This week has been a whirlwind as South African media got it's first real brush with Hollywood A-list, in the form of our own triumphant Benoni prinses , Charlize Theron. In many ways the media feeding frenzy is similar, in kind, to Mark Shuttleworth's space odyssey and the Rugby World Cup in '95. South Africans, when distinguished as 'the best in the world' suddenly cease to be white, black, brown, or golden (like Charlize) in our nation's schizo post-apartheid process of self-definition and are quickly appropriated for the national cause. They are held up as symbols of all that can be achieved, and our collective self-esteem has a chance to recuperate, under their wing, from the barrage of negative media attention our country is so good at attracting.

There is no surprise then, that our president, Thabo Mbeki, has been one of the first to honour die goue prinses van Benoni af , after all it is an election year and even though beautiful, blonde Afrikaans girls who made it good in Hollywood are not the best symbols of nation building and the African renaissance, they're all we've got to work with, and the ANC election machine didn't miss a beat, transporting three lucky, resident's of Johannesburg's deep South to meet their hero. Mbeki along with mining bosses Patrice Motsepe and Rick Menell presented the actor with an offering of an ounce of gold, still embedded in the rock, like surreal BEE Magi, bearing gifts for our nation's newest baby Jesus.

Add to that press fanfare the New Metro press junket for the movie 'Monster' that is currently whipping the local media into a frenzy, and what you've got is oodles of television and radio time; and tons of ink and paper, in both newspapers and magazines being spun around Charlize mania. In terms of the press junket alone, Charlize has done more than 5 hours of TV interviews across all stations in South Africa. That's 16 different 15 minute interviews, not counting the EPK material from the actual film, from E news and 3 rd degree to SABC's Pasela and Top Billing and back to co-sponsor Mnet's hour long Carte Blanche extravaganza, amidst many others.

South African radio will have heard about four hours of Charlize interviews by the end of Friday, across 5FM, SAFM, YFM, kayaFM, RSG, OFM, Radio Algoa, KFM and Good Hope.

Print has also been ballistic. In the near future Elle magazine, Heat magazine TV plus, People, You and Husigenoot and Femina will be running exclusive Charlize interviews as will almost all the newspapers from the Independent group, This Day, Business Day, The Citizen, Reuters, CNN, The Sunday Independent, Benoni City Times, Sunday Times, The Sowetan, City Press, The Mail&Guardian, Daily Sun, Cape Argus, Die Burger, Cape Times, Weekend Argus and even the iAfrica website.

'Wow, she's flippen huge!' The reason Charlize is getting all these dedicated media minutes is not so much because of the jingoistic fervour and Charlize-fever that has gripped the nation, but rather because the jaded staff and proprietors of the Fourth Estate can smell a bonafide, nation-gripping hype from ten paces and strongly believe that she is going to make their audience ratings and sales go bananas. Which, judging from the ballistic behaviour of the press and public so far, is a relatively safe bet. Although the television ratings will only be out next week, it's safe to say that Carte Blanche's airport exclusive with Charlize received major audience approval. Kevin Bloom, editor of The Media magazine reckons, 'Carte Blanche's ratings must have been huge, to get the exclusive on Charlize Theron, as she stepped off the plane. How they manage to do that while Derrick Watts is selling his scalp to anti-baldness products is beyond me.'

Lee Kasumba, editor of Y magazine and co-presenter of the YFM drive time show Harambe explains it like this, 'It was a pleasantly nice surprise. I expected her to come off all pretentious. I think a lot people switched on just to listen to Charlize, because ever since she won the award we got an influx of emails from people just being happy for her. And the nicest thing about that is YFM is supposed to be a "black" radio station, and having the interview with Charlize, and the coverage on the website, proves what we've always known, that in South Africa we're moving beyond the normal black/white colour issue. Probably three years ago, there would have been questions like, "is Charlize really our market?" Now it's great, it feels nice that the whole country is celebrating for this person who represents us.'

And in many ways Charlize is not just an empty role model, or simulacra of an American blonde bombshell, she has been at the forefront of several social initiatives, such as the anti-woman-abuse TV adverts, and unlike other homegrown-international stars like Dave Matthews, Charlize has sought to establish and retain strong ties with her home country. The content and subject matter of 'Monster' coupled with the well-known thread of abuse in her own family history, gives the star more resonance with a South African audience than one would expect. I guess, the upswing to the reams of hype and bumf being created around Charlize in the local media, is that they may serve to stem the Americanisation of the name Charlize Theron to Charleez Teran, which would in turn be seized and massacred by South Africa's multi-languaged accents into something akin to Tjaarlizza Tehran. Oh for the upswing.

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