On that Money For Nothing Ban

It’s probably worth getting a discussion started here about the original version of “Money for Nothing” being banished from Canadian airwaves, because of the following lyric:

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

Alan Cross has a good post on his blog about this, which he’s been updating. But I’m a bit surprised by this part at the end:

I can’t say that I disagree entirely [with the CBSC decision] either. Back in ’85, “faggot” was an epithet thrown around by almost everyone.  It wasn’t much of an issue–just like the days when the use of the n-word was frighteningly common.  Over the years, I found myself noticing that lyric more often and growing more uncomfortable each time.  It somehow just wasnt…right.   But that was the extent of my reaction.  The song was, at most, a period piece when it came to a certain colloquialism. Today, any use of the word “faggot” is just not acceptable to many people.

But there’s one point about that lyric that I haven’t seen added to the discussion, and it is this: In the song, Knopfler is singing in the voice of an appliance store salesman.  He made that clear in dozens of interviews he did when the album was released. The story he told is that he was in a shop looking for a fridge or something, and some rock videos were playing on an in-store television. And the salesman started complaing about rock stars and their cushy lives (i.e. money for nothing and chicks for free). Knopfler said that he pulled out a pen and just started writing down what the guy was saying, and used his comments as lyrics in the song.

The point being, the song does not use “faggot” casually. If anything, it is a song about the casual use of the word by uneducated and embittered bigots.

Surely that makes all difference in the world. How can art make any critical statement on the world, if it is not allowed to quote or mention that which it is criticizing? Are artists not allowed to take on another persona, or to speak in the voice of another in order to sharpen the criticism?

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