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.
Today is George Clooney's fiftieth birthday. Though entertainment publications, news outlets, and blogs are issuing a variety of announcements for the occasion (the AARP even has a little item) the event, as of this morning, was passing relatively unnoticed in America's mainstream newspapers. That's right: Germans are outdoing us in George Clooney birthday-celebration race. Not the French, mind you, nor the British, both of whose press last covered Clooney when he got named as a witness in the Berlusconi trial. Spain is even pretty blasé about the event. This really seems to be just the Germans. And they're particularly fascinated by his late pet pig.
Compared to the exactly zero major American newspapers that covered Clooney's birthday, the big German newspapers had multiple pieces: Die Welt has two, Die Zeit one, Süddeutsche Zeitung two, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung two--but hey, you need to cover the slideshows and video footage. Naturally, some of the praise for Clooney's charm, clothes, physique and personality can be found in American coverage. A Süddeutsche Zeitung piece manages to hit all four in one sentence:
He looks as if he could, after removing his noble jacket and, without a second's hesitation, kneeling down in Armani trousers on the asphalt, change a tire without noticing that the woman with the flat tire who stopped him was staring at his sixpack, visible beneath the cloth--while he attentively listened to this lady recount her lovesick woes. The lady would discover within seconds that she had a new heartache ...
The article also includes some Clooney praise from the gay perspective. But herein lies the Teutonic fascination, it appears: appealing as he may be to both sexes, Clooney doesn't do relationships. Except, as multiple stories note, when it comes to the porcine variety. They want to know: what has Clooney's potbellied pig got that human women ain't got? Or rather, what did it have? (After eighteen years of sharing Clooney's life, house, and bed, the pig passed away in 2006.)
Die Welt puts it plainly to starstruck ladies: "when one puts aside all these praiseworthy attributes you're left with a man that defines himself by his pal-ish existence and whose longest relationship was with a potbellied pig. ... A heart for pigs. In real life that doesn't go down so well with women." The other Die Welt piece, despite being entitled "George Clooney--at fifty as sexy as others at twenty," mentions it too: "he has seemed only to want a long-term relationship with his potbellied pig." The Süddeutsche Zeitung closes its otherwise laudatory piece with a lingering, slightly amused look at the pet: "The two were fat friends [yes, "fat," or "thick"--like "fast friends" in English, only German has a different word], with Max at 136 kilograms constantly remaining the fatter. George and Max gave interviews together, lived together in a villa and even shared a bed. In 2006 Clooney's longtime partner died, and the Hollywood star grieved for weeks." Now, the paper notes, Clooney supposedly is in contact with the pig's spirit through an animal psychic.
Of course, despite all this, he's still George Clooney, and Die Welt regrets that Germany has no Denis McDonough, the Clooney lookalike who functions as Obama's security adviser, and whom the German paper amusingly insists "everyone knows" or is aware of. "The German government unfortunately has no George Clooney, nor does the Italian government. In France every second politician thinks he's as handsome as George Clooney. In the Vatican Georg Gänswein, the pope's private secretary, fills the role."
Well. At least there's one Clooneyesque German, then. It's a crying shame he's all the way in Rome, isn't it? Where's the national pride?
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.