Okay, so I just watched the pilot of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency on HBO, and of course it was as delightful as I was hoping it would be.
Most of it was a pretty faithful adaptation, and what changes they made all seemed very sensible to me. The addition of the swishy gay hairdresser friend, for example, in the person of Desmond Dube: in the novels there are innumerable passages representing Mma Ramotswe’s inner monologue; the only way to convey these thoughts on film is to give her somebody to speak them to. Or, I suppose, to have her speak them to herself, thereby making everybody around think she was a crazy person and cringe from her in fear, which was not I think what the show’s producers were going for, so the swishy gay hairdresser friend it is.
Except they seem to have left out the part about how in Botswana homosexual sex is punishable by up to seven years’ hard labor. Actual prosecutions are apparently rare, but, from what I can divine, Botswana isn’t the kind of place where a boy can flounce around talking about being uninterested in women and not risk getting beaten up, even in big cities like Gaborone. So what gives?
I would assume that this is type of artistic license is purely for the American market. Trying to find a suitable confidante in the Botswanan culture who is: 1) not capable of entering into a romantic relationship with their interlocutor and 2) not competing for the same social position, would perhaps not translate well to the American market. This role has traditionally been filled by priests, slaves and eunichs. . . but modern America has created yet another sweeping stereotype and the Gay Best Friend (or hairdresser) has now come into his own!! Yeah progress!!
I would suggest you simply suspend your disbelief and enjoy it… I did =^)
My impression is that there is a gay scene in Gaborone, but it’s very small and very closeted. I don’t know Botswana at all, but you’d be surprised what some people can get away with in the most extraordinary places.
That said, I wouldn’t look to No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency for its searing social realism.
Guess it’s a sweet bucolic view of life in Botswana.
Oh, I don’t know. It’s a lot like Karachi, from what I saw of it (although we’re a much bigger city), and it’s not unheard of. Colonial laws are around, but as long as you behave as though you’re neutered (camp it up, just don’t hook up), no one really cares.