Thursday, December 20, 2007

Faggot 1, Political Correctness 0

In an about-turn, Radio 1 has unbanned "faggot" from Fairytale of New York, after an enormous outpouring of "it's PC gone mad" from fans of the song (and a few homophobes). 95% of people who responded to a BBC poll said they should not have banned the word. Even on a gay discussion board that I use, I was pretty much a lone voice, while others said they loved the song and were going to put on the jukebox that night and start up a petition to get the ban lifted.
Radio 1 now says that "listeners are smart enough to distinguish between maliciousness and creative freedom".

Popjustice present a good defence as to why the word should have remained banned, while Peter Tatchell points out how the affair highlights the inconsistency of the "anti-PC brigade".

The BBC handled the case hideously and have now offended just about everyone with an opinion about the song. The BBC's Newsbeat turned the case into the story which then prompted the backlash against the banning. One thing about British society that is very clear is that people don't like being told what they can hear and what they can't hear. The song has a lot of emotional resonance for people, particularly because its singer died so tragically.

I wonder if there would have been such a fuss at the banning if Kirsty McColl had sang "you cheap lousy nigger" though? Remember back in the summer when Emily Blunt, a contestant on Big Brother was kicked off the programme because she used the "n word" in a fairly tame and non-abusive context. I think there is a lot of acceptance that racism in language is wrong - however, when it comes to homophobia, the picture is a lot more complicated.

Hopefully the lesson that the BBC will take away from this is not "we can be as homophobic now as we jolly well like", but "if we decide to censor homophobia we should be a lot more subtle about how we present it to the public". I hope (and expect) that Fairytale of New York features a little less heavily in the Christmas playlists of 2008, 2009 and 2010 - until it's gradually assigned to the history books.

3 comments:

P.Brownsey said...

My reading of the current gays'-treatment-by-the-media situation is that a lot of people in the media think: "Well, it's not as if they are opporessed any more - they have civil partnerships and equality laws of various kinds - so hey! we can go back to jeering, mocking, treating them as figures of fun. Yay!"

Paul Brownsey, Glasgow

Fin De Fichier said...

I think it's important that
1) it is a 20 year old song
and
2) in the context of the song, it's hardy an incitement of any kind against homosexuals.

But you are right about the glaring double-standard. If it had been the n- word the song would have been banned from the airwaves a long time ago. Obviously even in liberal Western European countries sexuality is not seen as having the same gravitas as racial identity. I'd argue for a kind of historicistic interpretation, that people feel bad about what they perceive as the history of racial injustice and slavery in a way they don't feel bad about the long history of persecution of sexual minorities. Even the individuals who truly don't have any issues with gays and lesbians today.

matty said...

We are one of the last groups which can still be called names without any serious issue.

I hope that changes in my lifetime.

But, I quite agree. Were the song to have a line about "niggers" it would NOT be acceptable.

Anyway, hope you are having a great Christmas and that Santa brings you two something really cool!

kisses from the Fag Ghetto Fabulous!
matty