Eurovision 4: Revenge of the Kitsch
(Or, the 2014 Eurovision story written by Fifi and gifted to me on my birthday this year)
If you have no idea what this is all about, check out previous years in the series, which I offer by way of explanation (kind of):
- Eurovision 1: So Lucky (2011)
- Eurovision 2: Buranovskiye Babushki (2012)
- Eurovision 3: Alcohol is Free (2013)
Another triumph, Fifi!
Her heart, like a clock, counted the seconds left. The wheel whirred, blurring beneath the tick, tock of her heart. The defences were readied, the fighters in position.
She was steady—steady as a rock.
She looked to him. From within the wheel, he nodded, and a thousand tiny lights lit the stage.
They were Ukraine, and they were here to restore kitsch.
Time was, Eurovision meant something in the world of ironic gaudiness. It was a sacred place—a sanctuary in which the 1970s had never died, the campiness of your costume bespoke your status, and happiness took the form of sequins and potentially hazardous props. Time was, you could find Celine Dion warbling French pop-ballads in a tutu and blazer; ABBA referencing Napoleonic history; Bucks Fizz invoking the moves of Grease.
But times changed, and the magnificent badness of Eurovision had begun to wane. Musicians were playing serious songs, with slow tempos and pensive lyrics. Costumes went unsequined, hair unteased. Stage makeup was becoming subtle, understated.
Eurovision was growing…respectable.
And thus did The Resistance decide to make its move.
Mariya was her stage name. She had thrown off her true identity long ago, when the dream of fame urged her to reinvent herself as a leather-clad superheroine who wielded tunes in the name of justice. The only thing that remained of her old self was her companion, the young man who had been the sole constant throughout her tumultuous life. Her soulmate, her sidekick, her shadow—the one they called Hamster.
Hamster had grown up in the forests of Plötdeviche, born to a secretive people—keepers of the ancient art of wheeling. His family had long been hailed as the greatest of the wheelies, and so honed was his skill that, when he came of age, they had sent him over the Moldovan border to learn the ways of unicycling from his cousin Filuše.
Once expert in all the major schools of wheeling, he had set forth into the world, bent on finding his lost love from childhood—she who had cast off her life in the dark forests of Plötdeviche and refashioned herself as Mariya.
The music whistled; the lights flared. Mariya whirled to face the crowd and clapped her hands—the signal to begin.
How many years they had trained for this glittering stage. Yet there was more to this moment than even Mariya’s dreams of fame had anticipated; their performance was only the fragile veil that covered the truth of this night.
The man had appeared on their doorstep the day Mariya and Hamster learned they had been chosen for the glory of Eurovision. Wild of hair and charming of smile, he gave no name—but, without needing to discuss it, Mariya and Hamster ever after referred to him as The Guy From The Resistance.
‘Greetings at last, my friends—perhaps my allies,’ he had said, pulling out a guitar. ‘Do you mind if I strum? It helps me think.’
Mariya nodded, regal. ‘What business have you with us?’
He plucked a chord. ‘I am here to represent a certain…institution, if it please you. A movement I lead, one that would benefit from your services. Your sound.’
‘My sound?’ murmured Mariya. ‘Do you speak of Eurovision?’
‘Indeed, lady.’ A melody wafted now from the strings. ‘You have passed the tests, been initiated into this year’s stage of the grand game. But whose side are you on? Whose music do you play? That is what we must know. For victory lies in the right music.’
‘I thought Eurovision was actually a political event, its winners determined largely by current socioeconomic alliances,’ protested Hamster.
‘If only it were that simple, my brother. No, the political factor is a mere façade, designed to cover up the true purpose: a good show.’
‘Um. I’m sure it’s the other way arou—’
‘Why is a good show so important?’ interrupted Mariya. ‘What happens if the performances are bland? There must be some danger, or you wouldn’t have sought us out.’
The Guy From The Resistance nodded approvingly at her. ‘You are wise, Mariya. The Oracles were right.’
‘In good time. First I must explain the purpose of Eurovision—the dark truth we hide behind the lie of…socioeconomic politicking.’ He looked indulgently at Hamster, who sighed and rubbed his eyes.
The Guy leaned forward, met Mariya’s eyes. ‘Did you know…that the world is powered by kitsch?’
She gasped. Hamster spluttered. ‘How can this be?’ murmured Mariya.
