Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The little ugly girl

Seven-year-old Yang Peiyi has a voice of pure gold, but she must sing behind a curtain because she isn't beautiful enough.
Lin Miaoke cannot sing as well, but she is deemed adorable, flawless, perfect, and she lip-synchs the words that pour from the magical throat of Yang Peiyi at the Olympic opening ceremony.

Gilbert Felli, director of the Olympic Games for the International Olympic Committee, tells us it's like a coach bumping a rower out of a four-man boat in favor of a stronger competitor. There should be an Olympic event for such verbal gymnastics. My brain aches trying to imagine a handsome young man at the sculls pretending to row while the real muscle is exerted by a homely man pushing the boat along underwater.

"Yang Peiyi missed out on selection (to appear at the ceremony) because of her external appearance. It was for the national interest," said Chen Qigang, a director of the opening ceremony. The order came straight from the politburo. There you go, little girl with the lovely voice. The national interest of your 1.3 billion countrymen and women requires that your face be concealed from them and from the world. You are not beautiful, child. You are too ugly to be seen.

Beauty, you see, means that ugliness must be hidden away. Walls in Beijing were built to keep ugliness out. Beggars and other poor were forced from the city. Fireworks were faked on-screen in case the real thing was not perfect. Empty seats were filled with cheering "volunteers." All was beautiful.

Not all Chinese are taking this well. "Why worry so much about appearances? All seven-year-olds are angels." But in this land that dares to call itself communist, some angels are more equal than others.

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