COMMUNICATING CHANGE AND SOCIETAL VALUES IN SELECT NIGERIAN HOME MOVIES

COMMUNICATING CHANGE AND SOCIETAL VALUES IN SELECT NIGERIAN HOME MOVIES

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CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

The word change has so many meanings depending on the context in which it is used. However, one major point that keeps reoccurring is the move from one state to another. Change in a society refers to an alteration in the social order of the society, it may include changes in nature, social institutions, social behaviours, or social relations. Thus change can refer to any significant alteration over a period of time in behaviour patterns, cultural values and norms. The world today is changing so fast economically, socially, politically and even physically. The argument however is whether the change is for the better or for the worse. This change is made rapid by the increasing new ways of communication especially the media which has increased accessibility to knowledge. This has changed the ways individuals, groups, and societies think, feel, behave, and interact.

In spite of the seeming objectives of the new communication mediums, a great deal of fear and outrageous optimism permeates opinions about its attendant negative consequences. This is so because the inundation of too much information is a potential threat to the ability to process which information is actually needed. Film has over the years become a pervasive and ever present entity in our lives, as well as a strong influence for constructing meaning in our everyday live. Social Comparison Theory posits that ―people will [at some point in their lives] compare themselves and significant others to people and images whom they perceive to represent realistic goals to attain‖ (Botta, 1999: 26).

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With the passage of time, we have unconsciously looked up to the media to help us define, explain, and shape the world around us; we make automatic comparisons of ourselves, those close to us, and situations in our lives after seeing images in the media. The result of these comparison is that we are motivated to strive for, and achieve, new found goals and expectations as perceived by us in the films. Films now preside over many daily decisions on the sense of our world and exposes human beings to completely new perspective. It has over time reduced the world to a global village sharing cultures, beliefs, values and history. With our lives influenced by the culture around us, it is impossible for it not to either be positive or negative. However, this is dependent on what we listen to or watch, whichever way, what we do has direct impact on our lives because everything has a direct link to some part of us be it music, media, celebrities, fashion, and even literature.

Films when positively constructed have a way of introducing us to creative outlets that can help us better ourselves in different ways, be it in our personal or work lives. It can change our perspective and push us to do more than what we limit ourselves to. It can also help us engage with other people around the world, and be more open and understanding towards other cultures. On the other hand, films can influence us to do things that are not moral, like getting into substance abuse, adopting violent or immoral habits and developing wrong perception of issues. This goes to show that film can be used for or against us, depending on how we use it individually. With these points we see just how powerful a tool the movie is in our present day and age, and also its impact on our perception.

Changes yielding profound social consequences over time affect behaviour patterns and cultural values and norms. Change occurrences summarily occur in major factors of politics,

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economy and culture. Changes can also occur in less – tangible factors such as personal dignity, personal safety, freedom from fear of physical harm, and the extent of participation in civil society. Change in the society can be caused by so many factors; technology, socialinstitutions, population, modernization and the environment. However, this research work will concentrate on the changes that occur via the media with particular emphasis on video films. Our society has undergone radical shifts in everything from family structure to demographics. We have witnessed a massive shift in societal and lifestyle changes; youths and adults alike. Technology now dominates modern urban living resulting in increasingly structured activities. Changes have occurred in social roles, culture, ideologies and beliefs. Values and beliefs once formed by family and institutions are increasingly being influenced by what we see in films. The conclusion that ‗art is society and society is art‘ (which has somewhat become a cliché) applies with double emphasis to film- ‗a powerful visual medium with extraordinary ability to influence the thinking and behaviour of its audience‘ (Ukadike, 2009:31). This owes much to the visual bias of film. It should be stated that the film medium has become so central to human existence that no nation can afford to ignore the power of the screen any longer. The film maker knows only too well that he can use his works to impact on and attempt to influence the world around him. The question then is how true this assertion is when weighed against the realities of the peculiar nature of Nollywood.

Over the years there has been propagation on the indigenous films in Nigeria. Nigeria home videos capture our actual lifestyle and reflect it through various themes. These movies have the ability to reflect goings on in the society and this determines the influence they have. Some movies are based on myths, legends, folktales and other traditional forms which bring about the synergy that is required for better message reception (Akpabio, 2004:8).

