The Eurovision 2014 contest was fascinating for a number of reasons that had nothing to do with the singing. Most official news outlets have given great live and sometimes very witty coverage of the event from a musical and theatrical point of view. Since this is a Romance language blog, I am going to probe a little deeper to examine the voting patterns of the different language blocs to see who has been faithful to whom and who has been treacherous. But first some big issues that have broader implications
The politics of beards
You have to congratulate Austria for daring to choose Conchita Wurst as its representative, and picking the perfect year to do it. This year, all of a sudden, for some reason, facial hair on men – beards more so than moustaches – made a comeback. Metrosexual was out, the “lumberjack look” (pictured left) was in! In some parts of the Western world, superficial baby-faced young men who could not grow their own bushes on their cheeks were clamouring to get facial hair transplants, and some were prepared to pay thousands of dollars to do it. Now, thanks to Conchita, expect to see more lumberjacks in coming months.
The politics of gay rights and drag queens with beards
When it became known that Conchita Wurst was going to represent Austria, there was a backlash from ultra-conservative groups in Russia, Belarus and Armenia too apparently. According to Reuters, more than 15,000 people in Russia signed a petition asking that the Russian state broadcaster not to cover Eurovision at all, or at least block out Wurst’s performance. Well, talking about cutting your nose off to spite your non-bearded face! All that publicity no doubt helped Wurst, whose song, let’s face it, does sound like the soundtrack of a late 1970s James Bond movie. Russia’s anti-“gay propoganda” laws had already been in the spotlight this year in the build-up to the winter Olympics at Sochi, and no doubt a lot of the votes for Austria at Eurovision came from people who wanted to make a point. Indeed, the Russian representatives in the contests got booed, and in the final voting tally, whenever a country awarded points to Russia in the final, there were boos from the audience (the Russian entry came seventh). But the interesting thing is that in the final, Russia actually gave 5 points to Conchita Wurst. Belarus and Armenia gave her none, while Ukraine gave her 8.
The politics of freedoms, women’s rights and human rights
Expect anti-Russia sentiment to fester; apart from its “land grab” in Ukraine (Moldova fears it might be next in line for similar treatment), the crushing of political dissent (remember the disgraceful treatment of those poor women in the band Pussy Riot?), Russia has since introduced a law banning “foul language” in films, books, theatre and on television. Russia is due to host the 2015 FINA world swimming championships in Kazan and the 2018 World Cup soccer tournament, so Sochi-style protests are bound to happen as long as Vladimir Putin’s oppressive remains in charge. In the meantime, news from other parts of the world has been depressing, particularly for women. Anger is growing around the world after the militant Boko Haram group in Nigeria kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls for receiving an education. Did the 15,000 “pro family values” Russians who signed a petition against Boko Haram also start a petition to “Bring back our girls?” In Aceh, Indonesia, a woman is to be flogged for adultery after being gang-raped by vigilantes as punishment. And such punishments could now occur in Brunei too after that country brought in a tough new penal code that includes death by stoning for adulterers. And going back to the beard theme, a Saudi Arabian woman had to go into hiding after being threatened because of a tweet she made about beards.
So, if you have got this far and are wondering why I am going on about all this misery in the world, my point is that maybe Conchita Wurst’s strong support and victory was a sign of people fighting back against petty-mindedness and oppression. And that a lot worse things can happen in live than a bearded tranny doing a song in drag on TV.
Now onto the Romance language angles: Spain came 10th, Romania 12, Italy 21st and France came last of the 26 with just 2 points, one each from Finland and Ukraine. Quelle horreur!
- France awarded 6 points to Spain and 1 to Italy, none for neighbours Belgium or Switzerland. Its top vote of 12 points went to Armenia.
- Tit for tat. Belgium gave no points to France, 5 to Romania and 2 to Spain. Top score to Austria.
- Switzerland gave 8 to Spain and 2 to Italy. Its top vote went to Austria.
- Italy gave 5 points to Romania and 2 to Switzerland but none to Spain or France. Its 12 points went to Austria.
- Moldova, where Romanian is the main language although some like to call it Moldovan, gave its 12 points to Romania, and 10 to Ukraine and 8 to Russia.
- Portugal gave no points to Spain, France or Italy, and 1 to Romania. Portugal’s 12 points went to Austria.
- Romania, where there is a sizable Hungarian minority, gave 10 points to Hungary (Hungary gave none to Romania), 6 to Switzerland and 5 to Spain. Romania gave Sweden 12 points.
- Switzerland gave its 12 points to Austria, and dished out 8 to Spain and 2 to Italy.
- Slovenia, where some Italian is spoken, particularly near its western border with Italy, gave no votes to Italy. It’s top vote went to Austria.
- San Marino, which is an enclave inside Italy, gave no votes to Italy either. Its top score was awarded to Azerbaijan.
- Austria‘s top three votes went to Armenia, the Netherlands and Romania.
- Russia gave 7 points to Ukraine and its top score of 12 points to Belarus. Ukraine gave 6 points to Belarus, 4 to Russia and 12 to Sweden. Belarus gave 8 points to Ukraine and 12 to Russia.
So there you go. Looking forward to doing it all again next year. In Vienna probably, unless the Austrians opt for Salzburg or Linz or someplace else. In the words of the Finnish contestants, who added some Cold Play-style rock muscle to the event, let’s hope it’s Something Better.