In many cultures across the world, problems concerning matters of the heart, family disputes and habits were discussed behind closed doors and mostly by elders.
This was not entirely to hide things (hiding did happen) but to ensure that the reputation and the feelings of all the parties involved were prudently looked after and to also tap into the wisdom of the elders.
Times are changing. It is now the norm in certain quarters to talk about these matters publicly and with no regard to age. Whether this new way of doing things is good or bad only time will tell.
With that background I want to talk about My Unspoken which aired last night on NTV at 10pm.
Its promo was quite eye-catching and it fueled my curiosity to watch.
For those who did not watch it is a counseling session where a group of women are helped by a counselor/life-coach to confront the demons of their past and live life anew.
It is normally run under the Alabastron programme and this was its premiere on TV.
Totally get the media sense for NTV to air the show. Women crying, opening up about their ordeals, being guided through how to make things better does make for great television which means audience numbers go up. This boosts ratings and by extension advertisers.
Ponder about the confidentiality aspect though. A woman may be strong and ready to go on national television and bare her soul to millions but we do not live in isolation. As individuals we are parts of a greater society. So if a woman goes on TV and accuses her husband of battering, what does that do to her children, her husband, her extended family? And even if now it seems a great idea to be on TV, 10 years from now will she be happy about the footage that will be accessible to all online?
Also asked myself where is the voice the accused? We heard of husbands who battered, uncles who raped, mothers who were negligent. None of these were giving a hearing. Balance is key in media. You always strive to get both sides of the story. So is NTV opening itself up for defamation suits?
Let me digress, defamation is the airing of content that soils a persons otherwise good name and causes them to be shunned by right thinking members of the society. You may say that no names were mentioned but if you say uncle who raised me, my husband, my mother then that is as good as naming them. And in defamation the burden is on ‘he who alleges’ so NTV by airing the accusations will be expected to provide evidence of alleged crime.
Moving on, to me counseling is meant to heal and bring closure. Confront the issue or the person and deal with it. How they will achieve this on TV is beyond me. Shouldn’t counseling be private and individual? How then do you have people with varying problems all in one room and then proceed to diagnose them and prescribe solutions?
The counselor also greatly matters. The show’s counselor comes across to me as trying to be mix of Tyra, Oprah and Dr. Phil. This leads me to the fact that the qualifications of the counselor were not presented for scrutiny. Who is she and what is her locus standi?
The fact that there was reference to auditions being held for the women who were then chosen to appear on TV based on the ‘gravity’ of their emotional hurt is something I found off. Emotional hurt or psychological trauma is not a joke or something to be trifled with.
Should counseling be a subject for Reality TV? The model has worked in Tyra, Oprah and Dr. Phil but will it work in our society? What is our culture? What is our world view? How do we address home/private matters? It is all well and good to say we are urban and sophisticated and that we can talk about everything in publicly now but is this the case in Mogotio or Nguruweni?
I am not belittling the women who bravely told their stories on national TV but all I heard was how other people’s actions ruined their lives. Thus I wonder should we encourage the culture of calling up someone to help you fix your problems instead of taking charge of your life and charting the course? Maina Kageni breakfast show is a long running example of where folk chose to hand over the reins of their lives to other people to make decisions for them.
Finally what is the utility value of the show? And what is the impact that it might eventually have to an audience?
Spoke to my psychiatrist friend and apart from him being appalled by the show he spoke of trend building. This is where bad things through gradually media acceptance are seen to be cool and they became a fad to the audience. Easiest way to illustrate is that through Maina’s breakfast show, cheating in marriage in Kenya has been made normal.
That is the power of the media.
From the show I got the fact that women (people) are carrying around incredible baggage. I totally agree that the issues raised need to be addressed. Regular readers will know how I am entirely against censorship or burying heads in the sand.
My concern is regarding the mode and means of doing so – Group counseling on national television.
Have several friends who are all praises regarding Alabastron.
Spoke to one today and she insisted that the society has been silent for too long and it is time we addressed the injustices visited on women (people) emotionally or psychologically.
She contended that while men are able to compartmentalize their issues women will carry their hurt into every aspect of their lives. Therefore she felt that Alabastron is a brilliant initiative.
Regarding the My Unspoken TV show she asked me to reserve judgment until I have watched all the 13 episodes. I shall do so but that does not mean I cannot comment on the first show that I watched. That is the spirit in which this ‘review’ is written.
This post has many questions because the show left me with very many questions. On media programming, on influence of churches and church leaders, on the rise of reality TV and on the state of families, marriages and relationships in Kenya. I am still musing over them.
As usual, this is a conversation.
What did you think of My Unspoken?
GOD BLESS KENYA!