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February 1994


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Alison McKee <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 28 Feb 1994 16:51:00 PST
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Of particular interest to me was CBS's casting of Oksana Bayul as a kind of
Dickensian waif figure in the biographical segment which preceded her
entry in the skating competition during its first night (the segment was
repeated at least once that I know of in subsequent coverage) -- was this
coverage of an Olympic event or classic melodrama or a a morality tale?!
As Kelley Conway noted, the segment referred to her as the
daughter of everyone and no one:  Bayul does not remember when
she first began to skate because, we are told (this is a fairly close
paraphrase), "there is no one left to remember for her."
Her mother's death from ovarian cancer three years ago, her position
as surrogate daughter in her coach's household, the key she still possesses
to the house she lived in with her mother, and the foregrounding of her
religious faith (enabled by the waning of Communism) were all invoked by
CBS in the construction of a melodramatic narrative framework. And when
circumstances conspired with CBS the next day as Bayul collided with another
competitor during practice and injured her back and leg, thus calling into
question her ability to compete that night, CBS's coverage adhered to
melodramatic patterns of narrativization once more.  Young, talented,
orphaned (Bayul's father, we are told, "disappeared" when she was a toddler
and is "presumed" dead), and conveniently beautiful, Bayul rises from the
ashes of Communism and personal tragedy to prevail at the Olypics -- Griffith
could have done it way better than CBS, however.
(None of this is to detract from Bayul's obvious talent and real achievement,
by the way.  It is merely to observe how powerful certain kinds of even
mediocre executions of narrative traditions can be.  After Bayul more or less
collapsed in tears next to her coach following the second night of skating,
I found myself shouting at the television with some concern, "Someone needs
to take care of that girl!" and then, seconds later, turning to a friend and
observing in a somewhat acid (and no doubt embarrassed) tone, "Or give her
a Valium."  Whether or not I wanted to, I clearly bought into the narrative
that CBS spun, even as I tried to resist it as well.)
> > I would like to hear more comments on the representation of N.
> > Kerrigan, T. Harding, and orphan Oksana Baiul (who, as a narrator said,
> > "could be anyone's daughter, but is no one's daughter").
> I missed that line, but it's wonderful.  Also, we saw the problem facing the
> Olympics in a "post-Communist" world (I wasn't in the USA for the last
> Summer Olympics, so missed how this problem was handled there), which had
> always provided the main plot previously (despite, or even because of,
> boycotts).  This was most clearly manifest in the Kerrigan vote, for which,
> as was repeatedly indicated, all the judged voted along East/West party
> lines, and for whom the German (a former *East* German, as was also made
> clear) was the swing vote, who gave "the orphan" and Kerrigan a tie, but
> this was resolved due to the rules that give artistic impression precedence.
> Actually, of course, any of the judges could be regarded as "swing votes",
> but it went without question in the coverage that the German vote was
> decisive.
> I repeat the scenario at length for our British readers--I understand that
> no one pointed this out to the massed viewers over there.
> How does China figure in this new Olympic world order?  For track and field,
> it seems that allegations of drug abuse is order of the day, but this never
> seemed to be mentioned in Lillehammer--indeed the drug issue seemed a
> non-starter.  Why should this be?  It made for a quite a different games.
> >
> > Kelley Conway
> > [log in to unmask]
> >
> Jon