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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

World

Oscar Pistorius trial becomes a popular culture spectacle
AP
Pretoria, March 16, 2014
First Published: 21:44 IST(16/3/2014)
Last Updated: 02:45 IST(17/3/2014)
Reeva Steenkamp poses on set during the shooting of the reality show Tropika Island of Treasure which premieres on state television. South Africa's national broadcaster says it will screen the show featuring the dead model girlfriend of double-amputee athlete Oscar Pistorius, two days after she was shot and killed at Pistorius' home. (AP/Courtesy of Stimulii)

Children chatter about the Oscar Pistorius murder trial at South African schools, startling parents with details about how the athlete fatally shot his girlfriend.

Big audiences in South Africa are watching a 24-hour television channel dedicated to coverage of the sensational trial. Turns of phrase from the courtroom the defense lawyer's "I put it to you" challenge to prosecution witnesses are creeping into popular culture.

The rise and fall of the double-amputee runner, who competed in the London Olympics in 2012 and then killed model Reeva Steenkamp less than a year after that inspirational triumph, is a consuming saga for South Africans that has drawn sheepish comparisons to reality television shows.

The more people hear, the hungrier they are for more.

Was Oscar on his stumps or wearing prosthetic limbs when he battered the toilet door with a cricket bat? Does he scream like a woman, as the defense suggests, or did neighbors indeed hear a woman's screams on the night of the killing? Will apparent missteps by police investigators muddy the prosecution's case?

Did Pistorius vomit during graphic testimony about Steenkamp's wounds because of anguish, or was he trying to curry sympathy with the impassive judge?
Some people turn up their noses at the spectacle, then dive into television or social media to soak up the latest, often extraordinary revelations.

The parade of witnesses, some shown in the televised proceedings and some concealed from TV viewers to respect their privacy, gives a glimpse into rich, diverse, flawed and accomplished lives, swept into a single narrative from previously anonymous routines.

Prof. Gert Saayman, the pathologist, described Steenkamp's wounds and the general impact of gunshots on flesh and bone in metaphor-studded monologues so precise and structured that they were almost lyrical, the macabre contents notwithstanding. Here was a man, clinical and courtly, who had conducted between 10,000 and 15,000 autopsies over the decades.

"Death is effectively a process rather than an event, and may take some minutes for it to come to its conclusion at a physiological level," he said.


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