Needless to say, the Eurovision Song Contest, apart from a camp-fest of aesthetic apoplexy & auditory schlock, is above all (or underneath all, depends on one's perspective) a forum of political & socioeconomic discourse. A fanciful, sparkling, extra-frothy and widely inclusive platform where European countries (in the loosely geographical sense) vent their grievances, display their angst or jubilation, draw references to their national talking points and attempt to establish or rehabilitate their reputations. And all through nuanced showbiz frolics and innocuous ditties.
As expected, the Russo-Ukraine conflict, hot potato of European affairs, was lurking under the glitzy contraptions and elaborate hair extensions of both countries' performances. The Ukrainian song title "Tick Tock" was of course an obvious allusion to the ticking time-bomb the Kremlin has planted deep in the Ukrainian nationhood with its takeover of Crimea and its stoking of Russophile separatists. The song, masquerading as ode to a reluctant lover, is an up-tempo cry to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to resist the Russian pressures to secede. "If you cave in I break" sang the Ukrainian stunning brunette songstress, pleading for them to stay put. "They all know that you are mine", ebullient Mariya crooned melodically, poignantly, while a male acrobat was "trapped" in a giant running wheel, a blatant telltale hint to the country's current predicament, hounded by external territorial forces, internal social unrest and crushing national debt. The European audience, partial to Ukraine's blight, awarded her the 6th place.
Russia on its part, outbid Ukraine's curvy vixen with not one, but two, virginal Lolitas, all milky-skinned and golden-locks, symbolic of the new Russia under Putin's steer, a Russia harking back to traditional values, orderly uniformity and moral rectitude. The twins sang cherubically, radiantly, perched dexterously on a seesaw balancing platform, the latter a reference to Kremlin's balancing act between its avowed determination to uphold the international order and defend the oppressed, exploited minorities outside its borders. The song itself, thinly disguised as plea to a wayward lover, is almost a political manifesto declaring that "one day you ll be mine" to all the ex-Soviet russophone regions that were violently torn away from the motherland, a blessed union that will effectively be a "masterpiece of love".
In contrast with the above portrayal of Slavic identity as pristine and chaste, and as an obvious jab at Russia's hollow righteousness, Poland's performance rejoiced in the unencumbered, boutylicious, Slavic exuberance of its curvaceous singing milkmaids. The song celebrated an uninhibited, free-spirited approach to tradition (as opposed to Russia's narrow-minded adherence to it) with the traditionally frocked ladies exhibiting both self-assured sexuality and a penchant for hard work in the guise of churning butter and hand-washing laundry. Once again the semantics of the stage actions can be easily deciphered, in this case as Poland's dedicated drive to clean up its checkered communist past and as a protest against EU plans to phase out agricultural subsidies.
Other highlights of the contest include Great Britain's furtive plea for absolution for its colonial past, what with the tribal costume touches and digital visuals in the background; Italy's aspirations for national rejuvenation via the creative reworking of its kaleidoscopic history, as selectively depicted on stage (Roman Empire grandeur, early 20th century avant-gardism and high-fashion connoisseurship ); and France's ode to a missing moustache, obviously an insinuation of François Hollande's failing to attempt to become a new Charles de Gaulle.
And of course, one cannot harp on this year's Eurovision contest without detecting underneath the shimmering gold gown, heavy makeup & perfectly groomed facial hair of Austria's winning entry, below the message of tolerance and inclusion that the performance elicited, a clear-as-day intimation of the exquisite burden of the Freudian legacy on the Austrian psyche.
May 12, 2014 | CULTURAL (NO)MORES
Eurovision: Camp-a-thon Dialectics