JOHANNESBURG: The rape of a young girl, the shooting of a teacher and the smearing of excrement over children’s heads are just a few of the graphic scenes offered on prime-time TV by South Africa’s state broadcaster.
Yizo Yizo, a 13-part youth drama series, is set in a ‘typical’ black township school and sets out to highlight the problems facing young South Africans-namely drugs, gangs, sex and murder. But critics say it is compounding the problem of violence in an already crime-ridden society.
Copycat gangs have sprung up. Earlier this year, an 18-year-old girl was gang-raped by boys calling themselves ‘Yizo Yizo.’ At one school, students stoned teachers and police as they chanted slogans from the show.
Director Tebogo Mahlatsi denies accusations that the series is terrorizing black communities. ‘The gangs existed before Yizo Yizo, and they will exist after Yizo Yizo,’ he says.
Created by Johannesburg-based prodco Laduma Film Factory, Yizo Yizo was commissioned by SABC 1 for US$500,000. ‘Our mandate,’ says producer Desiree Markraass, ‘was to put the crisis in the school system on the national agenda.’
Radio talk shows and newspaper editorials have been filled with the virtues and evils of Yizo Yizo, and SABC 1 has commissioned a study on the show’s impact on youth. But with the Ministry of Education and the SABC 1 firmly behind it, as well as a string of prestigious awards to its name, the series is unlikely to be toned down in the planned new season. Yizo Yizo, after all, is Zulu for ‘that’s the way it is.’
In the rest of the world, the topic of violence on TV is being addressed and acted upon. While state congressional hearings are underway in the U.S. to weigh the influence that screen and tube fare has on youth, two teens were recently convicted of murder and conspiracy after stabbing one teen’s mother 45 times with knives and a screwdriver. The defendants testified in a preliminary hearing that they were inspired by Dimension Films’ horror flick Scream and its equally gory sequel Scream 2.
In Japan, commercial TV nets have announced that they will refrain from airing sexual or violent fare between the kid-viewing hours of 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. The resolution follows a series of copycat crime incidents involving kids and butterfly knives, the type of weapon wielded by teen star Takuya Kimura in a TV drama that aired on Fuji Television Network in 1997.