Will Russia get booed at Eurovision tonight?
Our man on the ground reckons we should do what we do best and rise above...
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The United Kingdom might not have been able to find the winning Eurovision formula for quite some time, but one thing you can rely on Blighty to successfully send to world’s campest contest is GAYS. Gays by the Vengabus load. They get everywhere at Eurovision: clogging up the hotels, bars and squares; soaking up the museums and bus tours; haranguing the hosts for freebies in the press centre (*ahem*); and, of course, they make up a large portion of the broadcast shows' arena audiences.
Last year’s host Petra Mede directly acknowledged this point. Addressing the “special fans” in the front rows she commented on how they were “always at the heart of the competition” before passing remark with a cheeky smile that they "just hadn’t met the right girl yet”. This received a rapturous applause.
For such warmth to be radiated unapologetically in front of 180,000,000 people watching across Europe was a hugely significant and crucially important thing to have happened. At the same time that Sweden was embracing us homosexuals, the Russian state of Duma passed a law prohibiting discussions about homosexuality, and in Georgia (the very day before the Eurovision Grand Final) riots took place after an aborted attempt at a gay pride march in Tbilisi.
Much has changed since that contest in Malmö one year ago; most notably Putin’s record on gay rights continuing to reach new lows. So how will the largely gay audience in the B&W Hallerne arena in Copenhagen react to Russia’s contestants when they take to the stage in Semi Final 1 this evening? If the preview shows are anything to go by: not very well it seems.
The Tolmachevy Sisters have been booed at various showcase events across Western Europe.
The cynic in me can't help but wonder that the Russian selection committee expected controversy at the world’s most gay-friendly competition, and chose the Tolmachevy Sisters on purpose…. Pretty blonde twins who've already got one Eurovision victory under their belts (2006 Junior Eurovision Song Contest as nine year olds), now seventeen, still utterly adorable and singing a schmaltzy ballad about opening your heart to the sun – who could ever be so mean to these innocent young girls? Ah, yes… the gays. Because if they do get booed during the televisied competition tonight this will surely help justify Putin's ridiculous notions about the nasty gay boogey men seeking to subvert proud Russian norms?
Armenia’s not been getting an easy ride of it either. Booed at the Amsterdam preview, their contestant Aram MP3 (overwhelming favourite to take the trophy on Saturday) allegedly made comments about Austria’s fabulous bearded drag queen Conchita Wurst that when translated weren’t particularly inclusive. In an interview in his home country Mr MP3 (comedian-turned-singer, which explains rather than justifies the stage name) questioned Conchita’s way of life, specifically saying “it’s not natural”, before suggesting that the Armenian delegation might be able to “help her to eventually decide whether she is a woman or man.”
Aram also claimed to speed up his car when passing through Yerevan’s gay district. Which is a shame really, given that if he wins on Saturday he’ll be spending a LOT of time there in May 2015.
When questioned over the comments, his excuse? He was only joking. Yeah, well.
“I guess that means he doesn’t want to marry me”.
…and perhaps that’s the best way around this - to take it all in our stride, choosing to focus on the overwhelming number of positives that accompany such a massive fusion of cultures at the greatest, most ridiculous party on Earth.
Anyone who’s been to the competition will tell you that the week of the Eurovision Song Contest is filled with such character and creativity that a big, fuzzy, great collective warmth is generated and felt by everyone – and that’s not just caused by excessive Jagerbombs and schlager music.
Viewers often forget that some of the competing countries have recently been at war with one another (and some of them like Armenia/Azerbaijan still are) but for one evening it’s all forgotten for the sake of a silly singing competition with drag queens and songs about cakes. It’s utterly heart-warming and life-affirming, as cheesey as that might sound.
So perhaps if Aram truly meant the things he said then a trip from Yerevan to Copenhagen will open his mind and make him think twice in future?
Russia’s not going to win any votes from the gay community this year, and ultimately their song is pretty poor – it’s certainly Russia’s most ill-advised entry in to Europe since, well, YOU KNOW THE PUNCHLINE – but I truly hope that the Tolmachevy Sisters and Aram MP3 don’t get booed in their semi-final tonight. It’s better they return to their respective countries as friends rather than enemies… particularly if come Sunday 11 May, us gays are frantically booking our Venga Airways flights to Zvartnots International Airport, terminal 1.
Words Robin Holley