The ghoulish spin in the Steenkamp case
Page three doesn’t exist to feed the demands of women clamouring to get their tops off for the boys; it doesn’t exist merely because “sex sells” or because, as is often suggested with an almost touching naivety, “men just like looking at breasts”.
It exists because a certain type of man – a Sun-reading type of man – likes to imagine he lives in a world where women are called names like Lacey and Amii, and while they might spout on about things such as stem-cell research and North Korean nuclear testing, what they’re really interested in is whether blokes fancy them. Page three’s primary purpose is to reassure Sun-Reading Man that, no matter what the “PC hypocrites” – as Murdoch has called them – might wish, the world has not moved on all that much.
Sadly, this does not appear to be an entirely false proposition. I was disgusted by the tabloid coverage of Reeva Steenkamp’s murder, but I wasn’t surprised. Any shock I felt was reserved for some of the coverage of it on Twitter.
Within hours of the news breaking last Thursday, the social network was groaning under the weight of “legless” jokes and gags about the “worst Valentine’s present ever”. They included one by John Cleese that was shared more than 2,800 times; a handful of equally unfunny efforts by comedian Frankie Boyle (retweeted more than 8,000 times), and many more by would-be comedians with far less glittering CVs. Presumably, some of the people who shared these jokes were the same ones who, 24 hours later, would be busying themselves being loudly incensed by the Sun’s front page.
Have we become so desensitised to violence that humour or an invitation to check her out “as she flaunts her curves in a bikini” seem appropriate responses to the death of a woman by gunshot wounds?
Last week, when Rupert Murdoch tweeted that he was considering the future of page three, he suggested that he might replace it with “glamourous fashionistas”. If this is an indication of what he has in mind, I’d sooner he stuck with Amii and her aspirations for world peace.