Georgia Arnold stood up in front of a room filled with college students. A projector beamed an image on to the screen behind her. The room was buzzing with anticipation. There is no video playing at Coffee and Conversation on Friday afternoons. But on this Friday, something was different.
Arnold is the creator of “Shuga”, a drama set in Kenya. Developed for MTV, “Shuga” was described to the room as akin to the “African Gossip Girl”. Teenage life is dramatized on screen, including relationships, shopping, and of course, sex. Right now, this sounds just like any normal TV show that airs on TV currently.
What’s different about “Shuga”? As part of MTV’s Ignite campaign, “Shuga” is meant to educate the audience on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. As such, one of the main characters is HIV-positive. Arnold also described the character to the audience as “loose”, leading to complications which drive the series forward. However, the show is not solely meant to educate. It is, as Arnold described it, multifaceted so as to not turn off the viewers.
Ultimately, this post is not about the TV show, which was very well done. Rather, Coffee and Conversation took a very interesting turn on Friday. Instead of the usual two hour discussion about whatever Dean Elmore chooses, an episode of “Shuga” was shown followed by a discussion about the show, HIV/AIDS awareness, and the possibility of its airing stateside. The most salient points:
- The show may have difficulty capturing a US audience. Characters speak with a strange accent (not the author’s words) and are not easily relatable to many Americans.
- AIDS education is critical around the world, not just in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Current sex education in the United States is severely lacking. Kids need to learn about more than just abstinence. Using condoms is crucial, as was discussed in the show.
- Dean Elmore watches Gossip Girl.
This penultimate Coffee and Conversation was a grand experiment, shaking up the format and bringing in some guests. Also, the Twitter feed was projected on the screen once the show had ended. That led to a decent amount of self-censorship. As Alex Shuck put it, “Interesting sociology experiment – Twitter is public, but at #BUconvo seems people are censoring themselves when it’s shown on screen”. Language was cleaned up and snide comments were kept to a minimum. However, Georgia Arnold did join in the tweeting once she figured out the official hashtag.
What did you think about Coffee and Conversation this past week?
Below: episode 1 of “Shuga”. Be sure to comment with your opinion.
On a related note, CSC’s Project Hope and @BUStudentHealth are holding FREE Rapid HIV Testing this Tuesday 2-6pm at 881 Comm Ave. Everybody should get tested.