Phylecia Miller is a freelance writer and creator of Hi, Phylecia. A blog dedicated to her collection of narrative essays, reviews, and one-panel comics. With a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Ball State University and a Certificate in Screenwriting from UCLA Extension, the quirky black blogger uses her skills to write about the world around her in a personable and engaging way. Her passions include visiting botanical gardens, going to art galleries, and of course, writing. You can find her work at: www.hiphylecia.com.
Netflix is killing it in the international streaming game. Unlike traditional networks, the streaming company is creating content that is made by and for international audiences. With critically acclaimed shows and films such as Indian Matchmaking, Queen Sono, and Roma, it is not surprising that the media juggernaut is successfully expanding worldwide. According to Variety's article, "Inside Netflix's Quest to Become a Global TV Giant," Netflix produces original content in over 20 countries with production facilities in Madrid and the UK. And with 50% of its revenue coming from outside the United States, Netflix proves that representation in media is not only the right thing to do but is also great for their pocketbooks. And what better way to attract audiences from all walks of life than with a glossy romantic comedy from South Africa?
Seriously Single follows Black South African social media hotshot and hopeless romantic Dineo (Fulu Mugovhani). After getting dumped on Valentine's day by her boyfriend of two months, Dineo attempts the single life with her best friend and avid party gal Noni (Tumi Morake). But Dineo's foray into singledom goes to the wayside when she meets the extraordinarily suave but flaky, Lunga (Bohang Moeko). As with every rom-com, sparks fly between the two ridiculously good looking adults, and two become a couple. Yet when Dineo moves into Lunga's apartment, the relationship becomes sour, and the young man runs back into the arms of his ex-fiancé without ever telling Dineo. Completely devastated and alone, Dineo goes on a journey of self-discovery as she learns that being single is not the end, but the beginning of something new.As Dineo figures out the next steps of her life, we meet a cast of characters that add texture and color to the rom-com's world. These folks include Max (Yonda Thomas), a manager of a swanky bar who wants to be in a committed relationship with Noni, Dineo's overbearing mother (Connie Chiume), and her put-upon co-worker and boss Pam (Tiffany Barbuzano) and Nick (Craig Jackson). These characters help Dineo as she questions her obsession with marriage and relationships.
And speaking of the cast, Mugovhani and Morake make a dynamic duo as Dineo and Noni. Like Issa and Molly from Insecure and Ilana and Abby from Broad City, these two best friends show why female friendships are meaningful. Whether it is partying it up in the club, crashing an ex-boyfriend's wedding, or consoling one another over a bad first date, these two ladies are always there for each other. They are also not afraid to hold each other accountable. Noni may support Dineo's endeavor to find Mr. Right, but she will point out when her friend is going too far. In terms of love interests, Moeko and Thomas check off all the boxes of what makes a great leading man in a rom-com. They are fine, charming, and extremely easy on the eyes. And the side characters provide excellent comedy relief. Watching the delivery guy drop off Dineo's items from her ex-boyfriend's apartment at her job is simultaneously hilarious and cringy.
That said, the premise of Seriously Single does not add anything new to rom-coms. Instead of twisting the genre on its head, the Netflix film packs in several rom-com tropes, including the "meet-cute" between Dineo and Lunga, the "will-they-won't-they" between Noni and Max, and the ubiquitous white-collar job every urban professional wants. In this case, Dineo is a social media manager. But what sets this rom-com apart from its sisters like Legally Blonde and 500 Days of Summer is the leads. Almost every single person in this film is of Black African origin. Having Black Africans live their lives to the fullest dispels every negative stereotype about Africa and shows that they are like everyone else. People who have jobs, fall in and out of love and eat at hip restaurants.
Besides, seeing Dineo realize that marriage will not make her a whole person is refreshing in its own way. Though the world has progressed in many ways, society still pressures women – even highly educated women – to get married and have children. By tackling this issue head-on, the films show that women can find happiness no matter if they are in a relationship or not. And that message alone makes the film sparkle.
If the South African tourism department is looking for someone to promote their country as a prime travel destination, they need to hire the Ramaphakela siblings. They make Johannesburg live up to its nickname as "The City of Gold." The intensely bright colors, the aerial shots of the city, the wonderfully curated Instagrammable apartments, and the upscale restaurants and bars show that Johannesburg is a fantastic place to live and work. The filmmakers also represent their culture nicely by utilizing South Africa's diverse array of languages. Black and white characters speak various languages and dialects, including English, Tswana, Zulu, Afrikaans, Xhosa, and Sotho. It is hard to think of another film that uses multiple languages as well as Seriously Single.
Sure, one might argue that the film's focus on upwardly mobile South African might be problematic. But, one can not deny that seeing these people interact with one another is aspirational for not just South Africans but people all over the world. Countless films show white people falling in love in cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Paris. Maybe it is high time we watch people falling in love in metropolitan areas like Johannesburg too.
By producing content from creators that rarely get the spotlight, Netflix proves that their work has a place in the entertainment industry too. Seriously Single may rely on some tired rom-com tropes, but the Ramaphakela siblings' commitment to display South Africans in a positive light makes the film a worthwhile experience. Other networks need to see what the online streamer is doing and take notes. Otherwise, there is a good chance they might get left behind.