It’s been a couple of months since The Wedding Party, arguably the biggest commercial success Nollywood has ever produced hit cinemas and blew everyone right out of the water. Now that the Christmas spirit has waned and we’ve found enough distance to took a proper look at the film, we’ve realised it barely passes muster. Sure the cinematography is amazing, the sets are beautiful and the actors by and large gave great performances, the film itself, and the ‘new’ Nollywood it represents is just as regressive and patriarchal as the ‘Old’ Nollywood it seeks so hard to distance itself from.
The matriarchs of the film played by Sola Sobowale and Ireti Lola-Doyle play character tropes we’ve literally seen a thousand times from veterans like Patience Ozokwor and Hilda Dokubo Mrakpor, tropes that suggest older Nigerian women only exist in two forms; as a frigid cold hearted bitch incapable of empathy, or a hyperactive crone constantly seeking to draw attention to herself through needless theatrics. It is doubly disappointing consider both women are portrayed as upper middle class, culturally literate women who should be above tribal fueled pettiness. But that’s what we get.
It isn’t as though the younger women in the film are treated any better. The film’s female lead Adunni Coker is portrayed as a naive adult virgin, the only woman ‘pure’ enough to for the film’s male lead, the philandering Dozie Onwuka to settle down for. Naive Coker is obviously contrasted by the ‘Jezebel’ character, Dozie’s ex, Rosie who tries to sleep with him on his wedding day and antagonizes his naive virgin bride with her sexual prowess. And if that wasn’t enough stereotyping there, the writers threw in a street smart ‘bad girl’ bridesmaid to serve vocal proxy for the virgin bride, fighting her battles and saying the things Dunni, who isn’t portrayed as religious in the film, can’t or won’t say; so she doesn’t diminish in purity.
Let’s not forget the frazzled Event planner stereotype (lifted off classic black rom-coms) and the clueless white friend who culturally appropriates because she wants the affections of a black man. It is all there.
The Wedding Party isn’t alone in its unidimensional portrayal of women, it is merely one in a long line of films that promise progressive stories and do not deliver. At least Old Nollywood in it’s own subverted way gave women agency to tell their own stories, even if those stories were violent and problematic (Blackberry Babes, Girl’s Cot).
We will need ‘new’ Nollywood to do better.