Eurovision 2015: A Selective Recap of My Come-to-Jesus Experience

Sometimes, I’m late to the pop culture party. There are only so many hours in the day, and sry, but I’m a human woman. I like to think that for those items worth consuming, I always get there eventually. (Except for The Simpsons. There’s too much, and just the idea of starting makes me want to cry.) Case in point: I can’t believe it took me 27 years to discover Eurovision. Robert, friend of the blog, forced me to watch it with him in a bar instead of attending a potentially-Tony-award-winning musical on Broadway. I have zero regrets: I will never miss Eurovision again. What is it, you ask? Oh, my dear American friend, let me educate you.

The Eurovision Song Contest is a music competition featuring most European countries (and Australia, who made their first appearance this year).  Each country submits a song, which is then performed live on TV and the public votes for their favorite performances. Countries cannot award points to their own submissions. Most are performed in English, and the event is campy as hell. Imagine the best of the Olympics, American Idol, and that international guy from your college dorm who was into “clubbing,” all in one. The contest has been going on for 60 years, and most Americans have never even heard of it. But this show is not fucking around. ABBA won Eurovision in 1974 with “Waterloo.” Celine Dion sang for Switzerland in 1988.

Enough background. Here are a few representative songs. I’ve included a mix of music videos, Semi-Final, and Final performances. (This is a potentially obscene amount of videos to watch, but like, what are you doing right now anyway? Work? Girl, please.)

Last year’s winner was Conchita Wurst from Austria with “Rise Like a Phoenix.” And yes, she is a beautiful drag queen with a beard. Because why wouldn’t she be? (Austria got zero points this year, even though they set a piano on fire. Oops!)

Spain’s entry is a perfect example of the batshit stuff you see year after year. Can you say “Barthelona”? The video is incredibly cheesy, but also takes itself very seriously. A shirtless man jogging in leather rags? A princess that turns into a tiger? Awkward green-screen plus a non-sequitur hawk? YES, YES, AND YES.

Lithuania is so cute! Also, they kissed for so long in the Finals that they missed an entire line of the song. Pandering.biz… (This is the Semi-Finals, where they really nailed it.)

I’ll quote our friend Robert verbatim describing Israel’s song, “Golden Boy” –

* Starts out and you’re like — do you think you’re Queen?

* Then you quickly realize that, no, it’s just a Bar Mitzvah video

Here’s the 2015 winner – Sweden! Remember when Beyonce danced with herself at the Superbowl? Remember wishing to yourself that she was a handsome but forgettable guy dancing with a chubby, cartoon twelve-year-old? Well, your dream came true. In the original video, the kid wore a dunce cap, so at least they fixed that. This is basically an Imagine Dragons song, but with shittier lyrics: “We are the heroes of our time, but we’re dancing with the demons in our minds.” Aren’t we all, Sweden, aren’t we all…

Russia came in second, which was very controversial at our bar in Hell’s Kitchen because of, you know, Putin and stuff. Everyone booed whenever the singer was awarded points. But I thought she was cute, and the song is the sort of power ballad that makes you roll your eyes but also warms your heart. I’ve included her Semi-Finals performance, because she had a shaky, deer-in-headlights vibe at the Finals.

Latvia’s song was just badass. I have nothing snarky to say.

Ditto Belgium. He’s like Lorde as a teenage boy.

Armenia was like, let’s make it sound sort of like the musical Chess, and also put every type of singer in it and hope that something sticks. Opera? Yeah, fer sher! Also, though the lyrics “don’t deny you and I” are ostensibly about a relationship, when played as a soundtrack to a music video with a slowly emptying family portrait they seem like a pretty pointed message about…genocide,…Obama.

If you just watched all those videos, congratulations! You now have Eurovision Fever. Now, go forth and spread the Good Word, but prepare yourself for a lot of blank looks.

–Alison

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Conchita Wurst is a trans woman.

Allison Janney Is My Hero

Recently, I have been mainlining The West Wing. This sometimes happens.

I watched it first, from start to finish, with Alison. Our roommate Elizabeth jumped in about halfway through. Once we finished the series, Elizabeth started again from the beginning, and we watched with her. Elizabeth’s then-boyfriend, later-fiancé, now-husband Joe got into it. We all watched it again. These days, Elizabeth watches random episodes to unwind after work and texts me about it (claiming that she’s trolling for clips to show in her US Government class. She does not need to justify herself to the lady who grabs at any and all Harry Potter books to calm herself during moments of distress).

But these past few weeks, in a fever leading up to Election Day (DID YOU VOTE. DON’T LIE TO ME, I WILL KNOW.), The West Wing’s idealistic, quick-fire, smarty-pants back-and-forth has been particularly comforting—and one character, in particular.

C.J. Cregg.

Pause. I know, everybody: Aaron Sorkin isn’t known for writing well-rounded women. I sometimes wonder if he has actually met a human female. But C.J. is smart, funny, incredibly sexy (knows it), and is just—cool. Nerdy, weird, powerful and very cool.

She also has the incredible advantage of being played by Allison Janney.

Guys. Have you noticed how Allison Janney is taking over the world, and being amazing at it? She is everywhere, and she is good at everything. We are talking about one of the most intelligent, sensitive and beautifully hilarious actors in this world right now. In most places—like in The Help (ugh, The Help) or The Object of My Affection—you don’t even realize she’s there until she suddenly is, killing it. Because every character she plays is so specific, and so wonderfully nuanced, we forget about the actress—it’s not Janney we see, it’s Loretta or Bonnie or C.J.

Most of Janney’s characters are a touch kooky, and larger-than-life—but when they are in danger of veering into insanity or bitchiness, Janney grounds them with a kind of vulnerability that makes you go—that person is a real person. Even though they’re on TV. And fictional. If you’ve seen even forty seconds of Margaret Scully in Masters of Sex, you know what I’m talking about.

So, just for fun—because it’s late, and I’m tired, and I wish I could talk to Allison right now and tell her how much I like her (with my eyes, not with my words—because I don’t want to freak her out): Important Role Models In My Life, As Played By A Fabulous Amazonian Actor I Love.

Mom: Bren, from Juno.

I have an awesome mom. But should I ever become teen pregnant (time travel!), I would want Bren by my side, ready to tear into anyone who glanced at me sideways. The way she did to that mean sonogram lady.

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Cool Aunt: Bonnie Plunkett, from CBS’s Mom.

Are you watching this show? Please do, if only to admire all the ways a tall woman can rock ballet flats. Bonnie is a hysterically funny, unbelievably irresponsible mother figure who really knows how to have fun—while maintaining her (very necessary) sobriety. She’s self-centered and egotistical, but she tells it like it is and has the best stories. I wouldn’t trust her to house-sit, or take care of my dog, though.

Eccentric Neighbor: Betty, from The Way, Way Back.

She’s loud, crude, drinks all day and gets way too familiar with you and with your stuff. But she would never judge, and is by your side, cocktail in hand, when you fall to pieces. Cause she has been there.

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Psychiatrist slash High School Guidance Counselor: Obviously—Ms. Perky, from 10 Things I Hate About You.

Doesn’t everybody need a person who’ll say, Get over yourself, you are not the center of this universe—and then distract you with all the adjectives she’s found for “throbbing?”

BFF: C.J. Cregg. See above—and see this.

—Elise