Friday, October 22, 2010

Eva Longoria's Billboard Fiasco

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.


Brahim said...

"I can hear you tut-tutting and pointing out that the poor girl really doesn't have much in that department."

Mocking a woman's physical appearance...classy. Maybe you can include a link to your favorite plastic surgeon so that your female readers will be able to meet your high standards. They might not have enough body image issues already.

It was an interesting article but it reeked of petty jealousies.

Anna said...

Oh dear! Brahim! I think this is a cultural difference This is a fab piece of satire about the very thing you complain about ! Nobody is mocking anybody You missed the point

Driss said...

Hello. Thank you Anna I was going to say also the same. We do understand satire but I think our humour is not exactly the same.
Thanks to the blog for making me smile. The billboards are not so much bad as bad taste.

Sarah said...

Very funny Felicity! And Nora's article is beautifully written. Bring on the black paint sisters!

Anonymous said...

Who had the bright idea that these billboards would be a good thing. They should be taken down. What does the face of an almost unknown b-grade brat pack actress have to do with Morocco anyway?

Willem said...

Anna, I am not so sure that the problem is cultural difference - I don't have a Moroccan sounding name. At best the article is a piece of poor satire at worst gutter press.

I don't care for Ms. Longoria one way or the other, but bringing up nonsense about her car accident, her perfume line and her supposed lack of cleavage (to say nothing of slagging her looks), in an article purportedly to be about an inappropriate image on a billboard in Morocco and the attendant cultural insensitivity, seems to belie the motive of the author.

Heaven forbid any one watch crass American television culture when one can instead posture as a culturally sensitive ex-pat championing the down trodden while immersing oneself in the mystical world of sufism!

Yes I'm poking fun, but seriously, surely the problem is the image & placement and not the person it represents. I doubt the placement and design of the billboard had anything to do with Ms. Longoria, as the author well knows.

I like a good laugh as much as the next person but the article came of more as the petty sniping of a minor celebrity than a grand satire.

Dave said...

Way too serious! It is just fun and the "agony aunt" spoof was perfect Felicity. More please! Bring it on.

Anonymous said...

Poor Eva has nothing to do with the billboard, you should blame the Real Estate company instead. And its curious people get upset seeing some cleavage when Morocco is the country that tops the list of dirty searches in the internet...

Angel Dust said...

Yes, of course why should a bimbo have ethical standards? But Morocco and "dirty" searches? What a load of unsubstantiated B ... S .... !
Anyway I loved the article

Surf Girl said...

Morocco is no better or worse than anywher on the planet. Eva is just making money and would not give a tinker's cus about offending.
I love the fact that Morocco has the "spiritual" heart like Fes and the flesh pits like Marrakesh and Nador.
Keep up the good work. And happy fifth birthday VFF !

Anonymous said...

I have seen more flesh and cleavage on some of your belly dancers. what is the big deal?

Helena said...

Willem, well put, and you really got that character description spot on.

Driss said...

Belly dancing is not Moroccan.

Sally said...

Hello Felicity,
Thanks for the fun story. And Nora, good work.

I can't understand the prudes who comment. But I do note that most of them are men, Ha!

By the way I would like to add my voice to the congratulations to The View from Fez. I have been reading it since 2007 when I first came to Morocco. It is addictive. I have cooked all the recipes you list, read all the books and can not wait to come back again.

My husband is trying to get some time off for a vaccation next year and hopefully we can return and spend most of the trip in Fez, rather than rush around like we did last time.

So Happy birthday View from Fez.

Optical Laser said...

. All of it a vacuous Orientalist version of a Morocco pandering to the every whim of the upper crust.
Well said Nora. Very perceptive article.