In the recent furor over the use of the word “faggot” in the Dire Straits song Money For Nothing, I find it ironic that no accounts have mentioned the song’s phrase “your chicks for free.” The lyrics also include this sentence: “Look at that mama, she got it stickin’ in the camera Man we could have some.”
As a woman, I could certainly say that I find such words and concepts exploitative, sexist, demeaning, and objectifying. Yet, I wouldn’t call up a radio station and request that the song not be played because of them. Firstly, I believe in artistic licence and freedom of speech.
Secondly, Mark Knopfler and Sting, who co-wrote the song in 1985, are using the voice of a working stiff who’s watching music videos and resenting how easy it appears to be to find sex, fame, and glory as a musician, rather than doing his grunt work of moving heavy appliances all day (see the song lyrics below). Therefore, the use of the word “faggot” is in keeping with this man’s character and perspective. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree with it.
(For those who don’t know the story, someone recently complained to radio station CHOZ-FM in St. John’s, Nfld., Canada about its airing of an unedited version of the song. The complainant said that the song’s lyrics were “extremely offensive” to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. As a result, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, an independent body, has ruled that the song should not be played on Canadian airwaves. The council concluded that the word “faggot” . . . even if entirely or marginally acceptable in earlier days, is no longer so.”
The council also stated, according to The Vancouver Sun: “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.”)
I would not use the word “faggot” and agree that it is offensive, but I would not advocate the banning of this song. In contrast, it is truly sad that western society has become so inured to calling and representing women as “chicks” and portraying them as temptresses freely available for sex, that no one has even drawn attention to this aspect of the lyrics during the Dire Straits song controversy.
Here are the lyrics to Money for Nothing:
Well, on this issue, I agree with director Spike Lee, who calls this whitewashing of historical language “ridiculous.” Yes, language is fluid and does change with the times, but if that term, however despicable, was accurately used in a historical context, to alter it is to fictionalize reality.
How far will political correctness go? To relabel history based on present-day standards and ideology is unwarranted revisionism. Such repackaging of the past is among the first steps that dictators and power-mongers, from Hitler to Chairman Mao, took to reinvent themselves and their regimes. George Orwell warned about such twisting of language and words and their meaning, seeing it as an integral tool of fascism.
Let the past remain intact, true to its offensiveness. I like the comments of Daniel James on the blog Good Culture: “Naturally I deplore the “N” word and would never use it myself. However, in a piece of literature like Huckleberry Finn it stands as an important reminder of the way the world was and why we are the way we are today. Huck Finn is written within a specific time and place and we should be reminded of the way things were in the south no matter how distasteful aspects of the piece are to 21st century eyes.”
I was going to say “Amen,” but gee, some might construe that as unnecessarily biased towards a certain religion, not inclusive enough, and not non-denominational. Hell, I’ll use it anyway.