Ugly American (pejorative)

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Constantino Arias' photo titled Ugly American, showing a 1950s Batista-era tourist in Havana, Cuba.[1]

Ugly American is a pejorative term used to refer to perceptions of loud, arrogant, demeaning, thoughtless, ignorant, and ethnocentric behavior of American citizens mainly abroad, but also at home.[2][3][4][5][6][7] Although the term is usually associated with or applied to travelers and tourists, it also applies to U.S. corporate businesses in the international arena.[8][9][10][11][12][13]

Application[edit]

Sports[edit]

The term has also been widely used in the international sporting arena.[14][15] At the 33rd Ryder Cup held in September 1999, the United States zealously celebrated after Justin Leonard holed a 45-foot putt on the 17th green, resulting in extensive and adverse media coverage.[16][17] Later, at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the term was widely used after members of the US 4 x 100 relay team pranced around the stadium, flexing their muscles and making poses with the American flag, after winning a gold medal.[18] One foreign journalist called the incident "one of the most cringe-making exhibitions that the Olympics has seen".[19] This event was very heavily criticized by the American press and public. The members of the relay team were contrite and apologized for the incident the same day. Then, at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, the term was regularly used after the skiing superstar Bode Miller, who bragged about skiing drunk before the Olympics, was adversely compared to the term "Miller time", and went home with no medals.[20] A lesser-known teammate was sent home for fighting in a bar.[21]

In tennis, the term was used at the 1987 Davis Cup against West Germany for unsportsmanlike conduct.[22] John McEnroe was regularly cited in the media as being an "Ugly American" for his on-court tantrums and off-court negative comments about London and Paris.[23] In contrast, Andre Agassi who early in his tennis career was labeled a "potential ugly American", managed to transform himself into a crowd favourite.[24] In women's tennis, Serena Williams's outburst at the 2009 US Open semifinal against Kim Clijsters, reiterated the "Ugly American" label.[25]

Politics[edit]

In May 2008, the US House sub-committee passed a bill (House Resolution 4080) that would allow more foreign fashion models to work in the United States, and was subsequently dubbed the "ugly American bill".[26] The George W. Bush Administration was often referred to as "The Ugly American" because of its stance on foreign policies.[27][28][29][30] In 2007, Presidential hopeful John McCain outlined a series of measures to roll back Bush policies and counter the "ugly American" image.[31]

Popular culture[edit]

The 2004 film EuroTrip was originally slated to be named "The Ugly Americans" due to its depiction of stereotypical American tourists in Europe.[32] The producers changed the title shortly before its release.[33] A study carried out in 2002 revealed that Hollywood also contributes to the "Ugly American" image. The study found that the more access other countries had to American programs, the higher their negative attitudes toward Americans tended to be.[34] The movie Sex and the City 2 has been quoted as a typical portrayal of the "ugly American" image, where Samantha, one of four best girlfriends, makes fun of Middle Eastern culture and women in traditional dress.[35]

Origin[edit]

The Ugly American

The term was used as the title of a 1948 photograph of an American tourist in Havana by the Cuban photographer Constantino Arias (see infobox above),[36] but seems to have entered popular culture as the title of a 1958 book by authors William Lederer and Eugene Burdick. In 1963 the book was made into a movie directed by George Englund and starring Marlon Brando.

The best-selling, loosely fictional account provided contrasting characters with different approaches to opposing Communist influence in Southeast Asia, and the use of foreign aid in particular. The majority of the Americans exhibit a range of blundering, corrupt, and incompetent behaviors, often concentrating on impractical projects that will serve more to benefit American contractors than the local population. A minority are effective because they employ knowledge of the local language and culture, but most of these are marginalized and some even considered suspect. As a result, their influence is more limited than it should be.[37]

The title character, Homer Atkins, is introduced late in the book. He is "ugly" only in his physical appearance. Perversely, Atkins embodies the opposite traits from the pejorative traits now popularly associated with the term "Ugly American." Atkins' unattractive features, rough clothing and dirty hands are contrasted with the bureaucrats' freshly pressed clothes, clean fingers and smooth cheeks. Their behaviors have the opposite contrast: Atkins cares about the people of southeast Asia and wants to help them create practical solutions to their everyday problems; the bureaucrats want to build highways and dams that are not yet needed, and with no concern for the many other projects that will have to be completed before they can be used.[38] The book led to a move by President Dwight Eisenhower to study and reform American aid programs in the region.[39]

In the book, a fictional Burmese journalist wrote, "For some reason, the people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They're loud and ostentatious. Perhaps they're frightened and defensive, or maybe they're not properly trained and make mistakes out of ignorance."[40]

