This bit of news is really, really old and I was not going to post on this at all, but I began writing an introduction to another post that eventually evolved into its own long-winded post, and so here we are with me talking politics all over again because I couldn’t bear to just drop what I had already spent time on. Btw, Epic post basically means political post now.
China, as you may know from reading other sites, has recently decided to ban lip-synching from commercial performances, which in my opinion was a decision that came from older people in the industry frustrated by the recent flood of idol singers and not for other reasons that western news sources like to conjecture about, such as the lip-synching girl, Lin Maoke at the Olympics. Basically the first 3/4 of this post talks about why I am so pissed at how the articles that came out about this revelation (revealed by Chinese committe head himself) were so ridiculously flawed, as the articles often were during the Olympics, and I think it’s ridiculous that this is still being stated as truth, like the Variety article I linked to. The last 1/4 talks about the Chinese entertainment circle and how and whom the ban would affect. Beware, this is even longer than my Gong Li Epic Post.
So let me start off with that particular story, the story of the “ugly, chubby-cheeked, buck-toothed” girl and be like all the other journalists who love to bring it up at whim for their own amusement, regardless of the facts, and regardless if the way they spin their articles would be hurting either girl. It’s something I feel I must write about before diving into how it actually may relate to Chinese entertainment…since most people still assume that somehow China’s Olympic Committee in fact did say, you’re ugly when that’s not quite the case.
Let me tell you how I encountered this bit of news myself. My mother read the the transcript of the interview that spawned this whole debacle on the internet, in which the music director stated why they chose another girl to sing and another girl to perform. I didn’t think much of it, because I wasn’t really interested in that part of the Olympics – the opening ceremony had quite a few things that were more interesting than that little girl’s singing. Then the next day I read the onslaught of English-language reports spawned by this interview which started saying it was because she was ugly. What? I thought. I don’t remember that…I don’t remember anybody criticizing her cheeks or teeth. Or saying she was too ugly.
Well, they didn’t.
From the Sydney Morning Herald, which sums it up quite nicely what happened:
If there is a single story that has been used to support the Western world’s pessimistic assessment [about China[, it is about how China’s faceless leaders ordered a seven-year-old singer off the opening ceremony stage because she had “a chubby face and crooked teeth”. It was Yang Peiyi’s voice that sang Ode to the Motherland to the world but it was another girl, nine-year-old Lin Miaoke, who mimed the words on stage.
And so the story was told, in various incarnations, in most of the best-known news outlets in Australia and across the Western world.
Opinion writers used these reports to build a larger argument. A writer in The Age said the incident “represents a microcosm of China’s own two-faced approach to the Olympics and, indeed, the world in general”.
A Baltimore Sun writer, Kathleen Park, likened the episode to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. “Sentimentality doesn’t enter into the totalitarian equation. In such a world, innocence is irrelevant and deceit is a lesson best learned young,” she wrote.
The problem with this argument about China’s totalitarian tendencies is that there is no evidence that Yang was callously replaced because she was too ugly or had bad teeth.
Bloggers in China and Hong Kong, notably Roland Song at EastSouthWestNorth, have combed through transcripts of all the comments by the important players in the opening ceremony and found that none of them have publicly said anything of the sort.
The closest was Chen Qigan, the general music designer of the opening ceremony, who told China Central TV that organisers had tried a number of singers and rehearsed with Yang, but made a last-minute change.
Chen’s comments strongly imply an unnamed leader considered that Yang’s replacement, nine year-old Lin Miaoke, had a “flawless” image. But the bit about Yang’s alleged ugliness, chubby face or uneven teeth was a Western media description repeated a thousand times across the world – as if it was the verified judgment of the Chinese Government.
Hundreds of foreign journalists, most of whom cannot speak Chinese and had been in China for only a week or so, replicated each other’s stories without bothering or having the time or ability to check the evidence themselves.
The fact that there were lip-synching was not a hidden fact. Both girls names were on the Olympic program, and both families knew. In fact, both girls were apparently at the stadium from pictures taken. Then the reasons for this were nonchalantly given in an interview with the music director in which nothing was said about actual physical features. To me it suggests that 9-year-old Lin Mao Ke was simply the best performer…Yang Peiyi would have been cute, but it’s most likely that at age 7 she would not have handled the spotlight of billions of viewers as well as the well-seasoned Lin Maoke, who had already appeared in ads etc.
In reviewing the primary evidence, I found that none of the principals (general director Zhang Yimou, music director Chen Qigang, the Lin and Yang families, the unnamed Politburo member now pinned on future topdog Ji Jinping, Sarah Brightman, and so on) said anything of the sort. Therefore, my interest in this case is how a convenient heart-tugging story detail gets fabricated and is made into an inflated urban legend without any accountability to anyone anywhere. That is the real story that I want to present here.
What can be done about that? NOTHING as far as I can see, because the western media apparently don’t care. Rather, they continue to propagate this meme. When challenged, they will refer to previous western reports which they regard as evidence unless proven otherwise. This is how a meme gets propagated.
Who started this meme? From ESWN/ Blog at Fools Mountain, and whose work can be found at the above think, using internet caches and dates, they found that the earliest reference was by The Times, and there were no mentions of crooked teeth or chubby cheeks at all from the Chinese side. From ESWN:
Conclusion: the meme of “crooked teeth” and “chubby cheek” was started by Jane Macartney and Ashling O’Connor of The Times (The UK newspaper).
This newspaper as I have mentioned, has been flawed to the bone when it comes to reporting on China. This revelation came soley from compiling reports for the Gong Li Epic Post, for which I began pulling articles I had read before that were vague and almost erroneous with wording, and realized most of them were from the Times. In particular, Jane Mccartney was the one who wrote the article about “Most” Chinese branding Gong Li a traitor without a shread of evidence to back this superlative word…citing no polls of any kind. Furthermore, they were the ones who cropped out images of Tibetans beating up Chinese police for their reports on the Tibet riots, and they were the ones to tell the Londoners, hey, Chinese netizens hated what we pulled together for the Olympics Closing Ceremony.
