By Cynthia Ayeza, Uganda:
Many of us want more money. Heck we all could do with more money. In fact, Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, Aliko Dangote, Zudhir Ruparelia, Patrice Motsepe, even President Zuma (even after Nkandla) etc all still aim to make more. I want to make more money; I really do. Some of the “better” actors of the Generations soapie that airs in South Africa (and older versions in some parts of Africa) every week day, with a repeat on weekends, have decided to strike. They will not act until their contracts have been revised (and here, I agree) and that their salaries be bumped up from the average R55k to R100k per month.
I realise that this may be a lot more complicated for me as an average person, especially because I rarely watch Generations. In fact, I will only watch if there is nothing else on TV. However, this should not be a reflection on their acting. I read somewhere that these actors are only fighting for what they believe is owed to them. So my question is – do they merely believe or know for sure that this is owed to them? I do not know and I honestly do not really care. Artists worldwide have challenges that we probably could never comprehend. But then, people the world over have challenges we cannot begin to imagine – but just hold that thought – this kind of comparison is unfair, no?
Before I press on, let me point out an observation about these wonderful, righteous, and good intentioned Generations cast. So the story was that they are striking because their contracts need to be renewed and that they are being paid peanuts compared to other actors and actresses or their peers in their industry. A few days later, the Producer that they are attacking reveals that on average, these very actors are paid R55k; which means some are making way more (but that is none of my business). However, soon after this revelation, these actors and actresses respond to this with, “…this is a violation of our privacy…” Wait, it is okay to lie that you are being paid peanuts but it is not okay for the public to get the truth about the fact that you are actually earning more than peanuts? Someone needs to define peanuts or educate this cast about gratitude (and it is not to say you should not ask for more; by all means do but do not hide behind deception because 55k is NOT peanuts).
It is often said that one's reality differs from another, and whereas that may be true to a great extent, there is a reality common to us all: some will always earn more than others. The divide between the rich and poor gets bigger, while the later remains the mass consumer of the former's output or product. So many want to, and have tried to work towards making more, if only, to live slightly better lives. Some succeed, and others remain struggling. We have people who set out to start companies and they fail, not for lack of enthusiasm or determination but rather that in reality, most businesses require money to ever make it. For example, if you have a good idea, teaming up with someone who has the money can get the idea out there.
How many of us have prayed for an opening or opportunity and even vowed that we would be grateful, promised the gods that we would give to the poor, live responsibly etc and yet when the break came, we did not even remember the vow? We have opportunities that we take for granted.
A friend says that the Generations actors are fighting for more than just themselves but for all the artists in the industry. But if I remember correctly, the Generations cast's argument was that they were paid way less than what their counterparts on other soapies. So in reality, they are each fighting for their own satisfaction – note also that they are called the Generations Actors Guild (GAG), including those who have only recently joined. Isn't it interesting how quickly we forget where we are coming from? I tell you, humanity is nearly defined by lack of gratitude, but that too is none of my business.
Anyway, I am not an actress and so would not know how many hours go into practicing for a thirty minute stint on a show. However, I know what it means to have been part of shaping great minds, the future of nations, through teaching and getting what truly would be peanuts. What the Generations cast demand per month, I only made half of per year, and even then, I considered myself lucky to have work. These days, a degree is almost pointless but hey, who am I to say – it really is none of my business. So, watch Generations if you must or if you have nothing else to watch because as is the case with most, if not all soapies, there is no worthwhile content in a soapie.
Do not even argue with me on this: The Bold and The Beautiful, All my Children, Generations etc all thrive on juicy misdemeanours. We watch only because on TV, life for the characters on it seems more scandalous than our own lives.
Some of us tend to go through life with the mentality that we are entitled to certain things, going to the extent of assuming that we own those things but the truth is, none of us really own much. I am of the view that this great and spectacular cast go ahead and create their own show, act in it and while there, decide what they want to be paid and pay themselves. Among themselves, they should have enough to start their own production house and enough wisdom to decide on whom to lead them. They then can begin to shape “their” industry as they see fit, and satisfactorily so (for them, of course).
It should go without saying that the employer reserves the right to pay as he sees fit in terms of what he can afford, and fire as he pleases if actors are not delivering as required, or if they fall below standard as is bound to happen eventually. But let's not pretend that these actors and actresses are fighting for the greater good. No. They are fighting for greater, deeper pockets for themselves. But as one lady observed, this is none of my business, no?
Just one last thing: could someone explain Queen's character, along with its relevance, if at all? By the way, it was reported that she is paid 68k per month to be Queen Moroka on Generations. As it stands, Generations is off air, at least in South Africa, which probably renders the cast unemployed. Did they consider that their actions could have been a little short-sighted? Work vs no work at all, in a country that is battling mass unemployment and ghost jobs (jobs “created” by government but there really is nothing for the people to do once employed) is something to consider.
I wish them the best of luck in the future endeavours, and hopefully they will be more generous to their employees than their former employer.
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