Comments

  1. Dan says

    I’m no fan of the word “faggot” but this is censorship and I’m against it with every atom of my being. Unfortunately, in Canada, we don’t have a First Amendment.

  2. johnny says

    For those of you who just want to read the specific lyric mentioned instead of watching the video:
    ———-

    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 didn’t remember those lines until I re-read them, but I agree with the characterization. This is coming from a guy that’s jealous of rock stars so his way of putting them down is to use the slur. It’s not the intent of the singer, but is the intent of the character he’s singing about.

  3. james says

    The song has been playing for 25 years so I don’t see why they need to edit it now. It’s not like the song is a current chart topper and will be played constantly. I remember when the song and video came out and it was very clear that the guy saying those words was a character, and one being mocked. It worries me when we start editing history, like replacing the N word in Tom Sawyer to read “slave”. You might as well go back and edit out all the racist, sexist and homophobic comments from every John Hughes movie (and there are lots), but it won’t change the fact that they were there in the first place.

  4. TampaZeke says

    I’ve heard the song a thousand times and never noticed the slur before. Maybe I’ve only heard the other version.

    I’m very disappointed to hear that Sting co-wrote and song with such a horrible slur, even if it was in 1985. He’s always portrayed himself as a higher thinker and a human rights activist. Like so many others, he must not have felt that the queers counted as human.

    I support Canada’s decision. Canada is not America. They work within their own laws and and their own values. I think any AMERICAN looking down his nose and acting as if our laws and values are better than those of Canada is ignorant and arrogant. Of course, ignorance and arrogance seem to be values that Americans are most proud of.

  5. Jack M says

    If it were the N word, it would have been universally censored immediately upon release, no questions asked. But the F word? Seems to be OK, and that’s the way of the world right now.

  6. brian says

    Intent is everything and Mark Knopfler is no bigot. I mean for fucks sake he wrote “Les Boys” Which I’ll quote in full:

    les boys do cabaret
    les boys are glad to be gay
    they’re not afraid now
    disco bar in germany
    les boys are glad to be
    upon parade now

    les boys got leather straps
    les boys got ss caps
    but they got no gun now
    get dressed up get a little risque
    got to do a little s & m these days
    it’s all in fun now

    les boys come on again
    for the high class whores
    and the businessmen
    who drive in their mercedes benz
    to a disco bar in old munchen

    they get the jokes that the d.j. makes
    they get nervous and they make mistakes
    they’re bad for business
    some tourists take a photograph
    les boys don’t get one laugh
    he says they’re useless

    late at night when they’ve gone away
    les boys dream of jean genet
    high heel shoes and a black berret
    and the posters on the wall that say
    les boys do cabaret
    les boys are glad to be gay

  7. Steve Ribisi says

    Back in college that very song figured prominently in my awakening sense of pride in being gay. I loved that entire album all through high school, including that song. When I got to college and came out, I began to get really angry about how gay people were treated (circa 1989) to the point where one evening in my dorm room after a particularly difficult day, I put that cassette (!) into my tape deck and began listening only to really *hear* the lyrics for the first time. I ripped the tape out of the deck and through it out of the window, never to be seen again.

    Of course, now I realize that the song isn’t meant to be degrading to gay guys, though I am willing to entertain the debate about whether or not the word “faggot” should be removed from our public discourse. I am now a high school teacher and I hear that word every effin day. In fact just two days ago, one of my kids called the other a faggot in the middle of class. The boy who was on the receiving end of the insult looked at the guy who used the word and said, “You probably shouldn’t have said that so loud.” I took the kid who used the offending word out into the hallway and I asked him if he knew I was gay. He replied, “Yes” and then proceeded to apologize profusely. I like the kid, and I wasn’t angry – just more weary and sad. I explained to him that the word is highly insulting and that other kids, including the one he used the word on, may themselves be gay or lesbian. Will he stop using the word? Probably not. But now he knows that not everyone thinks it is ok to say “faggot” in a public setting.

    By the way, I still like that album and even that track. Though now I listen to it via iTunes (it turns out my husband had a copy too, so I didn’t have to buy it again!) and I don’t play that track in the house when my 7 year old son is around to hear the “f” word.

  8. travshad says

    @Dan,

    Canada may not have a First Admendment protection of speech/expression, but it does have a Section 2(b) protection in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Neither the US First Admendment nor the Canadian Section 2(b) protections are absolute. And the FCC also regulates broadcasts on radio in the United States for profanity, indecency, and obscenity.

