We let in­flu­encers de­stroy SA pop cul­ture

Sowetan - - Opinion - Thango Nt­wasa

They are all over our TV screens, they oc­cupy our so­cial me­dia space and dom­i­nate the front row seats at fash­ion week.

While they have mas­tered the art of cu­rat­ing the per­fect In­sta­gram aes­thetic, in­flu­encers have quickly be­come cu­ra­tors of SA pop cul­ture.

Nor­mally, it is ex­pected that an in­flu­encer be knowl­edge­able on the prod­uct they sell to a niche mar­ket, but are our in­flu­encers giv­ing us enough ex­per­tise on what to buy, or are they just feed­ing their own pre-in­flu­enced stom­achs?

In 2009, Aziz Shaver­shian, pop­u­larly known by Zyzz, be­came the hottest Aus­tralian ex­port. Zyzz was more con­cerned with the per­fect physique.

What made him so dif­fer­ent from other fit­ness ex­perts was that he ad­vo­cated for an un­healthy lifestyle while pur­su­ing the ul­ti­mate mus­cle goals. This re­sulted in the birth of aes­thet­ics.

Zyzz ne­glected the oc­ca­sional post on pro­tein shakes and opted for puff­ing mul­ti­ple cig­a­rettes, piled on junk food and tanned his life away.

In 2011, Zyzz died of a heart at­tack at a Thai sauna. While the irony of his death was enough to turn many fol­low­ers away from the lifestyle he led, oth­ers con­tin­ued to live by his os­ten­ta­tious mantras and end­less pur­suit of aes­thetic beauty.

The Zyzz gen­er­a­tion was born and many still sub­scribe to what has be­come the big­gest post­hu­mous in­flu­encer in the world.

The Amer­i­can dream still af­fects our daily lives in SA, the same way the Zyzz gen­er­a­tion would die for their gym de­ity.

One could even ar­gue that the in­ter­na­tional power of the Amer­i­can dream not only birthed the likes of Zyzz but many of our own in­flu­encers.

The va­pid pur­suit of ma­te­rial power, as seen through in­flu­encers like Ke­filwe Mabote and Ge­maene Tay­lor, has birthed our own ver­sions of Zyzz, who still seek power through the cars they drive, the places they stay and the friends they eat with (I’m not talk­ing about food).

The rise of the South African in­flu­encer de­stroyed the in­tel­lec­tual mer­its of our pop cul­ture but opened us to the power of niche mar­kets.

The voice of an Anna Win­tour mat­ters less in a world where you can find rep­re­sen­ta­tion from the click of a but­ton.

How­ever, the South African in­flu­encer, much like Zyzz him­self, may al­ready be un­der the in­flu­ence of ma­te­ri­al­ism.

Their opin­ion, which we con­sume, is de­ter­mined by their need to fit in rather than to ed­u­cate or in­form.

The the­atre, un­like Sizwe Banzi, is ac­tu­ally dy­ing.

Our tele­vi­sion pro­grammes are car­bon copies of them­selves.

Our best mu­si­cians are re­duc­tive of what al­ready ex­ists. Our lit­er­a­ture is bought as a dis­play of in­tel­lec­tual con­sumerism. Our run­ways are opu­lent and tell very lit­tle sto­ries.

All these should be ex­pected. South African in­flu­encers pur­sue the an­cient aes­thetic known as the Amer­i­can dream.

And as long as they do, our pop cul­ture will never have the iden­tity it once had.

Ke­filwe Mabote

Ge­maene Tay­lor

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