Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Deception of Olympic Proportion

So the footprints were fake. The huge firework footprints that TV viewers saw traipse across the sky to the Birdsnest at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Olympics in Bejing. I was absolutely astonished by them. They were so cool. And apparently, they were computer generated. Right down to the smoggy sky and the suggestion that the camera was shaking from the force of the booms.

And Lin Miaoke, the little girl who sang "Ode to the Motherland" as the Chinese flag progressed around the stadium? Cute as a button. Definitely camera-ready. Yeah she didn't sing a word. The song was actually sung by Yang Peiyi who was deemed "not cute enough" to appear on camera.

It's old news, really. But what do I tell my daughter? About what's real and what's not. About the need to be perfect, even if it can only be accomplished digitally or through deception.

I'm all for magic. I think there are not enough fairy houses and elves running around these days. But I'm not sure I like watching magic on TV when those sending out the signals didn't let me in on the secret.

Which is funny, really. For the Olympics. Right now, we are watching an event in which real people, actual live human beings, do the impossible right and left. A Chinese gymnast did something on the rings last night that Tim Daggett said was flat out impossible. If, even only a few years ago, you had told someone you were going to do that particular move, Bart said, people would have laughed at you and said it was impossible. Yet this young gymnast did it. Seemingly effortlessly. Indeed it is the gymnasts that most appear to defy the laws of reality. People can't fly, right? Oh wait. They can. And apparently they can swim like mermaids and twirl off diving boards, in perfect synchronization with another human being...all in real life. And lift cars over their heads. And shoot through the eye of a needle.

The Olympics is an opportunity for us to witness the incredible abilities we human beings have. With a little bit of talent and lots of training, we can do things that it would seem could only be created on a computer screen. But have we become so used to deception in the movies and on TV that we now take it for granted? Hollywood can bring dinosaurs back to life, raze New York City, and air brush pounds from celebrity Mommy's waists. Hollywood can do anything. Of course they can.

But to be truly amazed, we don't need them! Just look at these unbelievable people from all around the world doing unbelievable things right before our eyes. Complete with sweat, blood, vomit and tears. We need to remind ourselves and our kids while we are watching these athletes that what they are doing is actually REAL! No green screens. No acting. Well, maybe some acting. But still, what their Adonis-like bodies are undergoing is true. Michael Phelps can swim so fast that he leaves a wake.

So yeah they faked the fireworks and the little girl. So far as I know that undulating box thing they did was real, but who's to say? I guess in this world where absolutely anything is possible one can never be quite sure. Any image can be created on screen and brought to life, whether it's through the magic of computers or just a plain old bait and switch.

But here's the thing--I don't want my little girl to lose sight of the truly incredible. I want her to know real magic when she sees it. And I never want her, or me for that matter, to lose the capacity to be amazed.

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