Saturday, July 24, 2004

U.S.: William Hung

William Hung is a symbol of what makes America great.

Here is a guy, totally without talent, unable to sing, unable to dance -- he bops a little -- and without the physical attractiveness that is required in this television age. Yet, William Hung, totally hapless American Idol reject, has become a household name and a CD-seller. People want to have pictures taken with him (seen on Fox News), are excited to see him.

What's the fuss about William Hung? Emil Guillermo wonders that Hung, an engineering student who seems to be an old stereotype of the Asian male (obviously those who hold to this stereotype never met some of the total, babe-a-licious, stud-muffin Asian guys I went to college with. Or, maybe Guillermo has never seen Ken Watanabe of "The Last Samurai." Whoooooooo, ba-by!!!!! Totally prime stuff!), is a genuine American idol. Guillermo's question seems to be 'why has America taken to this guy?' He interviews one of Hung's Engineering profs at Berkeley, and, amongst others, Prof. Li seems to believe that William Hung's success is racist. According to the success-as-racism theorists, Hung is being played for a naive fool because no white or black man would succeed with William Hung's total lack of talent. However, Li finds that William Hung has an innocence and, perhaps, a naivete that allows him to take negative things and turn them into positives. It is possible that this optimistic conversion is responsible for America's attraction to William Hung.

Whatever it may be, people are at a loss over what to think about William Hung.

I delight in his badness. William Hung sings and dances about as well as I do, but he does it with a shameless verve that he will not permit to be trampled upon. Hung, Engineering student, is bright enough to know that he is neither Elvis Presley nor Michael Jackson. He's just an average no-talent guy who has lucked into a situation, and who has enough smarts to capitalize on it. In that sense, William Hung is pure capitalist. He has a product which is in high demand, whatever it quality may be, and he, good businessman that he is, is willing to meet that demand. The day will come when his product no longer sells; until that time, William Hung will continue doing as he is and make the best of what he has.

This quality of boundless optimism is uniquely American. As is this sense that Hung, having been given lemons (no voice and no talent), creates the situation in which he himself converts lemons into lemonade. After all, he did go to audition for American Idol. There is also that old pioneering American spirit that allows Hung to push against and expand the frontiers of the musical world so that, like a Trekker, he "boldly goes where no man has gone before." After all, what white or black guy of no talent would march boldly into new territory as Hung has? In Hung's sweetly innocent march forward, there is the can-do spirit that made America great.

A man didn't have to be a genius or rich or well connected to make it in early America. The man just had to be an average guy who was willing to take chances, to go for bust. Maybe he would make it. Maybe he wouldn't. If he did make it, then he could stand in the middle of his land, gaze around him, and say that, through sheer hard work, he created an empire with his two hands. That's how I see William Hung.

Who Hung is may well be immaterial. What matters is that he possesses that wonderful pioneering spirit that makes America great. That, I think, is why many Americans are captivated by William Hung. To look at him is to see the drive and the energy that built a country into a world power.

When Hung's fifteen minutes of fame is done, he'll continue to be an Engineering student, one with better grades, of course. More significantly, he will continue to possess that bold pioneering spirit that says every obstacle is an opportunity to rise to a challenge.

I would not be surprised to hear of William Hung's magnificent achievements at some point in the future.

The lesson for Americans and all people is if Hung can make it, anyone can.

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