Television melodramas around the world provide extended stories in which characters publicly draw out their inner emotional selves for all to experience in lurid, detailed portrayals of desire and struggle; characters’ moral choices show—and in the process produce—the landscape of their interior emotional worlds. In contrast, Ghanaian television melodrama is parody that shows how to act in public in order to elude moral revelations and judgment. Instead of revealing interiority, Ghanaian melodramas parody the notion of personal moral revelation, in the process masking a subject’s inner desires from public inquiry. I examine the making of an episode of the television show Cantata, a popular musical-comedy soap opera, showing how its narratives provoke audience excitement by focusing on exaggerated and inverted moral tales. I show how the use of white actors in one episode that explores infidelity and rumormongering elucidates local representations of race and gender. In a broader sense, this soap opera shows how moral inversion and poetic indirection are at the center of Ghanaian theatrical performance and interpretation, giving insight into how Ghanaian performers and audiences imagine their participation in national public life.
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Jesse Weaver Shipley; Television Tricksters: Parody and Contradiction in Ghanaian Melodrama. Social Text 1 December 2013; 31 (4 (117)): 49–76. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-2348986
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