Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nothing Like Commemorating a Revolutionary Leader by Slapping his Face on a Bikini

Photo from BBC

... 40 years after his death, Che - born Ernesto Guevara de la Serna - is as much a marketing tool as an international revolutionary icon. Which raises the question of what exactly does the sheer proliferation of his image - the distant gaze, the scraggly beard and the beret adorned with a star - mean in a decidedly capitalist world? <Common Dreams>


Dark Daughta said...

But, the thing is...
As folks try to "mainstream" various revolutions so as to market them to seriously undereducated people raised on a steady diet of hype, cool and novelty, so much about the political ends up being gutted and resurfaced so as to make it more palatable, more marketable.

This bikini is on a continuum with all sorts of abominations and contradictions that political people tolerate or perpetuate on the regular that they understand as necessary to the longevity of our various causes.

Once folks decided that the agenda was going to be about trying to keep newer recruits and make new alliances through making the work of revolution seem kewl, it was inevitable that revolutionaries would turn up on all sorts of garments and in all sorts of horrifically unlikely places.

The idea of revolution isn't a dream so much anymore as it is a commodity that any of us can buy into and wear proudly.

I think a lot about the folks I "see" on the street who walk by. I see them and recognize them as lefties. They don't see me. Why? Because I'm not wearing clothing that serves as iconic indicator of my political beliefs. I don't hang out at their watering holes. I don't join their orgs. I don't boycott the things they boycott.

I remember the X caps that came out around the time of the Malcolm X movie. I saw them perched atop the heads of all sorts of people who actually didn't like seeing signs of Black consciousness emanating from Black folks. It was painful, still is.

So, the bikini is sad, but completely not surprising.

Sorry for the ramble. Do you have a prohibition on how long comment should be before they end up seeming not very useful. If you do, I will respect that in future.

Thanks for the post. It was stimulating.

Red Jenny said...

Thanks for your comments, DD. I have no particular maximum length guidelines at this time - whatever blogger will let you do I guess. If you run out of space you could always break your comment into more than one part.

There's an interesting book that looks at the built-in mechanisms of consumer capilism to appropriate "rebellion". If you haven't read it, you might find it interesting Rebel Sell. I'm sure I've mentioned it on my blog before too, and if you search for it in the search box, you should be able to find reference to it. I don't always agree with the conclusions, but I think the main point is valid.

Personally I was really drawn to the photograph of the model's ass with the ubuquitous and iconic image of che. I think it tells a story, and the story is obviously not that the model supports revolutionary socialism. Intellectually it is also interesting how iconic images take on a life of their own, in sense, and are used quite uncritically and in ways that are far from original meaning.

Sometimes, as you say, certain visual markers help us lefties identify people of like mind and differentiate us from the "other people" (like a secret handshake or a uniform might do). I suppose we think it will help us feel some sort of solidarity, which our atomized society certainly does not provide. Unfortunately the very existence of fashion and popular culture, and the fetish of the new create a fluidity in those symbols. In any case it doesn't matter because we'd be better off creating real alliances than thinking of better symbols by which to represent ourselves to each other.

It's something like a band worrying more about their uniforms than their music.

Dark Daughta said...

:) more about their uniforms and the poses they strike, than about their music, definitely. :)

Anonymous said...

the tattoo i have of che on my right arm came years before this revival of him....and i also got it done in cuba. but for me it's not all about che. his pic on my arm is my symbol of ideasism....i am and idealist and so was che. we don't believe in all the same things together, that is not the point.

to see che this and that about is, well, i'm happy to see his face around and think that maybe some of the people wearing him are learning about him, castro, batista etc.. and that maybe some are wearing him because they see bush as a batista.

for others it will be pure fashion. he does make a striking graphic. and it does revive 60's fashion. a nice backlash to the 80's that's been on the scene (the saddest era ever for fashion and music).

i'm sure in the states it's the Dem kids wearin Che. cause o 'fuck you mom and dad' for republican kids.