Soon after Conchita Wurst (Tom Neuwirth) won the 2014 Eurovision Song Contest for Austria, on social media images started to appear which compared her to Jesus Christ. The likeness was indeed striking. Conchita was subsequently accused of blasphemy by Orthodox church leaders in Eastern Europe. At the same time, she was claimed for the agenda of LGBT communities, in particular those who struggle for the emancipation of transgender persons. In Conchita’s appearance, in Neuwirth’s life narrative of ‘finally being yourself’, and in the lyrics of the winning song, ‘Rise Like A Phoenix‘, many LGBT people recognized their struggle for coming-out and social acceptance.
Conchita then came to resemble Jesus in yet another aspect: that of a savior/ identification figure. The different framings of Conchita raise interesting questions, which will be discussed in this lecture. Can her performance be read as a critique of heterosexual and gendered norms, and if so, are we looking at a transgender performance here –or is Conchita queer in different ways? And if “a woman with a beard” reminds us of Jesus Christ, what does that say about conventional representations and conceptions of the gender of Jesus? What might be the theological potential of a blasphemous Christ?
Mariecke van den Berg studied Theology (BA) and Gender Studies (MA, RMA) at Utrecht University, and holds a PhD in Public Administration from the University of Twente. She currently works as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Faculty of Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, in the NWO-funded project Contested Privates: the Oppositional Pairing of Religion and Homosexuality in Public Discourse.
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