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Nollywood occupies and performs a crucial social role and position in assisting viewers to interpret their experiences and society. According to Tom Odhiambo (2004:33), Nollywood ―borrows its subject matter from the public on issues of contemporary importance to that public in particular contexts‖ and it strives to be of ―immediate relevance to the people‘s worries, questions, experiences and lives‖. Such issues are rebroadcast to that same audience for the purpose of educating, informing, instructing and entertaining. Thus watching videos together in the homes, streets or in video parlours create ―uncontrolled sites of consumption‖ That ―render spectatorship in Nollywood as a fluid field of reading culture‖, and one which also ―privileges the presence of an absence as we know it in the production of culture that had been tightly controlled by the ruling and intellectual elite in Nigeria until the emergence of Nollywood in Nigeria.‖(Okome: 2007:6)

Since its emergence at the turn of the twenty-first century, the Nigerian movie industry ―Nollywood‖ has had a profound influence on African culture. The Nigerian accents, style of dress, and behavioural idiosyncrasies, all of which are distinctly Nigeria, through the combination of songs, oral literature, festivals, rituals, the traditional religion, performing arts, music, dance, and indeed the entire range of artefacts constituting traditional oral performance of Nigerian culture are now being transmitted as images around the globe.

Nollywood is one that has blossomed over a relatively short period of time and while it impacts on individuals home and abroad, it also has been impacted upon violently by alien cultures of the world, dressing, values, beliefs, lifestyle etc. Thus the industry has since the 1990‘s emerged as a fast growing cultural force all over the continent spreading and influencing both our culture and acquired western lifestyle. The effect of these movies on the

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Nigerian society is the manifestation of the issues that abound in the community. Considering the impact of movies on social values and human behaviour, the quest for qualitative movie production is inevitable. There appears to be a consensus among Nigerian researchers and observers that many traditional values are changing rapidly and replaced by film projected values. When films become an avenue to address, comment and attack authorities and societal ills cum vices, it becomes a thing of interest and takes a critical position in order to further discover the strength it possesses in contemporary times.

Indeed our society has changed and is still undergoing changes. Therefore, it is pertinent that we make the change for the better by communicating messages that will help correct or stimulate the perception of the people and gear them towards making or taking decisions that promote long – term sustainability, economic prosperity, a healthy community and social well- being. Nollywood movies speak to every facet of our life, in this study, through an analysis of select movies; the researcher would explore the societal values expounded with emphasis on culture, history, political and moral values.

1.1.Background to the Study

Over time, viewers have been influenced by images projected in films and in recent times, the family ideals, beliefs and culture are being influenced by what is seen outside the home and the movies which sometimes contradict what is known to be true? The character, personality, and identity of a person are shaped through many different means, and with the unlimited access to anything and everything through films, identities are being skewed. These negative impacts of films however, do not dissuade the fact that some movies project positive themes, depict reality and advocate the triumph of good over evil which in the long run have the

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capacity to result in positive outlook of the viewer. Film images today, both positively and negatively influence the viewers‘ identity and this impact has been said to be more on the youth in our society. Payne (2008:31) puts it thus, ‗Film and television have, long been feared for being capable of transmitting socially objectionable messages…. With easier access and

quicker results, audiences of film content are exposed to a tremendous amount of information fed to them. This influences and shapes their identities. The good thing, however is, not all of it is negative and if well projected and managed these content can be used positively to help mould the future of our society.

Exposure to information around us has an impact on the formulation of our ideals, opinions, and outlook on life. Viewers today, especially children, take on personality traits of artistes whom they idolize and consider role models. This goes to show that if they are overly exposed to such movie content, some part of their newly formed identity will be based on this medium. Films have become a significant force in modern culture especially in developing countries such as Nigeria. Viewers are bombarded with messages which reflect the culture and beliefs of the producing society and these are spread nationally and internationally.

The movie projects a complex of mutually interdependent perspectives and values that influence a society and its institutions in various ways. In Nigeria, For example, certain currents of popular culture may originate from, (or diverge into) a subculture representing perspectives with which the mainstream popular culture has limited familiarity or does not accept. The culture of Nigeria is shaped by its multiple ethnic groups; the variety of customs, languages, and traditions among all of Nigeria's ethnic groups gives the country a great deal of cultural diversity. This cultural diversity has driven the nation's innovative popular culture which is basically classified as good morals, obedience, humility, respect for elders etc.In

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recent times however, there has been a general outcry as regards the ‗imported‘ popular culture which is gradually enveloping all facets of the Nigerian society, with maximum influence on the Nigerian movie industry- which is believed to propagate to the world the Nigerian culture and values. The incursion of this alien ways over our ‗traditional way of live‘ has become a source of concern as it is seen as a diversion from the morally upright well behaved, sensitive and responsible Nigerian.

