Ever wonder what our nation looks like to folks from afar? Here we look at how a uniquely American story--the kind of news we have trouble explaining even to ourselves--is being told overseas. Want to see a particular topic covered here? Let us know.
Voyeurism has long been a global phenomenon attached to the human condition, but there are two particularly interesting aspects to how the Arnold Schwarzenegger-Maria Shriver split, reported this morning, is being covered. One is that when we say global, we really mean global: this is where Schwarzenegger's movie career and Shriver's Kennedy origins resurface--the Japanese media were on this immediately, along Egyptian news sites, German ones, Brazilian ones, Italian ones. This isn't quite what you'd expect if Schwarzenegger's successor as California governor, Jerry Brown, announced a separation from his wife. The international news outlets are especially fascinated with Schwarzenegger and Shriver as a "power couple." In some ways the phenomenon of "Schwarzenegger and Shriver" is more interesting than the people, Arnold and Maria, choosing to split up--arguably the opposite of what you might see, say, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie gossip.
"The power couple also confirmed," writes Frank Siering for Die Welt, "that though they no longer live together, they will work further on their relationship in the future. Schwarzenegger and Shriver, who comes from the Kennedy dynasty, have four children together," he adds. "Twenty-five years of glamour-marriage is over," offers German broadcast network ZDF. "For twenty-five years they were California's glamour-couple," writes Christiane Heil for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, similarly. Bild.de calls them "THE show-couple in Hollywood and politics." Meanwhile, government-affiliated Xinhua in China appears to call the pair the "envy of millions of Americans," as infotainment site Sina describes the pair as the "model couple" in the public eye. Or there's the wording from Le Parisien: "it was a couple emblematic of Hollywood and the news will set flowing plenty of ink across the Atlantic." Sure, but plenty of ink apparently on your side, too, guys.
"The United States is about to lose one of its leading power couples," writes Constance Jamet for Le Figaro, who ties the news back to other recent political breakups:
[Schwarzenegger and Shriver] incarnated spectacularly the adage 'opposites attract.' Their union, which linked Hollywood and politics, fascinated. ... Their separation was greeted with a certain sadness by commentators. "When even exceptional couples can't stay together, what hope is there for the rest of us?" asks a Time journalist [the French took some liberties with the translation to make it easier to understand in context. See the original here]. Many American political couples of the highest rank have imploded in the past few years: Al and Tipper Gore, John and Elizabeth Edwards. Like Schwarzenegger, they all waited to quit political life before announcing their split.
That "Time journalist" mentioned here, a.k.a. Belinda Luscombe, was early to a question that shaped the news. "As countless celebrities and reality-show newlyweds have proved, coupledom and the public eye are not always easy bedfellows," Luscombe noted today, recalling the Gores and Edwardses as well. Just in case you were wondering, though: as Americans are wondering if American celebrities and power couples can stay married, the world appears to be wondering something similar.
Heather Horn is fluent in written German and French, proficient in written Arabic, and has received purely decorative doses of Irish Gaelic and Western Armenian. All other languages are muddled through with the help of Google Translate.