Friday, 16 May 2014

Russia's Hypocrisy?

Dear readers,

I urge to remind you first and foremost that the Eurovision Song Contest is supposed to be about the songs. A country will choose an artist which best represents their country and culture, and is supposed to disregard the politics and bring Europe TOGETHER.

That being said... we all know the current storm surrounding Conchita Wurst's emphatic victory. In the wise words of Carl Epsen, there is a silent storm in Russia and other former Soviets. Whether they appreciated the song or not, Russians televoted Austria into 3rd place. The juries also marked them 11th. There is obviously anger and disproval over the LGBT laws introduced in Russia last year. I made comments on that at the start of the Eurovision season, but in case you missed that, Russian law now bans "homosexual" propaganda to minors. Because of the law, it would have been considered illegal activity to show Conchita Wurst on television. However, the EBU has hard lines when it comes to not showing all the performances. Remember back in 2005? Lebanon were going to enter, but because their laws state you must not recognise Israel as a country, the Lebanese broadcasters were not going to show the Israeli entry. That would have broken the rules and Lebanon would have faced fines, bans and other disciplinary procedures. So in that case, Russia had no choice. They had to show Conchita on television.

(there were other former states kicking off too - Belarus, considered to be the only dictatorship still operative in Europe, also were very unhappy about Conchita).

BUT as many people are pointing out, Ukraine sent Verka Seduchka in 2007, and Russia sent their very own t.A.T.u in 2003. You could even point out Marija Serifovic in 2007, who represented Serbia. Now for any Eurovisionphobes reading (of which I doubt there are), Verka Seduchka provided the contest with one of the most memorable performances of all time. The act is a drag queen, and Verka is a character, no more. Performing in blinding silver sequins, many will remember Dancing Lasha Tumbai as one of their favourite ever Eurovision entrants. I certainly do. Yet this was deemed ok? Hmmm....

t.A.T.u - remembered by many for their infamous homosexual music video to European smash hit "All The Things She Said", as well as to Eurofans alike for their disrespectful behaviour during the 2003 season. The girls are in fact not lesbians themselves, however have stated that they represented and stood for lesbians. Yet, Russia chose to send them as an artist. Can we really look back 11 years to criticise Russia for their actions following Conchita's win?

I'll also quickly mention the many, many, many LGBT acts that have participated in Eurovision throughout the years. Serbia's Marija won with Molitva in 2007...who can forget DQ representing Denmark also in '07...Ryan Dolan of Ireland in 2013...Harel Skaat of Israel in 2010...way back in 1998, when transgender Dana International stole the show for Israel...the list could go on! The point is, why NOW Russia? There has been anti-gay movements in Russia for a number of years, and there was controversy in 2009 when they hosted. But why after all this time do they kick off?

There are several answers. First of all, it is what Conchita represents. I argued it before the contest and I'll say it again: Conchita Wurst is a different type of drag queen. Whereas others such as Verka were comedy characters, Conchita is not just a character. She identifies her gender as a women, but her sex is still male. If you have a problem with that statement then re-assess yourself. Gender and sex are different, end of. Sex is biological, Gender is social. Disagree with me all you like, but I will stick by that truth. However, Conchita also has a sexuality - her image and performance have a raw sexual energy and it is this why Russia are not happy. This makes the performance more human, less fictional. This makes Conchita's choice seem like an acceptable choice to make; we can be who we want to be.

Secondly, we do have to consider currently political philosophies, tensions and analyse the situation. By voting in the masses for Conchita to win, it is a way of accepting the choices made and endorses a respect. The anti-gay laws made in Russia demonstrate the institutional position of homosexuality, and it can easily be argued that they are backwards laws and "hate" laws. But let's just say Putin isn't a fan. Now, is it hypocrisy to argue that sending t.A.T.u is ok and then rejecting Conchita is right? I will argue there is a certain level of hypocritical thought, but predominantly, there isn't. I made the point earlier that a country is suppose to select a participant based on their culture and national identity. Well t.A.T.u took Europe by storm in 2003 and so they were best placed to represent Russian culture at the time of the 2003 contest. It is so easy to look back with hindsight and judge people, but we live in the present. I'm in no way defending Russian thinking that Conchita is bad and demoralising, but the argument that they are hypocritical isn't strong enough in my opinion. 11 years makes a difference in thinking and culture. If we get into a storm about hypocrisy, then I think it's more a factor that Russia sent a song about putting down your guns and peace in 2013, and then annexed Crimea less than a year later. Of course Russia are going to kick off about Conchita Wurst; it effectively defies the legislation made last year about homosexual propaganda. Speculating that Russia wouldn't be annoyed is like saying you wouldn't be annoyed if you went on a diet and then remembered you paid for a non-refundable tour of the chocolate factory.

