Monday 9 March 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: Part 7) Euro Controversy

Last time of “80 More Gays”: 15) Lisa Harvey-Smith (b. 1979) has worked to encourage knowledge of Australian aboriginal astronomy which includes stories of 16) Bimarri, one of the names of the indigenous Rainbow Serpent which 17) Noel Tovey (b.1934) incorporated into his cultural performances for the Sydney Olympics, in which 18) Sandra Forgues (b.1969) competed before forming her digital support company used by the EBU, whose Eurovision Song Contest attracted controversy for the inclusion of 19) Bilal Hassani (b.2000).

In January 2019 France chose its entry into that year’s Eurovision Song Contest, 19) Bilal Hassani (b.2000). You may immediately realise what kind of issues might arise from this choice when you learn that he is an openly gay French-born Moroccan Muslim, and that the Eurovision Song Contest was to be held in Tel Aviv, Israel. It comes as no surprise that some people objected to a gay Muslim being chosen as the national representative to Israel, and Bilal received threats and online abuse.

It’s often said that life imitates art, which is what seemed to have happened with Bilal’s selection for Eurovision.

The Israeli broadcaster KAN, the host broadcaster of Tel Aviv’s Eurovision Song Contest, produced a 3-part comedy thriller called “Douze Points”. Production began soon after the 2018 contest and filming began in the same month as Bilal was chosen as the French representative. Here’s the plot of “Douze Points”. See if you can spot anything that might be controversial.

A young openly gay Muslim singer called TJ wants to represent France at the “Eurotone Song Contest” that is to be held in Israel. He wins the French final with the “help” of a childhood friend who has become a member of ISIS, the terrorist organisation. In return TJ is forced into helping him blow up the Eurotone finals. The terror plot is discovered by Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad. Here’s a taster of what “Douze Points” looks like.

So, has life imitated art? There’s nothing unusual about a Muslim French singer. France has a large African Muslim community dating from its colonial days. Having an openly gay singer in Eurovision is also not a great surprise. And what more obvious possible terrorist threat could there be to Israel than from an extremist Muslim group like ISIS? Put these together and you get “Douze Points”. Honestly, anyone could have thought of it.

Some critics dug around Bilal Hassani’s social media accounts and family background to find hints of anti-Semitic evidence, even if it wasn’t there.

In response to the controversy TAN agreed to broadcast the series on 19th May 2019, the day after the Eurovision finals instead of the before as planned. In the end Bilal finished in 16th place. The whole point about “Douze Points” was to make fun of all parties – the French, Eurovision, Muslims, ISIS, the gay community.

Any hint of ISIS in anything brings out some over-reactions. In 2015 I wrote about another ISIS parody and the embarrassment of an alleged competent journalist who reported seeing the ISIS flag at London Pride. I pointed out the ease with which one flag can create a strong reaction. Another flag I mentioned a while ago was the Nazi swastika flag.

In that particular article I explained how the swastika was first adopted as a symbol of white racial supremacy by 20) Alfred Schuler (1865-1923). His neo-pagan, anti-Semitic ideas were a mixture of ancient Roman beliefs and contemporary mysticism. I also mentioned that Schuler was keen to perform an exotic dance in order to cure the madness that had befallen 21) Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900).

Nietzsche is one of those people who gets mentioned a lot in academic circles. To the man in the street his name probable means nothing, yet he was a hugely influential philosopher, writer, poet, cultural critic and aspiring composer. It’s difficult not to hype him up into a great figure.

Unlike Schuler, Nietzsche was not open about his sexuality, which makes it difficult to put a modern sexuality label on him. Many lgbt biographical lists include him though there is still some debate amongst Nietzsche scholars.

Nietzsche’s career came to crashing halt in 1889 when he had some sort of mental breakdown. There are still new theories being put forward to explain and diagnose his illness. The most common and longest lasting theory is that he had syphilis. More recent theories have suggested cancer or bipolar depression. Whatever the cause it created concern among many people and acquaintances.

Doctors and medicine proved ineffectual in treating Niezsche so Alfred Schuler believed that an erotic corybantic dance would be the only cure. It took two years for Schuler to arrange the dance, though it all came to nothing. For one thing, Nietzsche’s sister and carer refused to allow it. Another reason was that Schuler had difficulty finding any nubile young men willing to dance naked around wearing nothing more than a copper bracelet.

But, you may be asking, what is a corybantic dance? It was dance performed by corybantes. But then, what are corybantes? Well, in Schuler’s neo-paganism not only did he take from Roman mythology and rituals but also selected some from other ancient religions and cults. One of them was the cult of the Great Mother Goddess of ancient Phrygia in Turkey. Schuler sometimes dressed as the goddess in his reconstructions of ancient rituals.

This Great Mother Goddess was an amalgam of several deities, among them Inanna-Ishtar, the goddess featured in my previous article. The Phrygian Mother Goddess was another who was merged with Inanna-Ishtar and she became known to the Romans as 22) Cybele.

Next time of “80 More Gays”: We meet the Mother Goddess with two genders, and a deadly almond tree.

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