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Beckham: Renaissance Idol

Originally published 5 February 2002

 Warwick and Staffordshire Report


Dr Andrew Parker, Department of Sociology, has co-written a report that has gained much attention from the world’s press. The report, written with Ellis Cashmore of Staffordshire University is titled “One David Beckham: Celebrity, Masculinity and the Soccerati” and it describes how Beckham idolatry has transformed attitudes globally.

What is the appeal?

Dr Parker told the Reuters press agency “His audience is so wide – it’s male, it’s female, it’s from age five to 60, he has such an all-pervasive appeal.”

Possibly not since George Best has a footballer attracted such admiration – women want him and men want to be him, but why?

Parker and Cashmore have ascribed the universal appeal to a number of factors, explaining that Beckham’s image holds something for everyone. They say he is part “new man”, “new lad”, “dad lad” and “old industrial man”.

Among the issues that Beckham’s image has addressed are men’s attitudes to fashion, fatherhood and homosexuality according to the study’s authors.

The academics are quick to acknowledge that Beckham’s popularity is a product of our time - Parker said “(He) has emerged at a point in time when consumer society, consumer culture and image is everything”.

Sporting messiah?

Parker and Cashmore describe Beckham as “emerging master, global phenomenon, chosen-one, sporting messiah, corporate and commercial standard bearer. Calm, considered, slight yet strong, tattooed for the cause, quintessential sporting icon”.

Yet surely this is the root of his appeal for the English? Only when people have sunk to the depths, as Beckham did after his display of petulance in the 1998 World Cup match against Brasil, can they be redeemed, resurrected and adopted as a shining example of English excellence. His resurrection both on and off the pitch has cemented his reputation as Golden Balls – until the next time…