Thursday, August 14, 2008

Woe betide whoever dares say my kid isn't cute enough!!!

Warning: If my blog or this post disappears overnight, you know it's due to some mystical forces of the Chinese government.

I'm brought up to write proper English, and am sickened when people over-use exclamation marks (e.g. Wah lau eh!!! This noodle is very nice to eat leh!!!). But, I simply had to title my blog with (at least) three exclamation marks to convey the strong feelings I have for the subject of this post.

Sad news about the Olympics, and it's not about the fact that (obviously and NOT suprisingly), Singapore has yet to pick up any medal, or that some Chinese hot-for-gold medallist got silver or bronze instead. Instead, my sadness is linked to the story of two Chinese girls (that's LIN Miaoke on the left, and YANG Peiyi on the right).

Quick question before you read on: Do you think both girls are cute, or is "angel-faced" Lin cuter than short-haired, crooked-teethed Yang?

Now, read on:

Pretty, pixie-faced Lin Miaoke became an overnight star (or in her own father's words, "an international singing sensation") after she appeared in the opening of the Beijing Olympics, singing the all-too-famous patriotic Chinese song "Ode to the Motherland". She became a hit with her sweet voice, beautiful red dress (and what I think is an overdone plastic smile and too much make-up for a nine-year-old). Fair enough.

Problem arises when reports have surfaced that Lin was lip-synching (oh well, international pop stars lip-sync too, and it has also been reported that Luciano Pavarotti's performance at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin was pre-recorded as the wintry cold made a live performance impossible). However, this has been pushed to the limit when horrors of all horrors, it was also revealed that Lin was not lip-synching to her own voice, but to that of another young girl, seven-year-old Yang Peiyi.

In China's keen attempts to present its "best" on the international stage, Yang was not deemed good enough to sing at the opening. You can read more about the details in this report, but details are summarized as such:

Chen Qigang, the ceremony's music director, had been asked last minute by an unamed Politburo official to replace Yang with Lin, according to an interview with Beijing Radio. This is what Chen said (I've combined various parts of his quotes into the below abstract):

"The audience will understand that it's in the national interest... The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen... Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi's voice was the most outstanding.... We had to make that choice. It was fair both for Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi...We combined the perfect voice and the perfect performance."

Obviously, the end results are far from perfect - Yang's looks were just not cute enough for some official (who I'd assume does not have kids of his own and thus judges innocent kids harshly based on looks).

In my personal view, China's quest for perfection has really extended beyond acceptable boundaries - it's quite shameful and saddening (as well as maddening!) to think that poor Yang has to live in the shadows of being deemed uncute, and even Lin is a victim for being deemed to have a lousy voice. Who needs "perfect" when you are just a kid, for goodness sake?! There are many comments online with debate and disgust about this and obviously, alot of local media have been told to remove the story, suggesting that Chinese authorities are indeed uncomfortable with the fact that they've been exposed.

Of course, as with all matters, the other side of the coin has a camp of people who agree with the lame "national interests" excuse that China needs to present its best to the world at such an important event. However, who cares about "best" when your "best" turns out to be "fake"? And isn't one of the key elements of Olympic spirit about "fair play"? Hubby Wayne offers his two cents' worth as he's more in tune with the psyche of his fellow Chinese citizens: if Yang were to appear on stage, there would also be criticisms of why a "cuter" girl was not chosen - you can't please a nation of 1.3 billion, and it's easy for us non-Chinese people to look on and criticize; guess you can't please everybody whilst balancing "national interests"!

However, even more heart-tugging is Yang's sincere response (and hopefully nobody had to hold a knife to her dad's neck to force her to make such a politically-correct statement), that "just having her voice used for the opening ceremony was an honor". Now, why can't we adults and the folks in question exercise such innocence?

I shall end my rambling outburst with the mission of the Olympic Spirit:

"Our vision and purpose is clear - To be an icon of Olympic values and ideals, to inspire and motivate the youth of the world to be the best they can be."

Mark R. Dzenick
Chairman - Olympic Spirit Group
Note to guilty parties: Key phrase in above is "to be the best they CAN be", and certainly, definitely, absolutely not "to be the best they APPEAR to be". (Cue: Shake head and give a heavy sigh...)

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