    @James – removing the N-word is not editing history. The word had different connotaitons for readers in Twain’s day than in our time. Many words change meaning over time, and if we want young or inexperienced readers to appreciate the classics as they were intended by their authors we may need to do some modern editing.

  9. Zach says

    I remember this coming up years ago, when I worked in retail. The particular corporation I worked preferred bland, slightly out of date music playing – nothing risque. And then someone brought it to their attention that their station of choice was playing this song on high rotation, uncensored, so they switched over to slightly more contemporary music.

    Also, while I don’t agree with banning the song from airplay, it’s more of a general distaste for most forms of censorship – I can’t accuse them of being inconsistent in trying to sanitize radio.

  10. says

    26 years later? oh jeez eh thanks. also this is one of the least offensive songs – in fact it’s empowering. also there’s this thing called freedom of expression. i have a hard time with the censorship of ANYTHING. no matter how hateful it is. even though this is far from hateful.

  11. james says

    @Travshad. Removing the N word is editing history. You are changing an important part of that work to avoid asking the question “why it was there in the first place.” If you are going to teach Tom Sawyer then you should be prepared to explain the context and time that it was written. Simply editing out the bad parts does everyone a disservice and is a slippery slope that I fear going down. Would you re-write The Merchant of Venice so Shylock wasn’t jewish? Should Birth of a Nation be destroyed because it shows the Klan in a positive light? All of these things are part of our (shameful) history that can’t, and shouldn’t, be swept under the rug to make us feel better.

  12. Glenn says

    I’ve always understood the song, and the use of “faggot,” the way Knopfler describes it, and it has never bothered me. I have to say some folks in this thread seem to have difficulty placing words in context.

  13. Glenn says

    By the way, anyone who thinks the “n” word is universally censored immediately upon release obviously hasn’t been listening to much popular music lately.

  14. CPT_Doom says

    This reminds of me of all the parents freaking out when Pat Benatar released “Hell is for Children,” and they all thought she was some kind of Satanic freak. I know my sister and I had to play the song for my mother for her to understand the title was something being said by an abusive parent to their child.

    I personally have no problem with the use of the word “faggot” in this song – in fact I kind of like it. The word is clearly used to add to the general dislike of the appliance delivery guy depicted in the lyrics and the video (IIRC, the song was based on a real event in Mark Knopfler’s life). The song says “only losers use that word.”

  15. MammaBear says

    He’s making fun of rednecks – people who would use faggot that way. Doesn’t bother me – would bother me if I was a redneck, instead of a f…riend of Dorothy.

    How about this from Joe Jackson:

    “Your don’t want to sound dumb, don’t want to offend
    So don’t call me a faggot
    Not unless you are a friend
    Then if you’re tall and handsome and strong
    You can wear the uniform and I could play along”

    If it’s just getting bleeped, who cares I guess – just highlights the offending word, which probably is about as effective as double underlining and bolding it.

  16. Calvin says

    I’m a born and bred Canadian and a liberal, but this is ridiculous! All pieces of art need to be taken in a context. Anyone who studies art of any kind knows that you have to examine the time and context in which it was created.

    This is just crap sensorship pushed by those who are too delicate and sensitive. The word “Faggot” will always be around just like all other words that can be deemed less than socially acceptable. That doesn’t change the fact that they are used and can often play important parts in history.

  17. Patrick says

    Silly… just silly. I was born in ’83 and I grew up listening to Dire Straits, most notably this song, and even as a child, it was never something that bothered or offended me, having awakened to my gay self at a VERY young age. I knew what he was saying, and who he was saying it about. If I’m not mistaken, he’s not making fun of gay people, but, in a round-about way, pointing out Elton John’s/George Michael’s success, regardless of their “station” in society, as told from the point of view of an electric goods delivery man, who is probably so unschooled that saying faggot is the only word he was raised to use in description of gay people.
    Really… 25 years? Back off this song. Its classic.

  18. anon says

    I never like the song, but I don’t recall it being censored or the song edited. They always played it straight through, or they reduced the solos to make it more commercial friendly.

    Let’s all sing:

    Oh Canada! We stand on our cars and freeze!

  19. DJSauvage says

    I bought that CD as a young faggot, and I loved those lines and always took them to represent solidarity between straight flamboyant rock starts and gay men.

  20. Vince in WeHo says

    I was 11 when the song came out and it instantly became one of my favorites. It’s a smart and catchy tune. Something you don’t hear much of these days. I don’t understand the few posters on here who support the censorship after reading the whole article. Did they read the whole article?

