Monday, 20 May 2013

Let's talk about the Eurovision Song Contest

There's one day a year when my combined degrees in media and European politics become supremely useful. Wikipedia states that it's the most watched non-sporting television event in the world: Eurosong night.

I know far more about the Eurovision Song Contest than is healthy for a dynamic young woman like myself.

I probably could have done a week's worth of posts during the run up to the final, but I spent most of the week sulking that I wasn't going to be able to watch it. Due to a twist of events, combined with Irish broadcaster RTE graciously providing a live webstream for displaced European expats like myself, I did have the pleasure of introducing this strange cultural phenomenon to my US relatives. Next year, I promise, I'll give it the attention it deserves.

To all those who are completely oblivious to what I'm talking about, Americans especially, here's how Eurovision works:

In the 1950's, after Europe had been all but torn apart by two world wars, experts and leaders devised some clever soft power policies to ensure that kind of devastation would never happen again.

One solution was a series of trade pacts that eventually evolved into the European Union. Another was a solution composed (sorry) in Switzerland: A continental pop song talent show.

And so for over 60 years Europe has been lumbered with an overly complicated political system from which no member country can quite disentangle or disassociate itself. It comprises petty spats, an impenetrable voting system that leaves everyone unhappy, cultural faux pas, lingual slip-ups, a hugely bloated budget which favors certain large countries over others, and some questionable fashion. And that's just the song contest.

During my first year living here in the USA I've compared a number of American events to Eurovision, such as the July 4th concerts, the Superbowl and the Draft. But there's no one way I could explain Eurovision to my American family: they had to see it for themselves.

Americans are unashamedly proud of their cheesy bravado, while Europeans hide their glittering pride behind a layer of sarcasm. I don't think any American can truly understand the Old World until they can truly understand the feeling of simultaneous pride and shame that Europeans feel about the song contest. It's like an ugly handbag - it is just so hideous that it's actually kind of fabulous.

Yes, I watch the whole three hour show every year. But as a Brit that doesn't necessarily mean I enjoy it, I'm just fulfilling my patriotic duty.  So when my dog literally ran out of the room at the sound of a Romanian singing falsetto opera to a dupbstep track, or when my Irish-American mother-in-law felt cheated when Ireland came last, and when my US husband (an International Relations professional) bemoaned the shocking political voting, I felt like they finally did now understand the true meaning of a peaceful Europe. Viva L'Eurovision!

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