‘A very good question!’ snapped Hamster. He proceeded to rattle off something about atoms, elements, gravity, and a singularity or two, but Mariya and The Guy ignored him.
‘Our world runs on kitsch, my sister,’ breathed the man with the wild hair and strumming fingers. ‘Our fuel, our food, our physics—all are powered by the absurd. The very sun could not shine if it weren’t for the energy released into our ozone with every breath of mocking laughter, every burst of irony.’
‘Of course!’ breathed Mariya. ‘This explains everything!’
‘Humanity has always leaned towards kitsch, even when we have not called it by that name, and for millennia that was enough. But then came…the incident.’
‘It is better not to speak of it. Let us say only that it led to what we now call the Dark Ages.’ He sighed. ‘Those Romans had no sense of humour. Anyway, after that, it was deemed necessary to enact safety measures that would keep the flow of kitsch from ever again waning to a trickle.’
‘Eurovision…It’s a safety measure!’
‘Exactly. For years it kept the kitsch levels high, the world running smoothly. But then The Organisation decided to meddle.’ It was impossible for hate to suffuse those soulful features, but he paused in his strumming long enough to look aggrieved.
‘A subtle machine; a powerful beast.’ Seeing their confusion, he coughed. ‘They’re the bad guys.’
‘Ohhhh.’ Mariya and Hamster nodded, understanding. There was always a bad guy.
‘The Organisation have turned on Eurovision in recent years, infiltrating it in an attempt to make it…boring.’
‘The time has come for our showdown. My fellows and I have assembled an elite cadre of campy acts. We are outnumbered by the countries with serious ballads, but if we can at least keep Eurovision from complete respectability, our struggle will not have been in vain.’
Hamster shook his head. ‘Why come to us?’
The Guy nodded. ‘It’s true that your act is not as magnificent as it could be, my brother. Leather and big hair, yes, but where are your sequins? We thought you might be one of The Organisation’s minions—but then we heard you had a giant hamster wheel, and we knew you understood the power of kitsch.’ He stood. ‘Your eyes tell me that you understand our cause. I cannot make direct contact with you again, but our allies will give you further details of what you must do.’
‘Who are these allies?’
‘You will know our French agents by their rapping about moustaches. We have managed to reclaim Russia, thanks to the Oracles. Our Icelandic cadre is engaged on a mission to infiltrate the Wiggles, but we hope they will be done in time for the semi-finals. Oh, and do not be alarmed when our Italian agent starts crawling along the stage; that’s the signal for our fighters to take position.’
Mariya clasped his hands. ‘And you? What will you do, my brother, while we fight for the true sound of Eurovision?’
‘Me?’ He smiled brilliantly and hoisted his guitar over his shoulder. ‘I’ve got a cake to bake.’
On stage, the time had come. Mariya approached the wheel, praying for success—and also that her fluttering dress wouldn’t get caught in the damn thing. Hamster met her eyes through the spinning slats.
‘They don’t know that you’re miiiiine,’ she sang, and spun the wheel with all her strength.
Blue light burst from it, sparking across the stage. Once, twice, and then a third and it was done: they had released three great waves of kitsch energy into the world. With any luck, the crowd would think the light a mere effect—but The Resistance knew the truth.
The Tolmachevy Oracles of Russia appeared beside Mariya as she waited backstage. Golden-haired twins dressed in the flowing robes of their virginal ancestresses, they were wise beyond their years.
‘For fuck’s sake,’ sighed Tolma, collapsing next to Mariya. ‘Our ponytails got tangled again.’
‘Do you think anybody noticed?’ asked Chevy, sitting on Mariya’s other side.
‘I’m sure they thought it was part of the act,’ soothed Mariya. ‘Have you had a vision? Did we succeed?’
Tolma opened her mouth—but, before she could speak, a voice drifted to their ears from above. ‘Yes, my sisters! Enough kitsch has been salvaged to last us another year. But we will have to work hard for next year—the battle is only beginning.’
Mariya looked around for The Guy, but could not find him. When she turned back to the table, a cake sat where there had been no cake before.
‘Sweet!’ said Chevy, and began to distribute slices.
For they were The Resistance, all that stood between The Organisation and a serious world. They were The Resistance, last hope for unicycles, free alcohol, hamster wheels, and kitsch.
They were The Resistance, and they were going to have some cake.