We let influencers destroy SA pop culture
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.