Bursting the Bubble

European Solidarity Revived by the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest

16 May 2014 | by

Taking place on an annual basis since 1956, the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) has become one of the leading European music competitions [1]. Regardless of criticism about its quality, and along with its professional aspect as a competition amongst performers, the ESC is widely believed to have a symbolic meaning, reflecting the political attitudes of Europeans across the continent. This year, the 59th ESC, was no exception: a plethora of turbulent political events have preceded it, including an upsurge in far-right political parties, rising trends of intolerance, social unrest, and Russian military advances in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood. It is noteworthy though that all of these are escalating on the eve of the European Parliament Elections. Despite such gloomy developments, this Eurovision song contest proved to be a sparkle of light, proving that the values of Europe are still principled.

Regardless of some prior homophobic attacks – mainly from Russia and Belarus – and the disapproving Facebook page, the choice of the people of Europe and winner of the 2014 ESC became Conchita Würst, a bearded drag queen from Austria who performed a bright and empowering song “Rise like a Phoenix”. In her song, Conchita enchanted personal freedom and encouraged all to stand strong against challenges. The decision by the voters to cast Conchita as the winner of this Europe-wide song contest demonstrated that people across Europe fought prejudices and paid tribute to the talent; that solidarity, tolerance and freedom do matter on this continent, and showed that extremist and fanatical thinking will not triumph. Conchita herself, in her speech as a newly born European celebrity, emphasised the values of peace and freedom concluding with the phrase: “we are unstoppable”.

The 59th Eurovision became an issue of public discourse in my homeland, Georgia, as well. Like in many post-Soviet countries after having experienced totalitarian rule, the public presence of LGTB topics is still unfortunately denounced as “propaganda” by some extreme conservative groups. Unexpected by the progressive part of Georgian society, and in the light of the struggle that took place before the recent adoption of the anti-discrimination law (consult this article for more information), Georgia voted 10 points to Conchita Würst. The granting of 8 points to Russia was, not surprisingly, booed by the Eurovision Copenhagen audience and, unexpectedly, by the Georgian population as well, considering the unauthorised presence of Russian troops on 20% of Georgian territories – further aggravated by Russia’s recent military actions against Ukraine.

As for this earnest observer of this year’s Eurovision, particularly disappointing were some entries (such as the glaring Donatan & Cleo project) with prevailing sexist elements. I could not see any “folk elements” advocated by the concerned ESC participants and their protégés except the attire of those performers. The choreographic part of some performances were absolutely controversial, encouraging unfortunate stereotypes that widely serve as a source of discrimination against women, entrenching clichés and stereotypes. Luckily, and by the merit of the people of Europe, these notorious entries did not become among the favourites of the contest.

All in all, the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest became a nice surprise and a vibrant event on the background of the current developments in Europe. Let’s hope the forthcoming EP elections also reflect this widely demonstrated European solidarity!

 

[1] Israel also participates in the Eurovision Song Contest

 

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