Måns Zelmerlöw happy after winning ESC in 2015

The Story of Fire Saga: Where Parody Meets the Parodied

9 minutes to read
Linsey van Kuijk

In 2020, The Netflix-original film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga was released. This comedy film is a fictional Hollywood production that can be considered a parody of the real Eurovision Song Contest. However, the film also contains many elements of the real contest, such as songs, contestants, commentators, and more. In other words, the Eurovision Song Contest has been remediated and parodied in a film that is intertwined with the real contest. Therefore, it can be said that The Story of Fire Saga is a uniquely intermedial film in which the boundaries between art,fiction and reality have been blurred.

The Story of Fire Saga

In order to analyze this film and its intermedial nature, the fictional and American aspects of the film must first be considered. A brief summary of the plot is therefore required. In Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, two Icelandic musicians, Lars and Sigrit, who constitute the band ‘Fire Saga’, are selected to represent their country at the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest. However, they were only selected because all the other contestants died in a boat accident. Few people actually like Fire Saga’s music and the inhabitants of their hometown are generally embarrassed by them. When they are in Edinburgh for the Eurovision Song Contest, many things go wrong for the duo. Their budding romance is endangered by their focus on the contest, as well as the threat of two new possible love interests and the jealousy that the situation evokes for them. On stage, their tension is noticeable and their performance on the night of the semi-final ends in a catastrophe, after which Lars storms off and returns to Iceland, leaving Sigrit in Edinburgh. Upon hearing that they made it to the final, however, he returns to Sigrit and they perform an emotional song about their hometown Húsavík in the final, ending the show with a romantic kiss (Dobkin, 2020).

The characters in the film, including one played by real-life world star Demi Lovato, compete in a fictional version of the Eurovision Song Contest that bears a striking resemblance to the real one. However, it is important to consider the North American nature of this production. For example, the main characters are played by North American actors Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams. Furthermore, the film was directed by American director David Dobkin. Additionally, Demi Lovato is a singer and actress who does not have any relation to the real Eurovision Song Contest but connects the film to the American music industry.

Background of Eurovision

It is important to consider the nature and customs of the real Eurovision Song Contest in order to contextualize its role within the film. The Eurovision Song Contest is a yearly recurring show that consists of two semi-finals and a grand final. The contest has a long history, the first edition took place in 1956 (Eurovision Song Contest, n.d.). During these live shows, artists represent their respective countries with unique performances and songs. The winner is decided by a combination of jury and public votes, and the winning country typically hosts the contest the following year, unless it is not able to, for example, due to a lack of funds or a suitable venue. The Eurovision Song Contest is immensely popular and entertains a global audience of fans.

Furthermore, it is important to consider that the Eurovision Song Contest is more than merely a silly or extravagant show. According to Tragaki and Fabbri, it “should be taken seriously as the creative, mobile, mediated, embodied, ritualistic, performative, narrative unit that encapsulates and generates memories, histories, nations and collectives” (2013, p. 15). Additionally, the Eurovision Song Contest is a transmedial phenomenon. According to Hanna, “transmedia approaches are multimodal …, intertextual …, and dispersed” (2023). The Eurovision Song Contest bears all three of these characteristics of a transmedial phenomenon. It is multimodal because it appears on multiple mediums: television, social media, the Eurovision app, and more. It is intertextual because each of these mediums presents different information, for example, the show can be watched on television, whereas the social media accounts display interviews with contestants, and the app shows practical information such as the running order, as well as personal rankings by yourself and other fans and background information about the contestants and performances. Lastly, it is dispersed because the viewer constructs the full understanding of the Eurovision Song Contest by using and viewing all these different mediums.

What is Intermediality?

To fully understand the intricacies of the film, it is essential to consider terms such as remediation, parody, and intermediality. According to Bolter and Gruisin, “all mediation is remediation” (2000, p. 55). In other words, each new medium builds upon older media and conventions, as “our culture conceives of each medium or constellation of media as it responds to, redeploys, competes with, and reforms other media” (Bolter and Gruisin, 2000, p. 55). However, for the purpose of this essay, it is essential to view remediation as a significant aspect of the film, instead of something universal. Bolter and Gruisin also justify their claim that all mediation is remediation “is not to suggest that all of our culture’s claims of remediation are equally compelling” (2000, p. 55). Remediation, in this case, is more than a universal feature of media, and more significant than for example an adaptation of a book in film. Instead, it is a deeply significant feature of this movie because a unique, European cultural and artistic event is remediated into a North American Hollywood production.

Furthermore, this type of remediation can be defined as a parody. Harries (2000) defines 'parody' as "the process of recontextualizing a target or source text through the transformation of its textual (and contextual) elements […] This conversion – through resulting oscillation between similarity and difference from the target – creates a level of ironic incongruity with an inevitable satiric impulse"(Harries, 2000, as cited in Archer, 2017, p. 5). In other words, a parody involves creating something new by imitating and transforming the source text and at the same time resulting in mocking and teasing the original (Dentith, 2000). Additionally, the film is intermedial, as it blurs the boundaries between art and real life - between fact and fiction, between parody and the parodied. According to Higgins, intermediality is what falls in between different media, there are no clear boundaries of where one medium ends and the other begins (2001).

