We all like to have a good laugh and a head scratch at the American entertainment regulatory bodies and the things they deem scandalous and inappropriate. Whether it be the brief sighting of a pastied teat during a contest that requires you try to decapitate your opponent or the depiction of realistic sex that sets the conservative values aflutter, I think we can all agree that in most instances conglomerations of like-minded individuals charged with telling us what to watch or listen to have made us all wonder just what in the fuck these people were thinking. Well, why should Canada be any different?
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council decided last week (in an Herculean effort to stuff their craniums even further up their collective chocolate slip n’ slides) to ban the Dire Straits song “Money For Nothing” because of a few instances of the word “faggot”. It would seem that I and many others are a bit confused and more than a little perturbed by this decision of the CBSC. It happens that this ban on the un-edited version of the song stems from a complaint made by one person from Newfoundland who has been identified as being a member LGBT community. Let me repeat that: the ban is the result of one complaint about a song that is 25 years old. Lovely. I have two major issues with the ban. Firstly, that the word “faggot” wasn’t considered in the context in which it was used; and secondly that the CBSC has decided to do anything at all.
Much like the article Mr. Harris wrote in which he disagrees on the Mark Twain expert editing Huck Finn to remove all of the instances of the words “nigger” and “Indian” from a classic novel; removal of the word “faggot” changes the intent and meaning of the song. The biggest difference is that the CBSC is requiring the removal of the word because it’s offensive, not to make the material more accessible. Is it a bad word? Given it’s historical usage it certainly is. Is it used inappropriately? Not at all. In fact, depending on the particular version you read, the song seems to be a first person narrative of a delivery man or blue collar layperson watching MTV in an appliance or furniture store and lamenting that these rock stars get paid for doing sweet fuck all. Indeed, according to lead singer Mark Knopfler, many of the lyrics are direct quotes taken from that individual. It would seem to anybody with a modicum of intelligence that the song is actually taking the piss out of this bigoted and spiteful man, but one has to have a little sympathy for an individual who was confused by the androgyny of the mid- Eighties. Right? Nevertheless the use of the word in the context of the song was never considered. It was deemed offensive and therefore we must be protected from ever hearing it on a private radio station.
Which brings me to my second issue: that this never really should have been an issue. It seems that more and more often regulatory agencies are telling us what we’re too stupid to hear or see. You may be surprised to learn that I’m not actually totally against censorship when it’s used appropriately. In my opinion, it should be applied when certain terms or phrases are being used for no other purpose than to incite hatred or de-humanize people. But I would postulate that you wouldn’t find much argument that this is the case in this situation. Indeed I begin to grow tired of not being able to enjoy some forms of media because someone else who knows better has determined that I’m not smart enough to discern whether a term like “faggot” or “dyke” is used ironically or even in a self deprecating attempt at humour. I begin to feel frustrated that I don’t know when the term “nigga” is used appropriately in the context of a day-to-day conversation or joke. It elicits a deep and frothing rage that I’m not supposed to tell you that you’re the result of the three-day mating ritual between a donkey and baboon even though you are. It definitely brings me no small amount of trepidation that the complaint of one, single and solitary individual can effect what I get to watch, listen to, or otherwise enjoy whenever I please.
An argument can be made that we need agencies like this so that people that aren’t actually smart enough to put the round peg in the round hole are protected but I don’t buy that. Just like I don’t buy the “somebody has to think of the children” argument. If you can’t understand appropriate usage for language then you probably have issues far beyond your inability to understand what and how you’re being a story. Whether it’s music or video games or movies, you should probably just stop consuming entertainment all together and sit in the corner drawing on the wall with your own poop. As for parental responsibility position: they do have someone to think for them. You! Just because you can’t be bothered to educate your children with regards to right and wrong and the nuances of acceptable societal behavior doesn’t mean that you get to also decide what’s appropriate for my kids. I get to do that. Oh, by the way, if your child goes to a school - any school - they already know more about profanity and sex than you do. Playgrounds are an education second to none.
In the aftermath of this little Canadian blowup opinion seems to have come down pretty firmly against the CBSC’s decision from most items I’ve read and listened to but it certainly isn’t unanimous. Some radio stations have protested by playing the unedited version on a loop for an hour and even most of the LGBT community seems to be saying, “really guys, this is where you’re making a stand”? It seems like a small thing and in the grand vision of the world it undoubtedly is, but it occurs to me that we’re trying to do-over a surprising amount of media in order to make it more user friendly and inoffensive. I, for one, would hate to log on to Pajiba one day only to find all of the posts and all of the comments robbed of their meaning and soul. You must have heard all that talk about regulating the Internet, right? But, god help them, the next time I hear a lesbian or gay person use the f-word.