‘MTV Shuga: Down South’ has never shied away from LGBTQ representation. ‘MTV Shuga Naija,’ what are you still waiting for???

MTV Shuga: Down South is in its second season, and the fifth episode will go down as one of its loveliest offerings on LGBTQ representation. In short, here’s a hot and steaming visual display of what went down:

Reggie and Odirile/Photo: YouTube

You have the permission to stare at the picture for as long as possible, but stay with me for now because I’m trying to prove something. Reggie, played by Given Stuurman, has been with the show since season one. Alienated by his father because he is gay, I have been rooting for Reggie and the reason the fifth episode is special is because he gets more screen time since Down South premiered weeks ago. The episode scoops some laughs in a scene at the call center where Reggie works: his straight colleague Kwanele asks how two gay men know they are in love. And Reggie, who seems on the verge of scoffing, says back: the same way straight people know they are in love.

The question arose because there’s a new gay guy in the office, who has his eyes on Reggie. They make small talk, smile at each other, have lunch at the cafeteria and end up in the bar, where he introduces Reggie to his queer friends. Reggie mingles with them as they open up about how they came out to their families. Afterwards, one of the gay men Odirile (Mohale Motaung) gets warm and chummy with Reggie and honestly I have never seen him smile this much.

The episode wasn’t just about Reggie getting his freak on; it also disseminated useful information about HIV and PrEP in the gay community: Reggie leaves the bar with Odirile, and before they have sex, Odirile pops in a PrEP pill in his mouth while Reggie watches. Curiously, he asks what prEP is. Odirile is an experienced gay man who helps Reggie in understanding how pre-exposure prophylaxis works, to prevent HIV while still also using a condom. Down South has stayed faithful to LGBTQ subplots, quite equally involving young LGTBQ people in the conversation of safe sex and HIV/AIDS.

By contrast, Nigeria’s iteration of the show Shuga Naija, which has had three volumes (season three, season four and season six) has been linear, heteronormative and disingenuous that one begins to wonder if straight people are the only sexual demographic affected by HIV. The hesitation to portray LGBTQ characters is understandable: Nigeria is virulently homophobic and all forms media content have routinely aligned with homophobia, even if it’s not the intention. Chris Ihidero, the producer of season four and six, will not be back to helm the show as Pulse recently reported that big shot director Tope Oshin will be the show’s new producer.

This is, of course, is excellent news. Oshin isn’t entirely new to the set up of Shuga Naija. The filmmaker came on board as the casting director for the last Shuga Naija season, and notably in her portfolio is the 2018 queer film We Don’t Live Here Anymore, which racked up the highest nominations at last year’s Best of Nollywood Awards (BON). Perhaps through Oshin, we would get the LGBTQ representation we deserve. Thinking about is already making me giddy.

 

 

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