Myth, Representation: Changing ‘Image’ Of Che Guevara In The Consumerist Society

The rise and development of global commodification mindset has turned everything into a product with a value. In this whole process of capitalist flap the idea of myth has been playing an immense role especially in the field of history. The legendary historical figure Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara continues to represent an embodiment of anti-capitalistic and anti-systemic movements from Palestinian nationalists of the Middle East to freedom fighters of Latin America.

Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. Image source: Wikimedia commons

But, sadly we have been experiencing a shift in the idea and image of Che Guevara from a radical political identity to a globally attractive ‘Pop figure’. From 1970’s, commercialization of Che’s identity started constructing various myths, providing something more than the historical necessity of the figure and labeling him as a mark of a ‘freethinker’ and a ‘liberal’ and it has been passing through decades.

Clothing, coffee mugs, hair bands and posters throughout the globe has become sample of the American mode of commodification and trivialization of this radical, revolutionary figure. Historically and politically, Che is a symbolic representation of 20th century global leftist revolutionary sphere, who left us with a great insight even in present day. But, at the same time, the way he has been popularized through mass consumption and subsequent commodification has resulted in Che becoming a mark of American style consumer capitalism.

Looking a little deep into the idea of myths surrounded by Che, historians have come to recognize the importance of the idea of ‘social conflict’ over how to define his past, and discussions have appeared on who ‘controls’ what is to be remembered and how. Scholars argue that the collective memory of generations is created and manipulated by (construction of Myths) the bourgeois elites in the society to establish and influence dominant, hegemonic and interpretations of the past. The memory of Che Guevara can be completely incorporated in this form of interpretations.

The whole process of commodification of Che implies the idea of ‘Massification’ of his figure on a different dimension, more than relying on history, public has started paying attention on fallacies (Myth) on his identity and ideas. Presently, Che stands as a Latin American ‘Pop Figure’ or to a maximum extent of a ‘liberal icon’. Therefore, the question is – do these Che clothing wearers know who Che Guevara was and what he signified to represent in History? The answer would be no, clearly, the dominant business interest group has won the challenge and they’d conceived the memories and hearts of the people.

When we talk about the myths, it has got multiple dimensions that would interlink and substantiate the central point. Keeping this point in mind, Walter Salles ‘remarkable’ movie “Motorcycle Diaries”(2004) provided a new set of myths on the idea of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. What is noticed by anyone in the movie is the great aspect of humanity in the character and his enthusiasm for ‘Self Exploration’. Even though the movie showcases a bit on Che’s political maturation process, a large number of viewers developed an idea of a ‘Gallivanter’ on Che rather than conceiving him as the most adorable political ideologue of 20th century.

The world has only a little understanding on the historical aspects of Che’s revolutionary life and his philosophy for liberation. Anthony Daniels in his famous article, “The Real Che”, argues, The film (The Motorcycle Diaries), is thus the cinematic equivalent of the Che Guevara T-shirt; it is morally monstrous and emotionally trivial. Daniels also clearly argued that the idea of myth on Che Guevara is intentionally keeping active by the strong presence of commercialization for the interests of cultural consumerist capitalists.

Roland Barthes describes “Mythologies are not lies, they are formed as a distortion of a previous signification, they are a new situation, and they bring up different concepts”. Therefore, the consumerist capitalists’ circles have been using the history, without having a right direction and building up multiple narrations (myths). Today, the revolutionary figure has become subjected to commoditized “narrativization”, becoming consumerist products such as a movie, a novel, clothing, posters and so on.

Marxist political scientist Fredric Jameson in his article “Globalization as Philosophical” argues and reminds the possibilities of the imposition of “Americana”(American way of life) not only economically but also ideologically in world markets. Indirectly, it implies the control over the outlook, ideas and ideology of the mass public by the culture consumerist mode of production. Therefore, the present purpose of myths and representation of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara prompts global customer attention and stimulates consumerism; displaying the ‘unconscious’ and ‘insentient’ present day society of twenty first century.


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