May 29, 2020
#Cinema | The Series Blood and Water Exposes African Glamour and Vices

The African teen mystery/melodrama, Blood and Water, went on a Netflix’s budget to produce something people aren’t used to seeing about Africa. Against a South African landscape, the international chart topping show dug into the lives of a group of mostly privileged teens, living in Cape Town, while dealing with circumstances that could be a shocker for the western audiences, even for some Africans. Truth been told, although Africa represents way more than war and hunger, teen’s critical dynamics are for the most part not as over the top as the show suggests, even for privileged kids. In fact, the different topics, rather well-exposed, still rose eyebrows in skepticism. Is this how south Africans live? Or is the exaggeration an intent for the drama. Even for this day of social media, microwavable interests and globalization on steroids, the question lingers. Is this really how South African rich kids live it up?

As viewers get pulled into this 6-episode-long effort, they get the central theme rather easily, although the title is not explicit enough. The story is about child abduction and human trafficking. Puleng’s Mother gave birth to her big sister 17 years ago, however, the baby disappears days after the birth, and the grief of that loss looms over the whole family. Puleng is then set to crack the mystery of the disappearance as soon as she encounters Fikile "Fiks" Bhele, a popular rich girl who was born the same day as Puleng’s sister. Although at the end of the 1st season the truth about Fikile’s origins is not revealed, we are rather slapped with a cliffhanger that begs for a second season.

While numerous key details about Fikile unfold, not only the girls wear super mini skirts as school uniforms, but the audience is also confronted to many vices that plague some societies worldwide, but are somehow almost romanticized for season one of Blood and Water. For example, it is common for kids to love partying and partaking in activities they are not supposed to. But to have Puleng’s love interest, KB, smoke marijuana in front of the nonchalance of his father, though imposing in stature, left an annoying aftertaste. Which African parent would let his kid do drugs, even when it’s just marijuana? Not that many, even the rich ones.

The sexual experiences of the characters account for another cringing moment in the storylines. For a show about teens, some scenes were just a bit too revealing. The sex shots unnecessarily exposed parts of nude bodies and the plot made teen sex okay. Puleng, 16, loses her virginity to KB in a bubbly and innocent atmosphere.

The series also captured an alternative sexual orientation referred to as pansexuality. According to Wikipedia, pansexuality is “sexual, romantic or emotional attraction towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity.” Fikile’s friend Chris is not just pansexual but he normalizes having multiple relationships with different people at the same. During season one, he juggles between Zama, Puleng’s girlfriend and a guy named Mark. Chris shows a distinct honesty about his feelings for both Zama and Mark with an obvious attempt to not only grab the sympathy of his friends, but that of viewers as well.

In the heart of the plot, teen sex is intertwined in student-teacher romance. Fikile is having a relationship with her very married swimming instructor with a baby on the way. For revenge, Puleng blows the whistle and the instructor is eventually fired from the school. This particular set-up also peeks at how adultery affects people, especially a very pregnant loving wife. The topic of abuse is also picked up since Fikile is underage, however it fails to get to a teachable moment.

As a whole, Blood and Water is a winner. It succeeds in dragging the audience through emotional ups and downs. Although the transitions within the plot are sometimes too stiff, the show imposed its presence moving to Netflix’s Top 10 chart across many countries, including the U.S., the U.K. and France. As a second season was undoubtedly hinted, we are curious to see how the follow-up will break down the quest to finding Puleng’s sister through the different interactions between the characters.

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