20/01/11

Dire Gays: whining Canadian gets MTV song banned

It’s not that I think Canada is an over-protective nanny state full of cry-babies who had their sense of humour excised at birth and wouldn’t recognise irony if it bit then on the bum or anything. But really, scrubbing the airwaves of Dire Strait’s “Money for Nothing” because it uses the “F”(aggot) word is a bit much.

The song was banned by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council after a solitary Eljibiti radio listener whined that it bruised their fragile soul.

Every reader my age knows the “MTV” song virtually by heart — boneheaded delivery men being grumpy about the absurd amounts of money made by boneheaded musicians with more mullets than talent. The offending lyrics include the following:

“See the little faggot with the earring and the makeup
Yeah buddy that’s his own hair
That little faggot got his own jet airplane
That little faggot he’s a millionaire”

Our Sensitive Soul found this “extremely offensive” and labeled it “discriminatory”. Since the complainant says they are a member of the Eljibiti Community, I’m assuming they consider it to be offensive to gays rather than to rock stars. But that confuses me. A pop classic which won the Grammy for record of the year in 1986 portrays homophobia as a sentiment expressed by bigoted and resentful boneheads. One person in Newfoundland, who apparently has not mastered the skill of switching off the radio, considers the association of homophobia with stupidity to be offensive. And six adults of sound mind meeting on behalf of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council spent I’m not sure how much time coming up with a 5000+ word decision that boils down to this: “The song contained a word that referred to sexual orientation in a derogatory way.”

Give me strength.

The decision makes for amusing reading, dredging as it does through the history of similar complaints. It seems that even more sensitive souls have in the past been upset by songs and skits about cigarettes (fags, to a good British sometime smoker such as myself). Of course the way Canada is going, it’s not impossible that cigarettes will soon be outlawed, with all evidence of their existence digitally excised from old Humphrey Bogart films.

In fairness, I should note that the overwhelming majority of Canadians of all sexual hues commenting on the Globe and Mail’s report of the ban think it is just plain silly. But I think I’ll try be more careful about my “hookers, fags and junkies” shorthand when I next visit Canada, just in case. I wonder if any radio listeners in Newfoundland are offended by any of these words: Big. Girl’s. Blouse.

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  1. Comment by Richard Lubbock, 20/01/11, 01:30:

    I fear Canadian authorities are gearing up to prohibit the use of all words ending in -gger.

  2. Comment by Monty, 20/01/11, 11:39:

    “I fear Canadian authorities are gearing up to prohibit the use of all words ending in -gger.”

    Oh Bugger!

  3. Comment by Lee Rudolph, 22/01/11, 12:05:

    A correspondent in the Great White North kindly pointed me to a Canadian Broadcasting Company article , in which we learn that:

    (1) “The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is urging the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) to review the decision made earlier this month by its Atlantic Regional Panel”

    and

    (2) In a letter sent on Friday, the CRTC also noted “that many of the letters it has received mistakenly have assumed that it was the commission, and not the CBSC, that determined that the version of the Dire Straits song containing the contested derogatory word was inappropriate for radio airplay.

    ‘The volume of letters and perceived overlap of responsibilities between the commission and the CBSC has created uncertainty for the public and for radio stations requiring information on the continued appropriateness of playing that version of the song,’ CRTC secretary general Robert Morin said in the letter.”

  4. Comment by Tony, 22/01/11, 09:04:

    Elisabeth,

    Firstly I really enjoyed the TED video I watched of you and, as I also work in this field, I look forward to exploring more of your blog.

    Here’s my take on this issue. I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in many blog comments to LGBT people who take offense at something they personally deem homophobic. They are exhorted to ‘lighten up’; ‘chill out’; ‘get a life’ etc. The impression is that the modern gay should just laugh and shrug off any reactions of discomfort to song lyrics, blogs or media representation because we are all so cool and liberated now. To protest like an old school activist is now perceived by many as being out of touch, anachronistic and uptight.

    This position really frustrates me. Of course political correctness taken to the extreme is destructive and defeats the point. But the reality is that discrimination against the Eljibiti community is very real and current – even in those North American states where many gay rights have been achieved.

    Being a victim of homophobia – being called a faggot regularly and mercilessly throught from childhood on – is the personal and wounding experience of multitudes of gay men and to discount their pain when they protest against hearing the word in song lyrics over their radio is, in my opinion, cruel and dismissive. So often in the past our protests were met with derision, angry rejection and, perhaps most humiliating, laughter.
    I don’t care to get into the whole debate about the context of the lyrics (how many people ever really understood the context?) or censorship or whatever. My point is that somebody heard the term and was hurt by it. And that person deserves to be heard and respected – regardless of the outcome – not written off as a whiner who got their ‘sensitive soul’ bruised.

  5. Comment by George, 29/01/11, 12:28:

    Irony. Sarcasm. Humour.

    Sorry Tony, you do have to get into the context. Otherwise, how do you deal with someone who says ‘I dislike the term faggot’ – as the song implies?

    Let’s be clear about Political Correctness. It passes for what when I was brought up was called ‘being polite’. The term itself was conjoured by people who found themselves offended that casual racism, sexism and homophobia were becoming unacceptable in everyday speech and behavior. They wanted us to feel their hurt and did so by subverting the language.

    Those of us who are on the side of the angels in this tend to get all the stick. We over-moderate our language and end up in a wordy mess.

    Tony, those who don’t understand the context will forever grind their way through the darker parts of life’s journey, yelling insults as they pass in their vans, Dire Straits blaring out the windows. They may well have happier lives than ours. But we will civilise them. Eventually.

    Hurt. Sarah Palin was ‘hurt’ that she was shown to be a halfwit, and managed to use the ‘hurt’ – some might say revelation – that she felt, to her advantage.

    Tony, we must never be regardless of the outcome.

  6. Comment by Clarisse Thorn, 31/01/11, 12:28:

    I bet you’d like the novel “Remake” by Connie Willis. It’s short!

  7. Comment by MkH, 31/01/11, 06:45:

    Hey, Elizabeth. Are you kin to Dr. Laura?

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