Eurovision, an annual song competition for European countries,* was started in the 1950's as a post-WWII rebuilding and peace initiative. It has become an incredibly campy, sparkly, over-the-top, national-pride(ish) event. People here tend to have drunken watch parties for the finals because "it makes it tolerable." And because it is indeed ludicrous entertainment.
There was just an excellent FT article on the subject, which I highly recommend for a better glimpse than I can give you into the politics, the pomp, and the persuasion of the show. I'm only adding my two cents here as a fascinated outsider to the whole thing, which has given me some insight into how European countries see themselves, others, and us (US).
Living here has opened my eyes to myriad perspectives on the world, and the elements that shape that perspective - everything from geographic size to language and accent to UK exceptionalism (it's not just for Americans!). Eurovision provides just one more insight into this teeming mass of culture and people, into how the world works and comes together. It is a contest, but also a Euro vision of the world (pardon the pun). It's both the view from Europe, and a vision of Europe that can take as many forms as there are people in it. But in Eurovision there can be only one type of song: pop. And perhaps that captures the chief worry of the contest - that the individuality of each nation gets smoothed out into dominant English or 'globish' nonsense. In trying to be pan-culturally appealing, the songs lose all meaning and become...well, pretty awful. As we've proved in many a situation, you can't please all palates - you'll just create a tasteless mess.
Eurovision represents the same kind of contradictions as the EU, which tries to shape all countries into a communal bloc, but struggles with the issues of autonomy and maintaining each member's unique character and interests. In both politics and pop contest, what resentments still fester, and what concessions get made? I could (happily) spend a lifetime figuring it out. And I'll have plenty to follow, as the not-so-new UK government is planning to renegotiate its quasi-European role in the next few years. It should prove just as fascinating - if slightly less colourful - than a Eurovision show.
*For some reason Australia and occasional other countries are allowed to enter as 'wild cards,' but not America. Never America. (I was told we 'have enough stuff already.')