Uh oh, the PC Police are up and about and the Olympics haven’t even started

I have weak ankles - so what?

Russian ice dancers assailed for pretend Aborigine outfits.

The faux tribal designs on the costumes and the skaters’ faces “are no more authentic or Aboriginal than the shiploads of cheap Aboriginal tourist trinkets that pour into our country from overseas,” Bev Manton, chairwoman of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, wrote last month in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Clearly, the costumes leapfrogged tribute into caricature. The island evoked by the Russians’ routine was not so much Australia as Gilligan’s Island.

“Accurate or not, you have to be sensitive to the people you are representing,” said Jef Billings, a renowned designer of skating costumes. “At the turn of the last century, minstrel shows were acceptable. Times have changed.”

Of course, if propriety and taste were required in ice dancing, it would have been tossed from the Olympics years ago. Under the old six-point scoring system, results were suspected to be decided beforehand, like Soviet elections. And costumes? Please. At the 1992 Winter Games, Maia Usova and Aleksandr Zhulin of Russia won the bronze medal dressed as dinner mints.

At the recent United States championships, Brent Bommentre skated a folk dance to a purported Afro-Brazilian theme.. Except he wore a scarf/headpiece that gave the impression Steven Van Zandt had left the E Street Band to star in a Tarzan movie.

Even the cleverest ice dancing costumes can be inscrutable. Michael Janofsky wrote in the Times in 1991 that Americans Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow had dressed as checkered flags in the national championships. Then he called the copy desk to say, no, they were dressed as race cars. A long pause followed before Janofsky said into the phone, “Trust me on this.”

Word is now spreading that the couple might alter their Olympic costumes, so the focus will be on skating, not on cultural larceny. (To head off controversy, Johnny Weir has agreed to remove a patch of fox fur from his Olympic costume after protests from animal rights activists.)

“I make no comment,” Linichuk said. When it was suggested a costume change could defuse the controversy, she said, “Let me think.”

Some, though, believe the criticism is as over the top as the costumes.

“To make a big stink, this is ice skating for Chrissakes,” said Brian Boitano, the 1988 Olympic champion.

6 Comments

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6 responses to “Uh oh, the PC Police are up and about and the Olympics haven’t even started

  1. Helsa Poppin

    Ice dancers are being criticized for poor taste?

  2. Culture Police

    Admit it: NYT is on a roll (from your linked article) Best laugh from FWIW today!

    Billings joked that the contretemps might set off competing Olympic demonstrations between those who see cultural theft and those who see the leaves as eco-friendly.

    At least people are talking and writing about the suffering sport of skating again, Keszler said.

    “And it’s not about anything illegal, like a judging scandal or a knee-whacking,” she said.

  3. Culture Police

    I am on the floor laughing, gasping for oxygen and loosing good likker out my nose (from original link NYT citation – Of course., you have to know didgeridoo to get the humor):

    Some aboriginals in Australia were livid. If outsiders Domnina and Shabalin found whimsical humor in indigenous culture, it did not amuse aboriginal elders.

    “Appalling,” a “rip off” and “exploitation” were among the reactions. Even the skaters’ didgeridoo music was dismissed as inauthentic, a didgeri-don’t.

    The faux tribal designs on the costumes and the skaters’ faces “are no more authentic or Aboriginal than the shiploads of cheap Aboriginal tourist trinkets that pour into our country from overseas,” Bev Manton, chairwoman of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, wrote last month in The Sydney Morning Herald.

    Clearly, the costumes leapfrogged tribute into caricature. The island evoked by the Russians’ routine was not so much Australia as Gilligan’s Island.

    “Accurate or not, you have to be sensitive to the people you are representing,” said Jef Billings, a renowned designer of skating costumes. “At the turn of the last century, minstrel shows were acceptable. Times have changed.”

  4. Walt

    Dude –
    Culture Police = Grammer Nazi Hiram = Fake Walt. You know I am right. I can spot that no talent hacks drivel anywhere. That is why I was so good at due diligence. No one fools old Uncle Walt. Suck it, Hiram.
    Your Pal,
    Walt

  5. Bernie

    Remember me, Walt?