No amount of ‘cosmetic surgery’ can disguise the rape of Xlendi

All things considered, they actually did a pretty good job… of creating the illusion that Xlendi has NOT, in fact, been architecturally raped beyond recognition

I feel I know Roger Tirazona well enough, to steal one of his Facebook comments as a springboard for an (entirely unrelated) article of my own.

For yes: while this article will, eventually, deal with the ‘rape of Xlendi’… I will approach the topic much in the same way as one approaches that secluded (and once-picturesque) Gozitan seaside village itself. That is to say, by the longest, and most meandering route imaginable…

… a discussion about last Thursday’s ‘Malta Song For Europe Festival’.

So without further ado, this was Roger Tirazona’s online reaction to that show. “My single Eurovision comment: Malta can produce some amazing voices… our hit and miss are definitely song-writing and fashion design…”

Now: in case you have no idea who Roger is… let’s just say, for the purposes of this article, that he’s an accomplished singer in his own right. And for this reason alone, I would happily accept his verdict on the matter of ‘voices’ and ‘song-writing’… even if I didn’t wholeheartedly agree with him anyway (which I do).

But ‘fashion design’? That’s a whole different ball-gown... I mean, game. No offence to Roger, of course: but just as I wouldn’t dare question his expertise on musical matters… I have no doubt he will likewise concede that my own flair for fashion – not to mention impeccable dress sense – far exceeds his own, or anyone else’s in the known Universe. [Note: that also explains my habit of changing attire so infrequently. I mean: if what you’re wearing is so dashingly stylish, that it just can’t possibly be improved upon, in any conceivable way… why bother ever changing image at all?]

And so, on the basis of my own, universally-acknowledged connoisseurship of Haut Couture… I shall have to disagree with Roger, when it comes to the fashion part. Far from being ‘hit and miss’… I would say it was mostly ‘hit’; and not only that: but it was mostly ‘hit’… with ‘whips’… ‘chains’… ‘black-leather bondage gear’… the whole ‘Bring-Out-The-Gimp’ shebang!

In fact, I was only half-joking when I uploaded a small Facebook comment of my own: “If, instead of a ‘song contest’, you look at it as a ‘BDSM fashion show’… the standards are actually quite high”. Because it’s true, you know: I even conducted a statistical analysis of all 24 entries last Thursday... and it turns out that:

Of the 24 acts on offer, 17 prominently featured the colour BLACK (if not worn by the main performer – though it was, in 14 of the 17 – then by the accompanying dancers, or as an overall backdrop theme);

And of those 17, 13 – more than half the entire list – made liberal use of tight-fitting, black leather garments (or accessories)… including at least one who seemed to be in full, authentic, 9th century Viking armour: complete with trusty two-handed battle-axe, etc.

Lastly, I can’t help but note that this overwhelming preponderance of BLACK, as a (literally) ‘dominant’ theme, happened to match very nicely with the colour-scheme of the entire event itself: a deep, dark blue backdrop, intermittently illuminated by soft, pretty pink…

And let’s face it: none of this is likely to be a coincidence, is it? (I mean: three contestants wearing more or less the same Halloween costume, I’d more or less understand. But… 17 out of 24?!) All of which leads me to believe that the ‘fashion design’ for this year’s Malta Song For Europe was, well… ‘planned’. It was all choreographed, co-ordinated, and even colour-coded – down to each individual dress, and each individual dance-move – to impart a single, agreed-upon ‘fashion statement’ of its own.

Now: this is the point where I’m almost tempted to abandon our scheduled trip to Xlendi, because… let’s face it, there are some questions in life that are just too darn mind-boggling, to simply drive past without stopping. And one them of is… um…

Why? What? How? Wherefore? I mean, seriously, guys: what the HECK was the whole idea even supposed to be, anyway? To turn this year’s ‘Malta Song For Europe Festival’, into a backdrop for ‘Fifty Shades of Grey: The Musical’??

Sadly, however, not even my own superior fashion expertise can possibly hope to answer that one. (But hey! The comments board below is open, so… knock yourselves out!)

All I’ll say, for now, is that part of the reason may well have been to ‘dazzle’ the audience with a ‘glitzy’ and ‘glamorous’ (more like ‘kinky’ at times, but never mind) spectacle… so as to compensate, perhaps, for the ‘hit-and-miss’ quality of all the other things this show was actually meant to be highlighting.

