The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Now Even Nine Year Old Girls Can Enjoy The Pressure To Look “Perfect”

Posted by Clem Bastow on August 13, 2008

First, an admission: I missed the opening ceremony of the Olympics in Beijing. Largely because I was nowhere near a functioning television, but also because I had my doubts (echoed by Mark Mordue’s excellent piece in The Age) about China’s festival of nationalism disguised as a gee whiz opening spectacular. However, I read enough coverage to know that they had their own “Nikki Webster”, a little girl performing as a focal point of hope and innocence.

What a pity, then, that it has emerged the girl who appeared in the ceremony was a miming ring-in, hired because the nine-year-old girl who actually sang the Hymn To The Motherland was deemed not to be “pretty” enough for the worldwide telecast:

The ceremony’s music director, Chen Qigang, revealed that Lin had not been singing but miming to a recording by another girl, Yang Peiyi, who was dumped from the starring role because she wasn’t as pretty and had uneven teeth.

[...]

Thus while Yang cut the best recording of the song, at the Central People’s Radio Station, she could not be presented to the world because, Chen said, the national interest was at stake: “The child on camera had to be flawless in looks, in her feelings and in her expression.”

Lin had earlier performed in a TV advertisement when she was only six, and in Olympic promotions. The state-owned China Daily yesterday described her as a “songbird”, saying: “She is already well on her way to becoming a star, thanks to her heart-warming performance”.

Chen said that the organisers had a responsibility to explain why they had made the switch: “It was the image of our national music, our national culture. And especially since it accompanied the arrival of the national flag in the arena, this was an extremely serious matter.”

In the end, he said, the change resulted in “a perfect voice and perfect image, merged together”.

He thought this was fair to both girls. He said: “When Lin Miaoke was singing (on Friday), she may not have realised that was not her own voice” echoing around the stadium.

Wow, so they gave one girl a complex about her appearance (which, as you can see from this ‘compare and contrast’ picture – Yang is at right – is hardly the snaggle-toothed monster the organisers would have you believe she was), and deluded the other one into thinking she sang live in front of an audience of billions? Excellent work, organising committee.

What’s especially unpleasant about all this is the idea of presenting a “perfect” face to the world – such pressures are hard enough to stomach when they are being applied to 20- and 30-something celebrity women, but pre-teen girls? I hope Chen has had the IOC put aside some cash for Yang’s eventual counselling.

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3 Responses to “Now Even Nine Year Old Girls Can Enjoy The Pressure To Look “Perfect””

  1. Mel Campbell said

    In the lead-up to the Olympics I remember reading about the women employed as medal hander-outerers. They were ruthlessly selected for physically conforming to rigid height, weight, facial proportions and body shape, made to train arduously in how to stand, walk, smile and gesture, and had to eat a dismal diet in order to fit into their outfits.

    In that context – a regime that sees its vast population as a resource of idealised Chineseness – it doesn’t surprise me that they’d do this kind of swaparoo at all.

  2. audrey said

    I’m equally disturbed by the vigour with which Australia is jumping on the attack about this. Stories on Channel Seven and Today Tonight (colour me surprised) abound about how China are ‘faking it’ and isn’t it terrible that they’ve fooled us like this? The emphasis is definitely less on how this sort of shit happens daily on Australian TV before the cab even leaves the rank and more on how terrible those dictatorial Chineseys are.

    Seriously – who are they kidding? We wouldn’t allow a chubby little girl with bad teeth on the TV either. We’d just be sneaky enough to find a pretty one who could sing in the first place.

  3. tina_sparkle said

    agree with audrey. why is china the anti-christ when they’ve publicised what is happening every day, in every western country? just because it’s covert doesn’t mean it’s right.

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