Stereotyping unconsciously tells the audience that an actor is not versatile enough to play other roles.
●22nd March 2023
In the past decade, Tina Mba has graced our screens with her performances. She has featured in films including Isoken(2017), Banana Island Ghost (2017),For Maria, Ebun Pataki (2020), Breaded Life (2021) and Jolly Roger (2023), to name a few.
Amongst these films, she has played the character of a mother or mother-in-law quite a couple of times. In playing these roles, her characters are mean and nasty. An example is For Maria, Ebun Pataki, where she plays the mother-in-law of Derin (Meg Otanwa), who has just had a baby. She constantly verbally and emotionally abuses her daughter-in-law, rather than giving her the care that any nursing mother needs. In This Lady Called Life, she plays Aiye (Busola Aiyeola)’s mother. In the film, she also continually insults Aiye for having a child out of wedlock. In Jolly Roger, she plays the same character as she has in these other films, only that she has a Doctorate Degree in Applied Sciences. Despite her education, she is still a terrible mother-in-law to Najite (Toni Tones), who has been trying to conceive a child. In Here Love Lies, she is not there for Amanda (Tope Oshin), her daughter, after she gets pregnant out of wedlock. The unpleasantness of the characters she plays is also seen in Isoken as she annoyingly prods her daughter, Isoken (Dakore Egbuson-Akande) to get married.
It goes without saying that Mba has been typecast in our films. Not only does this stereotype her as a mean woman, but it also stereotypes Nigerian mothers and mother-in-laws in general. This typecasting, however, is not limited to Tina Mba; it is a Nollywood problem. The industry is yet to solve its problem of using tropes and stereotypes in its films. For instance, the typical Igbo man in our films has an accent and is always greedy. This is not even limited to tribe: Bucci Franklin plays the villain (The Razz Guy, Rattlesnake, Far From Home); and Ime Bishop Umoh plays the humorous guy who is unbelievably silly. Mention a woman that plays a widow and cries easily, and Chinwe Owoh comes to mind. Patience Ozokwor (popularly called Mama G)’s character is often a witch or wicked woman, and Kanayo. O. Kanayo is known for always giving sacrifices in his films. The list easily goes on and on.
Though it is true that films reflect the reality of a people, a lack of creativity is reflected when these films are forced into a box. One thing stereotyping does is unconsciously tell the audience that an actor is not versatile enough to play other roles. Another thing it does is misinform the audience about the person or subject being stereotyped. For instance, Tina Mba’s characters might make a foreigner believe that Nigerian mothers and mothers-in-law are generally irksome people.
Stereotyping and typecasting is not a problem peculiar to Nollywood; other industries such as Hollywood also face this challenge. However, Nollywood filmmakers can avoid this and choose to be more creative with their casting choices. Better still, Nollywood actors can turn down roles that they feel are too similar to ones they have played before. A good example that comes to mind is Meg Otanwa, who turned down roles for films that touched postpartum depression, since they would have been similar to For Maria, Ebun Pataki.
It beats me that I have to explain to a film maker why I can’t accept a role on postpartum depression at this time. C’mon! Postpartum?
Other actors should take their cue from Otanwa. This would create room for growth as the actors stretch themselves, and the audience would be happy seeing others embodying these characters. We would love to see Tina Mba, among many others, play new characters in her future projects. Consequently, we would better appreciate her for the outstanding thespian that she is.