Conductor 1492 (1924)

CONDUCTOR 1492.avi_snapshot_00.12.52_[2012.01.24_14.37.38]

 

Some stars of the silent era are inexplicably forgotten and neglected.  Comedy star Johnny Hines is a case in point.  Eclipsed by the “big three” of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, Hines is so forgotten that there was not even a page dedicated to him on Wikipedia until 2015.

Despite the fact that he and his films have largely disappeared off the radar, Hines was a popular star of the 1910s and 1920s, with his likeable, good-natured persona bringing genuine warmth to his vehicles.  Sure, he wasn’t the artist that Keaton, Chaplin or Lloyd were, but then not everyone is a genius, and you don’t have to be a genius to make a fun films.  For British audiences, Hines could perhaps be classed as the silent era equivalent of Norman Wisdom.  Hines entered the movies around 1913 or 1914, at just eighteen years old, and his years at the top ended abruptly with the coming of sound, although he stuck around in small character parts for another decade or so before retiring completely from the film industry.

Conductor 1492 is one of the best of his surviving and available films, and was written by Hines himself and directed by his brother, Charles Hines (as were many of his films from the period).  Here he plays a streetcar conductor who inadvertently finds himself trying to save the company from a bunch of crooks, while trying to attract the attentions of his boss’s daughter at the same time.  It’s relatively routine stuff for the most part, but highly enjoyable, and there are certain sequences that are wonderfully put together.  Perhaps most notable among these involves Hines’s attempt to jump the queue to the bathroom in the guest house in which he lives.  While mostly known for his affable characters, here he also shows some great comic invention and the sequence ends with the unforgettable image of Hines covered from head to foot in soap in the shower with a huge grin on his face.  That grin is likely to be on the faces of those watching as well.

The trade journal Film Daily gave the film a mostly positive review, calling it a “good comedy with a fine share of laughs”, and telling cinema managers that “if your folks enjoy laughing you can count on Conductor 1492”.  Interestingly, the article also suggests managers hiring a trolley car to promote the film.  Alternatively, there was also the possibility of hiring “an old horse car and have it going around the streets prominently displaying a slogan reading “This car is in charge of Conductor 1492”.  Yep, that would work.

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Ebay’s “inappropriate” behaviour

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Update:  After 90 minutes of live chat, three emails and five phone calls, eBay have changed their rules on the use of “gay” and “lesbian” in shop categories, which is a positive move.  That it took a month’s worth of effort to get the result is less positive.  Live chat was embarrassingly poor, emails received were often cut and pasted from standard paragraphs, and four times on the phone I was promised a response via email within 24 hours which didn’t happen.  This surely isn’t good enough customer service for a company that has just increased some of its fees by 250%.

The original blog post appears below:

 

It appears to me that Ebay has a problematic relationship with the gay community. At the end of last year, stories appeared in the media and social media of certain products being withdrawn from sale after being labelled as being of “gay interest” – this included a T-shirt of a reindeer wearing a rainbow flag, no less. While Ebay did apologise and admitted its mistake once the story went public, one has to wonder whether there is something more sinister at work here than an automated system going a little haywire. After all, why are the words “gay interest” in the system at all as possibly being related to possibly offensive or banned items?

I have come across a similar issue this week. With Ebay raising their insertion fees by 250% on some items, opening a “shop” seemed the cheapest way forward (although the amount of inclusive listings in hiring a shop has been halved too). When entering the categories I wanted for my shop, I worked through innocuous names with no problems.

DVD: World Cinema

DVD: Silent Cinema

However, when I tried to enter that highly offensive term “DVD: Gay Cinema,” I got a notice flash up on the screen telling me that the word “gay” was “inappropriate.” Needless to say, the system doesn’t like “lesbian cinema” either – but “straight cinema” is just fine. “Gay interest cinema” is also a no-go, although “gay-themed cinema” is fine, but presumably only because the hyphen means the word “gay” doesn’t get detected.

My issue here was not that I had to use a hyphen, but the labelling of the term “gay” as “inappropriate.” Inappropriate to who? And why? Was Ebay somehow linking the word “gay” with sex and pornography? That would be wrong, of course, but it would at least give an explanation. But that couldn’t be right either because, as I tried out different category titles, I found out that “adult DVDs” caused no problems for Ebay at all, and wasn’t deemed inappropriate.

