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.
There it is at the bottom of the "miscellaneous" section of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, online. There's not much American news there--one headline making vague reference to U.S. foreign policy as portrayed in a film and one talking about a science festival in New York--except for that final story: "Mel Gibson says he still has friends in Hollywood." There's been an uptick in Mel Gibson stories stateside recently too as the marketing for his latest film The Beaver, directed by Jodie Foster, gears up. The movie's about a man who makes a hash of nearly everything, prompting predictable comparisons to Gibson's real-life predicament. Meanwhile, Gibson's also been making some pretty nasty headlines over domestic abuse: in early March he got off with probation for charges of assaulting now ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. It's not as if the domestic press has any idea what to make of this character, who bucks attempts at image rehab at every turn. So how exactly are the foreign papers spinning this saga?
Spanish-Language Dailies Have All the Sordid Details
Caracas-based El Universal assures readers that experts say Gibson's leaked, recorded phone calls to his ex are "authentic." Peru's La Republica and major Spanish daily El Mundo both pick up Gibson's remarks about the interview. The key quote they both emphasize is that the leak was "humiliating and painful" for Gibson and his family.
Different Spin From Austria
German language newspapers are a bit harder on Gibson. Die Welt has been covering (sometimes from AFP) his legal proceedings from the assault charge. Though the Austrian Salzburger Nachrichten does cover Gibson's remarks a few days ago that fueled the La Republica and El Mundo stories, it focuses on a different quote: "I was angry at myself," reads the headline--recovering English majors might note that sentence, compared to the Spanish-language quote, immediately suggests a rather different direction in terms of culpability.
Chinese Get Romantic
Of all the headlines to choose from, Chinese government news angency Xinhua goes with this seemingly deliberately ambiguous one: "Jodie Foster on Mel Gibson: 'I'll love him forever.'" Also included in the coverage this year: a regurgitation of the Los Angeles Times's coverage of Gibson's and Grigorieva's breakup, and a quick item on Givson "plead[ing] no contest to misdemeanor battery."
French Have Better Things to Do
That's just a guess. The major French dailies are noticeably light on Mel Gibson coverage, though Le Monde does a brief item on The Beaver and Le Figaro runs an AFP item of Gibson attempting to avoid prison.
Let's Hope He Isn't Our Only Cultural Ambassador to the Arab World
Fueled by United Press International wire stories, the Arabic-language papers seem much more Gibson-heavy than, say, the French or German papers. There's the aforementioned "Gibson says he still has friends in Hollywood" UPI story, picked up by pan-Arab publications Al-Quds Al-Arabi and Al-Hayat. Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat briefly discusses The Beaver and Hollywood fears that "Mel Gibson's reputation" might keep people from the box office. Al-Hayat also has a UPI story today about a woman claiming to be Gibson's mistress defending him. Back in March, Jihad el Khazen also talked about Gibson in an article on anti-Semitism and Israel, in which he also brought up the example of former Dior designer John Galliano.
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.