Quite often, we associate toxic relationships with romantic affairs – spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend – but did you know that toxicity can also exist in families? The term toxic relationship was coined by Dr Lillian Glass, an American psychology expert in her bestselling book Toxic People. Psych2Go provides the definition of toxic parent.
Last week, Mzansi Magic drama, Gomora, illustrated just how toxicity extends beyond romantic relationships.
Pretty demands her inheritance
Pretty continued to demand that her mother nominates her as heir to the tavern. She has practically run the tavern all of her adult life. Things took a sudden turn – for better and worse – after Pretty slashed Thathi’s arm with a steak knife. Sonto picked up the phone and began to dial the police.
“You want to kill my child!” Sonto fumed.
That’s one sign of a toxic parent right there. It is as if only Thathi matters – my child. The non toxic approach would have been “don’t hurt your sister.” It is typical toxic parent behaviour to always build up one child while belittling the other.
When the entire Molefe household expected further violence, Thathi slowly walked towards her sister… and hugged her. She then stopped Sonto from calling the police.
It was the most beautiful thing to see; two women who have hated each other for close to three decades suddenly resolving their differences through a hug. Bliss!
It looks like the healing of the sisters’ bond was all that was needed to remedy Pretty and Sonto’s toxic relationship.
Confronting a toxic parent
The natural instinct for humans, in dealing with rivals, is to fight fire with fire, tit for tat. Instead, Thathi fought Pretty with nothing but love and support. She brought her younger sister tea in bed. Who would have thought that Thathi with all her airs and graces would serve the sister she looked down on! Once the sisters settled their differences, they took on their mother as a united front. Sonto, like most toxic parents – very presumptuous and self centred – woke up the morning after the kitchen fight expecting to be served an English breakfast. Instead she received the silent treatment, in stereo! Pretty wasn’t interested in her and neither was Thathi.
Later, Thathi approached Sonto and asked her to give Pretty the tavern. Sonto’s response was textbook toxic parent. She pulled out a sjambok and chased Thathi out of her office.
Son-in-law Sbonga was next to mediate. But Sonto turned the tables on him and told him that he was the reason for Pretty’s predicament. If he had been a capable provider, Pretty’s life would have been different. I winced when Sonto said that. I really felt it.
Don’t talk to me, talk to my lawyer
After Thathi failed to make any headway through peaceful dialogue, she brought in a lawyer friend to help her sister. Wait – do the Gomora writers have amnesia? Because, the reason why Thathi ended up stealing cars is that she could not afford lawyer fees for her bankruptcy case. Now suddenly she has a lawyer friend?
Moving swiftly along, the lawyer person was ejected without ceremony from Sonto’s house. When Sbonga and her daughters objected, Sonto picked up a kitchen knife and everyone bolted like they were possessed by the spirit of Caster. Feeling ganged up on, Sonto took away the inheritance from both her children! Toxic parent.
Pretty learns the bitter truth
The best approach in dealing with a bully is with directness. Pretty found Sonto seated alone in the living room. She sat down with her. Moments later, Thathi joined them before Pretty asked the question that brought her heartache.
“Is it so hard to love me?”
After some evasive responses, Mam Sonto finally blurted out, “yes!”
Bathong! Which is exactly how Pretty reacted. The reason for Sonto treating her daughter badly is that she is the spitting image of the ne’er-do-well husband who left her with two hungry children. It’s mindboggling to think that Pretty is being victimised for chewing, walking and laughing like her father, a man she has never even seen. Toxic parents.
Pretty gets her inheritance
After the living room blowout, Pretty and Thathi became even more united. They were doing their sister-sister thing when Sonto entered the room, holding an envelope. She had amended the will to make Thathi and Pretty joint heirs. But Pretty turned it down.
“I would have been happier if your love was in this envelope”.
As the week ended, Sonto and Pretty seemed to be slowly healing from their confrontation. But sticking to her toxic parent formula, Sonto did not apologize to her daughter. All she did was play nice and offer Pretty ice-cream, like a toxic parent who brings treats to make up for child abuse. She did however make something of an apology to Sbonga.
Melusi the toxic father
Things were going well between Melusi and Gladys. Her husband recently bought her a new car and she was thrilled that Ntokozo had broken off his relationship with “that girl.” But little did she know that Ntokozo was still seeing Buhle in secret. When Melusi saw the telescope that Ntokozo had made, with Buhle’s name written on it in bright yellow paint, he knew that his son had lied about breaking up with his girlfriend.
He ordered Ntokozo to break up with Buhle, for his mother’s sake – emotional blackmail, typical of toxic parents – and appointed Teddy to be the unwilling witness. But Ntokozo did not break things off, he just couldn’t. As the nude pictures of the two of them circulated, Buhle was in a bad space. It would have driven her over the edge if he had dumped her while she was down. What made things worse for Buhle is that her schoolmates judged her and praised Ntokozo, even though both of them were guilty of the same offence. A sexually active young woman is loose, a boy having sex is a hero; society’s double standards. When Melusi asked if his son had broken off the relationship, Ntokozo lied and poor Teddy was forced to corroborate the falsehood.
Who leaked the nude photos?
As these things always work out, the news of naked pictures circulating within Gomora Secondary reached the Principal’s office. Melusi appointed Ntokozo, Langa and Teddy to investigate. Which is like the ANC being asked to investigate corruption.
When the guilt weighed too heavily on him, Ntokozo finally decided to confess to his father. But Melusi was impatient with him so the boy left the office without confessing. Nothing was more hilarious than Melusi bringing Gladys to “provide counselling services to whoever had been affected by the nude pictures scandal.” The look on Melusi and Gladys’ faces was priceless when one of the pupils fingered Ntokozo and Buhle as the kids who had nudes in circulation. Strange how humans naturally look outside their own lives for social problems which could very well be rife in their homes.
In the resulting parent-teacher meeting, Thathi stoically defended her daughter. She was not guilty of anything. In fact, Buhle was the victim of online bullying.
Kudos to Gomora
The scriptwriters of Gomora – Gwydion Beynon and Phathutshedzo Makwarela – have done well to bring to light numerous social issues through drama. Gomora is certainly more than violence and car jacking. It is a mirror held up to the face of society. Congratulations to the cast and crew for
reaching 100 episodes.
Till next week, my pen is capped
Images from Twitter
Gomora airs weekdays at 7:30pm on Mzansi Magic