And so it was that, on Sunday afternoon, I headed to Ebay live chat to find out what was going on. In my ninety minute chat, I spoke to four representatives. None of them could help me. Three of them suggested ways around the problem, but none seemed to understand that getting around the issue wasn’t the problem – my problem was that the word “gay” was tagged as “inappropriate.” One of the reps told me that the system had problems with “that kind of word,” although I’m not quite sure what kind of word that might be. The final lady I spoke to apologised for her “incontinence” (no joke), and I told her I was glad it wasn’t a face to face conversation. After I left the conversation, I received a long message from this lady telling me why pornographic items were not allowed on Ebay (which had nothing to do with our conversation).

I then decided that the way forward would be to send Ebay an email.   This also caused problems. They have no public email address. I went back to live chat, and they told me I would have to send my complaint by post to Dublin. I told them that an online business really shouldn’t be forcing its customers to send complaints by snail mail to another country. No, I was assured, there was no email address. Bearing this in mind, I then told them that I would, instead, write an open letter of complaint on my blog and tweet it to all my followers. I asked if Ebay had an email address now. Yes, they did, as it happens. Funny that.

So, I sent my email to Ebay and, in less than 24 hours, I got my response. However, it was rather problematic. Part of it reads as follows:

“I understand this matter is frustrating for you as you have being restricted for using the word ‘gay’ in your shop category title. Please understand this word is not inappropriate to use, however we have to factor in the whole eBay community. eBay’s community is a diverse, international group of users with varied backgrounds and beliefs, and it’s easy to image how home items listed on eBay might be offensive to at least some of our users somewhere in the world. …The word gay in not considered inappropriate as mentioned above this may not be offensive in your eyes or mine; however, we need to consider eBay as a whole.”

No matter how much Ebay tries to sweeten this, the facts remain the same – there is discrimination going on here, and the company are clearly worried that, for some reason, some people might have trouble with the word “gay.” That Ebay are seemingly intent on bowing to the whims of the homophobic only makes the matter ten times worse than it already is. When the gay/LGBT DVD genre was deleted from Ebay UK last year, I assumed it was simply part of their reorganisation. However, I’m now beginning to wonder if there wasn’t a darker reason behind that too.

When I started this little investigation 48 hours ago, I honestly thought that Ebay had deemed the word “gay” as inappropriate for shop categories fifteen years ago when attitudes were, by and large, less tolerant, and never put it right due to an oversight. However, my reply from the company via email states quite clearly that it is “inappropriate” because some people, somewhere in the world, might find it offensive.

Bearing that in mind, I say to Ebay that the LGBT community is likely to find that offensive in itself. If the system hadn’t been updated as times changed, then I would say “fine,” but put it right now you are aware. That clearly isn’t what happened here, and there is a clear statement from the company that they are keen to deem a word describing a lifestyle as “inappropriate” in order to not lose the custom of the homophobic few.

 

Frogs (1972)

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I’m going to make a statement for the defence for a film that is supposedly one of the worst horror films made. So, why did I buy it and watch it? Well, it was a penny on Amazon and I got curious.

However, I found much to enjoy in “Frogs” (1972). It’s a kind of amphibian version of Hitchcock’s The Birds. Ray Milland plays Jason Crockett, the owner of a mansion on a private island who has gathered his family together for his annual birthday celebrations. However, the island’s wildlife has other ideas and slowly but surely start killing off the family. It sets itself out as an eco-horror from the very beginning although, as with “The Birds” there is no exact explanation given for the behaviour of the animals, other than the fact they are giving some kind of revenge on humans who are polluting their environment.

I’m sure much of the film’s bad reputation comes from the title, which does admittedly sound rather daft. However, the film itself is surprisingly well done, all things considered. The atmosphere is built up through endless shots of, well, frogs within scenes (virtually ALL scenes). This is set up at the beginning when Pickett Smith, played by Sam Elliott, is taking photos of the wildlife of the island. What makes this build up of tension work so well, however, is that there are long stretches of the film that are effectively silent. Other than the sounds of birds or croaking from the frogs, there are no sound effects, and the usual crescendo of music that nearly always signals a murder or death in a horror film is absent. There is no music here for the most part, and it only adds to the bizarre creepiness of the film.

Some of it is very silly (such as death-by-turtle), but some of the deaths are rather uncomfortable to watch – particularly the first one that we see occurring on screen. And, as with the Hitchcock film, even more eerie is the lack of intelligent explanation at the end. These events just happen.

