A lot of us joked that the showrunners of a controversial sinetron (Indonesian soap opera) would use a trite storytelling device to replace a teen actress. Imagine our amusement when they actually did.
Earlier this week, Indonesians called for severe sanctions toward Indosiar and the producers of Mega Series Suara Hati Istri: Zahra (The Wife’s Conscience: Zahra), while pointing out how the show normalized pedophilia, child marriage, and polygamy. The series depicts the titular character Zahra, a high school student, being manipulated by a man in his late thirties to marry him as his third wife.
Amid pressure from the Indonesian Broadcast Commission (KPI) — who were first pressured by immense public outrage towards the sinetron — the show’s producers have replaced 15-year-old actress Lea Ciarachel, who played Zahra, with another actress named Hanna Kirana starting with today’s episode. Hanna is reportedly 18 years old as of this year.
“Indosiar accepted what KPI has conveyed and committed to evaluate the cast and replace the [actress in the] Zahra role,” Nuning Rodiyah, a commissioner at KPI, said on Wednesday.
“They also acknowledged that the casting by the production house was a mistake because they decided on a 15-year-old child.”
For now, it doesn’t seem like much is being done about the overall premise of the show, which many see as normalizing and glorifying polygamy, child marriage, and pedophilia.
Sinetrons are known for their ridiculously clichéd and over the top plot devices. One common trope to explain the departure of actors is to have their characters undergo extremely transformative plastic surgery, often because of accidents.
As it turns out, Zahra is doing exactly that, as seen in a preview for tonight’s episode. In it, the titular character was involved in an auto accident where her car explodes and burns after falling off a cliff. Against all odds, she came out of the incident alive, but her face was so disfigured that she had to undergo plastic surgery.
In a heavily dramatized scene, the surgeon and nurse unwraps Zahra’s bandage to reveal her “new face.”
Apa yang sebenarnya terjadi pada Zahra?
Apakah Zahra akan selamat?
— Indosiar (@Indosiar) June 3, 2021
“No way… there’s no way this is my face, doc,” the new Zahra, portrayed by Hanna Kirana, tearfully said to her surgeon.
Many fans of the show expressed sadness upon Lea’s departure, as they liked how the young actress portrayed the lead role. Lea herself took to Instagram yesterday to express her gratitude for the role and promised viewers that the sinetron will still be “exciting.”
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