Well, you’re not watching it for the music, surely?
Now America prepare yourselves. Because on Saturday you too will be able to join in watching one of TV’s odder events. The Eurovision Song Contest (where Britain always comes second last) is at long last on your TV’s
Eurovision, for all it reaches some 600 millions, will I suspect, pass many of the largely American readership of The Oligarch Kings by. Which is a pity as you really don’t know what you are missing.
It began 60 years ago as a post war “light entertainment” offering to Europe from the European Broadcasting Union (which is not to be confused with the European Union). This is why odd countries are included such as Israel which is not in geographical Europe. Quite why Australia gets a look in is anyones guess. They seem to enjoy it is the reason. And as a note to Americans – Europe as a geographical entity does stretch to include Russia to the Urals and Turkey and Georgia etc.
(Yes, it is a cross dressing drag queen winning the prize. But you will love it – trust me.)
It may be a continental Kitsch-fest, every bit as gay as a tree full of parrots, but there is more to Eurovision than harlots miming to fireworks.
Of course it was never about the music. You watch the music first – which is fun and then you settle into the second half which is where the afficiandos get serious. You see it is also a national popularity contest, a kind of European Referrendum on who is in and who is out, which explains the funny voting. The Scandinavian bloc all vote for each other, and so do the countries of the old Soviet Empire. Turkey never votes for Greece, Spain votes for Portugal and vice versa. Germany votes for Turkey because that is where their domestic staff come from, and nobody, nobody ever votes for Britain.
Which of course is why it is so ingrained into the British season. Parties are arranged round it. It has become AN EVENT. People sit in groups eating nibbles and drinking vast volumes of the European wine lake. It is really terribly popular and now you too get to watch.
There has been research into all this political stuff and that magnificent graphic below is Andrew Gelman’s insight into friendship blocs in Eurovision.
Shameless. Corrupt. So why do I sit glued to the box, vin rouge in hand, shaking with laughter? Because there is suspense too. Do you want a heads up on how Greece might approach more austerity? Then watch how many votes Greece gives Germany this year! How is Turkey’s application to join the EU going? Pretty shit is my guess, so let watch and see. Will Germany get the bums rush from Hungary and Poland over migrant allocations? Just how much do the Europeans still hate the Brits for supporting the Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan? Could get a glimmer here of the British Referendum outcome? Watch the votes and learn.
Eurovision is a political barometer every bit as certain as the Dow is for financial markets.
Now it can be very odd for Americans. This might be a difficult evening for you if watching away from New York or that sink of depravity San Francisco. Actually you might find it shocking. I remember in the 70’s watching exchange students sitting open mouthed in front of it. It didnt fit easily into their world-view. Eurovision is stuffed full of cross-dressers, flagrant transvestites, transgender perculiaties, whole ranks of performers as camp as a row of tents, not forgetting all those provocative girls prancing about in their knickers, and all before the 9.00pm watershed. Indeed, we Europeans encourage children to watch it! All of which might only confirm the more straight laced in the USA in their opinions of all things European. And then, and then you get a clutch of old grannies in their peasant frocks who take the stage by storm. No seriously, press the button.
There, now wasn’t that wonderful? If you want to understand Europe this is as good a way as any.
Copyright David Macadam 2016