Laurie Toby Edison

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Lip-Synching the Olympics: Looking Under the Headlines

Debbie says:

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.

8 Responses to “Lip-Synching the Olympics: Looking Under the Headlines”

  1. Serene Says:

    I have mentioned lately that I love you, yes? Yes. Good.

  2. CordyQ Says:

    You speak the truth, yes it is sad that that happened.. . and I have mostly heard it from the viewpoint of oh how horrible China is to do that. We do that just as much, in that way (think of Martha Wash the singer of the super famous song from C&C music factory though in the video a skinnier model lip synced her part) which sucks, but also think of the amazing incredible singers, etc who are discovered and then forced and pressured to torture themselves to meet societies beauty standards just to continue doing what they love to do. That to me seems even sadder, I would love to see them embrace their talent, and be free from all that stress and punishment.

  3. B.S.A.G. Says:

    Oh no, America would never do something like that! Here and here are just two examples that immediately came to my mind when this story first broke.

    And that Tiptree story is a classic. I’m being reminded of her work all over the place these days.

  4. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    Now that you mention it, it seems unlikely that an average-looking little girl in the US would have won the singing contest in the first place. Or am I being too cynical?

  5. Emmy Says:

    Cynical as I can be, when someone was being all shocked and suggesting that *we* would never do that, I shrugged and said that I figured in the US, they’d just have the prettier one pose AND sing, figuring that ‘pretty’ was more important than ‘best voice’.

    Post Milli Vanilli, I think the US would be embarassed to have a model lip synching, but I suspect they’d figure cute trumps musical.

    Unless the singer was sufficiently notable in her own right, at which case they’d just throw a makeover at her and MAKE her be prettier.

  6. Eucritta Says:

    I was reminded of the 1978 Academy Awards, myself, the one in which Debbie Boone’s performance of ‘You Light Up My Life’ was interpreted — or so it was claimed — in ASL by a group of pretty deaf children. But the signs were gibberish, and the children weren’t deaf.

  7. wellroundedtype2 Says:

    My favorite movie of all time is “Singin’ in the Rain” — and the scene where Don, RF and Cosmo all pull up the curtain that Kathy Seldin is singing behind. Not exactly a new story.

  8. Stef Says:

    I agree with Nancy and Emmy. In America, an “insufficiently attractive” person just doesn’t get to perform in public, regardless of their talents.

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