One of the most fascinating things about Che Guevara is the way that he’s been accepted into popular culture. Opponents say that this glamorizes a man with a violent guerilla career. Even supporters and scholars who feel we have a lot to learn from Che can be concerned about the way his public image is presented, since it can really take away from the message and story of his life. Take, for example, those t-shirts that you used to see all over the place a few years ago. They came from the iconic photo of Che: Guerrillero Heroico, which the photo commentary at Alistair Scott’s Photo Zone describes as "the best-known photograph in the world."
I have mixed feelings on the shirts. In a lot of cases, I could easily imagine it bearing the caption “I Have No Idea Who This Guy Is.” On the other hand, Che’s life has provided fertile ground for balanced, engaging portrayals by film makers. Of course, everyone knows the more recent and award-winning Revolutionary Road. But I’ll always remember The Motorcycle Diaries as a gripping introduction to Che. Coming years before Road, in 2004, it was a sleeper indie hit that didn’t attract much critical or industry attention. I remember watching it at the Old Tampa Theatre and being stopped in the lobby by a man offering anarchist pamphlets.
What’s your favorite representation of Che? How well do you think it represents the facts of his life? If you have a favorite Che book or film, we want to hear about it at Che Guevara Talk.