Sunday, 11 May 2014

Occupy Jesus

It wasn't the best ever Eurovision song, nor was it the wurst, but the winner of 2014's camp-fest was definitely one of the most political. A calculated act of transgressive defiance against the stifling 'how dare you like what I don't like!'* cultural orthodoxy of Putinist Russia. As The Null Device notes, the cultural battle lines have been drawn and the outcome is uncertain:
Another interesting consequence may be that of Russia ending up owning a certain type of reactionary conservatism, making it less palatable abroad, and forcing conservatives in eastern Europe to choose between siding with the Great Bear across the border or siding with the gays and feminists within their own borders.**
I was also struck by another, slightly more subtle, level of subversion. Conchita Wurst definitely reminded me of somebody. He was like this guy who also used to be quite famous, but was a bit of an outcast, persecuted even. I've seen his picture loads of times; big soulful eyes, expression somewhere between suffering and transcendence, long flowing locks, full beard. To me, Conchita Wurst looks like Jesus in a frock.

I've no idea whether the resemblance is accidental or deliberate, but if it was intentional, it wouldn't be the first time that camp has appropriated piety - remember how Pedro Almodóvar's films wore the luxuriant excesses of Catholic kitsch like a feather boa?

I find this interesting, because I'm not that subtle myself. If I'm for something, I'm for it, it I'm against it I'm against it, so it's quite an education to see how other people can cross boundaries and identify with the forces which oppress them, oppose their own autonomy and even deny their identity. Conchita is definitely out and proud against the repressive culture endorsed by the Russian state. Is her appearance also an appropriation of the imagery used by Christendom's last bastion of respectable homophobia, the church?*** I don't know, but the example of women, who seem to be subverting the patriarchal hierarchy of Christianity from the inside, makes me wonder.

* © Dustbury
**Not to mention our own cultural conservatives in western Europe - the Caudillo of UKIP has already confessed to having the hots for Putin's manly, bare-chested leadership style.
*** I'm not saying that all churches are homophobic - many, especially in the west are liberal and tolerant - but where homophobia does exist, 'deeply held religious beliefs' are the last culturally acceptable excuse for promoting it and, boy, is the Russian Orthodox church using that one a lot.

Update: For the full drag saviour effect, check out Jonathan Nackstrand's photo as used in Rod Liddle's Spectator blog post.