Last night I went to Birchington to have a few drinks with Abi who was down from London, and as I was drinking I got a taxi home. The taxi driver was racist, sexist, homophobic, and in general an idiot and not the person I would ever want to have a conversation with, but I found myself having to spend ten minutes with him on my journey back.
Out came a ?joke? about ?Paki?s?, and then he started talking about his wife?s phone he had borrowed, and because he couldn?t get to grips with it he kept referring to it as ?gay?. These were just a couple of highlights of my journey, although him having a conversation on his phone, one hand on the wheel, and driving at 50mph in the dark on country roads was also exhilirating to say the least.
I thought I?d post about this as yesterday Radio One caused a bit of debate by deciding to edit the words ?faggot? and ?slut? from the Pogues? Fairytale of New York, a song that has been played unedited for the past twenty years. The BBC had said that an edited version would be played because ?some members of the audience might find it offensive?, although they?ve now reversed this decision after public outcry and will continue playing the original.
So when is it acceptable to use somewhat derogitary language, and where does political correctness come in? I guess it all has to do with perspective and situation, although even then I don?t think there?s a definitive answer.
I believe the taxi driver was completely in the wrong, letting me into his small-minded world by engaging me in that conversation. These words were his own, and although he may have thought he was being light-hearted, they were still words that cause offence and had no place in the conversation. They could?ve been replaced with a multitude of other words, but instead he chose to use ?gay? as meaning the phone was rubbish, instead of just calling it ?rubbish?. I wonder if he realised that he was being offensive? Yes he could be ?edited? to remove those words from his vocabulary but it woudl be better for him to be educated to understand, but I doubt that will happen.
Now let?s get back to Fairytale of New York:
You?re a bum, you?re a punk, you?re an old slut on junk,
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed.
You scumbag, you maggot, you cheap lousy faggot,
Happy christmas your arse, I pray God it?s our last
?Faggot? and ?slut? are definitely used in a derogitary manner, although these words are not derogitary to me but I can see how they can cause offence to others, and so maybe there is a case for their removal? I believe they are used for effect and I think the song should be viewed as a whole, realising that the lyrics sung by Kirsty MacColl and Shane MacGowan are the words of the characters in the song and not their own personal thoughts.
For that reason, the song should remain as it is. On film, offensive words are used all the time, and it would be terrible if everyone was to be edited to a more politically correct version. There may be an argument that the song shouldn?t be played to impressionable people who may not understand the true meaning of ?faggot? or how ?slut? can offend, and may be tempted to repeat, but where do we draw the line then?
There are songs such as Elephant Man?s ?We Nuh Like Gay? in which the focus is entirely on inciting and promoting homophobia: Queers must be killed! Take them by surprise, and there is no way that you could dismiss the lyrics in the song as anything else. ?Fairytale of New York? is a great song with a couple of questionable lyrics, where as ?We Nuh Like Gay? is a whole song which is truely abhorrent.
No doubt I will enjoy singing along to ?Fairytale of New York? this Christmas and I hope I don?t offend, but I certainly won?t be teaching the lyrics to any youngsters.