Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Relax, beardy Eurovision singer won't spark a furred world war

Hair, hair: Austria's Conchita was a deserved winner
Hair, hair: Austria's Conchita was a deserved winner

The Eurovision Song Contest – where would you get the like of it? This year's featured a beardy performer making a speech on the theme of freedom, peace and unity, a provocative group doing a bit of stirring and a bloke going round and round on a hamster wheel.

Okay, so it also sounds like an average day up at Stormont.

But there is something enduringly fascinating about the annual insanity that is Eurovision with its pop, its jingoism, its dodgy dress sense and its apparent belief that world (or at least continental) peace will be furthered by glitter explosion and predictable lyrics about dreaming the same dream.

All harmless fun. Unless you happen to be reading some of the post-contest analysis and reaction, which would suggest a drag queen with a bit of facial hair singing what sounded like the theme from a James Bond movie could destabilise Europe.

'Furred world war' one tabloid suggested (admittedly tongue in hairy cheek) referring to comments by Russian leaders appalled that Austrian singer, Conchita Wurst, had triumphed on the night.

Drag act Conchita accessorised her gold gown with Kardashian hair and a heavily touched up beard.

"It is the end of Europe," cried one Russian Liberal Democrat politician. (Obviously the Lib Dems in Moscow take a dimmer view of facial hair/gender diversity than their Cleggy counterparts in the UK.)

But, of course, it's not the end of Europe. It's not even the end of Eurovision. Conchita may have stymied the Euro dreams of Poland, thrusting to the potent combo of considerable cleavage and a bit of suggestive butter churning. But that's about the height of it.

The winning act wasn't even all that pioneering. Israel's transgender Dana International (no relation) won the contest back in 1998. No talk of continental meltdown on the back of the win back then.

And while we may sneer at Angry of Vladivostok, he's not alone in his hysteria. A few of our own leaders have considerable previous in the same arena.

What is a bit unsettling is that the outcome of a harmless song contest is now being seen as some sort of strike against Vladimir Putin. Or much worse, Russia and its people. Homophobia is evil. Russophobia isn't a great thing, either.

Putin and his government deserve censure. But as the booing of the Russian entry in the song contest shows, growing anti-Russian sentiment no longer stops at the Kremlin door. A couple of teenage girls singing a pop song are also considered fair game.

Partly this may be a protest against the Russian government's woeful record on gay rights. But being honest, several other countries taking part in the contest could also have been singled out for similar reasons.

What is really compounding the anti-Russian mood right now is the current conflict in the Ukraine. Or more precisely, media coverage thereof.

This is generally presented as a simplistic them-uns bad, these-uns good scenario, where evil Russia is held to be monstering entirely innocent Ukraine. But as with all conflicts (including our own) there are enormous complexities there, and right and wrong on all sides.

This doesn't excuse Putin or his government. But some of the facile trivialising of what's happening in that part of the world right now to the point where Russia (and Russians) is almost universally portrayed as the West's new Great Satan, can't be entirely conducive to the stability of Europe in future either.

Conchita was a worthy winner of the contest, singing about seeking retribution rather than vengeance (surely much the same thing?) and rising from the ashes.

Europe, sadly, has had to do the latter too many times.

However trite and tired Eurovison's enduring message of peace and harmoneee may be, this year we appear to need it.

 

Why Gary’s OBE could be a gong-er

Gary Barlow. From hero to zero. Or, if you're counting, from hero to £20m tax avoidance scheme. One day you're a national treasure. Next, it's revealed you've not exactly been maximising national treasure.

Tax doesn't have to be taxing? It may do when it costs an OBE. In the wake of revelations about Gary's tax avoidance, there are now calls for him to hand back his gong.

Dave Cameron says he must keep it. It was given for services to music and charity. But surely the revelations have somewhat taken the shine off the honour.

What chance of some day upping it to a knighthood? Presumably we can take it that isn't going to happen?

 

BBC needs Porter to do heavy lifting

As Chris Patten leaves the BBC Trust, there are calls for a woman to be given the top job. A number of names are suggested, but none who is likely to really fire the public imagination. The Guardian feels that someone who is ‘ruthless’ but also ‘decent’ is called for.

My suggestion. What about Janet Street Porter (above)? True, Janet is a bit mouthy. But is that such a bad thing?

She has been around a bit, lives in the real world, isn't afraid to take often unpopular decisions, is tough as her old hiking boots, but also seems to have a heart.

Media savvy, she's in touch with popular culture without seeming to assume the only way is Essex. Surely worth a punt?

 

 

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