Friday, January 14, 2011

"Money For Nothing" banned in Canada for "little faggot" lyric

Dire StraitsThis one comes from the way back in the dark, dusty corners of the Too Little, Too Late Department. Back in the day, when MTV was in its infancy and actually played music videos, Dire Straits released their biggest hit, Money For Nothing, from the album Brothers in Arms. The bouncy ditty was a follow up to Sultans of Swing and featured backup vocals by Sting, ("I want my MTV") who also is credited which co-writing the tune which was number one on the U.S. music charts for three weeks and earned the band a Grammy.
When I first hear this song, I really liked it, until I started to pay attention to the lyrics in the second verse:
"The little faggot with the earring and the makeup. Yeah, buddy, that’s his own hair. That little faggot's got his own jet airplane. That little faggot he’s a millionaire."
After that, any time I heard the song on the radio, it's switch to a different station. I also stopped watching MTV.

I remember a couple of years later, the song came on the radio at work and I turned it off. A female coworker objected and asked what the problem was. I explained the offensive lyric and told her I'd turn my radio back on after a few minutes. She actually said to me, "I don't think they meant it like that."

I asked her, "How else could they possibly mean it?" We didn't pursue the issue and after a little while I turned the radio back on.

At the time there was a lot of resentment among the "legitimate" rock bands about the direction rock was taking. Performers like Prince and Michael Jackson were dominating the music industry and some traditionalists were taking pot shots at them for their style, because there was nothing negative they could say about their talent. For the record, Dire Straits still enjoys a cult following, but has not had another hit since the 80's. Karma is a bitch.

This week brings the news that after nearly three decades, Money For Nothing has been banned from radio air play in Canada by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, after it investigated a complaint filed by a radio listener. The Daily Mail Reports:
The entire verse is edited out of some versions of the song, or the word is simply replaced. The council concluded that 'f****t'. when used to describe a homosexual man, is a word 'that, even if entirely or marginally acceptable in earlier days, is no longer so.

'The societal values at issue a quarter century later have shifted and the broadcast of the song in 2010 must reflect those values, rather than those of 1985.'

Co-written in 1985 by Mark Knopfler and Sting, Money For Nothing is penned from the perspective of a working class man who spends his time watching music videos and comments on what he sees

In an interview with Rolling Stone around the time the song was released Knopfler said: ‘I got an objection from the editor of a gay newspaper in London - he actually said it was 'below the belt.'

'Apart from the fact that there are stupid gay people as well as stupid other people, it suggests that maybe you can't let it have so many meanings - you have to be direct.

'In fact, I'm still in two minds as to whether it's a good idea to write songs that aren't in the first person, to take on other characters.

'The singer in 'Money for Nothing' is a real ignoramus, hard hat mentality - somebody who sees everything in financial terms. 
'I mean, this guy has a grudging respect for rock stars. He sees it in terms of, well, that's not working and yet the guys rich: that's a good scam.’
I heard this song on the radio before I saw the video and when I saw what it was about, I got it. Money For Nothing is a social commentary about working class values, as if gays and lesbians don't work. That's probably the most offensive part of all.

When people say I'm over sensitive about it, I tell them to think about the most offensive word they've ever had used against them. For a woman it might be the C-word, for Africa-Americans, it's most likely the N-word. You get the idea. Then I tell them that the next time they hear this song, to replace the word faggot with the word they find offensive and imagine hearing it several times a day and having the performer win all sorts of accolades and awards for it and having people tell you that you're too sensitive because you find it offensive.

I believe that you can't have an honest discussion about offensive language without using that language. For example, I find it ridiculous when I see talk shows having a panel of experts discuss the N-word, with all of its implications, even though they are afraid to actually say the word. I think that avoid the word within the context of an intellectual discussion actually makes things worse and reinforces the negative connotations of the word.

As my readers know, I'm all about living openly and honestly. To that end, I'm including the video of the offending tune and I want you to listen to it with new ears. Substitute the word faggot with the most offensive word you've ever been called, then ask yourself why we still allow it in pop music even now. Why do we sit back and let rappers talk about killing faggots? Why are there no consequences? Why do we reward bigotry in the entertainment industry with awards and royalties? Where is the outrage?

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