Lastly, I bring you to what Eurovison actually is. I want to talk about the Russian proposal to withdraw. In theory, Eurovision is this wonderful show of culture and identity where Europe comes together to battle for a glass trophy and a chance to show off their country. In reality, Eurovision is a chance to make money. People are calling for the UK to quit Eurovision: "we always lose, why do we bother?" is a nonsensical argument because you are thinking that the BBC's prime objective is to win. NO! The BBC's prime objective, no matter what the show is, is to win television ratings and earn money. Do you think they'd still commission shows like Doctor Who if nobody watched it? No, obviously not. The same applies with Eurovision: it is theeee cheapest way of dominating Saturday Night television in the UK. The second objective of the BBC is to win, but only because this will bring more attention and more viewers, equalling more money. Some countries struggle financially to enter the competition, with difficulty in finding sponsorship and so forth. The prime illustration of this is Serbia not qualifying in 2013 resulting in a lack of funding for 2014 participation. The point being made here is that no matter what county, Eurovision is an economic and business platform, with the sole prize making money. You may not like to hear that, but if you truly and realistically assess Eurovision then you know what I'm saying to be true. Another example is Australia - do you really think SBS would air the show if only 1,000 people watched it? Of course they bloody wouldn't. Australians like Eurovision so SBS show it. It's as simple as that: Eurovision is there to make money. And so all these ridiculous calls for Russia to withdraw are just silly. The only way Russia will withdraw is if their is a competition such as Voice of Eurasia would make MORE money than Eurovision. It's hard to say if it will, but it won't. Not in this day and age, especially after Russian people loved Conchita.

I can already hear the opposing argument in one word; Turkvizyon. What is important to remember in this incidence is that the withdrawal move was not political. It was over the fact that Turkey doesn't like the rules of the contest. Now Turkvizyon is an interesting one because it can be argued that surely entering Eurovision would be financially better than creating Turkvizyon; it's got more to do with culture than money perhaps. BUT, I disagree. It's to do with culture, but only in the interest of making money. Turkvizyon is a regional thing promoting Turkish music and Turkish culture. It was designed to grow interest in Turkey as a country, boosting their position and increasing tourism. Turkey constantly did well and yet the only chance they got to show themselves off was in 2004. The reason this is different from the idea of "Voice of Eurasia" is that, that competition will be about political discourse and ideology rather than a promotion of Russian culture. I have a feeling I may not have won you over with this argument, but the way I see it is that Russia want a different contest so far unproposed of financially benefitting the region. Turkey on the other hand created a different contest which does financially benefit the region. Perhaps if the angry Russians supposed a contest which will glamour the former Soviets then I can see the idea start to become more of a reality. However at this moment in time, do not expect Russia to withdraw. They will continue to make silly comments about their displeasure in the result, but it will be nothing more than this.

And with one more analogy, I leave with the title of your number 2; "Calm After The Storm". Remember the Eurovision storm isn't over yet; although in previous years its fizzled out, more people are talking about 2014 because of the controversy. Wait for the storm to die down and then look at Eurovision calmly. The calm after the storm will result in nothing more than Russia withdrawing for a year at most. Don't expect Ukraine to go, the Baltics won't, Moldova won't, and I'm going to predict that the worst will be Russia, Belarus and Azerbaijan withdrawing. But the Azeri's will come back next year with a trooper of a ballad, more controversy and a top 5 finish. Belarus are getting Alexander Rybak on board. If they had any chance of winning then they won't leave. Russia will stand alone if they withdraw - but I reckon they won't, because the storm is yet to blow over.

Ooh quick mention to the other gossip - Georgia might get disqualified. Well after talking so much about Turkvizyon, I think it can safely be said that if Georgia do get banned for a year, or even 3 years, then they won't come back. Is that good or is that bad? Well if those sneaky juries get banned then surely that's good, but I don't want participation to decline any more! And plus, let the juries be sneaky if the Georgian televote assured the UK of points. Molly deserved more this year so I'll be selfish and argue that I don't want them to go if they liked her song (WHICH IS AMAZING).

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