OPINION: Perhaps we could back our own Conchitas

THE Eurovision Song Contest, with all its colour, cheese and theatrics, has been broadcasting since 1956, making it one of the longest-running TV programs in the world.
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But this is the first year a transvestite – Austria’s Conchita Wurst – has won. Conchita, also known as Thomas Neuwirth, was dressed in a stunning sequined gown with a head of locks that were gorgeous enough to prompt a late-night text to your hairdresser. With her exotic looks and dark eyes, Conchita could have been Kim Kardashian’s sister.

However, Conchita also sported a neatly groomed beard.

This bearded songstress charmed the crowds with her vibrancy, positivity and beauty. And she scored the highest amount of votes from 37 competing countries for her rendition of Rise Like a Phoenix.

With a variety of talent shows on Australian TV – NBN’s The Voice and Seven Network’s X Factor – it makes you wonder if a similar triumph for a member of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community could occur here.

It seems doubtful. There’s a discomfort among many Australians for camp theatrics, which arguably may have a link with the rejection ofsome of our LGBT community.

When asked why they have a problem with homosexuals, a common response from the closeted-conservative Australian can be along the lines of, ‘‘I don’t mind gays as long as they don’t act gay’’.

The stereotype of ‘‘acting gay’’ seems to encompass any sort of over-zealous feminine expression of emotion or identity.

The average Aussie seems to instead appreciate seriousness, hard work and relative modesty. Colourful emotion, drama and theatrics are often dismissed as frivolous and silly.

Take a look at director Baz Luhrmann’s work. Although Lurhmann continues to produce box office successes with his wildly dramatic and exuberant directing style, he continually earns negative reviews from critics who dismiss him as exaggerated and obtuse.

Luhrmann’s latest epic, F.Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, was one of a string of films that earned the flamboyant director a slew of damning critiques. Reviewer Jake Wilson described Luhrmann as ‘‘the most madly aspirational of Australian cineastes’’.

‘‘The central problem is that Luhrmann, for all his bravado, isn’t much of a director. He has little sense of rhythm and seldom manages to tone down his style for long enough to build an effective crescendo,’’ he wrote.

But critic David Stratton put it best when he said enjoyment of the film was to be found in suspending reality and embracing entertainment. ‘‘Luhrmann’s film has been, and will be, attacked for all sorts of reasons,’’ Stratton said. ‘‘This is a lavish Gatsby, an extreme Gatsby, a 3D Gatsby and – if you allow yourself – an entertaining Gatsby, with some terrific performances, wonderfully elaborate scenes, and a love of cinema evident in every frame.’’

If we occasionally allowed ourselves to be carried away in the drama of it all, as Stratton says, Australian society would be better positioned to embrace our LGBT community for all their expressive celebration.