2014 columns, Pop Culture

Why Eurovision 2014 was a bit disappointing

by Julia Tulloh , May 14, 2014Leave a comment

Conchita Wurst


When Austria’s Conchita Wurst began singing the James Bond-esque glamour number, ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’, at Eurovision this year, she stole both the show and Europe’s heart. Not only was her voice strong and in-tune (criteria one would assume are stock standard in a singing contest, but really aren’t in Eurovision), her performance was a perfect blend of camp and glamour that best epitomises the competition. The self-described ‘bearded lady’ who looks something like the lovechild of Kim Kardashian and Aladdin proclaimed a message of tolerance, acceptance and freedom as she won the contest with a whopping majority.

Apart from Conchita, though, I found Eurovision kind of boring this year. Of course, the contest, by nature, is a bit boring – performers are announced in advance of the competition and usually the songs have already been released as successful singles. Furthermore, artists perform the same version of the song in both semi-final and grand final, making for reasonably repetitive and predictable viewing. No one watches Eurovision to discover surprise new talent, or even to hear good singing. I watch it for the kitschy, pop-tastic visual onslaught which rarely fails to assault viewers.

This is why I was a bit disappointed with this year’s calibre. Many of the entrants seemed to be aiming for tasteful performances, and while there was nothing wrong with the entries from Hungary, Switzerland, Slovenia and Armenia (to name a few), there was also nothing outstanding about them. Where were the garish costumes? The inappropriate hairstyles? Some of the artists didn’t even have backup dancers! Norway and Sweden also showcased inoffensive solo acts with simple costumes, but they were compelling where others were bland; their performers sung incredibly haunting ballads with technical panache and a level of class that only Scandinavians can achieve.

Other groups had moments of kitsch that somewhat assuaged my hunger for shamelessness. An incredible circular keyboard appeared halfway through the Romanian duet ‘Miracle’, which the male lead actually seemed to be playing; Iceland’s entrants, dressed like the Wiggles, sang a great 1980s-style pop rock anti-prejudice ditty; France’s ode to the moustache was an interesting idea, if not very well executed. I admit that Georgia’s dissonant jazz/folk number with improvised scat/yodelling nearly won me over, their lead female singer bounding around like a crazed wood-sprite and their drummer tethered to the stage with a full-blown parachute.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but reminisce on the bombastic and daring performances of Eurovisions past. Have we so quickly forgotten the vampire-inspired falsetto-opera from Romania’s 2013 contestant, Cezar, who performed amidst a floating sheet of blood-red cling wrap? Or Moldova’s light-up, flame-filled, Katniss-inspired ball gown? Finland’s ‘Marry Me’ which culminated in an onstage lesbian wedding? Or the 2013 half-time entertainment provided by host-country Sweden, which included an ode to Swedish meatballs, a cameo from the Muppets’ chef, and poked fun at their anally retentive recycling habits? I first watched Eurovision in 2007 and was fundamentally changed for the better by Ukraine’s holographic, aluminium-clad ‘Verka Seduchka,’ a viewing experience which left me feeling as though the Pet Shop Boys had been reincarnated as disco balls and let loose in my lounge room.

The undisputed most tasteful moment of Eurovision 2014 was when Jessica Mauboy raised the Australian Aboriginal flag at the end of her half-time performance in celebration of Eurovision’s popularity in Australia. As for the rest of this year’s contest, perhaps I need to accept that Eurovision doesn’t necessarily equal Eurotrash. On that note, I leave you with a performance that, like Conchita, embodies the ridiculousness of Eurovision at its best: a white guy, singing reggae, in a jester costume.

Julia Tulloh is a freelance writer in Melbourne and is working on a PhD about Cormac McCarthy’s fiction. She tweets at @jtul and blogs at

ACO logo


Nathan Smith

Letting the Essays Do The Talking: Meghan Daum’s My Misspent Youth

In the introduction to her essay collection My Misspent Youth, Meghan Daum writes that as frank as her essays are, they ‘are not confessions’. The personal essay may have long defined Daum, but she is far from a ‘confessional writer’, a title she has long resisted. Read more »


Ilona Wallace

Between You & Me: The New Yorker’s Mary Norris on publishing, editing and insecurity

Mary Norris begins her chatty grammar guide and memoir, Between You & Me, by chronicling the odd jobs she held before she began working at the New Yorker in 1978. She delivered milk – awkwardly calling ‘Milkwoman!’ when she left bottles at each stop – and crashed the dairy truck. Read more »


Chad Parkhill

On judging the Most Underrated Book Award

The chair of the judging panel for the Most Underrated Book Award shares his observations on the award, what it means to be ‘underrated’, and the current landscape of Australian literary prizes. Read more »

ROSEANNE - On set in New York - 10/16/93 
Sara Gilbert (Darlene) on the ABC Television Network comedy "Roseanne". "Roseanne" is the story of a working class family struggling with life's essential problems.

