Hot Takes: Canceling transphobia, ‘Namaste Wahala’, the Nipah virus & more

We live in a world where the truth seems harder to grasp on to every new day; every morsel of information is fed right to us through both traditional news and social media, and the converging of these two channel has led to the truth near vanishing into obscurity, buried beneath layers of hearsay. At times, the constant cycle of (mis)information is enough to overwhelm any individual, and I, myself have become too caught up in staying updated that I sometimes feel incredibly burnt out. If this is something that you also struggle with then please consider taking regular breaks.

It doesn’t help that there doesn’t seem to be any hope of returning back to normal with the pandemic still disrupting life as we knew it. As such, I have decided that the best possible way to cope is to consume information that keeps me informed and also entertained. Social media platforms like Twitter, Club House, Instagram and others have become a mainstay for most of us during this time as it provides a mix of niche entertainment and news updates. As a bonus, those who wish to offload and share their thoughts (in 280 characters or less for Twitter) can do so. Although there are some takes and news headlines that will surely have you rolling your eyes into their socket, there are also unifying moments where we all truly sit and engage with a range of topics. For example, this month, we’re celebrating Black History month so the popular conversations often highlight heroes and iconic moments in our rich history.

For my debut as the author for everyone’s favourite NATIVE column, Hot Takes, I will take you through the trendy tidbits making rounds across the pop culture world, while we kick off Black History month, get ready for Drake’s coming album and lament the impending Valentine’s day. Here’s the tea;

What I’m listening to at the moment: Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Good News’

I was furious when I heard that the entire world of Hip-Hop did not embrace Megan’s latest album, ‘Good News’ when it dropped last year. One person had the nerve to say they skipped the whole tape, which gives me a clue as to why certain parts of the Hip-Hop community might find the album by one of the rappers nominated for Best New Artist at the coming Grammys inaccessible. Some people (men) feel emasculated when a woman speaks from a position of power, and that’s exactly Megan Thee Stallion does throughout the course of the 17-track album.

Like every rapper that’s on the charts and popping, Thee Stallion raps about sex, violence and the lavish lifestyle of a scammer. The beat for “Body” is built around a sample of a woman moaning while Megan raps over it, bragging about her curvy figure and black skin. The song’s message is empowering for women while her upbeat flow makes it the perfect song to hear at the titty club or use for a TikTok dance challenge. I mean this album has gems including “Savage Remix” with Beyoncé and features from Popcaan, SZA, 2 Chainz, DaBaby and more. But I guess haters just gon’ hate till they learn that we can’t keep living like back in the days when women were called witches because they could read and write.

What I’m watching on YouTube: BLADE RUNNER 2049 (Black Out 2022) Anime Short

I’ve developed more appreciation for steaming platforms since the pandemic hit and confined us indoors. Whether it’s revisiting old music videos for that hit of nostalgia or just trusting the algorithm to suggest something trendy or relating to my specific interests, YouTube has been my saving grace while self-isolating. Recently, I discovered a valuable gem that helped boost my self-esteem as it raised my nerd profile and anime savvy, ‘Blade Runner 2049 (Black Out 2022)’. Released in 2017, the anime short-film was shared by Warner Bros. Pictures’ official page as one of the teasers in the lead to the release of the sci-fi thriller, ‘Blade Runner 2049’, which won the Academy Awards for Best Science Fiction Film in 2018.

The clip opens with the movie’s director, Denis Villeneuve giving a brief explanation on how the anime short film ties into the timeline for his Blade Runner sequel. For the rest of the 16-minute duration of the video, we see the anime-styled clip set in Los Angeles, May 2022 after an EMP detonation has caused a global blackout that has massive, destructive implications all over the world (not unlike the Covid-19 virus). I was whisked away from where I’m quarantining in my dimly lit room in Lagos to the dystopian cyborg-infested anime timeline of the ‘Blade Runner’ universe directed by ‘Cowboy Bebop’ and ‘Samurai Champloo’s Shinichiro Watanabe. For those who are familiar with anime, mentioning those names alone is enough to confirm that I hit the jackpot. However, for others who just need a distraction from the lockdown blues, ‘Blade Runner 2049 (Black Out 2022)’ delivers action-packed fight sequences between humans and cyborgs, enchanting anime art scenes and a compelling story about a black cyborg replicant, Iggy, voiced by Jovan Jackson.

