Fairytale of New York, 2020 and still as problematic as ever
It’s December 2020, and whilst there is some good news in the air surrounding three potential COVID vaccines, and yet, the age-old argument about the Fairytale of New York has reared its ugly head, because for six weeks of the year it’s apparently socially acceptable to be shouting across a bar, or nightclub: “You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy f******”. Oh yes. This one. Again. if you’re looking to start a nasty debate, this is the way to go.
The argument for whether to play to song including the homophobic slur on the radio rears its head around this time every year for the last few years. However, in 2020, BBC Radio 1 made the decision to play a version of the Christmas classic with the infamous line edited so that it doesn’t offend their key demographic, 15-29, who probably don’t have the attachment of the word being a homophobic insult from a song that was written and released before they were born. BBC Radio 2, however, have made the decision to play it in its original format.
A statement from the BBC read; “We know the song is considered a Christmas classic, and we will continue to play it this year, with our radio stations choosing the version of the song most relevant for their audience”.
Bit odd isn’t it? It’s appropriate for the oldies, but not for the youngsters – how does that work?
I feel I should clear something up right now. I am not suggesting for one minute that it’s only the Oldies that listen to Radio 2, rather than Radio 1, even though I’m still clinging on to their demographic. In fact, I would choose to listen to Radio 2 any day over Radio 1. So, what I find odd and quite frankly disturbing as to why in 2020 – we are even having this debate?
Don’t get me wrong, I do love the song. I think it’s one of the best Christmas songs to be written, prior to Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree”, but what just irks me is the groups of people, arms around each other, gleefully shouting a word that has been used for so many years to insult, belittle, scare and dehumanise LGBT+ people. I find it upsetting that we are still having to have this conversation and that people cannot see that that word still has a sting for many people.
Personally, it doesn’t particularly bother me; I’ve been called it so many times that it’s water off a ducks back, but at the same time, do I want to be reminded of it every time it comes on the Radio? No! But the sting is still there. It is still a word that holds a lot of resentment and pain for many people. Whilst we’ve worked hard to reclaim words and turn them into positive terms of endearment – for many members of the LGBTQ community, this is just a step too far.
But what we’ve seen so much of, this year, I think more than in previous years, is that those who are offended by it have been regarded as “snowflakes”, and suggesting that by censoring it, we are denying our culture as Brits. Ah there, it is. The homophobia that nobody is really talking about nowadays. We’re bringing sexuality and gender issues into a “Culture War”. Now that to me is very disturbing. We’ve seen this so-called “Culture War” flare up several times this year, whether it be around trans rights, which are human rights by the way – in case you hadn’t forgotten, or the Black Lives Matters movement. Anything supporting a minority is attacked for going against British values. Maybe I’m naive, but I thought it was more about common decency more than anything.
People don’t seem to bat an eyelid about songs having words bleeped out for being rude, derogatory or offensive. Maybe the last time I remember was the mild controversy about Britney Spears suggestive “If You Seek Amy”, and even that was given a radio edit to replace a word, or in Scott Mills’ rather comical version; “Amy with Brass”.
Maybe in 1987, it was okay for a word like “f******” to be heard on the radio; but let’s not forget that Section 28 was also brought in, just a year later. Things change; AND THAT’S OKAY! It’s okay to say now that things were different then, and we should make a positive change for the good of society. Even the song’s performers have said that it’s okay for words to be bleeped out that might cause offence, and Kirsty McColl even performed an alternative version of the song on Top of the Pops just a few years after its release. Nobody complained about it then.
At the end of the day, nobody is stopping anyone from singing along to it in their car, but I think in the grand scheme of things if we just showed some respect to what everyone else’s opinions and values are, then we maybe wouldn’t have to have this conversation every year. But, honestly, if you’re fighting this hard for the original version of it being played on BBC Radio One; then I think you might need to have a good hard look at yourself. For a country that prides itself on equality and being equal. It should surprise me that we have to have these conversations, however, alas, I am not for one bit surprised. Why do you feel the need to shout that line across the bar? I can assure you that it says more about you, than those of us that wish to hear it censored.
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