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Culture, Reality

Shamefully Objectifying Ghosts

by Brandon Edmonds / Illustration by Alastair Laird / 26.02.2013

This is an illustration of that now famous press photo of Oscar Pistorius in court. If we weren’t told he “broke down crying” it would be just as easy to mistake him for laughing, wiping away tiredness, playing a child’s game of peek-a-boo, now you see me now you don’t. Which is to say Bladerunner is now a catchment area of fascination, a media object, a screen for our projections, an uncanny figure, awaiting judgement and reliable re-designation: murderer or sympathetic symbol of the Pressures besetting all of us, and shame man. Until that judgement he is open to interpretation, anything and everything will be thrown at him to see what sticks: misogynist, narcissist, gun freak, Afrikaaner, archetypal male, loser, winner, warning sign. This is partly why he is “burying his face in his hands”. Not necessarily because he is guilty (that is for the court to decide) but because he is ashamed of the chaos his name now conjures, the loss of his social standing, the chaos and pain he feels in himself where before there was glory, self-certainty, fame. He is also ashamed of his tears because we all know what cowboys and big boys don’t do. Especially in this country where patriarchy reigns supreme. In every country.

Ironically, shame makes you want to disappear into a hole in the ground, shrivel up and disappear since what you did suddenly over-determines who you are and believed yourself to be (“He did what!”). You are now no more than the shit you pulled. Your humanity is suspended by the horror, in horror. So it is safe to say that Oscar would love to disappear, to turn into a ghost, (you can bet he wishes he was dead), which is exactly what the woman who died in his home has effectively become, a ghost, thanks to the venality of publicity, re-appearing, only days after dying, on SABC 1, on a competitive game show set in “paradise” (okay, Jamaica). Why was she allowed/made/forced to return? In a deeply superstitious, badly educated “Christian country” like this one, though nowhere better suggests hell on earth, if you’re poor or a woman, or God forbid, a poor woman, aren’t ghosts evil?

That she “appeared” in the first place (in magazines, on TV shows, as interchangeable red carpet celebrity arm candy) has more to do with her fulfilling the dictates of mainstream beauty (skinny, blonde, ‘down to earth’) than her law degree and it is the only reason she keeps reappearing on front pages and on the screens of all kinds of mobile devices. Though she’s a ghost. Which is fucking weird. This is not to disparage the person she was, by all accounts a good person, considerate of others, thanks to faithful parents, aware of the world beyond herself, unlike the repugnant PR voids visiting from LA on Clifton Shores who, on the airport drive past perennial township misery, broke into uncontrollable laughter (“Wait…people live there!”). But to wonder what lies behind her ghostly reappearances? Why is the media so invested in having the image of this dead woman circulate? How come I know Reeva’s face backwards but couldn’t begin to describe Anene Booysen?

Because, dummy, she’s hot. Duh. News24 crowed about unprecedented web traffic thanks to Oscar “Here’s Johnny!” gate(d) community gate. Local content finds itself circulating in international news cycles. This is good for all kinds of bottom lines in a very tough economy. The dead blonde’s face and body return only because this enables returns while Anene is reduced to her ID book photo , only to return and appear the tragic symptom of a rape crisis in a developing country, if at all.

Why? Because she’s not hot. Duh.

*Illustration © Alastair Laird.

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