‘Namaste Wahala’ could be so much more

(By Adewojumi Aderemi)

On February 14, Netflix will usher in their first-ever Nollywood-Bollywood collaboration, Namaste Wahala. Directed by Hamisha Daryani Ahuja, an Indian businesswoman who has lived in Nigeria all her life, the movie based in Nigeria and centres around the marriage of two of the world’s most vibrant, most notorious cultures – especially renowned for their opulent wedding industries. Cleverly titled, Namaste Wahala – a sort of greeting to trouble, that infuses two of the most popular aphorisms from both cultures – the trailer for the Netflix-acquired movie depicts an interracial couple battling disapproval from both their families, an expected outcome when considering both Nigerian and Indian societies are quite traditional and make a fuss about unions between different tribes (see The Wedding Party), talk less of entirely different nationalities. It is exactly this predictable plot line that leaves me disappointed in this new all-star Nollywood effort, that casts Ini Dima Okojie as the lading character, Didi, alongside RMD, Joke Silva, and Osas Ighodaro.

After The Wedding Party and its sequel, or another interracial romance, Isoken, the Nigerian film industry has cautioned us plenty on the barriers you’ll face if you ever attempt to marry outside your tribe. Although it’s a reality pretty much every Nigerian is familiar with, recent blockbusters have continued to depict this storyline and, at this point, it is tiring. Marrying Nollywood and Bollywood is a truly pioneering move, but there is absolutely nothing fresh or innovative or boundary-breaking about a Nigerian and Indian wedding becoming strenuous for the couple owing to traditional and mildly judgemental parents – it’s just predictable, a huge ‘duh’, a start middle and end that we all see coming. So what’s the point?

Of course, romantic comedies all over the world tend to regurgitate the same tropes; the genre isn’t known for its imagination, but even still, I am disappointed that yet another rom-com about a bride and groom’s mission to earn their families’ approval is being created, and I am enraged that it is being shamelessly marketed as a pioneering or forward-thinking film. This is a monumental union of the world’s largest film industries outside of America, but it is for exactly this reason that Namaste Wahala should be so much more than another mindless Netlflix watch. Alas.

A new deadly disease, Nipah breaks out in China 

China’s health concerns have caused the whole world grief since the World Health Organisation (WHO) first reported about the Coronavirus in Wuhan, China on the 31st of December, 2019. The cases have since spread around the world, taking the lives of over 2.24 million people across the globe (at least 1,600 from Nigeria) and forcing the rest of us to go into quarantine to reduce the spread of the virus. While we are still waiting for medical experts to provide a trustworthy vaccine for COVID-19 virus, China has warned that they have a new virus outbreak, Nipah with a fatality rate of up to 75%.

Experts have already started calling it the potential next big pandemic risk and frankly, such claims can’t be taken lightly in our present climate. Although the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies are doing their best to get vaccines ready to protect us from COVID-19, other pandemic risks are being unaddressed. According to news reports from WHO, the Nipah virus is spread through fruit bats and it can cause flu-like symptoms and brain damage. In 2018, India reported the outbreak of the Nipah virus which claimed 17 lives at the time and forced other countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to temporarily ban frozen and processed fruits and vegetables imported from Kerala, India to stop the virus from spreading.

While are all still trying to adjust to COVID-19’s impact on our lives with no music concerts or large gatherings or even casual visits from friends, China is at risk of a new deadly epidemic that reminds us that no matter how bad things are, they could always be worse.

Nike unveils laceless Nike GO FlyEase sneakers 

Sportswear brand, Nike has released the laceless Nike GO FlyEase sneakers which can be put on and taken off without using your hands. Though it isn’t Nike’s first laceless shoe (they launched the laceless FlyEase range in 2015), the previous editions still required a hand to open. This is the first Nike shoe that is entirely hands-free and while people with disabilities appear to be the target market, the shoes can serve everyone that finds it difficult to put their shoes on; pregnant women, energetic children, lazy dads etc.

The first editions of the FlyEase footwear were inspired by 16-year-old Matthew Walzer, a cerebral palsy patient. He wrote a letter to Nike asking that they consider developing a shoe design for people who may have trouble tying shoelaces. The prototypes made by Nike’s shoe designer, Tobie Hatfield, were made available for the Lebron Soldier 9, Pegasus 32 and Flex Run shoe models. However, the new range of Nike GO FlyEase sneakers improves on those previous models, as they have no adjustable laces but have a clog-like shape that’s very easy to slip into. Combined with a large rubber band – called a midsole tensioner by Nike – this hinge allows the shoe to be secure in both an open position for the foot to enter and a closed position for when the trainers are in use. The story behind the development of this sneaker has won Nike a lot of praise and goodwill on social media, as the sports brand provided the solution to a common problem.

