Boom Bang-a-Bang – War, Transvestites and The Eurovision Song Contest
When Russia invaded Crimea, my first though was not “Oh no, what dreadful consequences will this have for the balance of World Power?” This is because I’m British and all Brits think the world revolves around Britain. When all evidence suggests that the world ceased to revolve around Britain many decades ago, we Brits simply ignore the hell out of the evidence and go about our day. It’s best for everyone concerned in the long run.
Deep down, we Brits know that what we do on the World Stage is largely irrelevant now. We’re only on the UN Security Council because we have nuclear weapons and we only have those because we lease them off the Americans.
So when Mr Putin’s tanks started rolling across the Crimean border, the first question I asked myself was not “Are we entering a new era of Cold War era brinkmanship?” After all, Britain will just let everyone do what they want to do and probably just provide the catering. We make good sandwiches. No, as the crisis began, my immediate thought was “I wonder what that’s going to do to the Eurovision Song Contest voting?”
In case you haven’t heard of The Eurovision Song Contest, I’ll give you a brief explanation. Basically, it the only really big thing Europe has that isn’t American, though Americans are allowed to join in if someone invites them. When I say big, I mean huge. Every year, at least 125 million people watch the Eurovision final. That’s 13 and a half million more people than watched this year’s record breaking Denver Broncos vs Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl Final.
Each qualifying country submits a song and the song must be written by someone from that country. Anyone can sing it though, hence the Americans being allowed to join in. Not that many Americans have joined in so far. Katrina Leskanich, of Katrina and the Waves, won it for the UK back in 1996 and she’s American. That’s it as far as American involvement goes though, I’m afraid. Then again, the contest has only been going for 58 years, so there’s time yet.
The songs are performed on the big night and the countries involved vote for them, awarding marks from 12 at the top, 10 for second best then all the way down to 2. Countries aren’t allowed to vote for themselves, so the Eurovision is notorious for block voting. Participating nations tend to for whoever is their favourite neighbour at the time. It’s all very political. So, Sweden always gives Norway 12 points and Norway always gives Sweden 12 points. Spain always gives Portugal 12 points and Portugal always gives Spain 12 points. Russia always gives Ukraine 12 points and Ukraine….ah well, thereby went the rub this year. That final traditional block vote was extremely unlikely to happen, what with the tanks and the invading troops and everything.
With one guaranteed block vote stymied, the equilibrium of the Eurovision voting system was out of kilter. There was a disturbance in the force and the guarantee of the rest of the block voting was starting to look a bit shaky too. This had some very interesting effects on the betting odds.
One of the favourites was this entry from Poland, for some obvious and outstanding reasons. Quite a few pairs of obvious and outstanding reasons in fact.
In the end though, it was this rank outsider from Austria that won by a landslide. Won so convincingly that it became mathematically impossible for the song to lose before all the countries had even voted
This is my second favourite reason for loving the Eurovision. You may have noticed that this glamorous lady, who goes by the name of Conchita Wurst, has a beard. That’s because this glamorous lady is in fact Austrian performance Tom Neuwirth. The rest of Europe loved him, or rather her because it was Conchita they were voting for, not Tom. They kept the block voting to a minimum and it’s estimated that Conchita going to earn at least £25 million in the next 12 months. Conchita, by the way, means “my little seashell”. This is apparently a euphemism for pussy. Hence Conchita Wurst, appropriately, means “pussy sausage”. And I’m sure we all know what “sausage” is a euphemism for.
Russia didn’t agree with and the rest of Europe, however. Well, the Russian politicians didn’t. One Russian minister said that Russia’s outrage knew no bounds at- in his words- “an it” winning the competition. You may think this was all to do with Russia’s recent introduction of draconian anti-homosexuality laws. That Russia’s leaders are a bunch of raging homophobes. And, of course, you’d be 99% correct. Except in the case of Vladimir Putin, who is clearly homosexual but entrenched so far back in the closet it looks like he’s about to invade Narnia. There’s slightly more to it than that though. Their objection goes way deeper than that and it can be summed up in one word. Afghanistan.
It’s an historical fact that the mighty Russian Red Army had its arse handed to it on a plate by the Mujahideen when Leonid Brezhnev decided to invade the country back in 1979. It’s a slightly lesser known fact that Afghan warriors have a long tradition of celebrating the femininity of the fighting man. Like this :
When the Russian soldiers were being defeated, they were being defeated by men who liked to wear cocktail dresses and slingbacks in their off duty hours. Some of them were even known to wear the cocktail dresses and slingbacks into battle when the fancy took them. The Russian old guard have not forgotten this. They see a man with a beard in a dress, they don’t see the light hearted tribute to sexual tolerance that everyone else sees. They see their younger selves being led into a pointless ten year conflict in a country that history tells us has never been successfully invaded in its entire history. Hence the rather disproportionate reaction.
It is that very reaction to Conchita Wurst’s victory that is my top reason for loving the Eurovision Song Contest. The Eurovision is, at the end of the day, is just a camp and slightly silly competition. Even a huge fan like me has to concede that. The fact that it can get powerful men so hot under the collar is very telling though. Dictators like Putin have a tendency not to think through consequences that well and any dictator is only a short revolution away from being ousted. Revolutions can start off in the most surprising of places. Perhaps inside a frock and behind an unexpected beard.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2014