-Rooibos etc infomercial hosted by Jeannie D., Bonnie Mbuli (whom I love), Danilo Acquisto and, occasionally, Bonang Matheba.

They were interviewing youth presenters and people who "grew up" on television. Acquisto introduced Ayanda Makuzeni (his former Hectic Nine-9 colleague), a black god. I watched as they went through the interview questions and I wanted to bottle the moment up. I sent inadequate voice clips to my friend Sabelosami through WhatsApp. I DM Sabelosami most of Makuzeni's posts on Instagram, so I knew he was my target market for this content too. What stood out for me was how clear Makuzeni's vision was to him: He's been unapologetically himself (black, gay, femme) on his television show aimed at youth (13 - 20, maybe) because he knows there are boys who are just like him but not nearly enuf Ayanda Makuzeni's represented in media. 

The existence of Ayanda Makuzeni in his capacity as a presenter, to me, someone who consumes and critiques culture, closely related to the existence of the character of GC on Uzalo


I have been watching SABC 1's Uzalo from the very beginning. I've been live-tweeting the story on-and-off from the beginning too. The story has come a long way and I (along with my sister Mphiwe, again, Sabelosami and the show's 8 million average viewers) have gone through a lot because of the writers and directors. Mkhayonce's death, Zweli's fluctuating hotness, Mkhonto's too tight trousers, Ayanda playing Smangele, Smangele being at the mercy of shoddy fake belly technology. MaNgcobo's expert draggings, oh those draggings. We've seen and felt it all. 

To mark the start of the third season, the new direction (now that we know the babies were switched and Ayanda -- a character on the show and not Makuzeni -- is gone) and its full weekday schedule, Uzalo unveiled a new title sequence.  My sister and I made a lot of noise, I sent a voice note to Sabelosami on Whatsapp who wasn't watching but promised to catch the new title sequence online the next day. My heart leapt when I saw that GC is also now part of the main cast. As a fan who has tweeted tens of times about how much GC gives me, I felt heard and rewarded. GC is important.

GC is a gay man. He owns a salon where he works with his two best friends (plus a frenemy), he sings beautifully and is in the church choir. He loves his friend and has a heartwarming, latent crush on the young choir-leader-turned-pastor. It's an isiZulu show and he's a native speaker, which makes his jokes and one-liners excellent. It would have been easy for the writers of Uzalo to keep GC a supporting, wise-cracking gay friend. It would have been easy for him to stay the comic relief. But they didn't keep him in that corner.

Thank god.

Since the beginning, after we both solidified our status as GC stans, Sabelosami has said "I just hope they do a story with his family." Although we haven't gotten the origins family story, GC Hive did get something very important last year and towards the end of the second season. The storyline was so important that I believe even people who didn't like the character (demons!) found it impactful. We got a love interest. GC met a guy named Jojo and from that very first (literal) run-in, we could all see how taken Jojo was. Ubefola. But he's a DJ and not GC's type so it takes a few more episodes to get them on the same page.

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Aside from the turmoil within the relationship -- although Jojo was clearly into GC, he wasn't out. GC who, from the moment the viewers met him, has been open and honest and accessible suddenly had to adapt to what it means when someone can't show their full self. As a viewer, I quickly turned against Jojo because I believed that GC deserved more, someone love him openly and bask in his shine. The character himself had trouble with the budding romance because he couldn't shrink himself and censor the relationship to a "private" thing. There were many voice notes about this arch. My feelings changed often because when the love interest seemed to know what he had in GC and GC was happy, I was back on team them.

The introduction of Jojo, made many residents of GC's Kwamashu community -- and I don't doubt many viewers as well -- confront their own archetyping of GC. Suddenly everyone seemed shocked that GC was not just theoretically gay -- whatever that means -- but an actual human being with needs and interests. The church and choir turned against him because, apparently, coming to church with your boyfriend is creating "a spectacle." I was largely disappointed by how the other characters handled something as basic as someone finding love. Which, I want to highlight, should not be confused with being disappointed by the writers. They did an adequate job. It wasn't harmful like Generations is when writing anything relating to the LGBTI+ community. Thobile, one of GC's best friends, came through as she always does. That crash course in allyship deserves more attention.

The GC character is not perfect, what person is? I've had frustrations with him as a viewer -- especially when it comes to his relationship with his friend Smangele. But that, honestly, boils down to my own preferences as a person and my own sensitivity to the way people interact with each other in relationships. I've been bringing my human baggage to media consumptions since, like, 1996 -- or whatever year it was when I decided I would never watch Hlala Kwabafileyo because of the coffin in the title sequence.

As a vocal and loyal supporter of the show, all I can say is that I want more. More lovers, more business moves, more friend loving (don't think I forgot about the mention of a friends week away which was used to mask an advertorial about saving! Those three in Cape Town is the sort of slay that colony needs.), more family, more moving storylines and scenes. Just, more.

Khaya Dladla, the actor who plays GC onUzalo, had a tone deaf piece in The Daily Vox a while back and regardless of his feelings, it matters that GC is femme black man from the township. It matters that there's a generation of kids -- black gay kids especially -- growing up with that man on their TV screen five (!!!) days a week.

GC is important to the fabric of Uzalo and I cannot wait to watch the character evolve. 

4 comments

  1. Number one: You write so, so beautifully! I can't wait until these publications and stores and products give you all of the cash monies to write for them. May 2017 be the year it all comes to fruition.
    Number two: You reminded me just how huge it was to have Ayanda MaKHUzeni! On my screen growing up. I didn't realise the impact at the time but it must have felt wonderful for all the queer children to see that. When they say representation matters... I'm missing out on GC because no tv :( but I'm glad to hear the character is shaking the table.

    P.s. May your hands always find their way towards a keyboard

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    1. Ngiyabonga! Thank you for taking the time to read.

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  2. Wow wow wow girl, I enjoyed reading this piece and it moved me because I have a friend who is so talented and could be following his passion in arts and entertainment. Because he wants acceptance he is stuck in the corporate limiting himself. I hope one day he gets Ayanda Makhuzeni's confidence to stand firm for who he is
    http://www.sindisosdiary.com/2017/03/a-day-in-my-office-wear-post-6.html

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for reading, Sindiso. Love to your friend.

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Thank you for reading.

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