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Posted by Lotg on September 17, 2004

In Reply to: Tourists....starting with Alexander the Great 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.

: : : What transaction in Cancun required pesos rather than dollars? I havn't been there in the last few decades but I never saw a peso. BTW I see many Ugly Americans at the senior center where I have lunch. We are quite a trip sometimes.

: : It was technically Tulum but even so... I don't think you should ever rule out having to use the local currency... call me old fashioned.

: There are probably lots of parallels that a student of history can tell us about the behavior of human beings of a (temporarily) dominant society when they are traveling. Seems to me the Romans and the Huns (and I can name a lot of others) were not the most understanding and benevolent travelers. Maybe this is just the way humanity is.....what a shame.

I'd like to begin by showing my admiration for anyone who can use a word like 'hegemonic' so casually, or for that matter even knows such a great word. And now that I've looked it up and enlightened myself, well done Ward. Bet you were able to order from foreign menus.

Re the Pesos comment, I'm actually astonished at that. I agree one should assume people have their own currency, but I found wherever I travelled, everyone wanted US Dollars over their own currency. In Turkey I almost had to fight to pay with Lire (I soon learned that there was some weird calculation process they went through that was to my advantage if I used their Lire), so I did fight to pay with local currency. I can assure you they didn't want Aussie money - haha.

Let me share one cute story with you. Once when I was travelling around the USA, I went in to a country service station for petrol. When I walked up to pay, I pulled some cash out of my wallet and an Australian $10 note that I had tucked in the back, slipped out with the rest of the US Dollars. Aussie money, unlike American is very colourful and plastic. So the guy beside me waiting to pay said "wow what was that?". I said as I was tucking it back into my wallet, "an Australian $10 note." He said "do you have your own money?". The guy behind the counter cringed. I cracked up and said, "yes, and we got electricity last week too." By this time the guy behind the counter was in hysterics while the other guy just looked at me astonished. Don't worry - he was the ONLY American to come out with anything THAT stupid - so I didn't form any rash judgements.

But, speaking as an Australian (obviously can't speak for anyone else), I don't think most Aussies really do identify Americans with Buffy, Baywatch and Dallas (maybe some of our lower IQ countrymen, but even then, not most). Politics and your politicians have had so much exposure, particulary with the Iraq conflict, that I think they overshadow the effect your TV shows have. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily an improvement I'm afraid. Cos like I've said before, I know some really great Americans and you polis aren't real good front men for you I'm afraid.

As for your theory re the 'temporarily' dominent society producing such travellers - ummm... well in that case, what's our excuse? Believe me, though I'm horribly embarrassed to admit it, I've seen some hideous Aussie tourists around the traps, and we don't have any temporary dominance that I'm aware of.