Rebecca Shaw

Out of the Imaginary Closet: Fictional characters who should have been gay

When you are part of a group that isn’t portrayed in the same way (or only negatively, or not at all) you become desperate for that glimmer of recognition. Here are several characters that I loved as a young person, who became stand-ins for the openly lesbian characters I wanted to see so much. Read more »



Isn’t It Obvious: Queer representation in children’s television

For a non-binary gendered person, characters with diverse sexualities and genders are validating and rewarding. As a child, they could have offered integral touchstones for understanding my own gender, and provided context and validation for the ways in which I could exist in the world. Read more »


Rebecca Varcoe

In defence of professional cheerleading

My name is Rebecca and I’m a 26-year-old woman with a shameful secret, for which I refuse to be ashamed any longer. Today I want to confess my obsession and one true love, the subject of many rants and late-night tweeting frenzies: Cheerleading. American, All-Star Cheerleading. Read more »


Adam Rivett

Tell Me, Princess: The evolution of Disney’s princess songs

Two years ago today, Disney’s Frozen was unleashed upon the world. As far as rapacious corporate behemoths go, it’s one of the more appealing, and remains surprisingly resilient to repeat screenings. But at the heart of its achievement sits one indisputable melodic and cultural phenomenon: ‘Let It Go’. Read more »


James Tierney

Bodily Limits: An interview with Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Dario Argento’s 1977 horror film Suspiria suffered from a critical eclipse and a variety of censored prints, and was largely cherished in its original form by aficionados of the field. A reassessment has been building, something sure to be aided by the forthcoming publication of Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ perceptive and elegantly written monograph. Read more »

je tu il elle 2

Eloise Ross

Existence as Minimalism: Remembering Chantal Akerman

Images of a young woman, emptying her small flat of furniture, blocking the window and sitting in the dark, still. Sitting on a mattress in a bare room, furiously writing letters with a pencil and watching the snow through the window. Meeting with a past lover and reuniting on-screen. I think about Chantal Akerman’s films more often than I can say. Read more »


Matilda Dixon-Smith

Family Matters: Please Like Me and the Aussie TV family

In a recent episode of Josh Thomas’s Please Like Me, the bouncy titles run over three little scenarios: Josh cooks dinner for his mate Tom and his boyfriend Arnold; his Mum cooks for her new housemate Hannah; and his Dad cooks for his wife, Mae. The three of them stir, sip wine and dance daggily around their kitchens in a neat metaphor for this season’s fantastic, cohesive new trajectory. Read more »



Isn’t It Obvious: Queer representation in children’s television

For a non-binary gendered person, characters with diverse sexualities and genders are validating and rewarding. As a child, they could have offered integral touchstones for understanding my own gender, and provided context and validation for the ways in which I could exist in the world. Read more »


Alexis Drevikovsky

Have You Ever Felt Like This: Going Round the Twist again

Working from home one day, I took my lunchbreak away from my laptop and flicked idly through the TV channels, hoping for a midday movie with Reese Witherspoon or, even better, an old episode of Cheers. What I found was beyond my wildest dreams. I excitedly texted my mate Alison: Round the Twist is on ABC3! Read more »


Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

Tom Conroy and Colin Friels in Mortido. Photo credit: Shane Reid

Jane Howard

A Shining Nightmare: Mortido‘s Sydney

Sydney is a city of shine and reflective surfaces. The glint of the harbour follows through to city high-rises clad in polished glass, bouncing off the wide windows of the mansions hugging the undulating land before it gives way to the impossibly deep and wide water. But this beauty that can betray the darkness of the city and its people. Read more »


Angela Meyer

Outrageous Fortune: Seeing Hamlet as a Cumberbitch

Jazz swells, hushing the audience, and the solid black gate of the theatre curtain opens. It reveals the lounging figure of Hamlet, playing a record, sniffing his father’s old jumper. But what I see first is not Hamlet: it is Benedict Cumberbatch. Read more »

kiss copy

Jane Howard

Great Aspirations: In the shadow of Patrick White

The text of The Aspirations of Daise Morrow is lifted directly from Patrick White’s short story ‘Down at the Dump’. It’s a wonderful thing to hear White’s judicious use of language; to understand the eyes through which he saw Australia; and to see an entire world of his creation brought to life in the theatre. Read more »