The common belief in Nigeria is that home movies negatively project the culture of Nigeria. That is why Frank Aig-Imoukahuede in Opubor (1995:47) confirms that

Many Nigerians have complained of the poisonous content of films shown on the screens in Nigeria a great number of people have criticized the nation‘s television for featuring materials which contradict or erode the quality of life and undermines the people‘s values and norms. What is needed are films for self projection, for presenting the fact of life in Nigeria.

Indeed in recent times films being produced feature contemporary real life stories, history and events; however, this is not to say that in the recent past produced movies do not reflect life as we can hardly say that these movies were created in a vacuum though they sometimes may be exaggerated. Nigerian movies now reflect diverse issues as it affects us from culture to history, politics to values.

Nigerian video films reflect the way of life of Nigerians, as much as it tells stories of our past and present. Consequently making Nigerian movies socially rooted. The movies produced by persons sharing same cultural milieu as the audience depict the culture of its audience; the village scenes, political and traditional justice systems, land tenure, costumes, hair-dos, tattoos, drumming, singing, dancing, indigenous foods and drinks, as well as religious beliefs all culminating into telling the history of Nigeria and its unity in diversity. For instance, the

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first Nigerian video film, ―Living in Bondage‖, projected socio-cultural traits and propensity of the average Igbo trader, who will stop at nothing to have a breakthrough in business. Thus, Nigerian video films are not only rebuilding such cultural values but playing a very significant role in Nigeria‘s socio-politico-cultural influence in Africa, and by extension the Western world. It is pertinent to note that in its two decades of existence, Nollywood has gone through some generic and developmental trends.

Values refer to appropriate courses of action or outcome; they reflect a person's sense of right and wrong or what "ought" to be. Values tend to influence attitudes and behaviour as it identifies what should be judged as good or evil. They help solve common human problems for survival and are responsible for why people do what they do and in what order they choose to do them. Values was summarized by Professor Moemeka in his article titled: ―Communalism As A Fundamental Dimension Of Culture,‖ as follows: (i) The Supremacy of the Community (ii) The Sanctity of Authority, (iii) Respect for Old Age or the Elderly (iv) The Usefulness of the Individual v Religion as a Way of Life. In addition to those mentioned by Moemeka, it can be deduced that warmth of human relationship, resilience and love of country are embodiments ofthe serial values. People‘s perception about the universe makes for the basis for the formation of their scales of values. Therefore, a people‘s attitudes are explainable against the backdrop of their cosmology. Various values found in our society will be made explicit through an analysis ofselected movie.

There is no denying the fact that some values are held dear to us and these values took different dimension by the incursion of Western values which were and are still being communicated largely through the medium of films. One would then be compelled to ask,

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―Do these negative influences of home movies bring about cultural and behavioural change?‖ Opubor et al (1995:1) answers this thus,

Of all the media of communication, the motion picture has perhaps the most universal appeal and impact; a film can rise above the limitations of language, and cultural barriers by the power of its visual images, its use of music and sound effects and can succeed in conveying much the same message to audience of heterogeneous background.

The ability of film to transcend beyond diverse cultures is obvious in the consumption of movies around the world. In Nigeria for example, Indian and Chinese movies amongst others are consumed by a large number of the population irrespective of the fact that they hardly understand these languages. Viewers can on the average understand and describe the subject matter of such movies, on the other hand, Nigerian movies; Yoruba, Ibo, pidgin etc are consumed not only within the shores of Africa but in parts of the Western world and such viewers also recognize the themes of the movies.

If indeed as it has been proved that these negative influences bring about cultural and behavioural change it wouldn‘t be wrong then to say that positive influences when portrayed would elicit positive changes. Thus this study is an attempt to analyse the positive societal values; cultural, political and social value content of Nollywood movies which has been so accused of projecting negative vices, as Nollywood‘s impact and transformation of Nigeria‘s culture, politics, society and economy cannot be underestimated, and neither can its influence on viewers.

1.2.Statement of the Research Problem

Critics have argued that Nigerian movies reflect negative ways of life which is often imbibed by its viewers and this in turn result in their display of negative behaviours, atti


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