The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has its collective head up its collective butt. (Rolling Stone)
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council has ruled that “Money for Nothing,” a Dire Straits hit from 1985, is too offensive for Canadian airwaves. The song is being singled out for the repeated use of an anti-gay slur — “that little fagg*t” — in its second verse.
The little fagg*t with the earring and the makeup
Yeah buddy, that’s his own hair
That little fagg*t got his own jet airplane
That little fagg*t he’s a millionaire
Now there is no doubt whatsoever that the lyrics of this song are sexist, racist and homophobic. But the important matter is whether the song celebrates these attitudes or mocks them.
The song narrator is a appliance store delivery man who is resentful of the rock stars he sees on MTV who “ain’t working” but are “banging on the bongos like chimpanzees” and have “the earring and the makeup” and who get their “money for nothing and their chicks for free.” And the lyrics are based on direct quotes from one such guy in a New York appliance store who Mark Knopfler overheard making some of the exact comments, grabbed a pencil, and scribbled down.
But along with the resentment is envy and regret, the acknowledgment that he didn’t “learn to play the guitar” and he doesn’t have his own jet airplane and he isn’t a millionaire. And, as the song was, ahem, heavily played on MTV, it shouldn’t take genius to figure out that the musicians were singing about the attitudes of the people who derided and hated them.
When I first hear Money for Nothing, the “fagg*t” language was jarring… until I finally realized that the protagonists lyrics answer himself, are a reminder of what his own bigoted values have given him. His choices have led him to hauling refrigerators and installing microwave ovens.
But I guess the Very Serious People at the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council just don’t get irony or sarcastic social commentary. So no more “I want my, I want my, I want my MTV”.