It's not trash, it's European
Anyone trying to argue for the superiority of European to American popular culture has to deal with the difficult obstacle of the Eurovision song contest, about which we posted last week. Monday's New York Times has an accurate US perspective on the proceedings. This is no different from American Idol, except with an overlay of nationality (and by extension, national history). Which perhaps is what keeps it a little more interesting. The contest itself sprang a few surprises: Russian shlock duo Tatu sang fully clothed, and drew boos from the Latvian crowd -- whether for the presence of their clothes, or the more prosaic matter of the 50 year colonisation of Latvia by Russia, we don't know. And the contest was won by Turkey, represented by an established local pop star, going against the western trend of selecting unknowns via reality TV shows to represent the nation. But getting back to the trash factor, maybe the reason the Eurovision is able to rise above it is the ability to invest it with some deeper cultural significance. And this year it surely became emblematic of western european fears about what a new eastward orientation would make europe look like: staged in Latvia, dominated in the run-in by Russia, won by Turkey.
At least the mainland was able to unite around the objective of putting the boot into the Brits, whose entry finished last with no points from any other country. The poor showing was attributed to widespread resentment at Britain's prominent role in Iraq, and its reticence over joining the single currency -- but possibly also to the fact that they were completely out of key for their entire performance. Nevertheless, this apparent uniting of popular sentiment against the UK will surely give the British another reason to be wary of proposals now floating around for a stronger elected federal component to the European Union. British commentators are already dubbing a putative directly elected European Union president the new Holy Roman Emperor, although we doubt the previous occupants of that position envisaged a world where their successors would be selected by reality TV shows and text messaging -- don't rule out the possibility of those wacky Europeans finding other uses for all that Eurovision infrastructure.