The Nigerian government continues pushing back the deadline for NIN registration

The federal government has announced yet another extension to the deadline for all mobile network subscribers to provide their National Identification Number (NIN). The initial deadline was the 30th of last December, but with most people locked into celebrating the holidays, they eventually set a later date for the 19th of January. However, the passive reactions of Nigerians on social media showed that most people couldn’t be bothered to register at all, choosing civil disobedience as a form of protest against the bad governance we all experienced, particularly during the EndSARS movement.

Notwithstanding, the minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami announced yesterday that a further 8-week extension has been given for the deadline which is now slated for the 6th of April, 2021. He mentioned in his statement that the extra time was given to accommodate those following the social distancing rules at different registration points.  According to the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC), a total of 56.18 million NIN numbers have been collated by mobile network operators and while it’s a huge improvement compared with the 47.8 million reported in January, it’s still less than half of the general population of Nigeria.

Transphobia needs to go, ASAP

(By Dennis Ade-Peter)

Even in an increasingly liberal world, transphobia is a global issue. In Africa it’s perhaps ten times worse, due to an ultra-conservative, staunchly religious, and intensely judgemental society that has fostered hate and casual cruelty towards members of the LGBTQI community. On the continent, queer people are routinely targeted, by the letter of the law (homosexuality is currently outlawed in 34 of the 54 African countries), and otherwise by deeply prejudiced individuals. Even in South Africa, where queer rights are fully recognised and protected, discrimination remains quite rampant.

Last week, MacGyver “MacG” Mukwevho, host of the popular podcast, Podcast & Chill, came under fire after he and his co-hosts, Sol Phenduka and the Ghost Lady, made transphobic remarks on episode 220 of their show. The trio were discussing the recent debut of actor Siv Ngesi’s drag persona, Sivanna, which detoured into an ugly segment about transwomen. For about ten minutes, the trio went on to misgender transwomen, used the derogatory term “shemale.” Sol even went as far as stating that he was “baffled “by the need for transitioning when many transwomen are only sexually attracted to other women, a further display of ignorance that wrongly conflates sexuality with sexual identity. Within hours of the episode release, concerned individuals and many South African celebrities made their disgust known, and within days corporate sponsor Old Mutual withdrew their support from the podcast.

In the same breadth, though, many fans of the podcast used this medium to spew out casual transphobia, claiming that the Queer community and its allies were being oversensitive and looking to censor MacG and his co-hosts. For the uninitiated, Podcast & Chill is widely regarded to be the biggest podcast in the country, leading the pack in a still untapped but growing part of SA media. In about two years since debuting, MacG has interviewed a long list of celebrities that includes Nasty C, Sha Sha, Simmy, and Ricky Rick, and earlier this year, he was chosen as the only podcaster in the inaugural class of YouTube’s “Black Voices” amplification fund/program – indicators of his platform’s growing magnitude. The transphobic remarks spewed out on his podcast, in the form of distasteful jokes, acts as the latest moment of reckoning in a country still fighting – even though far advanced than every other African country – to stamp out homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia in general.

Unlike some of his hateful fans, MacG and his team have taken this situation and the backlash as a teachable moment – at least that’s what they’re projecting. After four days of radio silence, the team returned with a well-worded apology and a penitent new episode featuring Yaya Mavundla, a transwoman and prominent Trans activist. Whilst it might all just be optics, it is quite amazing to hear Yaya dressing MacG and Sol down, holding them accountable for their incendiary words and correcting them with the ear-bending verve of a deeply annoyed parent. In the apology and on the episode, MacG reiterated a commitment to doing better in the future, but many are doubtful about these intentions, considering that a public display of homophobia was a big reason of why he was fired from his job as a radio presenter/DJ, back in 2010.

So far, several people have asked for the podcast to be cancelled and MacG de-platformed, while another side of the argument, including Siv, see this as an opportunity for educating dialogue – although there’s something to be said about re-educating grown ass people with access to the internet. Regardless of which side you fall on, we can all agree that it highlights the need for a collective stance against queerphobia, especially when it’s coming from popular people who have the influence to plant and water the seed of hate towards queer people.

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You are meeting Debola at a strange time in his life. He wandered into a dream and lost his way back. Tweet at him @debola_abimbolu


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