Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Xia Yi III

Basically, I think this is the way a certain type of person mourns:“Ah, Davie, he was a good boy! A living saint, he was, and he never did anyone a bit of harm in his life." (Okay, I have Irish relatives - but the phenomenon is not unique to Irish funerals, I don't think). And, of course, if Davie was a blameless saint, then someone must be responsible for his death. Call it the Recriminatory School of Mourning:“You killed our Davie!" And it's hard to put a check on this sort of thing without appearing to be disrespectful to the dead, so it just snowballs. What I'd like to say is that if a fifty year-old man leaves his wife, if his finances are a wreck, if he hangs himself–well, he may have been a good man with many sterling qualities, but absolutely no one but himself is responsible for the end he came to. As to the dispute about publishing rights, isn't that what courts of law are for? Since when are legal disputes about publishing rights adjudicated in press conferences, with the deceased friends as jurors? But since the Taiwan's press seems to have unlimited access to airports, police stations, hospitals and courts, maybe they've convinced themselves they're pilots, cops, doctors and judges. Nobody seems inclined to disabuse them.

Not to muddy up one of my personal idols with being mentioned in the same breath with a group I consider to be of somewhat dubious talent, but I keep thinking of the story of Woody Guthrie when I read about this. As in the case of Ni, Woody's behavior became progressively unpredictable and erratic over time, so that even people who loved him deeply, like his wife, moved away from him. And as with Ni, Woody's problem was essentially neurological- Huntington's Corea in Woody's case, and (apparently) bi-polar disorder in Ni's. Woody, like Ni, ran to the arms of a younger woman who had no idea that he was mentally deteriorating because of a medical condition. In both cases, the younger woman was initially flattered by the attention from a "legend", only to find out the truth the hard way. In either case, blaming the "other" woman for the demise of the entertainer just strikes me as ludicrous.

Xia Yi has several strikes against her among the Friends of Ni: she's one of the very few younger talents in a circle of graying, fading performers; she is a woman, and for some reason in Taiwan, when a single woman has an affair with a married man the greatest weight of recrimination seems to fall on the woman rather than on the man. (Who can forget the case of Chu Mei Feng, the Taipei City Councilwoman who divorced the Mayor of Hsinchu? Later, she was secretly taped, in her own home, having sex with a married man. CDs were made of the tryst and copies inserted into a magazine for mass distribution. She was subsequently forced to leave the island in disgrace. Her humiliation was justified by many on the grounds that she had an affair with a married man, but the man's dignity received barely a scratch. People even complimented him for being such a stud on the tape); also, she is a mainlander, from Shanghai, while Ni was a native son. What has descended on Xia is a kind of inverse "This Is Your Life", in which every single person who had contact with her is now compelled to come forward with a story casting Xia in a bad light. The day after the Cultural Revolution self-criticism press conference, it was Bai Bing Bing, who helpfully recalled that when Xia was her understudy she had always been polite and respectful, but when she started to get choice parts she became proud and haughty. I don't suppose those were choice parts that the way-past-her-prime Bai felt an entitlement to, by any chance? My own feeling is that submerged deep in the human id is an atavistic instinct to attack the member of the herd who's perceived as being vulnerable and wounded. Lately, in Taiwan entertainment circles, the instinct hasn't been nearly as submerged as it ought to be.