How gay is too gay? In “The Video Closet: Nollywood’s Gay-Themed Movies,” Green-Simms and Azuah discuss meeting with Nigerian film censors and deciphering the system they used to edit films, which basically seemed to boil down to whether the characters or actors seemed to be liking their naughty behavior a little too much. If so, the film got snipped, as a kind of defense regarding Nigerian honor and correct cultural and social conventions. For example, the idea that “‘a woman can do anything a man can do’ is degrading to Nigerian womanhood,” according to the censors, and films must instead demonstrate “‘balanced’ representation.” It must be clear, at the conclusion of the film, that what audiences just watched was wrong, immoral and offensive; there can be no doubt that would then work its way into audience members’ minds. “Get-rich-quick cults, prostitution, money and internet scams, witchcraft, and adultery” are all wrong and should all be displayed as such, lest someone walk away thinking gayness is less bad than scamming innocent people out of their cash. Unacceptable.

A similar question of “how gay is too gay?” arose while reading “Queer in the Time of Terror” by Rahul Rao; in the chapter, Rao discusses the concept of the international LGBT community, and how activism from Western nations is a somewhat hypocritical reversal from what colonialism attempted to instill in nations in Africa and the Middle East that already had a history of more androgynous, same-sex-accepting cultures. In “The Video Closet,” it’s stated that the presence of gay characters on Nigerian screens in Nollywood films proves that “Nigerians—at least on some level—are willing to admit that homosexuality does exist in their country and that there is in fact much anxiety about how to address it.” But what about the rest of the world, countries that perhaps don’t have similarly thriving filmmaking industries? As Rao states in “Queer in the Time of Terror,” non-Western nations began attempting to deny homosexual behavior in their cultures because of pressures from colonialism, which worked to instill a normative sexual identity on the brutes and savages. Now, however, it’s those very same Western nations that are pushing others into becoming more accepting of LGBT communities that they once looked down upon, an action that isn’t totally about gay rights but is also about political domain and power.

How do both of these ideas manifest in Emotional Crack? In some ways, Emotional Crack reminded me of erotic Western thrillers like Fatal Attraction or Chloe, in which an outside female character becomes obsessed with one member of a couple and attempts to break them apart for her personal or sexual gain. But Emotional Crack also seems to demonstrate elements of arguments presented in both “The Video Closet” and “Queer in the Time of Terror.” Camilla’s inability to live happily ever after, her eventual acquiescence to death, quite clearly articulates the idea that no gay character can live happily ever after in Nigeria’s film industry. He or she must eventually turn into a demented, deranged or unstable individual who cannot meet the demands of normal, everyday life—in itself, it’s a triumph that the character is onscreen, but their eventual end is not so great. And yet, the Camilla character, who is attracted to both Crystal and Chudi, can also demonstrate what Rao is saying in “Queer in the Time of Terror”—that same-sex behavior, in some countries, is not necessarily definitively gay or lesbian. Instead, it can occupy a sort of middle space that cannot easily be politicized for the sake of activism on the part of Western audiences.

At the end of “Queer in the Time of Terror,” Rao states: “The satisfaction that white queers derive from saving brown queers from brown homophobes stems from the confirmation that this heroic gesture seems to provide for something that whites have always ‘known’: that ‘whiteness’ (and everything non-racial that this additionally signifies) is superior to ‘brownness’ and will always be so.” Perhaps this is part of why Nollywood has taken off so significantly, as we heard many people say in This is Nollywood—because the industry is controlled by them. And even the censors are part of their society and judging them from the inside, not operating as outside guards who decide their culture for them. Does that make the behavior of the censors less wrong? Possibly not, but at least they don’t seem as demonized as Rao presents the white saviors of the international LGBT community. 

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About roxanahadadi

First-year literature graduate student! Planning on drinking enough Diet Coke to develop an ulcer during class discussions.

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