Saturday, June 14, 2014

Conchita Wurst Rises Like a Phoenix

I finally got around to watching the video by the winner of the European musical contest, the amazing Conchita Wurst who takes Queer aesthetics and politics to a whole other level. The power of imagery! Society finds the transgression of wearing a beard in drag hugely subversive, yet her effortless talent and her confidence won her the award and the admiration of millions.

Conchita is a political brand. She was bullied as a youth and her appearance is a political act, an affront. Perhaps the prevalence of red in the Rise Like a Phoenix video is meant to symbolize her flaming glory, the blood, the life, and the violence suffered by Queer people daily. Michelle Rodriguez has argued that in most movies with gay characters, the gay character ends up dead of victimized, that this is usually the only way that society will accept a lead gay character: if he is punished for his existence, if his narrative is tragic. This is a curious observation about Queer public figures and their pop culture narratives. But Conchita, she's not a victim: she's resurrected from the violence suffered like a phoenix. 

Conchita is beautiful. Also, the curious choice of her stage name adds another layer of semantics to the androgynous imagery: conchita in Spanish means small shell and is an euphemism for the female sexual organ in some Spanish-speaking countries. And the wurst, well, it's a bratwurst. Although not overtly sexual, the imagery and semantics of her sexuality are artfully and proudly in display. Conchita Wurst did for talent competitions what Hedwig and the Angry Inch and the Rocky Horror Picture Show did for musicals.

Having a gender-bender as a central figure does not redefine normalcy, but it reminds the culture of the presence and visibility of the Queer fraction or percentage of our humanity that is usually silent or ignored, but every now and then rises like an epiphany. For every aspect of human experience, like with magazines and book series, invariably there is periodically a Queer issue. Sometimes, it happens to also be fabulous.

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