The news is out – the 14-year-old social media star and “rapper” Lil Tay is not dead. She was yesterday. But not today. Who knows about tomorrow. The question that’s really on our minds following this deranged saga is whether we’re ushering in an era of faking your death for followers.
Death hoaxes and their surrounding conspiracies are not new. There have been popular theories floating around for decades that Elvis, Tupac and Michael Jackson are alive, well and working at gas stations in Wyoming.
But there aren’t as many instances of staged deaths or “pseuicides” in history as you may think.
TV dramatisation series The Thief, His Wife and the Canoe, which came out last year, retells one of them: the tale of John Darwin, who faked his death and was charged with fraud when he reappeared five years later. That was in the early 2000s, and our ever expanding online world could mean crazy things for the next generation of fraudsters hoping to pull the same tricks.
Historical cases of staged deaths have mostly been motivated by the desire to disappear and start fresh or cash in on the life-insurance coin. Even Krusty the Clown did it. But at a time in human evolution when one viral moment can skyrocket you to momentary renown, we might be looking at a new incentive for faking your own demise.
The mysterious case of Miss Little is already bringing on a wave of media attention that's bound to be followed up with endless interviews, press tours and moneymaking opportunities.
Will we be surprised if a wave of copy-cat forgeries crash down on the pop culture landscape? At this point, anything is possible in the name of clout.
Rachel Barker is a writer / producer at VICE NZ in Aotearoa. You can find her @rachellydiab on IG and Letterboxd and see her film criticism on Youtube.