122 | 27, pp. 121-146 | doxa.comunicación

July-December of 2018

Identity, spectacle and representation: Israeli entries at the Eurovision Song Contest

ISSN: 1696-019X / e-ISSN: 2386-3978

1. Introduction

1.1. Eurovision as a field of study

In his book Identity (2005), the philosopher and sociologist Zygmunt Bauman stated: “Patriotic feelings have been sur-rendered to (...) promoters of sports, of show business, of anniversary celebrations, and of industrial goods of interest” (Bauman, 2005: 66). Therefore, whereas big televised events such as the Olympic Games or the Super Bowl are a pertinent object of analysis since they congregate a crowd (Roche, 2000) momentarily united, with the community feeling appear-ing in an aesthetisized fashion, so seems to be the case with the international song contest on account of its longevity (62 uninterrupted years), its power to bring people together (about 40 countries take part annually), and the audience ratings. “More than 100 million viewers from over 60 countries” (Akin, 2013: 2303-2304), as Altug Akin (who has conducted the first PhD on Eurovision in Spain) points out.

In our country, the social phenomenon of Operación Triunfo (mainly in 2002 and more recently in 2018) has brought about a kind of revival of the Song Contest after decades of indifference (Savini, 2016: 32). However, it is hardly known that, having been born in 1956 alongside the expansion and revolution in telecommunications (“The Secret History of Eurovision”, 00h 02’ 20”), which generated an international audience (Tragaki, 2013: 17, Arnsten, 2005: 147), Eurovision has left an imprint at a diplomatic level, due to the fact that it is on behalf of nations that songs compete. Furthermore, it drew on the model of the San Remo Festival in Italy, a favourable scene for the creation of a national identity since as far back as Mussolini’s time (Plastino, 2013: 112-115). Spain did not take part until 1961 (Gutiérrez Lozano, 2012: 13), when the opportunity of exploit-ing the brand image of the country was considered (notwithstanding the opposition of other participants on account of Franco’s regime [Pinto Teixeira and Stokes, 2013: 224]). Thus, the politicisation of the contest is inherent to its conception.

1.2. Building a stable idea of nation through song

One of Eurovision’s genuine traits is the convergence of various styles and languages in a single musical evening (Raykoff and Tobin, 2007: XVIII), in the shape of songs limited to two minutes into which “everything should fit” (according to the musi-cologist Philip V. Bohlman [2013: 42]), and in a single television show for a public television that was taking its first steps at the dawn of pop music and fan culture (Eurovision.tv, 2015). Although in the early stages the contest brought about the con-secration of the West through its image, from 1989 (with the disintegration of the Soviet Bloc) the old enemy would “sneak home” in the form of songs, as Hilde Arntsen maintains (2005: 155). Hence the “nation’s fiction”, given that, in this contest, each country amounts to a song (Skey et al., 2016: 3384), regardless of its size (Yair and Maman, 1996: 313; Torres, 2011: 253).

“Fiction” also because those countries with fresh memories of their orbiting around the Soviet Union would now share the scoreboard with Russia, which, in fact, made its debut in 1994 (Meerzon y Piven, 2013: 115), with a song called Eternal Wan-derer: “You are not with me, you are far away, It’s not easy to live in different worlds”, goes the first verse. As a matter of fact, that year Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary, in addition to the Russian Federation plus Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, filled half a scoreboard (Jordan, 2014: 53) so far not even showing nations’ flags. New flags of which the Eurovision scoreboard would witness the evolution (Figure 1).