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The Concept of "Proximity to Whiteness" In Nollywood Movies

-The "Halloway" Family of the Bling Lagosians Nollywood Movie (Flyer shown above)

-"Dr. Douglas" from the Crazy, Lovely, Cool Nollywood Series -The "Hernandez" Family of the It’s Her Day Nollywood Movie -The "Bankole-Smith" Family of the When Love Happens Nollywood Movie -The "Beecroft" Family of the Chief Daddy Nollywood Movie dOuGlAs. hAlLoWaY. hErNaNdEz. Bankole-sMiTh. bEeCrOfT. None of these names (with the exception of “Bankole”) are Nigerian (or even African) names. They are all foreign names originating in Europe (particularly England, Spain, and/or Portugal). If you watch each of these movies, you’ll find a common set of circumstances that go with the fictional families that bear these surnames, such as: -These families are rich -These families are powerful -The members of these families are well-educated -The members of these families have some degree of afrophobia or anti-blackness as part of their M.O. (ex. They actively reject parts of their culture in favor of Europeanisms.)


What's happening here?

Is the use of foreign surnames for the rich, powerful, and educated (only) in Nollywood movies afrophobic or not?

After poking around a bit for information to understand the context of the rise of these foreign names in Lagos (where most Nollywood movies are staged), I found that the "Foreign Surname Trend" (FSNT) in Nollywood movies is not quite afrophobia--

It's a depiction of a slice of real life.

Turns out, there are indeed rEaL Nigerian families that carry these kinds of surnames and have had them for generations due to their increased proximity to whiteness. The Nigerians (and other Africans) enslaved on the coast during the transatlantic slave trade (TAST) "inherited" these names during bondage/servitude. Some chose to maintain them thereafter. Others have these foreign surnames because they are admixed. (Check out this case of a foreign surname, admixture, and involvement with the TAST in the country of Benin:

This proximity to whiteness through servitude allowed these Nigerians more opportunities for social advancement than their fellow Nigerians who were less affiliated with whiteness. Think of it as a (ew) "first come, first serve" kind of thing. This lead, in part, to the real-life foreign surname phenomena and the FSNT trend that I noticed in these Nollywood movies.


So let’s wrap up with a couple of questions... -Why don't we see the working class (or the working poor) with such names in Nollywood movies? (ex. A woman who fries akara to make ends meet answering the surname “Hernandez”?) There must be some of them that are "eligible"/"meet the criteria" (as described above) for it... Why did their ancestors chose not to retain the names of their oppressors? -What are Nollywood directors and actors showing us about their propensity to exalt increased proximity to whiteness?

-Why depict the semblance of this minority of families (those with the FSNT) at all? Surely, we could get the point that these families are rich, powerful, educated, successful and "worldly" without them being named...bEeCrOfT...couldn't we?



Eiberg, H., Troelsen, J., Nielsen, M., Mikkelsen, A., Mengel-From, J., Kjaer, K. W., & Hansen, L. (2008). Blue eye color in humans may be caused by a perfectly associated founder mutation in a regulatory element located within the HERC2 gene inhibiting OCA2 expression. Human genetics, 123(2), 177–187.

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