This year's Eurovision and its bearded wonder

As Conchita Wurst tops Eurovision, Russia hits bottom.


On Sunday, the annual Eurovision Song Contest found its winner – Conchita Wurst, a slim, long-haired beauty who just happens to rock a meticulously trimmed beard. 
Eurovision is essentially a weeks-long musical Olympics, with representatives from every European country competing through a series of semifinals and finals to win the coveted top spot. And, as with the generally upbeat mood of the Olympics, Wurst was the recipient of a huge outpouring of congratulations from around Europe, including from the singers she beat.

The exception was the outpouring of bile and ugliness from Russia, whose public figures decided this was a sterling opportunity to further alienate their nation and people from the modern West. Prize-winning comments include the political party head who suggested that the Soviet Army should never have left its occupation of Austria, and the Culture Minister who archly wondered what watching Eurovision would do to his children. Not content with letting their bold leaders monopolize the discourse, rank-and-file Russian dipshits took to social media to shave their beards in protest and churn out unfunny memes.

Just for clarity, Conchita Wurst is a drag persona of singer Thomas Neuwirth, not a transperson. The entire Eurovision contest is as campy as a John Waters marathon, full of elaborate dance numbers, hyper techno beats, and overwrought operatic emotion. So protesting a drag queen’s win is like getting huffy that a steroid user won World’s Strongest Man.

In the midst of Russia’s ongoing attempts to peel Ukraine away from Europe, it’s hardly surprising that a certain strain of nationalist meatheads would use Conchita Wurst as a political football. Of course, it’s tempting to think that maybe European voters were also using Conchita, as an opportunity to stick a thumb in the eye of Vladimir Putin and his troglodyte cronies. After all, Russia’s unfortunate representatives, the probably traumatized Tolmachevy Sisters, were audibly booed before their performance, so it would be no surprise if Wurst got some protest votes.

But ‘Wurst’s “Rise Like a Phoenix”’ is totally awesome, and ironically, one of the less campy jams in the whole damn competition. Sure, it shares themes of overcoming and struggle with every great gay anthem since “I Will Survive,” but there’s no sweaty house beat, and the lyrical nods to retribution and broken glass give it a pulse-thrumming edge.

Ultimately (and this shows just how far we’ve come), I think that in the long run the real losers in all of this will be average Russians and Ukrainians. Most of Europe has gotten a chance to affirm its values of openness, while Russian politicians have had a high-profile platform for their hatred. But meanwhile, “Rise Like a Phoenix” has actually hit #1 on Russian download charts. Most Russians, it seems, either support the ideals Conchita represents, or just don’t care about the politics behind a kickass anthem. Either way, with the leaders and public figures they’re stuck with, they're going to need some serious struggle music, and “Rise Like a Phoenix” fits the bill.

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