Amanda Knox Still Plagued by Stupid American Stereotypes

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In today's edition of U.K.'s The Telegraph, Cristina Odone writes about the vastly different ways the Amanda Knox case has been perceived in the States and abroad. While Americans celebrated Knox's acquittal, Odone writes, Italians outside the courtroom "booed and heckled, shouting "Give us Amanda!,' shaking their fists and threatening rough justice." Odone doesn't necessarily buy into the Italian view, and yet her own piece illustrates the kind of cartoonish American stereotypes--and, in some cases, downright anti-Americanism--that has fed the prosecution and press coverage in Europe.

Odone writes that Italians resented "the spectacle of a foreign girl who could buy special treatment - an appeal - denied most of their compatriots." The idea that Knox is a "typical" rich American runs through other international pieces as well, some of which pointedly note that the woman who just spent four years of her life in prison flew home business class (a Telegraph blog even cites the menu and her access to free champagne), as if that was evidence of her privilege.

What Odone and her colleagues in Britain and Italy fail to mention is that Knox's family members hocked themselves to the high heavens in order to support Knox through her legal ordeal. The Seattle Times puts their debt in the seven figures, and chronicles the moving sacrifices they made, including second mortgages and, on the part of Knox's sister, dropping out of college so she could work to fund trips to Italy. Knox's mom is a teacher; her dad is a controller for Seattle Opera. Knox's West Seattle home looks homey but ordinary. We're not talking a Dynasty or Bill Gates lifestyle here.

Then there's the image of Knox as a depraved sexpot. SW wrote last week about the sexism that shapes these perceptions, culminating in a lawyer calling Knox a "she-devil" and "witch." It's not just sexism, though. Knox's nationality likely helped this image along.

Odone-- who goes into overdrive describing Knox's "glossy hair, unplucked eyebrows, and nubile body"-- illustrates this phenomenon with some silly literary allusions.

The American abroad, with her self-possessed expression and wild reputation, tantalised us with her contradictions: part ingénue, like Henry James's Daisy Miller, she seemed to have left a cloistered American upbringing and stumbled straight into her misfortune, seduced by seedy continentals who exploited her wide-eyed openness. But another version of the Amanda Knox story seemed to owe more to a different American novel, The Secret History. In Donna Tartt's psychological thriller, a close-knit band of university students, in thrall to a sinister professor, collude in bacchanalian orgies that climax in the murder of one of their own.

Now that Knox's conviction has been overturned, the overseas press has largely tamped down its outrageous portraiture. The Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera observes Knox's lack of makeup for her flight home, as if that's unexpected. The paper also reports the surprising news that Knox wrote the Italians a thank-you letter, saying many had offered support (not the ones crying for her blood outside court, obviously).

Some media remain true to form, however. Britain's sleaziest tabloid, The Sun, today carries a piece on Knox's "prison sex ordeal," a misleading tease that turns out to be about how a guard harassed her for details on her sex life. And a British TV host yesterday asked his audience if they would sleep with Knox, posing the question this way: "Foxy Knoxy: Would Ya?"

Clearly, the world still loves to believe that American women are wildly promiscuous, even if they're not murderers.

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