Looking at the United States Through Distorted Lenses
Graber, Doris A.
The image of the United States in the Middle East has plummeted dramatically since 9/11. To stem growing anti-Americanism and improve America's image, the U.S. State Department has substantially increased public diplomacy staffs and program funding in selected Middle East countries. Although officials stationed in the Middle East give their public diplomacy operations favorable ratings, the image of the United States remains bad and continues to decline despite occasional upward spikes. In this article the author argues that television entertainment programs, particularly American situation comedies broadcast throughout the Middle East, can be another reason for the continued low regard for Americans and for the United States. An analysis of three American television programs (The West Wing, That 70's Show, and Friends) shows that the images presented by the programs are distorted and portray an unrealistic picture of life in America. The fact that the attitudes of Middle Easterners are more in tune with television drama images than with their more realistic public diplomacy counterparts leads to the conclusion that the shows trump the State Department's public diplomacy efforts.Show more [+] Less [-]