David Beckham: Bourgeois Hero

Nathan LoweAnalyst IOctober 24, 2008

David Beckham is a global brand. 

His advancement to the elite of society could be mainly due to his ridiculously good looks, however, there was a time when “Becks” was known only for his brilliant application in the game of football, setting the English leagues ablaze with hope and anticipation during his young adulthood playing for Manchester United.

However, in 1999, David found a fork in the road and went the wrong way, turning from a humble working-class hero to a bourgeois parody.

Beckham grew up in London, the son of a kitchen fitter and a hairdresser. Both parents loved football, and David did, too. Ultimately, he would emerge from his youth a highly-rated player, named Under-15 Player of the Year in 1990 and eventually signing a schoolboy contract with Manchester United. Clearly brilliant with a football, he moved quickly through the youth system, cutting a class above most he played with.

By 1995, he had become a first-team regular for one of the biggest soccer clubs in England. Throughout the next several years, Manchester United dominated the English top flight, winning the league title and FA Cup on different occasions. 

1999 would be a monumental year for United as they won an historic treble, claiming victory in all three major European and domestic competitions. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson said of Beckham that year, “He is Britain’s finest striker of a football not because of God-given talent but because he practices with a relentless application that the vast majority of less gifted players wouldn’t contemplate.”

Indeed, 1999 was an even bigger year for Becks. Chief architect of United’s masterpiece season, he finished runner-up for FIFA World Player of the Year honors and married his girlfriend of two years, “Spice Girl” Victoria Adams. At 24, Becks was at his physical prime and enjoying the form of his life. 

His fall from grace was hardly meteoric, but it was appreciable. After two years of world-class form, Beckham eventually fell out of favor with United. Ferguson blamed Beckham’s marketing distractions for the deterioration of their relationship. 

Beckham moved to Spanish outfit Real Madrid in 2003, earning the club $600 million in marketing revenue during his four-year tenure. He struggled with injury and consistency though, and left the club with only one major honor, the 2007 Spanish Primera Liga title (of which Beckham again played an integral role, admittedly).

In 2007, the Beckham family moved to Los Angeles to ply their trade. On the pitch, David could be found running willingly, albeit very slowly, and having little impact on his team, the league, or the American game itself. After only one year with Beckham, though, the Los Angeles Galaxy reported they had already recouped their $250 million investment in the player.

Currently, “Brand Beckham”, Victoria and David, have a combined net worth estimated at $120 million. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are two of their most personal friends. Victoria and David have become a power couple in Hollywood. 

David Beckham, bless his heart, now typifies the concept of bourgeois hero. He is a marketing tool, wielded and hammered by the ruling elite for profit and manipulation.  Now in the twilight of his career, his signature is sought only to sell t-shirts and tickets. His effect on the pitch, where his relentless application had once rated him second in the world, dwindled in inverse proportion to the amount of fame and attention he received. 

Since 1999, David has been tattooed 17 times, blaming his compulsion on an obsessive disorder. He became a faded negative of himself; an image which once inspired dedication and commitment of craft to millions of young fans now only heeds as a warning beacon to the superficial pitfalls of our celebrity society and the follies of greed and distraction.

The medium which brought Beckham to the forefront of the global entertainment consciousness—football—was relegated in favor of bourgeois superficies: the ideas of false consciousness that consume so many. 

Like countless others, Beckham bought into this idealism. Indeed, our society is nurtured to believe that he now embodies success. He is rich and beautiful, always dining finely with other media superstars. However, this idea of success is entrenched in the false consciousness of our society, where wealth, power, and fame are adopted as goals, often in lieu of adherence to moral or ethical code. 

Beckham chose his path likely incognizant of its true destination and found fame and fortune. In doing so, he reduced himself to the jokes’ butt throughout much of the football world; the thick lad who shrugged from his shoulders the hopes of a nation and the belief of a generation in pursuit of material bliss.

David Beckham had the potential to be regarded as one of the greatest footballers ever. His limits will never be known, as they were never reached. Instead, it is most likely he will ultimately be remembered as a player who did more to foster the game commercially than culturally, through media endorsements and elitist elbow-rubbing instead of through the honest expression and application of skill and commitment to the craft he once loved.