Monday, January 17, 2011


Back in 1985, I wanted my MTV. Madonna got me "Into the Groove", I pretended George Michael was singing directly to me with "I'm Your Man" and lead singer Pete Burns both intrigued and worried me in Dead or Alive's video for "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)." MTV picked up the torch from Bob Geldof and "We Are the World", broadcasting Live Aid. MTV was good, all good.

But then there was that Dire Straits song. It was catchy and it glorified MTV, but it also spit out the "faggot" reference. I was twenty years old and scared to death to come out of the closet in Texas. I was sure I'd lose my job, my friends,...maybe even my life. It seems overly dramatic in 2011, but I had enough self-hatred that the last thing I needed was Mark Knopfler's hardhat character taunting me. Yes, I listened intently to hear his explanation of the song. The lyrics and the video clearly showed the context, but the fact the song shot to number one in the U.S. and became an international smash affirmed that the term "faggot", while offensive, was not off limits. Plus, I knew that many rock listeners weren't thinking of context as they sang along to the following verse:

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

I recalled people being more offended by Randy Newman's "Short People" (in 1977) than they were to "Money for Nothing". Nobody seemed all that concerned.

When I heard that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council banned the unedited version from Canadian radio, I thought I'd misread the headline. What was the point of banning a song twenty-six years after it was released? I shrugged my shoulders and moved on. Yet now, as people take to the message boards online to rally behind the right to free speech, to criticize political correctness and to point out the song's context, it's like the dated reference to "faggot" needs to be defended.

At the very least the CBSC's decision may right a wrong from the past. In 1985, a lot of people didn't get worked up over using "faggot" as a putdown. Only a few years earlier, I wouldn't have dreamed of reporting to anyone that the term had been repeatedly used to degrade me. I never heard an adult speak up against using the world as an insult. While I don't think its usage was widely condoned, nobody seemed to want to deal with the subject head on. The banning may irk the classic rock enthusiasts, bore today's youth and mystify heterosexuals who do not feel any tinge of homophobia. I doubt that there are many people today who are struggling with their sexual identity who are harmed by a song from before they were born.

Still, taking a stand now reflects a different context, today's standards. President Ronald Reagan did not even mention the word "AIDS" until 1985. In 2010, President Barack Obama, posted an "It Gets Better" video for The Trevor Project. Yes, we've come a long way (MTV and its "Jersey Shore" excluded). Why stop now?

1 comment:

Rick Modien said...

Good post. Thought provoking. My how times change. Thanks for sharing.