The idea of the ignorant or badly behaving American traveler long predates this book. Mark Twain wrote about The Innocents Abroad in the nineteenth century, and Algonquin Round Table member Donald Ogden Stewart wrote Mr and Mrs Haddock Abroad in 1924.[41]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tumult and Triumph in Black and White by Ken Johnson, The New York Times, November 11, 2010
  2. ^ Richards, Erin (2006). Are you the ugly American? CNN Travel. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  3. ^ Wederspahn, Gary (2008). Avoiding the "Ugly American" Stereotype Practical Planet. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  4. ^ Winter, Greg (2004). Colleges Tell Students the Overseas Party's Over The New York Times. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  5. ^ Clark, Jayne (2006). That 'ugly American' image is getting a makeover guide. USA Today. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  6. ^ Sherwell, Phillip (2007). Straight-talking McCain vows to fix world's view of the ugly American. The Telegraph. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  7. ^ Moriarty, Erina (2001). Time Travellers. How to Avoid Ugly American Syndrome. Retrieved on 2 May 2008.
  8. ^ Holstein, William (2005). Erasing the Image of the Ugly American. The New York Times. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  9. ^ Gross, Daniel (2007). Are You an Ugly American? Newsweek. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  10. ^ Clark, Hannah (2006). Are You An Ugly American? Forbes. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  11. ^ Alban, Debra (2006). CNN. How not to be the ugly American. Retrieved on 2 May 2008.
  12. ^ Rosenbaum, Andrew (2002). Harvard Business School, Boston, Mass. How to Avoid Being the "Ugly American" When Doing Business Abroad. ISBN 1591393485. OCLC: 52962937.
  13. ^ Mead, Walter (June 4, 1989). Japan-Bashing, an Ugly American Tradition. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-06-17.
  14. ^ Who Are the Good, Bad and the Ugly Americans of the Olympics So Far? Los Angeles Times. August 1, 1992. Retrieved 2011-06-17.
  15. ^ Just Call Athletes the Ugly Americans. Los Angeles Times. September 24, 1988. Retrieved 2011-06-17.
  16. ^ Sports Illustrated (1999). United Slobs of America' British media rips 'ugly Americans' for celebration. Retrieved on 1 May 2008.
  17. ^ BBC News (1999). The arrival of the golf hooligan. Retrieved on 1 May 2008.
  18. ^ Ulfelder, Jay (2001). City Paper Online. Game Face: Is Sportsmanship in the Eye—or the Color—of the Beholder? Retrieved on 11 May 2008.
  19. ^ Sappenfield, Mark (2004). Task for Olympicians: How Not to be the Ugly American. Retrieved on 2 May 2008.
  20. ^ NBC Sports (2006). Skiing drunk 'not easy,' Bode says. Retrieved online 1 May 2008.
  21. ^ Raasch, Chuck (2006). USA Today. Sports, politics tied in Olympic moments. Retrieved on 1 May 2008.
  22. ^ The Ugly American Has Taken Up Tennis. Los Angeles Times. August 1, 1987. Retrieved 2011-06-17.
  23. ^ Fein, Paul (2005, p. 253). You Can Quote Me on That. Published by Brassey's. OCLC 55679987. ISBN 1574889257
  24. ^ Alfano, Peter (1988). Tennis: Ascendant Agassi Wins Tournament. The New York Times. Retrieved on 9 November 2008.
  25. ^ The Politics of Sports – Is Serena Williams Career Permanently Marred by 2009 US Open? (13 September 2009). NBC Sports: Newsvine.com. Retrieved on 14 September 2009.
  26. ^ Russ, Dick (2008). Ugly American' bill passes committee; allows more foreign models to work in U.S. WKYC Cleveland. Retrieved on 25 September 2008.
  27. ^ Debusmann, Bernd (2008). Obama and a makeover for the 'ugly American'. International Herald Tribune. Retrieved on 1 January 2009.
  28. ^ Walt, Vivienne (2003). French see Bush as the ugly American. USA Today. Retrieved on 1 January 2009.
  29. ^ Berrigan, Frida (2003). The "Ugly American Problem" in Colombia. Foreign Policy in Focus. Retrieved on 1 January 2009.
  30. ^ LeBoutillier, John (2003). The New Ugly American. Newsmax. Retrieved on 1 January 2009.
  31. ^ Sherwell, Philip (18 March 2007). Straight-talking McCain vows to fix world's view of the 'ugly American'. The Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-06-11.
  32. ^ Mitchell, Elvis (2004). Eurotrip (2004). The New York Times: Movies. Retrieved on 18 September 2009.
  33. ^ Hollywood gets ugly (7 November 2003). BBC: Collective. Retrieved on 18 September 2009.
  34. ^ We Can Thank Hollywood for Our Ugly-American Image. Los Angeles Times. January 21, 2003. Retrieved 2011-06-17.
  35. ^ Kelly, Christopher (June 20, 2011). 'City 2' heroines come across as ugly Americans. The Charlotte Observer. Retrieved 2011-06-20.
  36. ^ Richard P. Horwitz, Ed.,The American Studies Anthology
  37. ^ MacArthur, John, R. (2001). The Ugly American Mindset. Toronto Globe. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  38. ^ Lederer, William & Burdick, Eugene (1958). The Ugly American. New York: Norton. pp. 205–209.  OCLC: 287560.
  39. ^ Mutual Security Program (1956–57). Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Abilene, Kansas. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  40. ^ Stesney, Julie (2005). The Ugly American. Failure Magazine. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.
  41. ^ Twain, Mark & Cardwell, Guy. [1927](1984). The innocents abroad ; Roughing it. New York, NY. OCLC: 10799668. ISBN 0940450259. Retrieved online March 16, 2008.