The film falls down in some respects, though, not least through the writing of Milland’s character. His actions are downright absurd at times, and the dialogue he spouts is often ludicrous. Milland’s acting is less than great also – I’ve never found him to be the most convincing of actors at the best of times, but there are moments here when he is downright appalling. Some of the other actors are less than stellar too, but Sam Shepherd is superb, and manages to hold the whole thing together.

So, I put the DVD in expecting to be giggling my way through a campfest, and ended up thinking “that wasn’t at all bad.” It’s a lesson that we should all know by now – some films have a reputation for being bad for no real reason, and this is a case in point. So, if you see it on Amazon for a penny, it’s well worth considering for ninety minutes of sometimes daft but sometimes very eerie entertainment.

Axe-murderers and psycho-killers: Mental Health Conditions and the Horror Film

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I sat at home the other night watching Roger Corman’s 1961 film version of the Poe story The Pit and the Pendulum. I confess that it is my favourite of the Corman Poe films and one that I return to more than the others. When I finished the film, came upstairs and started browsing the internet, I was reminded that this week was Mental Health Awareness Week, and it got me thinking.

Last year Thorpe Park was under attack for its “asylum” Halloween attraction, and yet we seem to have no problem with mental health issues being used for entertainment purposes in horror films. From the “mad doctor films” of the 1920s and 1930s through to the “psycho killers” of today’s horror films, mental health issues have been used in order to instil fear into audiences, and one has to wonder whether this has had an impact on society’s view of those suffering from mental health conditions.

While most of us are not going to view the “mad doctor” films of Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and others as somehow a form of education on “madness,” can the same be said for other representations on film? I would argue that the “mad doctor” films (or any films referring to “madness”) are somehow less “real” because the specific health condition of the protagonist is not spelled out but simply given the general term “madness” – a term that is not really in use these days.

It is when the exact nature of the mental health condition is spelled out in more detail and given a name that things become more complicated. After all, if the word “schizophrenic” or “schizophrenia” is searched for within the Internet Movie Database, the list of films that is provided is quite telling: The Mad Ghoul, Bug, Cutting Class, The Boston Strangler and the “wonderfully” titled Schizopheniac: The Whore Mangler (I must hunt that one down). I don’t pretend to have watched all of the films on the list, but what is clear is that, even when the mentally ill character turns out not to be the murderer, the association between mental illness and violence and murder has been made and reinforced.

This isn’t just the case for schizophrenia, of course. The same is true for any number of mental health conditions. For example, a new indie (and low budget) horror film is due out in 2014 entitled Bipolar, which IMDB tells us has the following plot: “When Harry Poole tries out a new medication for Bipolar Disorder, he is reborn as “Edward Grey”, a seductive but dangerous alter ego who dramatically takes over his life, changing the young man and those around him forever.” Similarly the otherwise-splendid drama series Rookie Blue last year had a narrative arc that involved a bipolar policewoman acting irrationally, obsessively and dangerously – leading to other members of her force being shot and wounded (and possibly killed).

There have been relatively few studies on these issues, although Peter Byrne writes in The Psychiatric Bulletin that it has been discovered that these films are “sources of misinformation about mental illness, causing distress of relatives of the mentally ill. The images reinforce the spurious association between all mental illness and violence.”[1] In other words, many of the prejudices about mental illness and those that suffer from mental health conditions may well originate from how film and other forms of fiction have “educated” us over the years.

The big question, of course, is what to do about it. After all, even as a bipolar sufferer, I am not going to give up my regular dose of watching Karloff, Lugosi or Price descending into madness and bumping a few people off. However, it seems to me that, at some point, filmmakers have to become somewhat more responsible. Attitudes change. Nobody is suggesting the films that have been with us for decades should suddenly be banned, but is it responsible to make a film like Bipolar in 2014? Is it about time that killers in films had another reason to kill other than the fact that they are mentally ill? If the “asylum” Halloween attraction at a theme park is now viewed with disdain, then perhaps it is finally time for filmmakers to look again at their representations of mental illness and start taking into account the damage they might be doing in helping to reinforce the prejudices and misconceptions of the past.

[1] Peter Byrne, “Fall and rise of the movie ‘psycho-killer’,” The Psychiatric Bulletin, 1998, 22:176.

Size Matters: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

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Please note that this post contains spoilers.

