Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Ernesto Che Guevara: making of a cult brand?

It’s surprising to see how cult brands are formed. The Che Guevara photograph taken by Korda, adjudged as the world’s most famous photograph of the 20th century, has lived to a give a surprising meaning years after his demise. Che Guevara is almost a house-hold name now, and all of us would’ve seen some of our friends wearing a Che-powered high contrast T-shirt. I got to note here that I too am really fascinated by the looks and power of the photo decorating the T-shirts.

I recently read an article in the The Hindu/CNN about the legal suit filed against the rampant usage of the photo for ‘capitalistic’ purposes. The 'cult' following supposedly started during the 70s when Che was regarded as a symbol for revolt and communism. What is used right now as a quintessential capitalistic brand in T-shirts, jeans and other products was an anti-capitalistic icon of the 60’s, which, according to the article, is little known to most of the users: “It is customary for followers of a cult not to know the real life story of their hero, the historical truth.”

The 2004 released movie titled The Motorcyle diaries speaks about how Che travels around the whole of South America in his motorcycle and how he's slowly transformed, but it stops right there. I've seen the movie and it is anything but 'revolutionary'. Infact, the movie kindles the adventurous spirit in one. Che is an anti-establishment symbol yes, and it’s probably cool to wear something that stands for ‘revolution’, but I wonder how many people really know that Che was an architect of the Cuban Missile Crisis and that he’s regarded as a killing machine.

Following are the excerpts of the Wikipedia entry:
Guevara met Fidel Castro and Fidel's brother Raúl in Mexico City where the two sought refuge after being exiled from Cuba.

Guevara believed that the installation of Soviet missiles would protect Cuba from any direct military action against it by the United States. Jon Lee Anderson reports that after the crisis Guevara told Sam Russell, a British correspondent for the socialist newspaper Daily Worker, that if the missiles had been under Cuban control, they would have fired them.
Che Guevara maybe a quasi-cult brand now, and if it’s indeed true that not many users know what he stood for, it would be interesting to know if people would still be buying Che-endorsed products. In other terms, is Che’s background driving the ‘brand’ or is the picture driving the brand?

For the record, I still like the photo and would most likely buy the T for kicks-sake.


At Tuesday, September 06, 2005 1:03:00 PM, Blogger ada-paavi!!!! said...

ur right, i doubt ppl know wat he stood for. ppl wear the tshirts due to herd mentality, and not because they actually agree wit him etc.

At Tuesday, September 06, 2005 3:11:00 PM, Blogger Jo said...

People wear it for the youthful part, but they do not care about his ideology and the rebellion. I admire those two parts same as his youthfulness.

At Tuesday, September 06, 2005 4:35:00 PM, Blogger Peelamedu_bulls said...

Didn't get a chance to read 'The Motorcyle diaries'. But I did read a biography of his, a very good book. As usual my left lobe is bit skewed and I dont remember the name of the author. That gives a complete walkthrough of Che's life.
It lists clearly that there was difference of opinion between Castro and Che and that was one of the reasons why Che wanted to move away from Cuba to Bolivia.
Castro was a politician/revolutionary.But che was a hard core revolutinary for whom Communism took ranks above status.
Infact, with out Che, Castro woudnt have brought the govt down. The fomous train blast that dealt the final nail in the coffin was the mastermind of Che.
He was the fire behind cuba's industrial policy.
I can talk more about this.
It's sad to find people comment on Che without proper knowledge of his evolution. Again, in a capitalist society inchoate ideas sell more.

At Tuesday, September 06, 2005 5:09:00 PM, Blogger Govar said...

@Jo: thanks for visiting.

@Bulls: Can u let me know the name of the book? I wanted to read one on Che for a long time.. maybe I can askk the library to subscribe one...

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