Wednesday, August 13, 2008
China dazzled the world with its $100-million Olympics opening ceremony which sought to present the image of a Utopian China replete with the perfect baby teeth of a little girl who sang a powerful ode to her country. Except the exquisite voice was not hers. It was the recorded voice of another little girl deemed less pretty than the one lip-synching on center stage.
The charming image of Lin Miaoke, nine-years old, "singing" her heart out in a red dress, appeared around the world while the unseen real singer, seven-year old Yang Peiyi, was replaced at the last minute because a senior Communist Party official thought it more important to feature a prettier child.
"The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen," he said. "Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi's voice was the most outstanding."
You would think the Olympics would be about authenticity, competitors from every country doing their personal best. How is it possible, then, to justify choosing a "prettier" child over a genuinely talented one to represent her country?
In 1964, when Warner Brothers made a film of the Broadway hit show, "My Fair Lady," Julie Andrews, who had originated the role and garnered multiple awards in the US and Europe, was not cast as Eliza Doolittle because studio executives didn't consider her gorgeous enough. The role went to Audrey Hepburn, whose immense charm and beauty could never be disputed, but she was also tone-deaf. Her musical numbers were sung by Marni Nixon, for decades the movie voice of every actress who couldn't sing.
I had hoped we were past such superficial lunacy, but extreme reverence for physical perfection seems to be a worldwide phenomenon which won't quit. It is particularly disheartening when it trumps ability and sends young people the unhealthy message that no matter how hard they work to develop their talents, they will never be as good as those who were accidentally born beautiful.
In the words of Confucius, that other Chinese dude, "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."