Conchita Wurst is now the queen of Europe, at least from the way things feel around Denmark tonight. Over the course of one week at Eurovision, the Austrian representative grew in people’s eyes from being a freakish novelty, to being an artist to contend with, to finally becoming a phenomenon and a potent symbol of how 21st-Century Europe wants to see itself.
After being hushed and cowed into silence at the Sochi Olympics this year, Europe at least is done with standing idly by and letting Russia and its cohorts turn back the clock a few centuries on human rights and how nations behave toward each other. And what better way to take sides in the cultural battle between the repression the East is becoming known for, and the progressive values of Western Europe, than by choosing the most OUT THERE symbol of all that Russia detests, a gay man who performs as a bearded drag queen. And Conchita’s Bond-esque “Rise Like a Phoenix”, Europe’s new song of the year, is not so subtly a message of gay pride and power.
For Europe to overwhelmingly take Conchita Wurst to its heart and vote her to victory in such convincing numbers is saying to the oppressors of gay men and women in Russia that we in the West do not just tolerate our sexual and social minorities, but stand by them and claim them as our valued friends and neighbors. Yay Europe!