This story, in which the Beijing Olympics showed one little girl lip-synching to another’s voice, because the singer “wasn’t cute enough” is all over the news and the blogosphere. And the tone is the same all over: the Chinese wanted a perfect ceremony, they care about flawlessness, etc., etc. You can almost hear the “We would never do anything like that in America,” it’s so loud between the lines.
It’s a made-for-Body-Impolitic story, the perfect child and the (undeniably cute) imperfect child behind the scenes. And yes, it’s a sad indictment of people who choose a particular kind of perfection and decide that it’s all there is to beauty. But what most people aren’t saying is that this is hardly unique to the Chinese. There’s a particular way that Americans curl our lips and criticize others for doing exactly what we as a country would do ourselves, given half a chance. Anyone remember James Tiptree, Jr.’s all-American story, “The Girl Who Was Plugged In”? And for me, that outweighs the pathos of this particular story.
When we’re perfectly happy to let the best singer sing, regardless of what she looks like; when we never choose someone for looks over talent, when beauty contests aren’t a national sport; then we can point fingers at China. Meanwhile, I think we should be cleaning our own house.