And, well, what do you know? It seems they took the exact same approach with their little ‘picture-postcard’ snippets of Gozo, too (See? I told you we’d get to Xlendi in the end…)

For it wasn’t just the colour-scheme: the organisers also copied the Eurovision Song Contest in at least one other detail – the inclusion of little ‘tourist-brochure’ videos, in between songs, to advertise picturesque corners of (in this case) Gozo.

Again: exactly WHY they would choose to do this, remains a little unclear. In Eurovision’s case, the idea is simply to show-case each contestant’s national home-country, to an audience which may be unfamiliar with those particular destinations. But as the name suggests: the ‘MALTA Song For Europe Festival’ is (and can only be) watched by a Maltese audience: that is to say, an audience which… erm… already knows perfectly well what Gozo looks like, thank you very much. (I mean, we’ve only been holidaying there, around twice a year, pretty much all our lives…)

Ah, but that’s the problem with PR stunts such as these: they have a tendency to backfire, from time to time. It is precisely because we, the Maltese television audience (which includes Gozitans, by the way), ‘know what Gozo looks like’… that we can also tell, at a glance, when the picture has been ‘dolled up’ – if not ‘given emergency cosmetic surgery’ - to appear a good deal ‘glitzier’, and more ‘glamorous’, than it really is.

And nowhere was this more visible, last Thursday – well, apart from in a few of the costumes – than in that little snippet about ‘Xlendi’. As it happens, I conducted a small statistical analysis about that, too:  in a clip lasting approximately two-minutes, all we really ever got to see of ‘Xlendi’ was:

> Part of the road leading down from Fontana (Rabat)… featuring those impressive garigue formations, rising above a valley of thick bamboo (but, alas, stopping just before they got to the entrance of ‘La Grotta’);

> The 17th century Xlendi watch-tower, from at least three carefully-chosen camera angles (that never once revealed any of the slightly-less-photogenic 21st century buildings right behind it… not to mention the cranes, the carparks, the ongoing constructions-sites, the excavations for future developments, etc., etc.)

… and, um, that’s about it, really. The last shot was just a wide-angle view of the mouth of the bay – taken from the shoreline – which strategically omitted any visible part of ‘Xlendi’ at all… except the sea; a couple of boats; the rocky shoreline on either side… and a smiling, attractive face in the middle (that took up almost the entire frame).

In other words: we didn’t even catch a single glimpse of the town of Xlendi itself – you know: the ‘picturesque seaside village’ that the clip was meant to be ‘advertising’ – throughout the entire video. It is almost as though… hang on, no: it is EXACTLY as though the camera-crew they must have sent, to film all those shots, eventually gave up even trying to find a single corner of that former Gozitan ‘beauty-spot’, that was still even worthy of photographing at all...

And again: it is precisely because we know, from our own experience, what the rest of Xlendi actually looks like – especially now, that the latest six-storey concrete monstrosity has arisen, to dwarf its last-remaining ‘unspoilt’ corner – that… well, I can’t say I exactly blame those cameramen, either.

All things considered, they actually did a pretty good job… of creating the illusion that Xlendi has NOT, in fact, been architecturally raped beyond recognition; and that the most recent aberrations to have permanently disfigured that seaside village, have NOT all taken place in our own time, and under our own watch…

But like I already said: that’s the sort of illusion that can only ever work with foreigners – i.e., prospective tourists, of the kind that such ads normally target – and even then, it is a trick that can only ever realistically work once (if it even works at all).

With a Maltese audience, on the other hand, it is far likelier to have the opposite effect… and, I daresay, even more to the Gozitans themselves (it was, after all, only last year that ALL Gozo’s local councils got together, despite their political differences, to protest against the over-development of their island).

In fact, just about everything about those ‘mini-clips’ you care to name (including that they were even shown at all), can only graphically confirm what we all already know:

a) that a ‘government/regulator tandem’ that was responsible for protecting Xlendi from greedy developers – and also, by extension, so much else of this country – has manifestly, and abjectly, FAILED... and;

b) It is now resorting to official propaganda (aired, at our expense, on national TV) to ‘doll up’, and ‘disguise’, the ugly results of their own FAILURE.

And that is a reality that no amount of ‘cosmetic surgery’ – no matter how expertly applied – can possibly disguise for long…