Through the years, the science fiction film has been seen to comment on events in the “real” world. For example, in 1918, the Danish film Himmelskibet (Holger-Madsen) was a thinly veiled call for peace and an end to the first world war. Likewise, Things To Come (William Cameron Menzies, 1936) speaks “to the political and social unrest of (its) time” (Cornea, 2007: 19). Many of the movies in the cycle of science fiction films produced in America in the 1950s have been seen as commentaries on the McCarthy communist witchhunts that took place from 1949 until 1954 and, more generally, the threat from Russia during the first decade of the Cold War. By the end of the 1950s, however, a number of films, most notably The Incredible Shrinking Man (Jack Arnold, 1957), began reflecting issues arising from the so-called masculinity crisis that was sweeping America.

In his book, Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties, Steven Cohan writes that, in 1958, Look magazine published “a series analyzing what it called “The Decline of the American male” …Each piece in the series concentrated on a different symptom of the nation’s masculinity crisis: that men let themselves be dominated by women, that they worked too hard for their own physical and spiritual good, and that they conformed to the values of the crowd much too readily” (Cohan, 1997: 6).

With such articles appearing in popular magazines, it is hardly surprising that such issues would find themselves reflected in films of the period. Cohan goes on to suggest that this masculinity crisis was the result of events that took place following World War II:  “Demobilization required restoration of the gender relations that World War II had disturbed both in the home and in the workplace. After the war, too, the first Kinsey report on men, published in 1948, challenged many traditional assumptions regarding the normality of male sexual practises” (Cohan, 1997: xi-xii).”

Cyndy Hendershot states that The Incredible Shrinking Man “focuses on the stress placed upon men in the Atomic age. Radiation and insecticide cause Scott to devolve physically … but his anxieties about living up to the 1950s masculine ideal are present prior to his physical devolution” (Hendershot, 1999, p. 86). The opening scene of the film is a telling one in this respect. Scott Carey and his wife, Louise, are spending a day on a boat owned by Scott’s brother. Scott, dressed only in shorts, is (outwardly at least) an archetypal 1950s male with his toned body, blonde hair and tanned skin. However, when he asks his wife to fetch him a beer, she refuses, unwilling to move from her place sunning herself next to her husband. It is only when Scott offers to cook dinner if she gets him the beer from the fridge that she agrees to get the drink. Louise even reminds him that the boat they are on is not his but his brother’s, showing that “Scott’s inability to be a good provider plagues him prior to the genetic mutation he undergoes” (Hendershot, 1999: 86). The exchange between Scott and his wife clearly shows that Louise has as much power in their relationship as Scott does, even before he begins shrinking and his physical masculinity comes under attack.

It is directly after this dialogue with his wife (and while she is getting him the beer) that a strange mist passes over Scott, which we later discover is a radioactive matter and the cause of his shrinking. Once the mist has passed, it leaves a residue on Scott’s skin which is similar to glitter, something which he tries desperately to brush off when it is pointed out to him by Louise. It appears that Scott is as much appalled by the idea of being seen by his wife with glitter on his chest as he is by the fear of what the residue really is.   It is telling that it is this part of his body inparticular which has been covered with the substance. Up until this point, his bronzed chest was one of the key components of his physical masculinity, but within seconds it has been compromised and feminised by the radioactive residue. It is only some months later that Scott realises that all is not right, and he finds that his clothes are too big for him. Shawn Rosenheim writes that “his disease first manifests itself in his literal inability to wear the pants in his family, which hang down over his shoes” (Rosenheim, 1995: 18). Almost at once, therefore, Scott can be seen to have had his masculinity eroded as he starts to shrink.

Once his shrinking is confirmed by his doctor, Scott has to undergo a number of tests in order for the doctors and scientists to ascertain the cause of his condition. It is at this point in the film that Scott begins to lose control of his life and has to allow himself to be dictated to both by his condition and other people. Scott’s voiceover at this point in the film is telling:  “Then began a series of intensive tests. I drank a barium solution, stood behind a fluroscope screen. They gave me radioactive iodine and an examination with a geiger counter. I had electrodes fastened to my head, water restriction tests, protein bond tests, eye tests, x-rays and more x-rays. Tests. Endless tests.”

Scott is being violated by the people around him, with it clear that the tests are being carried out not only in order to help him, but also to satisfy scientific curiosity. It is at this point that “from the conventionally normal status of masculine head of household, Scott descends to one in which he is dependent upon his wife for survival” (Hendershot, 1999: 86). In the next scene, Scott is shown to be just over three feet tall, and unable to lead a normal life any longer. Rosenheim argues that he is not only losing his masculinity but also his adult status: “Carey grows more childish as he shrinks – an infantilization represented by his dwarfed occupation of a chair” (Rosenheim, 1995: 18). It might be fairer to say that Carey becomes more physically child-like than childish as he gets smaller; after all, his mind is still that of an adult and he can still see the world from an adult perspective.

