Viral Senegalese soap opera stirs controversy in Africa

New episodes are averaging 1.2 million views on YouTube with the first episode having being viewed 2.4 million times
Maitresse d’un homme marié
Image credit: YouTube

Maitresse d’un homme marié (Mistress of a Married Man), a wildly popular Senegalese TV soap, sparked controversy and made national news in March when there were calls by some religious clerics to ban the show.

The show revolves around the lives of four modern urban women based in Dakar, produced by Marodi TV and airs on the private channel—Senegal’s first private TV channel which started up in 2003. With a female producer and scriptwriter Kalista Sy, telling women’s stories from their own perspective seems to be paying off.  Audiences are clamoring for more—new episodes are averaging 1.2 million views on YouTube with the first episode having being viewed 2.4 million times. Comments on the page are from a variety of French-speaking people, mostly Africans.

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The original show idea was conceptualized in 2015, but the producer kept on getting pushback that the show wouldn’t work given she was telling women’s stories from their own perspectives. Kalista’s bet seems to have paid off with the list of advertisers before each episode increasing. The PR behind the show has also been top notch with an amazing trailer coming out before the show and publicity photos circulating showing the diverse leading women in the show.

Maitresse d’un homme marié tackles many issues ranging from sexual abuse, domestic violence, child abduction, parental irresponsibility, substance abuse among others, polygamy and adultery. Uncommon for Senegalese TV, but wowing the audience and endearing them to the characters.

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With Netflix increasingly building up its presence in Africa and sourcing more African content in local languages, Kalista’s dreams could become a reality in the next few years. With luck, perhaps we could see Netflix commissioning a Senegalese series soon and extending its viewership beyond the Francophone speaking world.

While the series weathered the storm and continues to air with more episodes coming, it continues to stir debate not just in Senegalese society, but in its wider Francophone world viewership, particularly in Africa.

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