Small wonder: He Pingping and the cult of cute
The felicitously-named, recently-late He Pingping will go down in history as the shortest man of his time, and one of the biggest celebrities of 2010. Why? Because he need him to be.
He Pingping, whose name meant “wine bottle,” was a high-living natural comedian with a chain-smoking habit and a proudly dirty mind. He’d have been a great Rat Packer, really; the expression “Devil-may-care” doesn’t get trotted out often enough, but it’s appropriate here. And the fans who followed him knew and loved him for it.
ron jeremy’s cock is half the length of pingpings entire body.
21 September 2008Ping Ping probably gets laid every night. What do you think his favorite position is? I know he could never be on the bottom or he’d be killed
03 March 2009
A tour through his Facebook status updates (which he does seem to have written himself) is worth the click:
He Pingping did u kno that on blackberrys u can ping ping each otehr
God, I love this guy already; too late.
There’s a disconnect between the man you can see on Facebook and the man that the Celebrity Industrial Complex wants him to be. When a funny, filthy 21-year-old dies it’s naturally a loss not only to his parents but to the world and all the people he would have met or influenced in the future. In this case, the world isn’t mourning that man, even though that was a public face he was quite comfortable wearing.
According to Craig Glenday, editor-in-chief of Guinness World Records,
For such a small man, he made a huge impact around the world. From the moment I laid eyes on him I knew he was someone special – he had such a cheeky smile and mischievous personality, you couldn’t help but be charmed by him. He brightened up the lives of everyone he met and was an inspiration to anyone considered different or unusual.
I’m sure that’s true, but it’s been taken so far out of context it can’t even phone home. In retrospect, now that He isn’t around to contradict them, thousands of people who never heard of him a week ago are now mourning an imaginary character something like a cross between Pikachu and a Chicken Soup for the Soul hero. As every embalmer knows, retroactive sanitation is an unattractive process, and leaves the subject diminished, however reverent the impulse of the fans (the media stay on the hook for this; it’s their job to know better, People magazine excepted).
That quote? Apparently from a collection of “short inspiration” quotations on a site that sells … growth hormones. Ironic, or just appalling?
Jim Windolf, writing in Vanity Fair, thinks it may be that we “cutify” people and things in part because they frighten us. When a rich, vital, popular 21-year-old who has the world at his feet drops dead, that’s a frightening prospect. If we make him seem less real than he was, we identify less with him and thus aren’t as frightened. He wasn’t human, he was special. With celebrities we don’t know, we actually have this option; He’s longtime fans, less so, because they’ve already got a strong sense of his identity which is at variance with the idealized cartoon. In a sense, then, mawkish “tributes” deifying people for qualities they may not have possessed are just a regular part of the celebrity society working through the public stages of grief.
Which is not to exempt myself from this process; after all, I never did write about him when he was alive, because simply being short wasn’t something I considered newsworthy or amusing enough to spark a post. And I’m writing about him now less because he was a really interesting guy, which he was (and we found out too late), but more because of what the public demanded he be turned into after death.
And that’s not much of a tribute at all.