Eva Longoria has become the focus of a little cultural storm in Morocco. Nothing too grand, but enough to get the commentators and the glitterati chattering. Our own QOG (Queen of Gossip), Felicity Chambers-Beauchamp couldn't resist the story, so here is her report:
If you are a fan of Desperate Housewives ( and, my dears, I am certainly not suggesting you might be), then Eva Jacqueline Longoria Parker who plays the part of Gabrielle Solis, will be familiar to you. Eva Longoria has always a bit of a headline grabber. She has graced the cover of Vogue and , more recently, in all the US gossip rags, following a small car accident. She even went down the path to perfume. One wonders how big a Desperate Housewives fan you would have to be to want to buy her perfume (described by most as "forgettable).
Anyway, all that pales into insignificance compared to the war being waged over her image on real estate billboards here in Marrakech. Talk about cultural shock. Call me old-fashioned, call me a prude, or (as I like to think) call me "culturally sensitive". But the sight of billboards with Eva's visage displayed came as a bit of a shock. Not that she might not be called attractive, by some. No, it was not the face. It was the cleavage! Oh dear! I can hear you tut-tutting and pointing out that the poor girl really doesn't have much in that department. Well, maybe it's a photo-fix jobby, or the light was just right, or the angle, but it sure looked like cleavage to me.
So what's wrong with a bit of cleavage? Ah, it is all about context. In a gloriously written article on Moroccoboard, that great girl, Nora Fitzgerald, sets the context wonderfully...
Imagine you are driving through peaceful Amazigh country, passing mud villages, olive orchards, and farmers harvesting their year’s supply of wheat. Men and women’s voices rise through the sleepy sunlit air, singing traditional harvest songs, sheep roam in search of shreds of pasturage, an old man in a jellaba rides by on a donkey. Nothing could mar this bucolic serenity.
Then, all of a sudden, why it’s Giant Eva Longoria.
Go Nora! What we are dealing with here is a lack of suitable photoshopping. If the art director had thought about it he might have considered that in Berber culture some body parts are considered to be private. He might have considering buttoning Ms Longoria up, or adding a scarf! But no. From Marrakech to Casablanca and beyond the cleavage is on display. For what? To sell real estate! I swear it's true. Condos! "Votre Appartement"!
The crafty locals are not taking this calmly. In fact a group of folks with black spray-cans are on the job. Not very artistically, it might be said, but certainly effective.
We are sure to hear more of this, but in the meantime do read the divine Nora's piece. You will find it here: Moroccoboard
As Nora was always brighter than me, I'll leave you with some of her wise words.
It’s the juxtaposition of two completely different realities that is so unsettling. On the one hand, we have this world of image and fantasy, of unimaginable riches and luxuries, of ersatz culture that attempts to package and commodify the Moroccan experience with no soul whatsoever. All of it a vacuous Orientalist version of a Morocco pandering to the every whim of the upper crust. A vision of Morocco that would not hesitate, for example, to introduce alcohol to a valley that has been dry forever, with no thought given to how it might destroy the lives of the locals.
On the other hand, we have the traditional lives of the Moroccan Berbers. Berber families that are still connected to the natural cycles in the most primordial of ways. Whose actions and intentions stem from a deep faith in God, enjoying the contentment that ensues. Whose meals are bread from their own land, olive oil from their own trees, served in clay dishes from the Ourika river, sitting on rag rugs they’ve made with their own hands from scraps of old clothes. There is nothing more real, beautiful, spiritual, sustainable. They, and all the traditional peoples of the world, are the original “organic, local and slow” ways that we crave and long to return to.