I would like to personally confess here and now, my utter loathing of this reporter, and the newspaper she works with. One mistake may be justified, but all of these added together make for a terrible record. I want to write this woman a strongly worded letter but I would probably find some attractive guys to worry about and not bother.
What really galled me about that article，besides the fact that they blatantly tried to mislead people with their wording, was that they conveniently ignored the fact that out of all the single famous singers in China they picked Liu Huan to sing at the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Liu Huan, who is much chubbier cheeked and with more crooked teeth than Yang Peiyi ever could be. And they didn’t even make him change out of his usual attire, which is just a black shirt and pants. So for them to “conjecture” that they dropped the first girl because they wanted to keep up appearances and that she was “ugly” is bull.
L-R Li Yundi and Lang Lang
Guess what…they chose the fatter pianist!
Furthermore, if they didn’t want chubby, they could have used Li Yundi instead of Lang Lang the pianist in the opening ceremony. They are both equally the two top pianists in the world, and in the classical circle, Li Yundi is more respected. As for looks Lang Lang is undisputedly fatter than Li Yundi and not only that but Li Yundi is often hailed for his resemblence to Takuya Kimura and was called the “classical version of Kimura” by the likes of Kelly Chen and was even featured in a nike commercial that ran throughout the Sydney Olympics. I was quite disappointed to not see that commercial anymore and I’m pretty sure if the Olympic organizing committe in China wanted to project hotness with global appeal, they’d have chosen Li Yundi. Why didn’t they? Probably because Lang Lang is more fun when he plays…better expression I’d call it. In fact what they probably should have done, is put these two rival pianists up for the most epic piano battle of the century… Li Yundi could play Sunflowers and Lang Lang could play Yellow River. Or if I let my imagination run away with me, Jay Chou could play with Yundi, and Wang Leehom with Lang Lang. Now that’d be an Olympics to remember…even if only because all the classical musicians would die of heart-attacks at the pop crossover. Oh well, maybe for the next time the Olympics is in China.
So yes, in summary I was quite appalled at how this story spread like wildfire without regard to actual fact checking or to the feelings of either girl, all in order to write a sensationalist piece for the worldwide interest in the fact that China was hosting the Olympics. I do think it was a bit hypocritical for a society in which I could not imagine someone like Han Hong (who sang at the Paralympics opening btw) getting famous at all, to point fingers.
Now that I have that off of my chest, let’s talk about the restriction which I think is quite an awesome idea.
Let’s look at famous cases of lipsynching in China, provided via ESWN.
Gigi Leung was caught in the Beijing TV Spring Festival gala
Song Zuying was miming at the 2007 CCTV Spring Festival Evening Gala
Wu Jing cried when doubts were raised over possible miming
Zhang Ziyi mimed during the 2008 CCTV Spring Festival Evening Gala
Qu Ying bent over to receive flowers from enthusiastic fans while the song went on without her moving her lips
Perhaps most of these people can’t sing live, but Song Zuying can. You don’t give a concert in Vienna lip-synching (yes, I just freaking love that song…link to it whenever possible). And so why does this occur for even those who do sing well? The basic traditions of Chinese television, which simply has the mind-set where lip-synching is simply easier for them, easier for them to ensure great performances and less to worry about, regardless if the performers actually can sing live well or not.
Singers reacted to the legislation:
Gao Linsheng: “90% of singing on a certain television show is mimed. 99% of lip-synching occurs at the request of the program producers.”
Cui Jian: “Our audio environment has reached an intolerable stage — 90% of all television programs are mimed; 50% of live performances are mimed! The rights of the masses are seriously abridged! This is a total fraud.”
Zheng Jun: “The lip-synching and fake award ceremonies are appalling. Only 20% of all singers insist on singing for real!”
Han Hong: “I raise both hands to support the ban! Singers who participate in commercial performances should observe professional ethics. When the audience members buy tickets, they want to hear the real voices of the singers. If they get lip-synching instead, they would be better off buying a CD and listening it at home.”
Yes, so Cui Jian is again sticking up for the integrity of Chinese music, as are all the established artists in the Chinese music business, and Han Hong has reaffirmed my love for her. When you have a voice like that though, it is quite easy to wax poetic about performance ethics.
First my opinion that it is due to older folk in the business stems from the fact that old people in the entertainment world are powerful. People like Liu Zhongde made comments, and these comments invariably led to placed restrictions on singing competitions like Supergirls (the effect of these will be seen in the next season of Superboys/Kuai Nan) such as less airtime. I think they want to weed out idols and remain quality. Unfortunately for them I think all the Super Girls pwn at live singing. Actually all the recent idols singers pwn at live singing. So who would this effectively burden? Not the idol singers. Not people like Jane Zhang or Jason Zhang Jie who basically all pwn at lives. Even kids like BoBo can sing live. Probably not the old, classically trained singers like Song Zuying, even though some have probably faded in their skill as they got older.
I think primarily the population hit hardest by this new legislation would in fact be the actors turned singers. I didn’t really mind this habit a few years back when it was people like Chen Kun or Lu Yi (who both had great voices) turning into singers. But I look left and right now and people like Eva Huang Shengyi and Chen Hao can win singing awards, and I think something needs to be done, so if this can stop the onslaught of of everyone who ever made a name for themselves in acting to turn into singers, then I would gladly embrace it.
…and this, is where I leave you and go prepare the post that all of this was supposed to preface before it turned into its own monolith of a post.