Why this Movie is Intermedial

Examples of parodic elements within Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga are plentiful. For example, many songs, such as ‘Double Trouble’, ‘Lion of Love’, ‘In the Mirror’, ‘Volcano Man’, ‘Come and Play’, among others, have been written and produced in an attempt to imitate and transform, thus parody, the style of real Eurovision Song Contest entries for the purpose of being used in this film (Various Artists, 2020). These songs are performed by actors. The songs and their performances are often over-the-top and silly, or purposely generic, which emphasizes their parodic character. Furthermore, it can be argued that the song ‘Running with the Wolves’ with musicians performing it on the stage with characteristic masks is a parody of Lordi, the band that won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 and represented Finland (Dobkin, 2020, 01:08:21). According to Tragaki and Fabbri, as a “horror rock band”, Lordi challenged the normally cheesy and generic-pop idea of Eurovision Song Contest entries, which led their victory to become “one of the most memorable moments in ESC history” (2013, pp. 204-205). By replicating and parodying Eurovision performances in the film, the boundaries between fiction and reality have been blurred.

Aside from the parody songs that have been written for this movie, the film features songs that were actually presentedat the Eurovision Song Contest, performed by Eurovision . For example, Eurovision winner Salvador Sobral appears as a busker playing the piano in Edinburgh (Dobkin, 2020, 00:30:00). Other previous contestants and winners such as Loreen, Netta, Conchita Wurst, and Alexander Rybak can be seen performing a medley that includes songs from Eurovision (00:47:23). These appearances are cameos because they play themselves in the movie. A clear and comprehensive academic definition of a cameo has proven to be difficult to come across, however, the Cambridge English dictionary defines it as “a brief but noticeable part, especially in a movie, television program, or performance in a theatre, usually by someone who is famous” (n.d.). Another noticeable person who has a cameo in this film is Graham Norton. Every year since 2009, Norton has been providing live commentary on the Eurovision Song Contest for the BBC (Eurovision Song Contest, 2023). Within the film, Norton can be seen doing the same: commenting, this time, on the fictional version of Eurovision (Dobkin, 2020, 01:05:14). Norton, therefore, actively participates in the fictional world of the film, in the same way in which he is involved in the real Song Contest. The same is true for the previously mentioned winners and performers: they interact with the fictional characters in the movie while playing themselves, as they are in real life and real Eurovision. These cameos signify another unique and significant instance of blurring the boundaries between the real and fictional worlds.

Some other examples that display the intermedial nature of this film also need to be discussed. For example, an interesting aspect which is mentioned in the film by Graham Norton is that this fictional Eurovision takes place in 2020 (Dobkin, 2020, 01:05:02). Due to the Covid pandemic, there was no real Eurovision Song Contest in 2020 (Eurovision Song contest, n.d.). Therefore, the film is filling this gap in Eurovision history with a fictional version, which further blurs the boundaries between fiction and reality. Furthermore, during the real Eurovision Song Contest in 2021, the Icelandic actor Hannes Óli Ágústsson, who appeared in the film as a big fan of Fire Saga’s song ‘Jaja Ding Dong’, was virtually present to reveal which country would receive the coveted twelve points from Iceland. During his short conversation with the presenters, he stated: “so many nice songs this year, but I would personally like you to play ‘Jaja Ding Dong’”. He also exclaimed, before reluctantly awarding Switzerland the 12 points: “our twelve points go to ‘Jaja Ding Dong’! Play it!” (Eurovision Song Contest, 2021). These examples show interesting ways in how the film version of Eurovision interacts and teases the real competition by heavily relying on its intermediality and intertextuality.

Parody of the Parodied

It can be said that Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga is intermedial due to its unique manner of mixing parody with real life. While watching the film it can be difficult to distinguish between the real elements of the film and the parodied parts. The film songs and performances are almost indistinguishable from the real show, and the same is true for the commentary by Graham Norton, as well as other elements. Therefore, this movie is not only a combination of these two mediums, namely the Eurovision Song Contest and Hollywood film, with clear boundaries. Instead, the elements work together, intertwine, overlap, and combine, resulting in a new, intermedial phenomenon. This intermedial film constitutes a unique instance in which real life and fiction are mixed, resulting in a parody that is heavily intertwined with the parodied source.


Archer, N. (2017). Beyond a Joke: Parody in English Film and Television Comedy. I.B. Tauris.

Bolter, J. D., & Grusin, R. (2000). Remediation: Understanding New Media. MIT University Press.

Cambridge English Dictionary. (n.d.). Cameo. In Cambridge English Dictionary. Retrieved May 31, 2023.

Dentith, S. (2000). Parody. Taylor and Francis Group.

Dobkin, D. (Director). (2020). Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga [Film]. Netflix.

Eurovision Song Contest. (2023, February 22). BBC Announces Presenting and Commentary Lineup for Eurovision 2023.

Eurovision Song Contest. (2021, May 22). Eurovision Song Contest 2021 – Grand Final – Live Stream [Video]. YouTube.

Eurovision Song Contest. (n.d.). Lugano 1956. Retrieved June 1, 2023. 

Eurovision Song Contest. (n.d.). Rotterdam 2020 Cancelled. Retrieved June 1, 2023.

Hanna, J. (2023). Inter 5 Slides [PowerPoint slides]. Canvas, Intermediality.

Higgins, D. & Higgins, H. (2001). Intermedia. Leonardo, 34(1), 49-54.

Tragaki, D., & Fabbri, F. (2013). Empire of Song: Europe and Nation in the Eurovision Song Contest. Scarecrow Press Inc.

Various Artists. (2020). Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (Music from the Netflix Film) [Album/Compilation]. Maisie Music Publishing; Arista Records.