Why I don’t care about the opening ceremony’s fraudulent footprints

Or so you would start to believe from the press reports over the last day. Some have dwelt upon the lip-synched singing of hyper-precious Lin Miaoke, the impossibly apple-cheeked munchkin girl who “sang” the laudatory and self-referentially titled “I sing for my motherland” without toppling over in shock at the thought of being watched live by 90,000 people and countless millions on live television. She must have been on ketamine, because I would have frozen like fudge in Fargo. And I generally have no problem with public speaking.

More reports have focused on the somewhat more scandalous replacement of the “giant footprints” fireworks display with a computer-generated special effect.

Here is what Imagethief thinks of both of these revelations: So what?

I got news for you: Li Ning wasn’t really flying either. If they’d really wanted him to fly they would have shot him out of an air cannon in a flaming suit and he could have lit the torch as he sailed over it and out of the stadium into the Great Beyond of the Olympic Green.

Damn, forget Zhang Yimou. With ideas like that, I oughtta plan these events.

The Olympic opening ceremony may have represented many things, but “veracity” was not among them. I thought it was a pretty good show. But let’s face it: it packaged Chinese culture as vulgar burlesque and reduced the legendary 5000 years of history to arena-rock light show. The whole thing was one giant special effect from beginning to end. But I don’t care. I like vulgar burlesque and arena-rock light shows. This was my kinda show!

In fact, arguably Olympic Beijing, tarted up, hyper-sanitized, stripped of automobiles and resolutely micro-managed for two weeks, is something of a colossal special effect in and of itself. Among all this surely one digital process shot can be forgiven.

Even the Olympics themselves can be thought of the same way. Overmarketed, pompous, awash in idiotic pseudo-religious symbolism (remenber the “priestess”-infested torch lighting ceremony?), and rife with doping and age scandals, they’re certainly a yard or two from what most of us would consider “reality”. It’s well off the deep-end of showbiz, and showbiz is all about illusion. And I write all of this as someone who’s relatively excited about the games! But you have to be clear-eyed about these things.

The only grudge I hold about the footsteps is that it was a particularly cool idea. I even said, “That’s cool!” to Mrs. Imagethief while we were watching it on the immense TV that my landlord so graciously installed in my apartment. So, yes, I was fooled. My bad. But I was still entertained by the shot, which is more than can be said for the oxygen-destroying tedium of the totally un-retouched parade of national teams. If anything, I could have used a little less veracity there. (On that note, NBC denies editing the parade to make the US team come out later in the US broadcast. Imagethief suggests that the turgid pace of the parade simply made it seem like eternity before the US team came out.)

As for munchkin girl, of course she was lip synching. While we were watching her I turned to Mrs. Imagethief and said, “The munchkin is lip synching.” This doesn’t make me a genius. It simply makes me someone who grew up watching Superbowl halftime shows, the Grammy Awards, and other lip-synch classics.

In fact, on that note, and overlooking the two hour Grand March of Tedium and my various bitchy comments above, I give the opening ceremony pretty high marks. The first part was legitimately spectacular, and I enjoyed the finale as well. Yes, I think Zhang and the Gang could have done themselves a favor and left out the footprints if they didn’t think it would work. Or simply taken their chances on the helicopter chase. But I’m sure they were all biting their nails to quick during the entire four hour extravaganza already. Has anybody tracked sales of Tums (or the Chinese equivalent) in Beijing over the past month?

In fact, the soporific parade aside, the only other things I’d have voted to remove from the ceremony were the absurd hand-doves of peace, the goose-stepping soldiers and slow march of the Olympic flag around the entire circumference of the field in the statium. The soldiers kindled unpleasant associations for many foreigners, and the flag march simply came way too late in the show for such draggy self-indulgence.

But good marks on the whole. I’d say that the London 2012 crew (remember, there will be another Olympics after this one, assuming the sun doesn’t explode) has its work cut out for them. Imagethief has just one bit of advice for them: Keep it under two hours. At four hours, the Beijing ceremony was longer than the Oscars (speaking of fraudulent). Keep it short, leave ‘em wanting more. Everyone will love you for it. Or at least I will.

And that’s gotta be worth something, right?

What? Me? Sing?

What? Me? Sing?

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