Why would a Chinese man want to spend over $150,000 to look like an old white British guy who has been dead for 500 years? I just don’t get it.
But apparently, it is true. Zhang Yiyi, a best-selling author from China, is about to spend approximately $153,000 on plastic surgery in order to look like William Shakespeare. Zhang will subject himself to 10 facelifts in 10 months. In case math was never your strong point, this amounts to one facelift a month for almost a year. Ouch! Talk about pain and bruising. I’ll bet Zhang looks more like Rocky Balboa than William Shakespeare for most of that time.
According to China National Radio, which recently broke the story, the surgeries won’t be too difficult, since Zhang was blessed with a sculpted face including a sharp nose and deep eyes that bear some resemblance to Shakespeare. I have two things to say about this:
1. As if it would ever be an easy job to give a Chinese man Caucasian features. Come on now.
2. If it was so easy, why will it take 10 facelifts?
Zhang claims he is choosing to do this in order to “let the people across the world mourn one of the world’s greatest writers and dramatists.”
Hmm. A few thoughts on this…
Don’t you think there is a cheaper, less painful way to mourn and honor the man you admire? Perhaps put on some of his plays? Zhang can splurge on big name actors to perform some of his favorite Shakespeare plays. Maybe do one a year for ten years. He can call it “A Decade of Shakespeare.” That would certainly let people around the world reconnect w/Shakespeare in a more meaningful way than by undergoing plastic surgery to look like him. And Zhang might even make a few bucks in the process instead of shelling out all that cash on meaningless plastic surgery.
But more importantly, do we really need to mourn Shakespeare? Very few authors have achieved the kind of posthumous success that Shakespeare has enjoyed over the last 500 years. High school English curriculums across the country still consider him the most important writer in the cannon, as evidenced by the fact that high school kids read a Shakespeare play every year until they graduate. And it doesn’t stop there. I don’t think there is a single liberal arts college in the country that doesn’t devote at least one course entirely to the works of Shakespeare. Even if you choose to avoid that class like the plague, you’ll still have to read him in one or more required English courses that you will take before graduation.
Then there is the pervasive influence Shakespeare still has in pop culture:
- There have been two film versions of Romeo and Juliet in the last 40 years – Franco Zeffirelli’s more traditional take on the Shakespeare classic in the late 60s and Baz Luhrmann’s modernized bastardization in the mid 90s.
- Mel Gibson did Hamlet in 1990 only to see it redone a mere 10 years later starring Ethan Hawke.
- Roman Polanski did Macbeth in the early 70s. It was redone a few years ago starring Sam Worthington before he gained fame as a 3D blue creature in Avatar.
- Gwyneth Paltrow starred in the late 90s blockbuster Shakespeare in Love, presenting an entirely new perspective on the playwright.
- Multiple films, plays, and musicals have been patterned after Romeo and Juliet. The most famous is West Side Story, although others such as the Jet Li film Romeo Must Die also achieved modest success.
- There are many Shakespeare festivals which put on versions of his most famous plays every summer. There is even one in my home town of Boulder.
I can go on and on, but I think you get the point. Clearly, we don’t need to mourn Shakespeare. He’s doing fine without any extra help from an obsessed Chinese author. Do you think Stephen King will be this widely honored 500 hundred years from now? Hemmingway? Maya Angelou? Somehow I doubt it. But I’ll bet that 500 years from now, high school kids will still be forced to read Shakespeare every year, and you will still be able to see the entire Shakespeare library shamelessly rehashed in movie theaters around the world. Now that is staying power.
I wonder how Shakespeare would feel about Zhang’s tribute. My guess is that he’s turning over in his grave. If he were alive, I bet he would make Zhang the butt of all the jokes in his next play. Regardless, it is clear that Zhang Yiyi is a silly man. He’s squandering lots of money to honor an author who needs no further promotion. The worst part is that in the end, he’s going to come out looking like a freak. I mean, would you really want to look like this guy?