The age of social media makes death a strange experience. If you were to die, all your posts and photographs would be picked over. If you happen to be famous and were mysteriously murdered, there would be a feeding frenzy.
So the death of South African rapper Nkuleleko “Flabba” Habedi, from hip hop group Skwatta Kamp, signalled a frenzy on Monday. As details emerged that he was allegedly stabbed by his girlfriend during an argument, fans went on a bit of a hunt through Flabba’s extensive social media profile to find evidence of the woman.
It turned out Flabba was posting photos quite regularly over the past year of a certain woman in his life – between adorable shots of his kids. Could this be the woman who was arrested in connection with his death? No one can say for sure but it hasn’t stopped a rather bizarre debate from unfolding: about the woman’s looks and what it says about her ability to murder. You read that right. Here are some of the more bizarre posts.
She can take my life any day pic.twitter.com/ODw26fAabb
— Bafo (@S_boh) March 9, 2015
— ??Pebbles?? (@Lily_Tee_17) March 9, 2015
that girl is too beautiful to murder flabba
— Tristo Mietitore (@MaloMthethwa) March 9, 2015
The intersection between crime, beauty and celebrity is nothing new: we saw it in our reaction to the Oscar Pistorius and Shrien Dewani court case the near deification of Reeva Steenkamp and Anni Dewani. As I’ve argued before, a beautiful martyr is a boon for any news story.
They are generally gorgeous individuals, without flaw as far as the media is concerned, and of course, dead. The focus is kept on their looks, with surprisingly little being reported on Steenkamp’s achievements as a law graduate, in favour of a repeated telling of her modelling career and childhood, family and community stories.
Anni Dewani, a part-time model and engineering graduate, was given similar treatment. We heard excessive anecdotes about their roles as daughters, friends and romantic partners, but barely anything about their substantial academic or career achievements. The focus on beauty and deification of these individuals, particularly in the case of Steenkamp, lent itself to quasi-religious overtones.
They were made to fit a saintly, virginal archetype, with sexual details emerging from the cases bent to perfect the image. Hence the bizarre headline flurry that “Oscar and Reeva did not have sex” and the portrayal of Shrien Dewani as sexually deviant, far removed from the beautiful Anni whose favoured image in news outlets is in the untouched innocence of her bridal regalia.
But when a beautiful woman is cast in the role of villain another tired trope emerges: that of femme fatale. In the case of Senzo Meyiwa’s murder, the football star was defined as the beautiful martyr and his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo cast in the role of Jezebel. Headlines in newspapers such as the Daily Sun and the Citizen spoke about Khumalo being cursed, and in need of cleansing. The Sunday Times inexplicably captioned a photograph of Khumalo in a revealing outfit with the word “wrecker”.
Much has been made of her link to convicted hip-hop star Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye, as if his crime in mowing down schoolchildren while high on drugs was somehow her fault, or indeed the apparently random killing of Meyiwa. Reports have dwelt on Khumalo’s battle with drug addiction and her love life, while barely acknowledging her formidable talent as a musician and performer.
We’re about to see something similar with the unnamed woman in Flabba’s life I imagine. If she did stab the star to death it was of course reprehensible. But the debate that has unfolded on social media about her looks and what it says about her murdering abilities is puzzling at best.