His masculinity crisis now becomes sudden and severe. He has to give up his job and is therefore no longer the breadwinner of the family. In order to make enough money to survive, he sells his story to the tabloids, and these and other media sensationalise his story and Scott becomes a prisoner in his own home due to the journalists literally camping outside his front door, hoping for him to make an appearance. He has gone from the head of the household to a circus-style freak in just a few short weeks.

When Scott finally does leave the house, it is only after doctors have injected him with a solution designed to halt his shrinking, although they are unable to tell him if he will start to grow again. Unable to cope, Scott goes out into the night and finds himself in a cheap cafe in the company of a young woman of his own size, who is in town with a travelling carnival. The two begin to meet regularly, although it is not disclosed if the pair have become romantically involved. What is made clear, however, is that Scott is no longer in a sexual relationship with his wife: “One evening, Scott mentions to Louise his desperate need for her, but she rejects him, going to bed with their pet cat, Butch, instead. Butch’s name is a reminder of what Scott should be…and his inability to be the butch man of the house is underscored as Butch the cat replaces him in Louise’s bed” (Hendershot, 1999: 87).

What Cyndy Hendershot fails to spell out clearly is that Scott is unable to satisfy his wife sexually for that most dreaded of reasons: he is too small. The fact that Louise takes Butch to bed is to remind us that Scott can no longer satisfy her in this capacity, and that she needs a real man.

At one point in the film, Scott is living in a dolls house and wearing clothes made for a male doll or toy. It is while his wife goes out and leaves him in the dolls house that he is attacked by Butch the cat and falls into the basement area of the house. Hendershot writes that the “film works with the notion of Scott’s fall into matriachy by making the basement a feminine space” (Hendershot, 1999: 87), but it is clear that the dolls house in which Scott is living directly prior to this is also a feminine environment. What’s more, it is a continuation of the theme of how a crisis in masculinity can also be viewed as a crisis of adulthood that was seen earlier in the film.

Once he falls into the basement of the house, his fall from masculinity becomes complete. This is demonstrated immediately by the fact that he lands in a box of sewing equipment, with the activity of sewing being a traditionally female activity. What is more, he has to depend on this equipment in order to survive, using it to gain food such as the cheese from a mousetrap, to explore and get around his environment and, finally, to kill a spider.

The famous sequence with the spider is key to Scott’s fall from masculinity within the film. Despite it being bigger than he is, Scott knows that he has to kill the spider in order to get to the piece of cake that his wife left in the basement which is his only source of food. Although it can be argued that the spider is a metaphor for “the monstrous feminine”, I suggest that it is actually used as another example of how Scott’s masculinity has been eroded. In films of this period, we would expect it to be the woman who is scared of the spider and the man who would “rescue” her. Here, however, this role is reversed. It is the man of the house who is scared of the insect, and it is a sewing implement, a needle (an object associated with the feminine) that saves him from the creature.

Following the altercation with the cat, Scott’s clothes have become torn and so he returns to the needle once again for help. He makes himself a new garment, a kind of tunic, out of what materials he has available to him. Once again, the making of clothes can be seen as a “feminine activity”, and the clothing he makes can also hardly be regarded as masculine as the bottom of the tunic resembles more of a skirt than a pair of trousers.

When he has fallen into the basement and is crying out for help, Louise never sees or hear him, instead she is more preoccupied with the broken boiler and with Scott’s brother who seems just a little too keen to pronounce Scott dead and move Louise out of the house, despite the fact that there is no real evidence that Scott was killed by the cat. The presence of Scott’s brother is an interesting one. Louise reminds Scott at the beginning of the film that it is his brother’s boat that they are on, then it is he who suggests that Scott sells his story to the newspapers in order to be financially secure and then, as we have seen, it is he who persuades Louise that Scott is dead. This brings us to the suspicion that Louise may have already decided to reject Scott in favour of his brother even before he starts to grow smaller.   By the point in the film when Scott is in the basement, Louise can see that his brother is wealthier than Scott, able to look after her, and satisfy her in the bedroom.

The film can therefore be seen as a (less than subtle) reflection of the masculinity crisis of the time. In the second world war, women had gone to work doing jobs traditionally associated with men. Even those that stopped working after the war found themselves in charge of new technologies within the home such as refrigerators and washing machines that, until that time, had been appliances only found in places of work. Men, therefore, had two choices on how to cope with this new way of life – they could either turn their backs on all their responsibilities or adapt to the world in which they were now living, in the same way that Scott does in The Incredible Shrinking Man.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Berenstein, R. J., 1996. “It Will Thrill You, It May Shock You, It Might Even Terrify You”: Gender, Reception and Classic Horror Cinema. In B. K. Grant, The Dread Of Difference: Gender And The Horror Film (pp. 117-142). Austin: University Of Texas Press.