    Censorship – against it, whether it’s this song or Mark Twain’s “Huck Finn.”

    Context is everything. And the PC police are whitewashing our society. Is this just the beginning? Scary.

    What temperature do books burn at? Oh, yeah, Fahrenheit 451.

  21. Rob V says

    Just my opinion here… but I have always hated that lyric. Fromw when I was a teenager in the 80s until today. I have noticed that it has been changed over the years though. On satellite radio, the whole verse was cut. And on those radio stations on upper channels of the TV, they kept the verse but cut out the word.

    I hate that word. Again, my opinion.

  22. Jim says

    Absurd. “Money for Nothing” is a great song and one of the most obviously (and cleverly) ironic pop songs ever. It’s performed by a rock band in the voice of a blue collar average joe envious of the rock band lifestyle. The word isn’t even used to mean “homosexual,” since of course it is the “little faggot” who gets his “chicks for free.” The PC police need to keep their hands off art. This is the rock music version of the recently de-nig*ered Huck Finn.

  23. ratbastard says

    @MAMABEAR,

    ‘.He’s making fun of rednecks..’

    =======================

    Rednecks? You mean ‘Poor’ or ‘Working-Class’ whites? Do you think the word ‘Faggot’ is common among African-Americans? Latinos? How about ‘Maricon’? Do Asians ever say ‘Faggot’? What about urban ‘Professions’ vs ‘Rednecks’? Do urban professionals use ‘Bad’ language, and are any of them homophobic and bigoted?

    Or are only ‘Rednecks’ [i.e. white working-class] bigots, homophobes, etc.,?

    The race, ethnicity, etc., of the vulgar movers in the song’s lyrics isn’t mentioned at ll and it isn’t clear.

    Just saying, mamabear. Words hurt and kill, you know. At least that’s what ‘Progressives’ always say.

  24. says

    The song hasn’t been censored in Canada. The CBSC is a voluntary, industry watchdog that some Canadian broadcasters belong to. Rightly or wrongly, they’ve informed their stations not to play this version.

    Canada allows far more on its airwaves than America does, 1st Amendment or not.

  25. bobbyjoe says

    Oh, for Pete’s sake. Knopfler is writing in character in this song and the whole point is that the character is a jealous bigot.

    It’s like going back and censoring Archie Bunker in “All in the Family,” as though Norman Lear intended us to agree with Archie and not to laugh at him.

    Context is everything. There are cases where the word “faggot” is used recklessly in rock, pop, and hip-hop; this clearly isn’t one of ’em.

  26. pParkerT says

    Sting gets co-writing credit here because “I want my MTV” is sung to the tune of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”. It’s Sting who sings “I want my MTV” on the track, so it’s clear that that’s what he was doing.

    This song makes me confront my own double standards. I was uploading old CDs last year and came across this and uploaded it to my iPod, but I found that “faggot” in this context offended me to the point that I had to delete the song. I know it’s sung from the POV of a redneck; I still found that I just didn’t like it. However, I love the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York and it clearly uses the word faggot. I can’t really reconcile the two, but there it is.

    Still, I think that censoring the song so that no one can hear it, even 26 yrs later, is wrong. I’m sure there are other radio stations in Canada.

  27. jamal49 says

    Strange that this song is “controversial” again. I can remember the initial furor, which was as clueless then as it is now.

    I had sprung for the album when it came out because I was a big fan after Dire Straits first album and the song “Sultans of Swing”. Went to see them in concert and so forth. Loved them. Tight band and good music.

    I listened to Les Boys. I had mixed feelings then. I recoiled, and still do, at any use of the word “faggot”, regardless of context because it was like another pejorative still in use but very, very taboo. The word “faggot”, for me, was (and still is) a hateful, hurtful word. It stung. It wounded.

    There were only a very few voices then who rationally pointed out the context of the lyrics and that their meaning is not necessarily “anti-gay”. It’s a satire, a put-down, perhaps, of closeted music-biz types who go to isolated cities to act out. I don’t know because I’m not a very good interpreter of a song’s lyrics.

    Maybe that’s the mark of good song-writing. The lyrics are open to interpretation even as ya get up and shake ya ass.

    Mark Knopfler wasn’t a bigot then. I’m sure
    he’s not one now.

  28. Derek Pearce says

    I’m of two minds on this. The word faggot is offensive in and of itself (Owen Honors being demoted anyone?) but Knopfler clearly isn’t a homophobe.

