An ethnographic audience study of isiZulu-speaking UKZN students' responses to constructions of male characters in Muvhango.
This dissertation is an ethnographic study of the constructions of masculinity in soap opera, and focuses specifically on how a group of isiZulu-speaking students who study at the University of KwaZulu-Natal interpret Muvhango, a Tshivenda soap opera. This study also presents how these viewers interpret, analyse, understand and group these constructions of masculinity. An analysis of how the students view each of the male characters is presented, and this is contextualised in terms of current and previous research on soap operas, on masculinity broadly, and on masculinity in South Africa. Group in-depth interviews were conducted with three different groups — a group consisting of women only, a group consisting of men only, and a mixed group made up of both men and women. The students’ reasoning as to why they watched soap opera was investigated. This study purposefully chose to interview isiZulu-speaking Black students as subjects, to understand why a soap opera that is predominantly Tshivenda, with Tshivenda discourses, has an impact on the lives of the isiZulu-speaking viewers who watch. It surfaced during the interviews that watching soap opera is a communal activity that creates a discursive space for multiple responses and for debating the social acceptance of some of the topics expressed by the soap opera. How the respondents responded to the male characters of Muvhango was examined. The students responded negatively to male characters who were passive, as well as those who generally represented hegemonic and aggressive masculinities. The respondents identified with certain male characters whom they recognised as typical of the types of men they would encounter in their everyday lives; however, they found other characters to be distasteful to such an extent that in addition to disliking the characters on screen, they formed negative opinions of the actors as private individuals separate from their acting roles. In summary, this dissertation examines the consumption of a Tshivenda soap opera by Black isiZulu-speaking students who all attend the same Christian church and who all reside in Pietermaritzburg.