Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Groovin' pandas

If you go to cnn.com international and then find the videos, you must search for the phrase "groovin' pandas." There you will find a video of children dressed as one of the Olympic mascots, the panda, doing a dance that is a hybrid of hip hop and Tai chi. Intended to be cute and impressive as a spectacle, as one friend noted the outfits are ill-fitting and appear to be made of cheap polyester. There is a sinister tinge to the zoomorphic dancers, something disturbingly grotesque along the lines of Matthew Barney, surely un-intended. 

I believe this footage was of a rehearsal for Friday's Opening Ceremonies, and all I can say is, I am counting the hours, minutes and seconds until they take place so that I can see the entire thing. 

Since I saw the video on CNN International a couple of days ago, I've watched this kitsch spectacle- over and over again. The night it was aired they ran it a couple of times and the news casters had some of the inflatable plastic versions of the mascots as well, of course they were laughing about this whole aspect of Olympics 2008 Visual Culture (as my genius friend calls it). And someone in the CNN editing booth must love the tape as much as me because they ran it again, tonight as the backdrop for the credits when the World News ended.

Hopefully, it's not just the pandas and at the Opening Ceremonies they will incorporate all of them.

According to one article in the Los Angeles Times blog, "The blue fuwa, Beibei, for example, is female, gentle and pure in personality. She was inspired by the traditional Chinese New Year depiction of lotus and fish and represents prosperity and the aquatic sports. Jingjing, a giant panda, is male, honest and optimistic, and represents happiness, weightlifting and judo -- though not necessarily in that order. The red fuwa Huanhuan, inspired by the Olympic flame, is a male extrovert whose ideal is passion and who represents the ball sports. Yingying, the yellow fuwa, is a male Tibetan antelope who is lively and vivacious and represents health and track and field." 

(article URL - http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/olympics_blog/2008/08/yeah-but-could.html)

The Tibetan antelope mascot is also quite sinister, they enshrine a little animal symbol of the region as part of China, and the gendering of these mascots surely deserves much study. But I am not equipped to deconstruct the cultural symbolism of this manifestation of Olympic Visual Culture, I defer to my brilliant friends, who hopefully might comment on this post.

Who would have thought to create a hybrid choreography - part hip hop, part tai-chi, part cheer leading, and part Rockettes? I think I need say no more. Fabulous.

Here is the URL

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