|Liu Wei, photographed from above, playing an upright piano.|
Liu Wei is a Chinese pianist and composer competing in China's Got Talent. Wei, whose arms were amputated after electrocution at age ten, plays the piano beautifully with his toes. He forgoes prosthetics, and says that the only thing he cannot do that he would like to is drive. "For people like me, there were only two options. One was to abandon all dreams, which would lead to a quick, hopeless death. The other was to struggle without arms to live an outstanding life," Liu said to the judges last week on America's Got Talent.
In the video below, Liu Wei goes through his day, brushing his teeth, eating, and surfing, sometimes using his toes. After the video, he talks to the China's Got Talent judges and plays Mariage D'amour to great applause:
There's a lot to critique about how the media and show portray his accomplishments; many of the articles I consulted for this post framed it in terms of a "heartening [tale] of overcoming adversity" and a "sob story". This trope takes the focus off the accomplishments and talent of folks with disability like Wei. Wei's not there to compete and accomplish something, but in these stories, he's there primarily to move the audience to tears.
And there's something of that to the clip from China's Got Talent - one of the judges suggests that there's nothing he has to say because Wei's so inspiring. That's not the reason Wei should be getting acclaim - he should be praised because he's a good goddamn pianist. China's Got Talent apparently regularly features performers with disabilities, and that's to be commended, but I wonder how many of the performers are framed in a condescending or exceptionalizing way.'
In any case, Wei is an excellent pianist who hopefully has many years of continued success and accomplishment to look forward to.
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