How did the famous photograph of Che Guevara, by Alberto "Korda" Díaz, become a viral pop art phenomenon? After his death in 1967, this image of Che replicated itself on posters, banners and T-shirts: it became a universally understood symbol of radical ideals. And after the collapse of communism in 1989, it mutated into something else - a corporate brand, denoting general cool, and suitable for marketing music, drinks, clothes, pretty well anything. Film-makers Trisha Ziff and Luis Lopez ask how and why the wisdom of the crowd decided that this image should not merely be a badge of youth radicalism, but an icon of purity. Plenty of kids with Che on their T-shirt have no idea who he was, and Che himself was arguably an elusive figure: an Argentinian who became a Cuban hero, yet finally renounced his new Cuban citizenship and died a murky death in the Bolivian jungle. It is precisely this vagueness which is the key to the image's potency. The image is adaptable and the ideology malleable, applicable to any rebellious cause or pose. The Bolivian army and the CIA also played their part in 1967 after killing him: they set up the "adoration" photo to prove that he was dead, which had the effect of encouraging a quasi-Christ cult. Every time a protester hoists a Che banner, it's a kind of secular resurrection. There is also the fact that Che, unlike Fidel, never really assumed the burden of power with all its shabby compromises. (When I was in Cuba 10 years ago, I asked why there were pictures of Che Guevara and Cuba's nationalist hero José Martí everywhere, but no pictures of Fidel Castro. The answer was that Fidel himself had forbidden it, perhaps sensing that semi-mythical heroes of the past are the most compelling.) There is also the simple fact that Che is probably the best-looking non-actor in all history.

badge: oznaka

collapse: upadek

compelling: pociągający, zniewalający

denote: oznaczać, określać

elusive: nieuchwytny, ulotny

hoist: podnosić, wznosić

malleable: plastyczny, podatny na wpływ

merely: tylko

murky: mroczny

mutate: ulegać mutacji

purity: czystość

renounce: wyrzekać się

replicate oneself: pomnażać się, rozmnażać się, reprodukować

shabby: podły, nędzny

viral: wirusowy

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