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You're probably right, but...

Posted by Word Camel on September 17, 2004

In Reply to: American Challenge posted by Ward on September 17, 2004

: : : : : I've seen a lot of references to "ugly Americans," sometimes to characterized those Americans who steal of mutilate towels, but most often to characterize their reputation and moral standing, usually among non-Americans. Fair enough, but let's not forget that the term is almost certainly as popular as it is because of it was the title of a well-received book by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, "The Ugly American," published in 1958. The protagonist (I remember only his first name, Homer) was physically ugly, but a quiet do-gooder who earned the readers' admiration for his acute observations of the harm Americans and American policies were doing in Southeast Asia. President Eisenhower, much impressed, is said to have made several reforms in American policy and its implementation. SS

: : : : Wow, I'll have to read this book.
: : : : Meanwhile, is it even vaguely possible that the creators of the Simpsons had this in mind when they created 'Homer Simpson'? Some of the minds behind some of these seemingly stupid shows are in fact geniuses and it just made me wonder.

: : : Homer Simpson is very much like what we think of as The Ugly American prototype... a boorish, culturally ignorant, naive, well-meaning, kind-hearted blunderer. Hmmm. All my relatives. But no, he wasn't named for the character in the book. Matt Groening based his characters - or, at least, his characters' names - on his own family: his parents, Homer and Marge, his sisters Lisa and Maggie. Bart is Bart and not Matt, because he wanted an anagram of brat.

: : Wow, wonder how thrilled his family were about that?

: : Doing business around the world in the 60s, as an American, was wonderful. Then, with De Gaulle and the publication, in 1968, of Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreibers' book 'THE AMERICAN CHALLENGE', there started to be a shift away from the good that America did to the downside of the US as a hegemonic power. Vietnam was part of that.
: I also saw a lot of prototypical Ugly American tourists in the 60s and 70s, complaining about everything from the unusual food to the fact that 'everything was old and rundown' in Europe. Too bad they didn't have more grace and understanding.
: I have found that international perceptions of the USA today are more affected by TV and things like BAYWATCH, and DALLAS, and, yes, BUFFY, than anything the government tries to put out as public diplomacy.

on my last trip to Paris, I sat next to some Americans in a Cafe who were loudly demanding to see the "American menu". I want so much to believe that there aren't really people out there like this and yet there they were. I also encountered an American woman in Cancun who was outraged at having to use pesos instead of dollars.