For the women in Flawsome, and those in patriarchy-controlled societies, independence from masculine and societal pressure is a facade…
By Seyi Lasisi
Finally, Flawsome, the 13-part series, which began showing on Showmax on November 10th, 2022 had its last episode dropped on February 2nd, 2023. The weekly relaease of the episode made the series last for three months. But now, the show is over! Audiences who have passionately stalked the female quartet: Ifeyinwa (Bisola Aiyeola), Ramat (Ini Dima-Okojie), Ivie (Sharon Ooja), and Dolapo (Enado Odigie) and those, like me, compelled by duty, who reluctantly watch the weekly-dropped Showmax series, can finally move on to ogle features or other series. Thankfully, the series is over, and this review which I developed as the series dropped weekly for months, can finally see the light of day.
Nigerian movies – better still, series, on Showmax struggle to entice Nollywood audiences’ attention, unlike its peers on other streaming platforms. Aside from Showman’s Pan-African origin, which appeals to the Pan-African in me, its portfolio of possessing quality Nigerian series is the major attraction for me. However, Showmax’s impressive portfolio hasn’t inspired consistent conversation about its Nollywood film and series. Subscribing to multiple platforms is out of the reach of many Nigerians. Added to this is the bad marketing strategy of Showmax. Those highlighted reasons contributed to why, despite Flawsome’s quality, the statistics of people who knows of its existence are minimal. The cult-like followership James Omokwe got from his African Magic drama series, Ajoche, and Riona are possible indicators of how Diiche, the series he directed, managed to fair better than its Nollywood colleagues on the streaming platform. The deafening silence about Flawsome‘s existence is worrisome. I must say this quickly, despite being an unpaid advocate for Showmax, Flawsome isn’t on the list of Showmax Nollywood series I will fondly recommend.
Flawsome revolves around the lives of four female friends. It centres on the ties of friendship, which exist between the areas strengthened by the women’s innate ability to dream and have ambition despite being surrounded by masculine vanguards who scorn their endeavor. Flawsome thrives, when it does, due to its proximity to women’s experiences who, in their daily life, are bullied into accepting patriarchal dictates. And, what these women have in common is this: although they occasionally question their strength, they won’t bulge to the patriarchal edict.
With Flawsome’s sympathetic stance on spotlighting the stories of these four independent women, the series becomes a reenactment of some Nollywood films, with similar sentiments you might have seen. Fragments from some Nollywood features focused on women independence become obvious as the series continues. The series recalls the Jade Osiberu directorial debut led by the titular Isoken. Another film with close kinship to Flawsome is Fifty. What these films have in common is their spotlight on independent women owning their live narratives. The obvious ties these films and Flawsome share make watching Flawsome challenging.
Flawsome’s characterisation is similar — four women owning their life. However, the series’ distinct trait is its ability to focus on the individual story of the four women: Ramat is a female advocate; Ivie, although a qualified doctor, has a preference for fashion; Dolapo is the go-to person for PR-related matters, and Ifeyinwa is the tech head out of the quartet — different women with distinct dreams.
Whenever I need a definition of sisterhood, I occasionally turn to the Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde– and Genevieve Nnaji-led Ije: The Journey for answers. One doesn’t need to strain one’s eyes to catch glimpse of the love between the sisters. In Flawsome, the relationship is different. The story is told through the distinct lens of four friends with a long time of friendship. Their relationship, one could say, has exceeded the boundary of friendship and entered into sisterhood. What’s sisterhood or friendship to these women? To them, it entails being an anchor to each other, keeping themselves stable in turbulent situations. It entails giving financial and emotional support when it is required. But, more importantly, sisterhood amongst these ladies involves meeting in clubs, fanciful restaurants and boutiques. Their meeting spots are always places where the potential to share emotional details of their life is minimal. But in retrospect, the series’ placement of these ladies in this coveted location lessens the emotional depth the ladies share. The foreknowledge that the lifespan of their relationship stretches to their university days, makes their conversation bland of any emotional depth. There is no real sense of sisterhood, friendship, or solidarity that exists between them. Their relationship, as we were already forewarned by the series’ promotional material, is flawed.
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“Get married,” “you are going to die a single, bitter woman,” “society favours men; ambition isn’t for women,” and any of its acolytes are the words women are exposed to. Living up to societal and masculine conventions has always been the creed women are expected to live up to. Dolapo has a male counterpart, Remi (Gabriel Afolayan) set against her. Ivie, when she isn’t suffering from the effect of Poju’s (Titi Kuti) gambling addiction is exposed to the spiteful words of his mother. For Ramat, she juggles the responsibility of taking care of the girls in her care with being the “perfect wife” — cleaning after her husband’s excesses. And Ifeyinwa has to deal with the deceptive Timi (Okey Uzoeshi) while trying to fit into her dead father’s image.
One of what Flawsome was able to explicitly pursue is unearthing the illusion NGOs sell. Representing the NGOs is Godspower (Eso Dike) and his father, (played by Femi Branch). The series discusses how their organisation attracts exorbitant funding only to expend a meager of it in pursuing the “social advocacy” it’s created to cater for. During a short-lived lunch meeting, between Godspower, his father, and Dolapo, Godspower makes a remarkable sentence: “Stop using poverty as a prop.” Godspower’s words were a subtle critique of NGOs and other related agencies that use poor people’s situation to attract both national and international funding.
For a series concerned about independence, it’s quite ironic that while it tries to build these women as independent and opinionated — free, at least, from patriarchal control, the order around their life seems to be guaranteed by male figures. They are stressed princess waiting for a Prince Charming. Ivie’s eventual breakthrough is crowned with Poju’s marriage proposal. Ramat still dotes on her husband (Baaj Adebule) for approval and validation. Ifeyinwa who is obsessed about continuing her father’s legacy is saved by her stalker, Clark (Melvin Odouah) For the women in Flawsome, and those in patriarchy-controlled societies, independence from masculine and societal pressure is a facade.
An interesting arc of the series is the role of Madam Rose (Toyin Abraham). The relationship between prostitution and politics has been a focus of several Nollywood films — Shanty Town and Oloture usually come to the fore. In these films, like Flawsome, there are numerous women whose bodies are repositories of wealth for their bosses. And for politicians and other men of means, the women’s bodies become a spot to seek pleasure. Aside from their bodies being a pleasure spot, what Flawsome emphasises is that for Madam Rose, the girls’ bodies provide another business opportunity in drugs and human trafficking. The relationship between owners of prostitution houses and politicians reveals itself when the police try to unearth their other source of income. Their political ally, in this series, Senator Jubril (Ali Nuhu), is there to frustrate the passionate efforts of police detectives.
As the series drags itself to the finish line, even after I had religiously watched it for its 3-month lifespan, it’s still hard to remember important plot details. Despite being able to add its voice to advocate for independence of 21st century women, the series, painfully, belongs to the list of series that fade easily in one’s memory.
(Flawsome is currently streaming on Showmax.)
Seyi Lasisi is a Nigerian student with an obsessive interest in Nigerian and African films as an art form. His film criticism aspires to engage the subtle and obvious politics, sentiments, and opinions of the filmmaker to see how it aligns with reality. He tweets @SeyiVortex. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.