Potemkin Olympics: Little Lin Miaoke's Lip Synch Anthem
A few months back it was the folks who were being displaced from their homes because they were eyesores that needed to come down. Then it was keeping the migrant country-bumpkin masses out of Beijing temporarily. Last week it was the vendors whose shabby storefronts were walled off - which not only makes sure they don't get any part of the Olympic tourist trade, but that their regulars can't even get to them. And the other day it was the news that the 9 year old cutie-pie who sang the Chinese national anthem at the Olympic opening ceremonies was lip-synching the voice of a 7 year old who was deemed not pretty enough to represent her country.
God knows, China is not the first country to try to sweep its dirt under the rug , and make sure that what the world sees is prettified. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that at this very moment Denver and Minneapolis-St.Paul - hosts to the upcoming Democratic and Republican National Conventions aren't painting over graffiti, and engaging in talks on what to do about keeping the downtown homeless out of sight without actually seeming to be doing anything about keeping the downtown homeless out of sight.
Nor is it unknown that the pretty face got the part in the musical and mouthed someone else's words. I know I'm going way back in time here, but I seem to remember that in the movie My Fair Lady, we weren't hearing Audrey Hepburn sing, nor was that Natalie Wood warbling in West Side story.
Still, it's disheartening to learn that the charming and adorable Lin Miaoke got the nod because she is China doll cute - and a minor celeb already, who has appeared in ads, has her own, blog, etc. And now, by some light, she's an "international singing sensation."
The little girl who was spurned, Yang Peiyi, is apparently, comparatively speaking, more of a plain Jane. But oh, that voice! (And, truthfully, if you look at the pictures, the one child is decidedly "cutesie cute" and the other is "sweet cute." Well, I'm an old fuss-budget crank who'll take sweet cute anytime.)
I understand that performers, especially women, have to have the entire package - looks, body, talent, and "it factor" - in order to have great success. (Talent and "it factor" seem to be enough for men, or I'm missing something about Bono et al.) And that skillful application of makeup and the help of a hairdresser can go quite a distance to beautify most anyone.
But these are very young girls we're talking about here, and it's not a good message to be sending any of the little girls watching the Olympics that what you look like trumps talent. (Or, as is often the case, brains, personality, kindness, or what we used to call "what's inside.")
...a member of China's Politburo asked for the last-minute change to match one girl's face with another's voice, the ceremony's chief music director said in an interview with Beijing Radio.
"The audience will understand that it's in the national interest," Chen Qigang said in a video of the interview posted online Sunday night. (Source: MSNBC.)
"The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen," Chen said. "Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi's voice was the most outstanding."
During a live rehearsal soon before the ceremony, the Politburo member said Miaoke's voice "must change," Chen said in the radio interview. He didn't name the official.
For a country that already has a not-so-great recent history with how it values girl babies, this isn't the message they should be sending.
If Miaoke has the personality and presence, what's wrong with letting her croak out the song? If Peiyi has to voice, why not put her in a nice dress, put a big bow in her hair, and let her sing. I can't imagine that many people would have reacted negatively. Peiyi would have just come across as a regular kid with a wonderful voice.
For her part, Peiyi has apparently said that "just having her voice used for the opening ceremony was an honor." And her tutor, Wang Liping,
...wrote in her blog that Peiyi is both cute and well-behaved, with a love for Peking opera.
"She doesn't like to show off. She's easygoing," Wang wrote.Nice voice. Well-behaved. Doesn't like to show off. Easygoing.
You go, girl!
Maybe you won't turn out to be a superstar, but little Yang Peiyi sure sounds like the kind of kid you like to have around.
Let's hope her school isn't full of mean kids who will bully her for her looks.
If China wants to erect a bunch of Potemkin villages for their big moment, well, have it it.
But if China had been looking for an opportunity to show up superficial, looks-obsessed, decadent Western culture, they sure missed it on this one.