Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Style v. Substance - Olympic Style

I have to admit, I haven’t exactly been caught up in Olympic fever. However, like any other non-sports fan who likes a good story, I am still willing to get caught up in the controversy of the faked aspects of the opening ceremonies.

My first thought on the matter was that it was, if not exactly outrageous, kinda ridiculous . . . it reminded me of reading about how, during the cultural revolution, farmers would take all of the rice from several fields and transplant it into one plot so that when Party leaders came to visit the village, they’d see how much it was prospering. While I am by no mean an expert of all things Chinese, computer-generating fireworks when the actual ones came out a bit fuzzy seemed like just another example of Chinese smoke and mirrors – a desire to put appearance before substance.

But then the more I thought about it, I thought “so what” – the opening ceremonies is a show, and it’s hardly a trend unique to China to put flash before substance in the name of a good show. Are the opening ceremonies of the Olympics any different than a good movie – the point is to use spectacle to move people and create a mood. Having perfect fireworks achieves that goal better than ones that are supposed to look like footprints, but don’t quite. The producers of the opening ceremonies, after all, are not the athletes – they are not there to be judged on the technical success of one specific performance.

But then I’ve been thinking more about the little girl who lip-synced during the show – apparently the real singer wasn’t cute enough, and China didn’t think she portrayed the right image to the world. While that may be just another example of pageantry and the desire to put across that perfect spectacle, I find it more troubling. Not because it was lip-syncing in general, but because it is sad that in “putting its best face forward” a country would only want to showcase beautiful people. Apparently, the little girl who did the singing was very talented, and the message in keeping her hidden from view is that that isn’t enough –her talent is undermined by her appearance. That’s a sad message to send out to little girls the world over at the dawn of the Olympics, an event that is supposed to be about celebrating skill and talent.


Simone said...

especially because the other little girl (if the photos I saw in the paper can be trusted) is also quite cute - most seven year olds are! no matter if their teeth are a bit crooked or their faces too chubby. It is all a bit perverse.

Ryan said...

Doesn't that just say it all about the olympics?