By attacking Conchita Wurst, Terry Wogan is sinking to the same depths as anti-LGBT Russian MPs

The veteran broadcaster said Wurst's victory had reduced Eurovision to a 'freak show'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

This week there have been two homophobic attacks in the UK which made it into the pages of national newspapers. One gay man was beaten up in Manchester for singing songs from the musical 'Wicked' and a second violent attack was perpetrated by men wearing pink tutus.

Perhaps the attackers in these incidents thought their victims were fair game – maybe they thought to themselves that if someone is different, or like a "freak show", then they are an easy target.

Which brings us to Sir Terry Wogan. In a review of the new book by his Eurovision commentating-replacement Graham Norton, in which he hailed the star, Wogan bizarrely took aim at the show's 2014 winner Conchita Wurst, saying she reduced the competition he fondly remembers as a "foolish farce" to a "freak show".

Conchita won the day, and has since been featured on catwalks and stages around the world. She has performed at both the European Parliament and the UN, and at more Pride events than you can count - coming to be a symbol for that unique blend of humour, earnest sincerity and acceptance that only Eurovision can provide.

However, while Conchita has seen widespread success off the back of Eurovision, it is disappointing to see Sir Terry join in the small minority of those attacking her for being different, a group which includes an anti-gay Russian politician who described Wurst's victory as "the end of Europe".

Either Sir Terry is taking Eurovision a little too seriously, is ignorant of the anti-bullying, pro-tolerance symbol which Conchita has become, or he has set out to be intentionally insulting. Whichever it is, taking a cheap shot at someone for being different is unacceptable.

While he is taking a pop at a drag star-turned international icon, levels of discrimination and prejudice remain rife. Suicide rates among LGBT people are disproportionately high, and while there have been heroic efforts to bring LGBT people in line legally, there is still a desperate need to stop them from feeling marginalised. Off the cuff comments equating a beaded drag-queen to a "freak show" are clearly part of this problem.

Plus, the comments seem strange coming from someone who commentated on the notoriously camp competition for so long - how shocked can he really be at the success of a bearded drag performer on Eurovision?

Has he forgotten that openly-trans Dana International won the competition in 1998 while he was still commentating? Or the controversy caused when two women kissed during Finland's entry last year? I'd be interested to know what he made of those victories – do they equal "foolish farce", or would he include them under "freak show"?

Someone as high-profile as Wogan should know better than to make comments like this. It is possible that this is a generational issue, or perhaps Sir Terry just wasn't emotionally moved by Wurst's victory. Either way, comments like these do make a difference to those feeling like they don't fit in.

Whichever way you look at Wurst's Eurovision victory, it is clear that she has won overall. While Sir Terry attempted an insult against the star, she was invited to perform at the United Nations.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called Wurst a "cultural icon", said he is excited to meet Wurst, and added: "Everyone is entitled to enjoy the same basic rights and live a life of worth and dignity without discrimination."

Whatever Sir Terry meant by his strange and unnecessary comments, it is clear that Conchita entertained the crowd, which surely is the whole point of Eurovision. Not to mention she is probably revelling in the continuing press coverage which is only helped along by his comments.

Following Wurst’s victory, Russia developed plans to revive a Soviet era Eurovision rival as a ‘family friendly’ alternative, but the idea was quietly dropped this summer. Perhaps Sir Terry might ask if the idea can go head. Maybe he could even host – it might allow him to rekindle the competition he so fondly remembers as a "foolish farce". But God forbid that a man might turn up wearing a dress.

Joseph Patrick McCormick is Editor of PinkNews

Comments