Arts

People watch Eurovision because it's 'weird', says Europe expert

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The weirdness and the wonder is what keeps Eurovision popular, an expert in European culture.

The Eurovision Song Contest is growing in global popularity because more viewers have become curious about how countries will “rebrand” themselves in the competition and the weirdness that usually occurs as a result.

This is the take of Professor Alison Lewis, co-coordinator of the University of Melbourne’s Eurovisions course which focuses on the language, culture and politics in the song contest.

“It’s always been popular in Europe and that hasn’t changed, but the rest of the world is curious to see what it’s about, particularly China and the US,” Professor Lewis said.

She said audience numbers have grown steadily from 100 million viewers ten years ago, to about 200 million today.

“I think they’re a little bit overwhelmed by the diversity of cultures and languages and tastes that I think they just find it to be something fascinating," she said.

According to Professor Lewis having Korean Australian Dami Im represent the country was significant for Australia  as it comes at a time when the European Broadcasting Union wants to attract interest from Asia.

She believes countries use the annual competition, which has been running for 60 years, as a chance to brand, and rebrand their image to the world and that it’s a chance for countries to break down national stereotypes.

But this also draws people back year after year because countries imagine and re-present themselves in non-linear, unpredictable ways.

“All these traditional modern, regional, national and international elements are in an amazing pot of an incredible mix of styles,” she said.

The idea of a national and international song contest is timeless and creates broader appeal than a FIFA or Rugby World Cup said Professor Lewis, “there’s something for everyone”.

Australia’s second year in the competition has gathered a following of hipsters, while another generation born from migrant and non-English speaking communities have kept up their traditionally strong interest in the contest, said Professor Lewis.

“I think it’s a really good sign of Australians looking further afield and becoming interested in cultures other than their own – a really healthy sign,” she said.

“The song contest involves politics probably more, although it’s supposed to be apolitical, it inevitably involves politics, which people find attractive.

“It’s potential for political intrigue.”

She said the song contest also has elements that tie into family heritage or travel experiences for many people. 

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