Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Xia Yi II

Thus, universally vilified, Xia Yi was compelled to hold another press conference in the presence of all her accusers. In a scene of ritual humiliation resonant of Cultural Revolution self-criticism sessions, Xia Yi for the first time conceded that she had, in fact, been romantically linked to Ni. She also, if I am not mistaken, handed over rights to the play to Ni's family. Newsreaders, in the manner of reporters counting the ovations given during a State of the Union address, kept count of the times she broke into uncontrollable sobbing and couldn't continue (was it nine times or eleven?). She apologized to Ni's wife, to his children, to the friends of the actor who had said such terrible things about her for weeks and now sat by in stony-faced vindication. In an apotheosis of the excruciating, she even apologized abjectly to the assembled media for her outrageous behavior at the airport (apparently lacking the athletic skill of Robbie Williams, who sprinted through the terminal, Xia Yi had had her way physically impeded and had yelled at them and called for the police). Now we know what hyenas look like when they're being apologized to.

The lack of any admirable party in all this is part of my initial disinclination to write about it. But then, that's not exactly true: through the entire affair, Ni's wife declined every invitation to excoriate Xia Yi, then immediately after the funeral, she boarded a plane for America. Think about that –hundreds of microphones craning her way and she declines to speak; scores of cameras trained on her and she gets on a plane and just leaves! But then, she alone among the principals is not Show People. When I'd get to thinking that I was being too hard on the variety show celebs, I'd think of Ni's wife and be reminded that, no, regular people with any sense of decency or dignity don't, in fact, behave this way.

About twenty years ago, this group of variety show actors and actresses had their start in a vaudeville-like circuit that basically pre-dated T.V., or at least cable T.V. Here in Taichung, in the neighborhood around the intersection of Zi You and Gong Yuan Roads, there were venues ("Show-場") where there were live shows ("做 Show") where most of these people got started. You can still see the signs, and the places themselves, all boarded up, because the neighborhood has pretty much gone to seed since. When T.V. came in, there were only three channels, so most of the actors were out of luck, but the top echelon of performers made the transition and did quite well for themselves. Ni Ming-jan was one of these. Ten years ago, I can myself remember that these variety shows were all the rage. Since then, various game shows and the like, tailored specifically for the medium, have gradually edged them out, especially with younger viewers, but people still have a nostalgic attachment to the aging group of performers from the variety shows.