    For someone my age– I was 12 when Money for Nothing was a hit– it’s a nostalgic track, back when music was just what was on the radio before I discovered the million different genres that abound. But I clearly remember– and boys, admit it, some of you remember this too– that hot flash of shame when this verse would play, eyes darting around, hoping no one would notice that I was indeed a faggot too. The fact that the “person” singing it was a character technically being made fun of made no difference.

    Anyhow, the CBSC has no legal authority so stations will do as please regardless.

  29. Randy says

    I’m glad they came to the decision they did, although it’s two decades too late. They are wrong about one thing… the word has not changed its meaning at all in those two decades. And of course now there’s the internet, so this ruling has little meaning, beyond a statement.

    It’s very obvious what the song lyrics mean, and how the public receives them. I grew up during that time, and the anti-gay message in the song was certainly received and understood by all who heard it. The code is that gays are rich, gays dress up, gays don’t deserve what they have, and this is a popular belief within the anti-gay world even today. The worst message during that time of course was that gays can be denounced in a widespread fashion over the radio and on TV, with impunity.

    Although I don’t support censorship of hate speech, I do support equal enforcement of the laws on the books. So as long as there is this law, it should be enforced.

  30. ratbastard says

    @jason paris,

    Canada is one of the most restrictive, P.C. obsessed places on Earth. And honestly, it’s reputation as a gay mecca is greatly exaggerated once you hit the streets up there.

  31. jaragon says

    I never noticed those lyrics before but did love the now prehistoric computer animation. We are going down a dangerous Orwellian path if we are censoring everything to make it safe and dull.

  32. Robert says

    This is really odd because I’m close to 30 years old and I first heard the faggot line YESTERDAY on the radio. I was like “Uh, did I just hear that correctly?” and set a note in my phone to look it up later. Guess I don’t have to!

  33. D.R.H. says

    Ratdirtbag, you’re a troll that waits around your computer so you can argue with people in the comments section.
    PC obsessed – check.
    Full legal recognition of homosexuals and homosexual relationships as a normal and healthy part of society – check.
    Get back to me when you guys finally work that one out.

  34. says

    I find it interesting that, as the character speaking through the song uses the word “faggot” that Mark Knopfler himself is the one on the television screen in the video, essentially casting himself in the role of faggot.

  35. Justin Werner says

    W-a-a-a-a-y-y-y-y too PC. And anyone with a modicum of sense could figure out the context. And doing it now? C’mon Canada, I thought you were *sensible*.

  36. Tom Stoppard says

    I can see both sides of the argument here. And anyone who reads the lyrics carefully can see that we are supposed to view the person saying “faggot” as someone who’s an idiot, which is probably the way the song-writer intended it.

    However – and this is a big however. Not everyone who hears the song is sophisticated enough to get that message. The author’s intention actually becomes unimportant. What’s more important is the audience interpretation of the word. And that includes a) gay people who find the word offensive in any context and perhaps more importantly: b) homophobes who hear the word faggot in this song and feel validated in their own hatred.

    There is enough homophobia around at the moment. People are killing themselves because of it. So I don’t think the homophobes need any more validation, even if it’s validation by accident. For this reason, I’d agree that we shouldn’t play this song with the word “faggot” in, until society’s attitudes have become a lot kinder.

    Just my opinion. But I can see how many people, gay or straight, would disagree.

  37. Chris says

    For anyone interested in getting the actual facts about this story, I suggest you take a look at this website.

    http://www.slapupsidethehead.com/2011/01/homophobic-lyrics-addressed-by-cbsc/

    The song is in fact not banned, it is plainly available for purchase on iTunes or in CD stores for anyone who wishes to buy it. It isn’t even banned from the radio. All the CBSC did was request that their stations play a version of the song with the word “faggot” replaced with “mother”. Frankly, anyone who thinks that the word “faggot” is appropriate to hear on public radio is an idiot. It’s a swear. It’s a slur. It’s simply not an appropriate thing to say on TV or Radio and should be censored. There is no unjust censorship that occurred here, just reasonable people doing their moral duty.

  38. robert says

    I found the word offensive when I first heard the song and I still find it offensive. I have no problems with the N word being taken out of Huck Finn either.

  39. Whitey Joe Young says

    @Vince in Weho: yeah, that’s right! Farenheit 451. Great story. Nice throw there bud.

    I always laugh when I hear that song. The character voice who is singing is so pathetically ignorant, and envious of the rich rock star, it’s very difficult to surmise anything other than: wow, dude, CHILL… that’s harsh! Never took it as Knopfler slamming gays or disrespecting. Quite the opposite.

Leave A Reply