It is against the social and cultural backdrop of South Africa that I investigate gender performativity in South African films with reference to Leon Schuster’s comedies; There’s a Zulu on my Stoep (1993), Mr Bones (2001); Mama Jack (2005) and Mad Buddies (2012). Leon Schuster is responsible for the most commercially successfully films produced in Africa. The significance of this research lends itself to the notion that the trends and tendencies of contemporary culture are defined by what is represented and learnt through constructed representations in mainstream media such as film. For the purpose of this study, gender representation and comedy within the framework of South African film are the main foci. There appears to be very little written on comedy and gender, specifically in a South African context. Judith Butler’s performativity theory forms the methodological foundation of analysis of the representation of gender in Schuster’s films. In addition, visual textual and constant comparison analysis are used as part of the methodological framework of this study. Due to the lack of literature on South African film comedy, the general understanding of comedy refers to the film genre as being a catalyst for transformation. It is also suggested that social control is reinforced and therefore, upholds societal and cultural ideologies in comedy. Satire is also found to postulate a preferred comedic mechanism to criticise ideologies in countries with repressive regimes. South African comedy is also understood to contribute towards tension relief in such countries through the means of facilitating laughter. In a general framework, as well as Schuster’s film comedies, gender representation and therefore that of gender performativity is found to conform to stereotypical conventions of males and females which ultimately maintains the ideals of the creators and the contextual ideologies they stand to represent and serve. By making representations of gender and that of gender performativity laughable, Schuster’s comedies can be said to raise awareness of the gender differences and inequalities in representations. The stereotypes which ultimately highlight gender inequality in the films, follows that of cultural, social and traditional norms.
Keywords; gender; performativity; South African film; Leon Schuster; comedy.