August 21, 2008
As it turns out, America isn’t the only country obsessed with pigeonholing young women. China – long the home of wrapped feet, tight buns and the “beauty is pain” mentality – is perhaps harder on its girls and their egos than are we.
While Life and Style weekly magazine and others are busy preparing Suri Cruise and Shiloh Jolie-Pitt for lives fraught with bulimia and plastic surgery, the Chinese government elected to shatter the self-esteem of one 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, a less than “flawless” looking singer whose voice was heard launching the 2008 Summer Olympics, but whose face was nowhere to be seen. Instead, a much more attractive 9-year-old stand-in was ready for her close-up. The “prettier” girl lip-synced the national anthem.
“The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression,” said Chen Qigang, the ceremony’s musical director, in a state radio interview, according to CNN.com.
Let’s put this in perspective. Below is a photograph of Lin Miaoke, the “flawless” face of China (left), and next to her, the “less impressive” face of vocalist Peiyi:
I think Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central put it best when he fake-vomited profusely.
Yeah, that Yang Peiyi: she’s one ugly freak!
Our American reaction of disdain is rather hypocritical, however, considering our treatment of celebrity babies. Aren’t they cute? What are they wearing? She looks just like her mom, doesn’t she?
Here’s the cover of the Aug. 13 issue of Life and Style:
Before we know it, Suri Cruise will be getting liposuction and vacationing with Lindsey Lohan at Promise alcohol rehabilitation center in Malibu, California. Violet Affleck will be having painful dental corrective surgery. And Shiloh Jolie-Pitt will have had most of her arm and leg muscles surgically removed so that she can look just like dear, ol’ mum.
It’s one thing for Jennifer Aniston and Paris Hilton to starve themselves in order to fit the mold. They know what they’re doing. But our obsession with the appearance and behaviors of 1- and 2-year-old kids is just shameful. Matilda Ledger isn’t old enough to deal with the scrutiny that she’s headed for. One day, she’ll be another Kelly Osborne or Rumer Willis, trying desperately to live up to the image of her famous parents. Once you have the spotlight, it’s difficult to live life without it. Tori Spelling’s kids might have been great doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. But they’ll never know it because they’ll be too busy trying to stretch their 15 minutes of fame past that awkward phase every kid goes through: ages 10 to 35.
What is even more shocking than our tendency to buy these magazines boasting to have inside information about famous toddlers is the parents’ insistence on putting them there. Brangelina may have given the millions of dollars in proceeds to charity, but they still called the shots that put their newborn twins on the cover of People magazine. And allegedly Demi Moore hired a professional camera crew to shoot the birth of daughter Rumer, now age 20. Rumer made her film debut at age 5 and is now, sadly, skipping college. This past year, she was named “Miss Golden Globe,” in charge of handing out statues at the Golden Globe awards ceremony. But owing to the writer’s strike, the ceremony was cancelled. I hope that didn’t send her spiralling into despair, worried she has nothing else to give.
And that brings us to another unfortunate truth: the difference between what today’s young celebrities are leaving us with and what Jodie Foster contributed in the 1970′s is a matter of substance. Foster is a smart, talented actress…she always has been. We’ve celebrated that. Today, we celebrate genealogy and shiny hair instead. They’ll all be in movies someday, but if any of these celebrity kids has any talent it will be less important than their ancestry and appearance.
Apparently, these days, we don’t want substance. We get really upset when Katherine Heigl says less than ladylike things about her part on a television show because we’re so used to the drivel spilling out of Jessica Simpson’s mouth. True, both women are perky and blond, but one has distinguished herself as having a mind full of opinions and the other hasn’t…which may make for a rocky road in the case of Heigl.
Jodie Foster went to Yale. Shiloh Jolie-Pitt would be lucky to get into Los Angeles City College on her own academic merits. There’s no knocking the latter education. Perhaps Jolie-Pitt would make a really good X-Ray technician…but we’ll probably never know. Instead, we’ll be privy to her waist, bust and hip measurements and the frequency and severity of her cocaine benders.
If only China had set an example by allowing the world to look upon a talented young singer and marvel at just that: her talent. If only, we’d been allowed to overlook her crooked teeth and chubby cheeks. This could have been one instance when talent upstaged looks.
What’s next? Paris Hilton standing in for Maija Kovalevska at the Met?
Maybe not. Kovalevsha is a pretty girl. Okay, she can stay.