Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Messiah Of The Left

Che Guevara: The Killing Machine

Alvaro Vargas Llosa
The New Republic

Che Guevara, who did so much (or was it so little?) to destroy capitalism, is now a quintessential capitalist brand. His likeness adorns mugs, hoodies, lighters, key chains, wallets, baseball caps, toques, bandanas, tank tops, club shirts, couture bags, denim jeans, herbal tea and of course those omnipresent T-shirts with the photograph, taken by Alberto Korda, of the socialist heartthrob in his beret during the early years of the revolution, as Che happened to walk into the photographer's viewfinder -- and into the image that, 38 years after his death, is still the logo of revolutionary (or is it capitalist?) chic.

Che products are marketed by big corporations and small businesses -- such as the Burlington Coat Factory, which put out a television commercial depicting a youth in fatigue pants wearing a Che T-shirt, or Flamingo's Boutique in Union City, New Jersey, whose owner responded to the fury of local Cuban exiles with this devastating argument: "I sell whatever people want to buy."

The metamorphosis of Che Guevara into a capitalist brand is not new, but the brand has been enjoying a revival of late. This windfall is owed substantially to The Motorcycle Diaries. Beautifully shot against landscapes that have clearly eluded the eroding effects of polluting capitalism, the recent film shows the young man on a voyage of self-discovery as his budding social conscience encounters social and economic exploitation. At this year's Academy Awards ceremony, Carlos Santana and Antonio Banderas performed the theme song from The Motorcycle Diaries, Santana showing up wearing a Che T-shirt and a crucifix. - More @ The National Post


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