Skinny Girl in Transit
Skinny Girl in Transit is a Nigerian web series about a young woman’s quest to find peace, which in our society means a husband and a trimmer waistline. The strength of the series is its subversive take on society’s demands on women who do not fit the popular feminine ideal as it is often portrayed on television. Tiwa, a dark-skinned, plus size, single woman embarks on a journey to find herself. This involves several dates, gym sessions, and career hustles. Perhaps the miracle of a show like this is that it is helmed by female writers, who are drawing awareness to the realities of existing as a woman in Nigerian society today. In this piece, we will be looking at highlights from the current season—and why everyone should indulge in the show during weekend binge sessions.
Hints of Nollywood
Skinny Girl in Transit (or #SGIT, as it is referred to on Twitter), highlights parts of Nollywood that we are familiar with and have grown to love. Despite its inability to create accurate storylines, Nollywood has mastered how to engage its audience with its depictions of everyday Nigerian life. Whether it is a film starring the comedic trio Francis Odega, Mr. Ibu, and Charles Inojie amusingly failing at life, or the 90s horror genre with Ndidi Obi and Munachi Abii leaving the underworld to seduce men of God, Nollywood knows how to engage our psyche with what we’ve attributed as Nigerian—exaggerated plotlines draped in (unintentional) humour. This mixture of exaggerated plotlines and humour is clearly evident in #SGIT, especially in Tiwa’s mum (played by Ngozi Nwosu), a very colourful character who is mostly led by the Holy Spirit to direct her daughter down a slimmer path.
Family is a major backdrop in the show, and this season delves more deeply than previous ones into the lives of Tiwa’s family members: we see more of Tiwa’s sister, Shalewa’s personal life; more of the maid Wosilat’s hilarious love fest with two suitors; and more dialogue between the parents than we normally get to see.
Love and Chemistry
Alongside family, love is another major theme in #SGIT. While we understand that love constitutes a huge part of our humanity, in #SGIT it sometimes feels like an intentional strategy to create buzz—which seemingly the audience does not mind, as we are all made from goo. Currently in pre-marital counselling, Tiwa and Mide are experiencing turbulence in their relationship. The counselling sessions bring out their sharp differences, which evoke mixed feelings of love and hate.
The intensity behind Tiwa’s character is often hard to spot as Abimbola Craig’s performance is quite robotic sometimes. The sole purpose of following a character through several seasons is to participate in their development, but Tiwa has failed to evolve, despite being the main character. She has remained the stuck up, always whiny, irritable character. Her mannerisms seem disconnected from the audience, even though she frequently breaks the fourth wall (that is, she talks directly to the viewers). This is ironic, as the sole purpose of this camera technique is to ensure a fluid narrative. The lack of emotion in Tiwa’s character is also why the chemistry between her and Mide seemed more appealing in earlier episodes when they were just platonic. Now their chemistry just feels empty and sometimes forced; perhaps this characterisation is intentional.
With longer episodes this season, #SGIT has felt more like a soap opera. Similar to other NdaniTV shows, it has developed organically, like Gidi Up, which also started as a web series with short episodes, but ended up as a full-length TV series. However, due to the popularity of the Internet among consumers of pop culture, #SGIT as a web series is a smart and accessible way to retell stories that are indigenous to Nollywood.
Failing the Test
Although the show is written by women, it would fail the Bechdel test woefully. (The Bechdel test is a measurement of how a work of fiction portrays women. This simple test asks if the work contains at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.) Skinny Girl in Transit features more than two women, but they hardly ever talk to one another about anything other than men. This may not necessarily be a bad thing, however, as the Nigerian female experience is dominated by men.
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