This is like the movie version of My Fair Lady, with the studio casting Audrey Hepburn instead of Julie Andrews and then using Marni Nixon’s voice: the little girl who sang in the opening ceremonies was the face China was looking for, but the voice was provided by a less adorable seven-year-old. God, how depressing. We’ll never get over our perfection-obsession, will we?
(Because I can’t resist the Biblical reference, I have to admit this quote also sprang to mind: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”)
Predictably, people are pissed:
The outrage was especially heated over the cold calculation used to appraise the girls. “Please save the last bit of trueness in our children,” wrote one person with an online name of Weirderhua. “They think Yang Peiyi’s smile is not cute enough? What we need is truth, not some fake loveliness! I hope the kids will not be hurt. This is not their fault.”
Another person added: “Children are innocent. Don’t contaminate their minds!”
Though I’ll happily debate the “children are innocent” canard, otherwise I agree. It’s this kind of stage management that makes people either strive for the unattainable or become cynical about everything. Like the New Yorker article about photoshopping, which made it clear you can never fully trust what you see. Do you think there would be so much conspiracy theorizing — about the moon landing, 9/11, and Britain’s 7/7 — otherwise?
The idea that a child needs to not only have the best voice but the best look is American Idol-type nonsense. So is the idea that no female Olympian is complete, not even with a gold medal, if we don’t know that she also has a husband and a baby in the wings, as a Johnson & Johnson ad last night made clear, or is about to start a family, as the media and announcers during the women’s beach volleyball competition kept stressing. Already they have to compete in bikinis, so that we can objectify them even as we admire them.
Seriously, isn’t it enough that these athletes do unreal things with their minds and bodies to perform for us on an international stage? Do we really need them to shrink back to human size once the cameras are off?