Anyone who knows me knows that I love the Eurovision Song Contest. To me, this thing is more pride than Pride. It's the Olympics by way of Gay Christmas, and I'm not alone in that opinion. Over 200 million people watch the final of the world's biggest music competition, which is, as John Oliver put it in 2014 "...the craziest thing you will ever see."
Now, I'm not saying all gay people love Eurovision. I'm not even saying all gay people in Europe love Eurovision. I'm just saying that on one Saturday night each May it is impossible to enter a gay bar anywhere in Europe (or Australia) and not be instantly swept up in a wave of sequins, gimmicks, and sheer camp enthusiasm. In a way, it's like the perfect springtime answer to Halloween. Where people take off their masks of normality for one night (or week if you're really keen) and just celebrate music, freedom, and friendly competition for the duration of the contest.
And you don't need to watch it for very long to realise he's not exaggerating. From silver clad drag queens to giant hamster wheels to dueling pianos (on fire) to unicycling soprano sax players to bearded drag queens to falsetto-voiced vampires to epic angel/demon rap battles to yet more drag queens - and occasionally just brilliant pop songs, there is simply nothing on the likes of Idol, X-Factor, the Voice, or Wherever's Got Talent that can hold a candle to this event.
|No, this guy's not from Ukraine, but he is back this year!|
All. Four. Hours. Of it... by the end of which, one competing country is declared the winner, and has the honour of hosting the following year.
This year, it's Ukraine. That's right. That Ukraine.
But Ukraine has a very special relationship with the Eurovision Song Contest, and it's one that I think illustrates beautifully just what this show means to so many people. Ukraine first entered the contest in 2003 and won it the very next year with a song called Wild Dances, sung by Ruslana, who's now a household name in Ukraine, actively engaged with the country's politics. Coming at a major tipping point in Ukraine's push toward democracy, the victory was hugely symbolic and carried tremendous emotional weight for Ukrainians both at home and in countries around the world. They weren't the first country to have such a joyous and significant victory either. Ireland enjoyed an unprecedented four wins in the 90s, right as the country's Troubles were at their worst. To date, they are still the unmatched Eurovision champions with seven wins.
So whether you view it as a night of camp silliness, or a statement of national pride and creativity, there's no questioning why so many people love Eurovision, or what it means. In fact, that significance has inspired one Australian director to make a short film about what Eurovision means to people in ethnic communities far from home (specifically Ukrainians in Australia) and LGBT people as a means to reconnect and break free from social norms for a while. The film is appropriately called Wild Dances, and while I'm not particularly writing this post to plug it,, I'm very pleased to have been one of its backers - and yes, there's still two more days left to do so via Indiegogo. Do with that info what you will!
So whether you're a seasoned Europhile, or watching for the first time, I hope you'll join us in enjoying all the songs, the camp, and the crazy. Happy Eurovision Weekend!