Kaunda Selisho
Lifestyle Journalist
3 minute read
16 Nov 2021
6:03 pm

Opinion: What the world can learn from ‘The Wife’ on Showmax

Kaunda Selisho

The Wife is shot primarily in Isizulu and people who don't speak Zulu would need the help of the show’s subtitles in order to understand the dialogue.

Mqhele and Hlomu on The Wife on Showmax | Picture: Supplied

Although it has been over a year since South Korean Film Parasite won an Oscar for Best Picture and made history as the first non-English language film to win the award, one thing has always stood out for me about the film and I was recently reminded of this by The Wife.

A few days before its win, Parasite received intense backlash from audiences who would have preferred the award to go to an English film. They justified their displeasure by stating – among other things – that the film should have been penalised for having made them read subtitles throughout the film.

As a South African television viewer, I found that claim ridiculous and childish.

While watching Showmax’s new drama, The Wife, which is shot primarily in Isizulu, I remembered the backlash faced by Parasite. As a non-Isizulu speaker who needs the help of the show’s subtitles in order to fully understand the show’s dialogue, I remembered that there are people who hate reading subtitles.

For the average South African television viewer, this is not a problem.

Unlike the majority of Americans who dismiss anything that isn’t in English despite being a country made up of migrant populations from around the world, South Africans are well aware of the fact that this country officially recognises 11 languages. And this is excluding sign language, which is often incorporated into news broadcasts and addresses by public officials.

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Watching television programmes in languages we are not familiar with is standard practice in South Africa. This is because we are a people that are not only keen on understanding one another but also boast the effortless ability to be polyglots. Simply put, South Africans often understand, know and are able to use several languages.

So, when it comes to films like Parasite, South American telenovelas, anime programmes and content like Netflix’s smash hit, Squid Games, Americans can learn a thing or two from South Africans and programmes like The Wife.

Subtitles aren’t a bad thing, and perhaps, if you weren’t so averse to reading and people considered to be “other,” you might stumble upon a gem that can introduce you to the wonders contained in a world far beyond your own.

The Wife breaks records on Showmax

According to Showmax, which has produced its first telenovela in The Wife, the show has broken Uthando Lodumo’s record for the most first-day views of all-time on Showmax.

The show also beat crime documentary Devilsdorp’s record for the most hours watched within four days of launch. By doing so, The Wife has outperformed the launch of any film or series on Showmax ever, including the likes of Game of Thrones, The Real Housewives of Durban and The River

Inspired by Dudu Busani-Dube’s bestseller Hlomu The Wife, the 40-episode first season tells the story of a journalist named Hlomu (Mbalenhle Mavimbela from Skeem Saam) who falls in love with a taxi driver, Mqhele (Bonko Khoza from Neckie Youth). 

She soon learns that when you marry a man, you marry his secrets…

The show debuted to rave reviews from critics and fans alike and topped the trending list on various social media platforms. 

Watch the first few minutes of The Wife on Showmax below: