Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic obsession

I've been somewhat obsessed with the Olympics--I didn't think I would be, but I've been watching it almost every night. I've been fascinated by some of the side stories, too: the lip syncing little girl at the Opening Ceremony who wasn't pretty enough (I think she's adorable!), the dancer who was paralyzed in an accident during rehearsals, the controversy over the Chinese gymnasts' ages, Michael Phelps's quest and the fingernail finishes, etc. etc. But one of the controversies that has most fascinated me is that of the Spanish basketball team's advertisement featuring the teams all posing doing the somewhat Universal "slanty eye" imitation that all Asian-Americans will cringe at and recognize from their childhoods. 

I first became aware of this from this gawker post, and consequent follow-up posts, and then also some coverage in the NY Times. What most fascinated me were the incredible amount of comments--the NY Times article's comment count is up to 1,098! The commenters are from all over the world, and obviously many of them from both "sides" were quite upset and angry. Many Spanish people were in an uproar about being called racist, and most of the comments I've read from Spain are by people insisting that the ad was simply a joke, a "wink" at the host country of the Olympics, done "in love" and how is it even possible that people interpret the ad as being racist?

My personal first reaction to the ad was to cringe in disbelief. Honestly, I don't think anyone who has ever had this gesture done to them has misinterpreted the intention of the perpetrator as intending anything but ridicule. But of course, it crossed my mind briefly--maybe all those kids were actually just "winking" at me, and expressing their affection for me! Ha.

But in this case, I personally don't feel that there was any real malicious intent on the participants, although it's hard for me to believe that the ad was done with love and respect to the Chinese people. However, I do object to the Spanish reactions in the comments--even if they did not intend the ad to offend, people were offended. I wish they would simply try to understand why some people reacted that way, and apologize. 

I do feel there was ignorance involved. And it made me realize that I love living in a politically correct culture. Many people condemn political correctedness, but it allows me to live in the world without feeling that people are constantly seeing me as an "other," and knowing that without overt racism, perhaps future generations will change their thinking from previous generations. Then again, I did go to UC Berkeley, the PC capital of the world, so I may have a skewed view of this.

The controversy also made me wonder if the people of China have ever encountered this gesture--it seems unlikely to me, because they are the majority. So it's likely that they wouldn't be offended by the ad at all.

Anyway, I'm over my obsession with this controversy now. I'll leave you with this hilarious segment from the Jon Stewart show concerning many of the controversies I've mentioned above.


Susan Sandmore said...

Thanks for sharing the video... that was too funny! I didn't really "get" the controversy over the little girl since I see the opening ceremonies as a "performance" and using one child for looks and another for voice didn't seem that unusual. I also figured all singing for such things was pre-recorded.

I didn't know about the team picture thing. That was just . . . well, strange. And wrong.

But what made me gasp was the news reporter J.S. showed. What was up with THAT?

Rita said...

That video was so great. Thanks for sharing that!

I also became obsessed with the Olympics this time, but I missed the controversy with that Spanish ad. Ay yayyy.