But the CBC reported today that the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has voted to ban — BAN — the song from Canadian airwaves because of the following verse:
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
The complaint, of course, being that the word "faggot" is considered hate speech in Canada.
But let's look at context here. The song is about a couple of delivery guys, and how easy rock stars have it from their perspective. It has nothing to do with how the band feels about homosexuality, it's how they assumed tough guys like that talked openly at the time. (And probably often still do.)
Times have changed, but songs and books are stuck in their own time. Should we really "update" them? Should they be censored at all?
Just last week there was a story circulating that an American publishing firm was editing the word "Nigger" out of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn.
What the hell is going on? People of a right wing persuasion might be tempted to blame "political correctness" on the left. But it's not that simple. Censorship is an issue that is an anathema to most artists — whether their censors are prudish about sex or scared of hurting people's feelings. It's not a right-left thing. It's about understanding what artistic expression is.
Artists, even rock stars, deserve a certain amount of freedom to portray the world as they see it. Even if that world makes us uncomfortable.
Back in the 1970s, when the glam movement brought homosexuality into mainstream musical conversation, it was common to make reference to how others saw the new dandies:
A cop knelt and kiss the feet of a priest
And a queer threw up at the sight of that
- David Bowie, "Five Years" (1972)
The faggot mimic machine never had an ideas
Mission impossible, they self destruct on fear
- Lou Reed "N.Y. Stars" (1974)
The '80s were no different. I can't imagine Christmas without this song:
You scumbag you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy christmas your arse I pray god it´s our last.
- The Pogues, "Fairytale of New York" (1987)
The word is hurtful. But the songwriters use its power to make a point.
I think the Canadian Broadcast Standards Authority is making a mistake by treating a harmless rock song as if it were hate speech.
And if that's all it takes to get banned, then I guess chances are slim that we'll ever hear this song broadcast in Canada again:
Shame, too. This one actually made a really great statement.
What's next, "bitch"?