A lot of young athletes I meet admire Zyzz.
Pardon me: they mire Zyzz, brah.
And while I dismiss the man as a flash-in-the-pan online micro-phenom, his failure-to-launch career and flagrantly pretzel-twisted philosophies are assertively overlooked by many young men in favor of a far simpler fact about the man. Specifically, the idea that Zyzz was "the man."
Aziz "Zyzz" Shavershian was a guy whose main contribution top culture was an aggressive self-promotion of his body's appearance. Yes, he was a douchebag folk hero. Yet, in spite of so much self-promotion, he never became a big name, band in the fitness industry he was openly a D-list celebrity at best. His main fame was in online forums, where young guys who wanted shredded abs and sleeve tattoos of their own related to Zyzz's espoused philosophies regarding showing off. If you had a problem with what Zyzz showed, how he showed, why he showed it or what it meant, then you are the problem, not him. You are considered a "hater" by sheer merit of dissenting from his opinion.
That's right: if you refused to agree that Zyzz was hot shit, you were the hater and the problem lies with you. It was a grand declaration that he took no responsibility for the impact of his actions. If he causes upset, that's just not his problem.
Zyzz often espoused offshoot philosophies that defended this stance, and these are often quoted among Zyzz's followers, who adopt a devout attitude of absolute reverence to the young man's (rather abbreviated) life work. The basic idea is to not worry about the critics and criticisms because they don't matter; only do what you want to do. Not what is best to do, not what is benevolent to do, but what you want to do. And if others disagree, they are haters to be ignored or jealous.
It's a life of 2nd grade playground games elevated to grand internet Opera.
But the fact remains that the topics raised by this barely-known, self-made, D-tier fitness celebrity is one that can be discussed at length. Not because of the merits of the man, but rather because the topics he brings up hit dead center in the realm of physique semiotics. Zyzz raises questions of philosophy of the body's social symbol: what it means, it's impact, it's uses and it's dangers. And philosophies on those topics alway raises worthwhile discussion – even if the departure point for such discussions is less than fascinating.
Zyzz symbolizes the "permission" for guys to fuck up via their ego-masturbation and get away with it. Zyzz was driven by carnal ideals: the flesh, it's pleasure and his vanity to do just that. Yet there was no representation of the consequences of such pursuits having a downside. His mantra of "you 'miring, brah" and his constant disparaging of "the haters" shows that he did not feel the consequences of his impact were at all his responsibility to mitigate or manage. He dismissed the impact, and espoused it in so much of his online, bumper-sticker philosophy.
So now Zyzz is a topic, rather than man. He is a launch point for ideas, and not a thing of flesh and shape. The irony is obvious: Zyzz is now stuck forever being the opposite of what he declared he was going for. He wanted the world to "mire" his "aesthetics," and ironically they did – but in the exact opposite way that he intended. People don't admire the aesthetics of his body, but rather the aesthetics of his ideals – and how the lessons to be learned there are warnings, not rewards.
Aesthetics is not how you look. Aesthetics is the philosophy behind how you look. Zyzz perpetually got that wrong, and misused the word so ridiculously that those who admire him are likewise lost on it's essence. Aesthetics are about the impact of a thing, not about the thing itself; they are about the impact the body can have on a society, a culture or an ideal, but not about the body specific. More importantly, to understand aesthetics means to understand this idea; to understand that your body's appearance is not the focus, but it's impact and influence are.
Zyzz got it backwards. While he obsessed about the specific look of his physique he undermined the very concept of what it means to "develop an aesthetic." Zyzz was merely grooming a look. Giving it the elevated term "aesthetics" is, ironically, an aesthetic touch, but even that is something that transcends the body's appearance. Zyzz was glaringly unaware of his own aesthetic in spite of overusing the word. He neither promoted nor seemed to comprehend that "good aesthetics" are those with a deft hand at manipulating perception – and by inclusion, understanding the consequences of such manipulations. But every time Zyzz was critiqued or criticized, he showed his aesthetic was a lack of understanding about aesthetics: he shouted "hater" (which is an aesthetic move he was probably unaware of) and dismissed them as being jealous of how he looks.
How aesthetics work is exactly the topic that is raised when you discuss Zyzz. It raises the questions of behind how physical appearance transacts with the world, and what our responsibility may be towards those impacts. It is a good discussion to have.
Yet it is a discussion of physique semiotics, and not about Zyzz. Nor about his body. Nor about his shreds. Nor about anything else he implored us to admire. Discussions of Zyzz depart from the man within minutes of beginning, and we don't waste breath admiring him past that point.
It seems his longevity as a topic is as brief as his sadly shortened life. Zyzz passed away very young – only 22! – from a heart attack. While the causes of such a sudden fan young death can be argued, most of sensible mind look squarely at his hunger for pleasure as a prime factor. He did not hide that he was using performance-enhancing drugs at the time of his death (steroids) and combined them with party drugs (allegedly cocaine), which is a short recipe for cardiac arrest. His own philosophies of not listening to contrary opinions may have been the key to his undoing. Had he maybe not assumed those who dissented from his stance were "haters" he may still be around today to mutilate other philosophical concepts.
But three years ago (as of this posting) Zyzz's rise to internet meme ended, leaving us not with a legacy of his own yet an entry point to a longer legacy of discussion. And we totally 'mire that discussion of aesthetics he raises, even if not the man who raised it.
In a nutshell: Zyzz was a failure at his own game, yet via that failure raises a very relevant entry point into the discussion of aesthetics and the physique's impaction society.