Cohan, S., 1997. Masked Men: Masculinity and the Movies in the Fifties. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Cornea, C., 2007. Science Fiction Cinema: Between Fantasy and Reality. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Hendershot, C., 2001. I Was A Cold War Monster. Horror Films, Eroticism and The Cold War Imagination. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.

Hendershot, C., 1999. Paranoia, the Bomb and the 1950s Science Fiction Films. Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.

Rosenheim, S., 1995. Extraterrestrial: Science Fictions in “A Brief History of Time” and “The Incredible Shrinking Man”. Film Quarterly , 48 (4), 15-21.

Skal, D. J., 1998. Screams Of Reason. Mad Science and Modern Culture. New York: W W Norton.

Skal, D. J., 1993. The Monster Show. A Cultural History Of Horror. London: Plexus.

Sobchack, V., 1987. Screening Space: The American Science Fiction Film (2nd edition). New York: Ungar.

Trice, A. D., & Holland, S. A., 2001. Heroes, Antiheroes and Dolts: Portrayals of Masculinity in American Popular Films, 1921-1999. Jefferson: McFarland and Company.

Eurovision – some thoughts

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The most shocking thing about the winning Eurovision entry this evening was the fact that the contest suddenly became relevant and, bizarrely, important. I doubt this will be a regular occurrence, so we shouldn’t get too excited.

Prior to tonight’s final there were calls from at least three countries for the Austrian entry to be withdrawn. Why? Well, because it was sung by a transvestite with a beard. The Russian politician behind the anti-gay propaganda law called her a “pervert” and said the performance showed that the competition was a “hotbed of sodomy.” A little odd, then, that he didn’t withdraw the Russian entry consisting of two 17 year old girls to protect them. Conchita Wurst, the singer in question, responded by saying that she was just “a singer in a fabulous dress, with great hair and a beard.” Well, her beard’s better than mine. I only get a five o’clock shadow after 7 days.

However, she was much more than that – and it’s clear that she was well aware of it. The song was clearly calculated to be a universal (well, European) “fuck you” to those behind the anti-gay laws in Russia and those supporting them. Entering such an artist was a risk, but a calculated one. Eurovision has a huge gay following to start with, so support was always going to be there. However, the risk turned into triumph thanks to the fact that the song was not only sending out a message, but because it was actually extremely good. Shirley Bassey must be seething that she didn’t get her hands on it first.

It’s interesting that many people tell us how things were much better when they were growing up. I don’t believe them. Equality and acceptance of race, gender, and sexuality is greater now than it ever was (at least in the Western world). Many reading this will wonder what the fuss is about, but it’s yet another important rung on the ladder. We’ve had LGBT winners of popularity contests in the UK for fifteen years or so (Pop Idol, Big Brother etc), so for Brits to vote for the Austrian entry was no big surprise. For the people of 37 countries in Europe to do the same and finally show solidarity to the LGBT people of Russia in a very public way is a huge step. The boos for Russia at the show were unfortunate – the Russians in the audience were probably rebelling against the State, not supporting them.

The thing that will get lost here is that, even if the song wasn’t sung by a transvestite, it still would have won in all probability – and maybe by a bigger margin – but, in the end it’s the voting (and the political voting at that) which was important.

And America has a lot to learn.

Twitter has been afire tonight over two stories. in America, gay NFL player Michael Sam was photographed kissing his boyfriend and was met on twitter with a barrage of abuse. In Europe, a bearded transvestite wins a contest watched by 125million people and the tweets are 95% positive. One that wasn’t came from the Sunday people tweeted this:

Zoom in (real dimensions: 599 x 337)BnTvTBRCIAAM4Em

Unsurprisingly, the tweet quickly got deleted. Ironically, the only other negative tweet I found asked “why vote for a freak?” And this from someone who is a campaigner against abuse of women and children!

In around 75% of the countries that voted, civil partnerships and same-sex weddings are still banned.   In others, well, we know the situation in some other countries.  Let’s hope that, finally, the message of the people kickstarts some change. But, in all likelihood, the hubbub will be forgotten in a matter of days, but just for tonight people spoke with their hearts.