This essay offers a critical analysis of the changing images of women in Bulgarian advertising during socialism and in the process of the post-socialist transition. During socialism, images of women, dressed in white lab coats, wearing construction hats, and lacking any sense of sexuality were on prominent display, created the most visually recognizable and ubiquitous symbols of communism—the frumpy babushka. Today, the babushka is an image of the past as Eastern European women have adopted a new highly sexualized identity. Advertising, which boomed during the transition, has become the primary cultural arena for the social engineering of a new, highly sexualized identity, quickly becoming a “normalized” trend in Eastern Europe with potentially dangerous consequences.
From the vantage point of the early 1990s, when the end of the Cold War not only inspired the discourses of many Eurovision performances but created opportunities for the map of Eurovision participation itself to significantly expand in a short space of time, neither the scale of the contemporary Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) nor the extent to which a field of “Eurovision research” has developed in cultural studies and its related disciplines would have been recognisable. In 1993, when former Warsaw Pact states began to participate in Eurovision for the first time and Yugoslav successor states started to compete in their own right, the contest remained a one-night-per-year theatrical presentation staged in venues that accommodated, at most, a couple of thousand spectators and with points awarded by expert juries from each participating country.
This article examines the voting results and Western European media coverage of the 2007 and 2014 Eurovision Song Contests. The Austrian drag act Conchita Wurst (the alter ego of an openly gay man) won in 2014, whilst Serbian entrant Marija Šerifović, portrayed in Western European media as lesbian at the time, won in 2007. We first explore the extent to which there was an East-West voting divide in both contests. In 2014, while there was some elite hostility against Conchita in Eastern Europe, the popular support was on a similar level to that in Western Europe. In 2007, we find no significant geographic divide in support for Šerifović. However, when we examine mainstream UK and German media coverage during and after both contests, we find strong anti-Eastern European discourses that are at odds with the similarity in the public voting.