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Savage Beauty… watch with caution

Savage Beauty… watch with caution
June 03
11:06 2022

Savage Beauty created by Lebogang Mogashoa is a 6-part drama series from South Africa on Netflix-it premiered on May 12, 2022. The short of the story is that of revenge: Zinhle Manzini (Rosemary Zimu) has just been declared The Face of the Bhengus beauty brand. Ordinarily, this should be a win-win situation for everyone concerned. The new winner would be happy to be thrust into the celebrity limelight and prosperity. Then, the choice of Zinhle, who has a beautiful chocolate skin tone sends the message that Bhengu Beauty cares about promoting black skin. This counters agents of colourism who glorify fairer complexion over black skin tones, and this significantly encourages people to use bleaching creams to lighten their skins. In fact, the Bhengu Beauty has been guilty of picking light-skinned models over darker-skinned ones in the past for their campaigns. So, you can imagine how much of a big win it was for Zinhle to be unveiled as the face of Bhengu Beauty.

However, unbeknown to company owners Don Bhengu (Dumisani Mbebe) and his wife Grace (Nthati Moshesh), Zinhle’s reasons for pushing for this job are far from noble. She’s out for revenge as she and her brother Bonga (Mpho Sebeng) have cooked up a plan to expose Don and Grace who are secretly making and selling bleaching creams.  Apparently, Mr and Mrs Bhengu had done some unspeakable things to them when they were kids. Zinhle and Bonga are among kids the Bhengus used as guinea pigs to test their bleaching creams. But the viewer doesn’t get to find out what these horrible things are until very late into the series. I don’t want to belabour the revenge angle. Suffice it to say that some aspects of the story beggars belief. Zinhle moves in to live with the Bhengus after becoming the face of Bhengu Beauty. I can’t query the veracity or credibility of this arrangement although one would’ve thought that for a paranoid woman like Grace, whose husband has a thing for younger women, he even has a second wife, much younger than Grace of course, that she wouldn’t readily open her house to a young and beautiful girl like Zinhle. That aside, how come for people who are hiding a very big secret, the Bhengus never really get suspicious of Zinhle despite all the questionable happenings that could only have come from an insider?

Now to the reason behind the headline, there’s a twist in the tale. As I just mentioned, Don Bhengus has two wives: Grace and Thando (Angela Sithole) so expectedly the Bhengu household is all shades of interesting. And for some reason second wife Thando, though younger isn’t getting along with her husband which was a mystery. Why wouldn’t the trophy younger wife be hanging around her husband? I mean, what’s the point of marrying a second wife then? Well, it turns out that Thando is having an affair and is in love with no other person than her husband’s child. As bad as this sounds, the child in question is Don’s daughter Linda (Nambitha Ben-Mazwi). In the end, Thando leaves Don for his daughter and they live together.

The point of this is not about the sexuality of these characters, in any case, homosexuality is legal in South Africa, but this story is a stretch. It would’ve sounded equally as bad if it were Don’s son who had snatched his father’s wife. But someone’s daughter sleeping with her father’s wife is something I didn’t expect to see in a film without warning. I don’t like querying the choices by films, but I must ask: Did Savage Beauty really need a story about a man’s daughter snatching his wife? And oh, in case any Nollywood story writers are listening, don’t!

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