The Radical Edge of ‘Tell Me Sweet Something’

Tell Me Sweet Something

The Radical Edge of ‘Tell Me Sweet Something’

10 Reasons why Tell Me Sweet Something is Radical


1. Black Love

Black folks in love and being intimate on the screen without stereotype or sexual acrobatics is not typical. What may be typical for some of us is not typical for many of us.

2. Character Diversity

The diversity of the characters does not seem typical. We see folks of a variety of races and classes – and in atypical ways. There are poor White folks and middle class Black folks. The Black folks represent a range individually and collectively – tapping into South African identity and global influences as well as physical diversity. For example, Lerato speaks Japanese and the hair types and skin tones cover a broad continuum.

3. Portrayal of Johannesburg

Johannesburg is portrayed as a fine-looking and functional city and not as the backdrop for pathology and violence. This is not typical.

4. The Female Lead’s Role

Moratiwa, the female lead, is not the muse. She is the artist. Again, not typical.

5. The Male Lead’s Role

Nat, the male lead, is not required for Moratiwa to fulfill her artistic destiny. He disappears. Moratiwa self-actualizes on her own in the absence of a love interest for inspiration. Again, this is atypical for the genre.

6. Objectification

In film, often the bodies of women are objectified. Not here. Instead, Moratiwa usually has her clothes on. In atypical fashion, it is Nat’s body, and not Moratiwa’s, that is on display.

7. Older Characters

When do we see older people in South African reality or in film? We seem to refer to elders in South Africa when they are famous or struggling to get old age grants or in shallow invocations of tradition. Here, the film’s three older couples are wise, happy, and loving. They share their experiences with respect, kindness, and good humor. No curmodgeons here. Again, not typical.

8. Change Agents

Do romantic comedies generally feature change agents? In Tell Me Sweet Something, Lola sells Biko’s “I Write What I Like” to a guy looking for a bio on CJ Rhodes.

9. Black Characters

Speaking of which, what of the literary backdrop of the entire film? Black people write. Black people read. This challenges widely held notions about what Black folks actually do and can do.

10. Social Commentary

This “typical” rom-com also includes social commentary. In Tell Me Sweet Something, there is a subtle but powerful critique of our “disposable” society – in which everything that is old is rejected and discarded. The critique is balanced. Moratiwa has her typewriter; Nat has his “classic” bike; and we get the wisdom of ageless, loving elders. Props are given to the modern as we are kept up to date on the gossip on Nat through Twitter.


Watch the ‘Tell Me Sweet Something’ Trailer


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