Last night, a naive and unsuspecting guiri, I watched the Eurovision competition for the first time.
A year ago a friend had explained the hype to me, underlining Eurovision's traditional, cultural significance. Unfortunately our plans didn't work out, so I was left with the idea created by my imagination: A vision of the spectacle as a cutting edge, international music competition in which different European countries showcased their best talent. Maybe my brain subconsciously channeled American Idol to translate the idea, but that's what I thought the competition was.
At least until yesterday, when some friends invited me to partake in some Telepizza and watch this year's concert. I arrived eager and completely green, expecting an epic performance, something like the Olympics meets Battle of the Bands.
However, as the night went on and I found myself enveloped in a conversation about whether or not Bonnie Tyler was completely hammered, I worried that my face might be contorting into one of those internet memes I never really understood. [Insert rage face here.]
In case you'd like to share in some commiseration (or maybe some enlightenment!) here's a rundown of Eurovision's greatest perplexities for the (or at least this) expat.
Not all of the countries are even IN Europe.
Wait, what? It's called EURO-vision.
"Why isn't Portugal participating?" I asked--which seems like Europe 101, right? "That would be too many countries." But, isn't Azerbaijan in Asia? See also Russia, Armenia, Cyprus, Israel...
(And now that you mention it, why is Georgia considered Europe, anyways?)
The music is NOT hip, or even necessarily representative of the country it's representing.
I've got no beef with Bonnie Tyler or Cascada, but they're hardly cutting edge. And Celine Dion (France's Eurovision representative in 1988)? She's from Canada!
How do they even CHOOSE these bands?
Seriously, how do they select these bands? After a downward spiral of questioning my friends, the Internet has since revealed to me a complicated broadcasting network conspiracy selection process, though as of yet I have found no logical explanation for taste.
The voting process is somehow MORE COMPLEX (and time consuming!) than a Rubik's Cube.
For an event so seemingly arbitrary, the voting process is like a sophisticated electoral college system, complete with nightmarishly bureaucratic timing. You can't vote for your own country. Okay, I guess that makes sense... But you can vote more than once. Wait a minute... That's questionable, but it's easy to overlook while your jaw is dropping when, a half hour into the tallying process, they announce that country 9 of 36 is about to weigh in.
But don't worry, there's always the animated butterfly to console you as you wait for the results.
It all comes down to the hard truth that Eurovision is ridonkulous, and everyone knows it. (Especially England, it seems.)
I absolutely don't get it, but in a way I sort of loved it. Here's looking forward to watching again next year!