What if a Chinese rebel pulled off the biggest practical joke in history, and nobody got it?
In contrast to architect Paul Murdoch’s dirty trick (trying to plant a terrorist memorial mosque on the Flight 93 crash site), Zhang Yimou’s trick at the Beijing Olympics was moral, beautiful, and hilarious.
In case you missed it, the Beijing closing ceremony was an extended dramatization of the sexual act, ending with the fertilization of an egg.
Here is a still image of the final tableaux. After the circle of a thousand yellow-clad egg-girls has finally been penetrated by the couple hundred bouncing sperm-boys, the sperms rush to the center to form the nucleus of the fertilized egg, while the egg girls spread out to form the albumen:
Here is the video (two minutes):
If this WMV file won’t play on your computer, you can try reading this post over at Error Theory, where Alec’s original Blogger Video upload might still be working. (Access to the video is difficult because the NBC footage cannot be posted at YouTube or Google Video. The full video has been available at uZood. We claim that our shorter clips are FAIR USE, based on news value.)
Zhang Yimou’s drama began with WHAT LEADS to the fertilization of an egg (1 minute):
Anatomical drawing, for comparison.
Wondering where the ovaries are? Floating 40 feet above the entire production:
No anatomical drawing needed to recognize this. Georgia O’Keefe would be scandalized.
But the performance wasn’t just a sex scene followed by a biology class. The whole production is rendered out of passion and spirit, which connect to the wellspring of spirit in the middle part of the performance, where the circulatory “chi” of the Tai Chi masters is depicted by lit circular bicycles, circulating through bordered pathways around the still pulsating sexual center:
Chi bicycles circulate the pathways of spiritual energy before passing through the red center itself, presumably symbolizing the delivery of the chi to the zygotes.
The philosophy behind this representation may be Taoist or Buddhist, but the result is hardly distinguishable from Catholicism, which also sees the spirit inhabiting the body at conception (an idea that the Chi-Coms, with their policies of forced abortion, might prefer to suppress).
In all a beautiful, profound, life affirming, and wonderfully amusing practical joke. The fertilization of the egg at the end is meant to be the punch line, confirming everyone’s suspicions about the obvious POSSIBLE sexual connotations of the preceding. This is not hidden folks. You are SUPPOSED to get it. (Original expose here.)
Choreographer Zhang Yimou is China’s most decorated film-maker, with a long history of butting heads with Communist censors, and of making sexy female-centered movies. It is not surprising that he would find a female-centered ode to procreation irresistible.
If some of his Communist overseers were in on the trick that is great news. If they have that much humor, maybe we can feel a bit better about them. The other possibility is that Yimou was able to keep his overseers from seeing enough of the production at once to figure it out. That would be a magnificent story of defiance, which will be lost if people don’t get it!
Life affirming vs. murder-cult affirming
This makes two examples of semi-hidden symbolism in a mega-scale production. We have architect Paul Murdoch’s dirty trick and Zhang Yimou’s wonderful, beautiful and very funny trick. Zhang is the good twin to Murdoch’s evil twin. In contrast to Zhang’s life-affirming symbolism, Murdoch is hiding the most disgusting tribute to evil and murder ever concocted.
If we can break the story of the good twin, and see Zhang’s production properly celebrated for what it truly is, that spotlight will shine on the evil twin as well, and reveal him for what he truly is. Zhang’s trick should also be a much easier story to break, and not just because half the world saw his production. If people are loathe to witness evil, either out of political calculation, or simply because they want to give the benefit of the doubt, everybody loves a good joke.
Zhang and Murdoch (Zhang is the surname) both needed for their symbolism to be semi-hidden. If it was too obvious, the hidden meaning would erupt in controversy and threaten the completion of the project. But the meaning couldn’t be too hidden. Once the production is a fait accompli, people have to get it. The symbolic accomplishment has to be demonstrable, or all is for naught.
The positive morality of Zhang’s display explains how he was able to get away with it. There can’t be a woman in that fertilized egg scene who, after multiple rehearsals, did not know that she was dramatizing the fertilization of an egg. There cannot be a man on spring shoes who did not know he was playing a sperm, but because it was beautiful and fun, everyone was willing to go along with the joke.
Ditto for any Chi-Coms who figured it out (probably as the performance date loomed). And why not? With such a lovely trick, if it comes out that the party knew, it will be to their credit that they let it proceed.
These dynamics of positive morality are not available to Paul Murdoch. For his evil scheme to advance, he needs a very different moral dynamic to be in play, a dynamic of willful blindness, where people look at the world in terms of what they think is most advantageous for them to see, instead of in terms of what is actually there. Unfortunately, this is the dominant cognitive style in much of America today.
It is no surprise that people who could choose a memorial that is laid out in the shape of an Islamic crescent and star flag would be determined not to be concerned that the crescent actually points to Mecca. After all, the crescent and star flag configuration is obvious:
Click for larger image.
Anyone who can be willfully blind to THAT can easily ignore what seems to them to be much more esoteric, like the orientation of the crescent. It doesn’t matter to them that the orientation of the crescent is actually the most important thing to Muslims, turning the crescent into the Mecca-direction indicator around which every mosque is built. What MUSLIMS think? Why that is positively arcane, to anyone who finds it advantageous to think so.
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