14 January 2011
Dire Straits, "Money for Nothing", and 'Faggot'...
Hot on the heels of NewSouth Books and the censoring of a Mark Twain classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, there is this story out of Canada that seemingly takes 2011 standards of vilification and applies them retroactively to 1985.
The word in question is 'faggot'. There is little doubting that the term is one that is derogatory. It is designed to offend, it is designed to hurt the individual that it is aimed at, and in many places it is now included as language that vilifies a certain group of individuals in the community. In 1985, the word was derogatory but it was used much more freely and perhaps to some degree was considered acceptable.
Interestingly, the song is a Dire Straits classic. In fact, it is a song that has received numerous awards, including a Grammy. Should the fact that the song was released more than 25 years ago mean that it must be subject to a different standard in terms of the language used? Furthermore, does the fact that the song has been played hundreds of thousands of times throughout the world on radio and television in the most far-flung of locales mean that it is exempt from current applicable standards of the Canadian human rights laws and regulations?
I am not advocating a return to a time when vilifying people was tolerated much more than it is now. I do not use the word and I follow certain protocols when children use it in my classroom in unacceptable ways. However, I am wondering out loud as to whether this kind of revisionism and retroactive application is misplaced. Nevertheless, this is a case of "sooner or later" as it was only a matter of time before someone lodged a complaint. The word 'faggot' violates the human rights standards that apply in Canada. So, the Broadcast Standards Council, who has authority over these matters, has decided that the word must be censored out of the song.
The line that will have to be edited is ''That little faggot with the earring and the make-up''. Money for Nothing is a song off the 1985 Brothers in Arms album. Mark Knopfler, the lead singer of Dire Straits has commented sparingly on the song. He has said that he wrote it after visiting a hardware store in New York.
I wonder what is next for the censors?