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Chinese folks

2013/10/04

I’ve noticed something from 武道狂之詩 and City of Darkness. They make very boxy, frame-by-frame reads for the most part, and there’s way too much narration. Seriously. They all read like, “In the moment that Protagonist and Adversary’s eyes met, they realized that here was a true warrior and worthy opponent,” or, “Supporting Standalone Fighter couldn’t hold out much longer, and the Herd Of Minions knew it/but the Herd Of Minions didn’t realize it yet.” The artists don’t take risks with the format. Instead of trying to draw the emotions, which is actually not that difficult to most people who otherwise draw no better they do, these Chinese artists write them. It’s almost as if they think that attempting to dive deeper into the artistic side of their profession isn’t worth the bother. The drawings are extremely good but the restrictive structure drags down the product as a whole.

Chinese people are really good at copying skills from outside sources but too often, they don’t understand it or don’t really try to.

I work with kids from China, and I’ve seen them play piano, play violin, sing, dance, whatever. For classical music, they tended to pick flashy, fast pieces but the execution lacked finesse. For pop, they sang like they were at a karaoke.

I didn’t think it was possible for an energetic young man to fail in performing Backstreet Boys. What you’re supposed to do is to sing loud and out of tune, hop up and down, jog between random points on the stage at random intervals, and point at the audience every time the lyrics say, “you.” The kid revved up the crowd… “ARE YOU READY?”… I was totally ready to be entertained… and then he started pacing the stage like a first-time father in the waiting room in a 60s sitcom. He didn’t even let himself go out of tune.

After I wiped the stunned disappointment off my face, another young man started locking. To JS and Hyuna’s “Trouble Maker,” no less. His teachers, two young ladies, leaned over to whisper to me that he was a top student and a good dancer to boot. As an avid Youtube watcher, I imagine that it is feasible to lock to Trouble Maker and do it right, but he did not do it. He completely ignored the track and really just showed off that he knew how to produce the movements of locking. Trouble Maker is far from quality music, but it’s fun, it’s slick, it’s sassy, and dancing over it instead of with it is like taking Parvati Patil to the Yule Ball and talking to Ron the whole time instead.

That’s pretty much my experience with how Chinese people deal with the arts. They want to know the right way to make it work, but they’re so into the technicalities that they completely miss out on making deeper connections and really understanding it. Some do connect but they’re usually the people who don’t buy into whatever everyone else buys into. It’s really sad how the majority of the Chinese people that I meet are kind of mundane. I know that there are interesting people at the mainland doing some really incredible things; it takes a special person with both passion and patience to rescue the hordes of animals in need and to fight for the humane treatment of them in a society that incorporates animal torture in pornography, and there are many mainland Chinese who do precisely that. But the Chinese people that I meet here, in America, are often disappointingly absorbed in accolades and evanescent material things.

And I guess that’s true of many people. I was reading in the New York Observer the other day that people are blowing huge amounts of money on artworks based on who’s the hottest artist, and calling themselves patrons of the arts. The true connoisseur waits for the right piece to come along.

It also probably has to do with what kind of people would come to the US. They usually have some money (or at least their parents willingly give them the money), and they’re usually here for the, er, economic benefits that they can gain from a trip here. SF is called the old gold mountain in Chinese because historically, the US represented economic opportunities for Chinese people. The interesting people who want to make a difference are the people who want to start with the things they see in front of them, which is back home; they’re not going to engage in escapism in some other country that they don’t actually care about.

As for the arts, I think a large part of the stiffness is due to the whole mentality that the “new China” culture is infused with. They’re trying to figure out how to carve out a place for them among the world powers, beyond being the place where everyone has their stuff manufactured. They want to win the Olympics, they want to win music competitions, they want to make an impression. They just happen to be going about it the wrong way. You know the German guy in Those Magnificent Men And Their Flying Machines? That’s China right now.

So will they figure out the game or won’t they? I hope they do.

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