CAUTIOUS NOT TO turn this blog into a Eurovision fest, I couldn’t help but put down in words why Conchita Wurst’s contest conquer was the only outcome.
Given the media attention – both positive and negative – that surrounded her before the grand final, this glamorously tranvestite, bearded, Austrian version of Shirley Bassey – think the lovechild of a Kardashian sister and Jesus Christ – you could argue that she was always going to win on those grounds alone. I’m not really a fan of drag acts; I often find them contrived and bordering on ridculous, and naturally – perhaps ignorantly – I assumed Conchita would appear on stage emerging from an oversized wardrobe, suggestively eating bananas between verses of synthesised EDM. But when she belted out that Bond-esque ballad on Saturday night, it dawned on me that Miss Wurst (real name Tom Neuwirth, by the way) was much more than a man in a wig, in a dress, with a beard.
In last week’s article I wrote about how Eurovision is more of a song circus these days. I still don’t deny it, even if it was actually one of the tamest contests I’d seen (bar the, er, bawdy butter-churning from Poland), but the vocal power alone of Wurst was worthy of real praise; I dare say even winning. Rather fittingly, her victory came after waves of boos for Russia’s fairly successful stint in the competition, reminding us of the inescapable undercurrent of this whole thing. So it still wasn’t strictly a music competition after all, I suppose, and was once again, although this year in a different way, a political playground in disguise. And while Miss Wurst can certainly sing, her victory was a metaphor for much more. No, she probably would not have won had she come on stage dressed as a man, but that was the whole point. It was never meant to be subtle. It was meant to stun people, to get them talking, to get them divided. It was an emblem of the progressivity of the 21st century, a talking point, a perception-challenger and above all it was a big middle finger from the West to the Russian parochialism that prevails over the East. Some Russian politicians were even hailing it “the end of Europe”, and perhaps they’re right – the end of a Europe which, for the most part, shunned individuality and ‘the unknown’ for decades, sitting at home in curtained-off state-owned apartments in emotionless city suburbs, watching state-run, state-produced, state-regulated television. This is 2014, and the fact that she is a man in a dress with (actually quite impressive) facial hair might be mind-boggling to some, but her victory simply represented acceptance in the face of intolerance.
Right, I promise; no more Eurovision.