Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Shout Out to Sweden

I know I blogged about Eurovision last year – two separate entries in fact – and I probably don’t need to blog about it again this year… except that I need to blog about it again this year.  This year, Eurovision was all about Sweden, even though it wasn’t all about Sweden.  Also, as strange as it is for a country that isn’t in Eurovision, this year it was also all about Australia.

I mentioned previously that Australian viewers get a shout out from the Eurovision hosts every year.  This year it was a bit different.  This year we got several shout outs – during each of the two semi-finals and the final itself.  But there was more – so much more.  All 170+ million viewers across Europe saw this clip – all about Australia:

Amazeballs!  We’ve been noticed down here!  And just as the video says, there were heaps of Eurovision parties, including one at my apartment again this year.  Everybody brought food from a different competing country.  I had done Israel and Denmark in the past, so I decided to change it up again this year and go for Belgium.  I bought a waffle maker and several bottles of Belgian beer.  I have to say it was a stellar choice.

This year’s host country – Sweden – gave Australia a big shout out, so it’s only fair that I give a shout out back to them.  Last year’s host country – Azerbaijan – spent over a billion dollars to build a lavish new arena for the event.  Yes, the venue looked pretty fantastic, but was it really necessary?  Also, the Azerbaijanis bombarded us with images and video clips of their country throughout the entire program, including before each contestant.  And they had 3 hosts on stage.  Overkill!  Sweden did it a bit different.  In the midst of a financial crisis that is plaguing much of Europe, Sweden kept it real.  For starters, their budget was under 19 million dollars.  That’s not much for an event that is watched by more people than the Super Bowl.  Also, they poked fun at themselves incessantly.  They even joked about how the event wasn’t being held in a big arena in Stockholm, but rather in a smaller, older venue in Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city.  Rather than bombard viewers with images and clips of Sweden before each contestant, they actually had clips of each contestant in their home country.  It was quite lovely.  But there were two things that were super fantastic about this year’s Eurovision Song Contest:  (1) The Gays and (2) Petra Mede.

The Gays.

It’s no secret that Eurovision has a huge gay following, but that wasn’t really acknowledged in Azerbaijan last year, mainly because their record on gay rights isn’t so fantastic.  But Sweden is the polar opposite, and the gays shined.  The hostess made references to the gays at several points in the show, even joking that all of the single men in the audience just hadn’t found the right girl yet.  Some of the acts themselves were pretty gay.  I was rooting for Finland in the final, and singer Krista Siegfrids’ song “Marry Me” ended with a lesbian kiss to show support for marriage equality and to raise awareness of it in Finland (the only Nordic country without marriage for all).

And then there was Ireland’s entry.  Look at the guys on the drums in the beginning (and all throughout).  If there was ever going to be a number designed specifically for a gay audience, this was most certainly it.  Yummylicious.

But it really got gay with the hostess of the show, which brings me to the other thing.

Petra Mede.

Petra Mede was the sole host of the show (why have 3 mediocre hosts when you can have 1 amazing one?)  She’s a Swedish comedian and she was fantastic throughout the entire program, but it was the end of the final that really skyrocketed Petra Mede to a place of high regard in my book.  While the votes were being tallied, Petra Mede decided it was time to finally sell Sweden to the European audience.  And I think this musical number here is probably the best thing I have ever seen on TV:

First of all, I had no idea Celsius was a Swede, though I did know about the Nobel Prize being from there.  I just loved the way she poked fun at her own country – a lot – an awful lot – but it was hilarious.  She even mentioned the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.  OMG!  And even though she pretty much tore Swedes apart with all of their idiosyncrasies and hard-to-assemble Ikea furniture, she did it in a very loving and endearing way and somehow turned it all into a positive and subtly reminded the rest of Europe that Sweden is better than they are.  Seriously.  Did you see the gay wedding in the song?  The very next line of the song was “Follow our example…”  Oh yes.  She might as well have lined up government officials from every Eastern European country and just smacked them right there on stage.  She was bragging about Sweden’s record on gay rights and recycling and gender roles and accomplishments… and rightfully so.  Sweden is awesome.  It was refreshing to see it brought to attention, particularly the marriage equality shout out, especially after the contest was held in a hostile country last year.  So, for the most entertaining Eurovision ever (well, of the four that I've seen), I must tip my hat to Petra Mede and the rest of Sweden for putting on a fantastic show.  Bravo!

Denmark was crowned champion this year and so has the honor of hosting next year’s contest.  They are going to have a lot of work on their hands if they are going to try to top Sweden’s show.  Now the big question:  Which country should I pick for next year?  Maybe I’ll go Sweden and just pop over to the Ikea and pick up a bunch of stuff from their food section.  Done!

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