A Final Message for the Haters (and Hate Watchers)

It’s Eurovision final day, the culmination of months and months of hard work and training for artists, or, as many people like to call it, the day Eurovision is on.

If you’re planning to watch tonight because you’re curious as to what this is all about, welcome! It will be fun. This is a vintage Eurovision year; one where the bangers outweigh the ballads and what ballads we have are actually pretty good! These songs have made me laugh and made me cry and have validated my choice to rock an undercut.

If you’re planning to watch tonight because you like to make fun of all those wacky Europeans, well, you do you. But the middle-aged men showing up in y-fronts are protesting Putin’s stranglehold over Eastern Europe, and the guy playing the video game is talking about feeling isolated and helpless during the pandemic, and the women singing about Edgar Allan Poe are actually talking about the economics of songwriting. Don’t even get me started on the guy in the green puffy sleeves, who is actually talking about the issue of having to drink to feel comfortable enough to be your true self.

These staging choices are all designed to catch your eye. But nothing tonight is about being gimmicky for the sake of being gimmicky (okay, maybe that doesn’t apply to Poland, whose entire song is an artifice carefully assembled from Instagram likes and Shein sponcon.)

So if you want to ironically hate watch Eurovision from your couch to laugh at all the spectacle on parade, great. But remember that anything you tweet is likely to have been tweeted before by someone much funnier and cleverer than you. Yes, we all know the stage looks like a toilet bowl, and the flag parade has some not very impressive flags, and that the Albanian act is shouty and dramatic. (As Georgia might say: Thing is known.) But that’s not detracting from our enjoyment of the show – it’s adding to it.

And if you’re hate watching Eurovision to take the piss out of all these screechy women and flamboyant men and who knows what’s going on Eastern Europeans, I feel sorry for you. Because what Eurovision is – especially this year – is a giant cultural festival where people come to celebrate all kinds of music – pop, opera, metal, rap, rock, folk – it’s all in there, wrapped up in a shiny package of sequins and pyro for us to enjoy.

But aside from the spectacle, it’s also a community – one where you don’t have to choose what you like because everyone loves everything, even if not all at once. I’m not saying Eurofans are better than everyone else – god knows we have toxic parts of the community – but this little bubble of Eurovision is where you can come and say, “I like this” and find hundreds of others who will say “I do too!”. There’s not gatekeeping. There’s not pressure to prove you’re a real fan. You can do as much or as little as you like and still feel welcomed.

Look, I’m a Gen Xer. I have done my share of ironic detachment and thinking that coolness derives from pooh-poohing the things everyone else loves. And what I’ve learned instead is that attitude just means you miss out on a lot of fun things.

Finally, because I am contractually obliged to write about gender and feminism, I’d like to point out that the traditional British attitude of sneering at Eurovision – which started once the contest opened up to Eastern Europe – is just another, more socially-accepted way of denigrating “the girls, the gays, and the theys” – the female teen audiences that are some of the biggest fanbases to these acts, and the queer communities for whom Eurovision is a place to both connect with others and be their authentic selves. I feel like that attitude is changing, but I also want to point out that at a time when drag queen story hours are being protested in South London, having drag queens bring a message of love and inclusivity to millions, as happened on Thursday – is an incredibly powerful act.

So go ahead and make fun of the frocks and the vocals and the acts you don’t understand. It can’t change the fact that Eurovision is a positive net good – in economic impact to Britain, in creating a safe space for marginalised identities, in giving us all an excuse to party, and – this year – in shouting a big fuck you to warmongers and dictators.

I’m looking forward to the final event of the Eurovision season, and I hope you join me in loving every single moment tonight.

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