We may be in the height of the dry season in Cape Town but you probably wouldn’t have guessed by looking at the dam…
A lot of people like to make kooky jokes about how their country is “weird”, and that “only people here like to do this slightly strange thing that isn’t actually abnormal”.
But last year, South Africans on Netflix really tried their best. Of the shows released in 2017, the nation’s viewers picked out the oddest collection of series to binge, from religious dramas to teen mockumentaries to mysterious sci-fis.
Top of the list of shows South Africans binged last year was the Mexican political thriller Ingobernable. Behind it was Oprah’s Greenleaf, a show about the family who own a Memphis megachurch, and in third was dick-obsessed mockumentary American Vandal.
Here’s the full list of most-binged shows in SA:
- American Vandal
- Suburra: Blood on Rome
- Anne with an E
- The Keepers
- The OA
- The Confession Tapes
- Cable Girls
- Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later
If you’re feeling bad about your job today, at least you’re not the one who has to decide which shows to market to South Africans. They like fiction and non-fiction. They don’t discriminate against spoken languages. They watch shows for young people and for old. They watch comedies and dramas and sci-fis and thrillers.
And, yes, it’s perfectly normal for a country’s population to be into a variety of content, but most of these titles are odd even for their own genres.
Wet Hot American Summer is an over-the-top satirical comedy whose cast of characters includes Richard Nixon and a can of mixed vegetables. The OA is an acid-trip of a sci-fi that involves angels, unreliable narrators, and life-saving contemporary dance moves.
American Vandal is a Serial-style mockumentary about a dick-drawing vandal, while The Keepers and The Confession Tapes are real documentaries about a murdered nun and false confessions, respectively.
South Africa’s Netflix binging proves the power of the oddball
If anything, the content South Africans binged last year prove the power of the oddball. Shows that step away from the norm and challenge form and cultural hegemony — these are the shows South Africans “devour” (if you submit to PR-speak).
Shows led by white American men are no longer the tour de force Hollywood thought they were. Ingobernable is led by a Mexican woman, and Greenleaf‘s main cast is dominated by black women.
In fact, the only two fictional shows on the list led by white men are American Vandal and Suburra: Blood on Rome. The former is a refreshing insight into the lives of modern teenagers, and the latter, well, it’s Italian.
South African viewers are not only watching fun shows that feel different to others of its kind, but they’re at the forefront of the exciting shift in TV that’s engaging with a multiplicity of experiences. Here’s hoping Netflix’s next step is investing in our own content.