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'Happy' in Beijing video isn't as cute as it seems

Is beyond index smog something to dance about? We think not

Riding the coattails of 'Laowai Style' and 'Beijing State of Mind', a new video dubbed '"Happy" in Beijing' is making rounds on social media. Set to the tune of Pharrell 'Smokey the Bear' Williams's hit 'Happy', the video features snippets of foreigners and locals dancing nearby Beijing landmarks like the Bird's Nest, over-stuffed magazine kiosks and grubby public bathrooms.

Watch 'Happy' in Beijing

The 'About' section reads as follows:

Some choose to hate, we chose to love. Pollution reached hazardous levels over the weekend of filming Beijing's rendition of "Happy". This is how Beijingers reacted to the smog.

That's right. There, behind the free-spirited dancers, is the oppressive haze that plagued Beijing for far too long. You've probably not forgotten it so soon. Perhaps in your case, as in ours, there's lingering soreness in your throat. Less obvious, but weighing heavily on our minds, is the permanent lung damage. And that has us decidedly unhappy.

This video is cute. And if it weren't so smoggy during filming, that's all it would have been, a more upbeat version of the Beijing tourism video they screen during landings at PEK. But in trying to further shape the main thrust of the four minute dance party with a description preaching abounding love, the makers of '"Happy" in Beijing' come off as woefully ignorant.

We won't even touch on the fact that dancing without a filter mask in 500+, beyond index AQI is a horrible, horrible idea. You should be indoors, cosied up with your 200RMB air filter and trying to achieve the closest possible living state to rigor mortis. Or the fact that there ought not to be anything wrong with hating something that is having very apparent negative effects, more recently in a cancer diagnosis for an 8-year-old child.

What you should consider is this: what if the Beijing city government had made this video? What sort of connotations would it have then? And how different is it really for having been made by a resident?

Dancing to a backdrop of smog is like doing the Charleston in front of toxic waste being dumped into a stream or C-Walking as whole swaths of the rainforest are being hacked to bits just over your shoulder. What's the point in forcing a smile? Oh, because no one likes a hater.

This sort of happiness, painted as a direct response to an international-headline-making crisis, is turning a blind eye, plain and simple. '"Happy" in Beijing' is not an accurate portrayal of how Beijingers reacted to the smog, as they claim. Turn off the cameras and see if anyone is still dancing. More accurate would have been to film the foreigner we saw at April Gourmet desperately fumbling with the straps of his newly-purchased Totobobo mask. For music, how about the sound of throat-clearing and phlegm splattering on pavement?

To be fair, we don't think any of this was the filmmaker's intent. Here's a quick fix: change the poorly-worded 'About' section. This video should be fun and innocuous, so just let it be. In so many other ways, '"Happy" in Beijing' perfectly captures life in the capital and the vibrant bunch of folks, both foreign and local, that call it home. But during times when all that is a bit harder to see, quite literally, remember: your health is precious, and clean lungs will keep a song in your heart long after the last note of 'Happy' has played.