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The Ghost of Ernesto


There are a lot of "iconic" images of the 20th century but probably the most enduring and significant is this picture of Che Guevara.

This image, like so much that represented the rebellious individual during the middle of the 20th century, has been commodified and sold back to us. There is no such thing as cool anymore. If you didn't get the message, oh, say 1989 then look at what passes for cool these days. Not only are we sold archaic notions of the outsider, we see it perpetually reinvented and sold back to us yet again.

Napoleon Dynamite is the new Che Guevara, in spirit anyway, simply because he can satisfy the corporate need for an outsider icon and reinvigorate our ideas of rebellion. When bearded Marxists look a little too much like the Taliban and the image is so well worn that everyone who wants instant rebel pedigree papers mimics the image of Che, its time to look toward the low income, scrawny white kid with an afro.

The Argentinean guerrilla's family is now trying to control the use of the image. I am afraid that it is too late. We have long ago absorbed the image into our collective unconscious. What can they do? Rent Napoleon Dynamite, of course.

For a good analysis of the use of Che's image read Rick Poyner's Obey the Giant.
gregory turner-rahman