Is Fairytale of New York 'homophobic' for its 'f****t' lyric?

Is Fairytale of New York homophobic for its 'f****t' lyric?

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Fresh calls to censor the popular Christmas song Fairytale of New York have sprung up over the lyric containing the word ‘f****t’.

Justin Myers, a gay writer who blogs under the name The Guyliner, wrote in late November: “Allowing it on the radio legitimises it, offers it the thin veneer of respectability and acceptability – it burdens the LGBT+ community with making it a problem.”

Another blog on student site The Tab questions why the song, in its entirety, is still on YouTube, while a video of students singing along to a song containing the word ‘n****r’ was removed.

“This Christmas, give yourself the gift of not being an a***hole: When Fairytale of New York plays on your next night out, just don't sing one word of it. That's all – one word, two syllables. Not too much of a stretch, right?” says the author.

Conversation around the topic has already spread over social media, with many LGBT people agreeing that people shouldn’t sing along to that particular word.

Irish radio DJ Eoghan McDermott has also called on broadcasters to censor the song. He said: "This debate rolls around again. I asked the two gay members of my team how they feel, since faggot is their N word. If people want to slur the gay community, this is their most powerful weapon. One favours censoring, the other outright not playing it. Neither like it. Simples," he said.

On a Top of the Pops performance in 1991, singer Kirsty Macoll changed the line to: “You scumbag, you maggot, you’re cheap and your haggard”, and Radio 1 censored the word in 2007 - only to add it back in after deciding the decision was “wrong”.

One social media user suggested changing the lyric to "you taped over Taggart", referring to the Scottish police drama. 


'Gay men hear the word as they're being beaten to death'

Image: Sam Phillips

Sam Phillips, 24, a charity worker from London who is also gay, told talkRADIO that the calls to get rid of the word from the Pogues song were right.

“The fact of the matter is, you do not say the F-word,” he said.

“It’s seen as a bad word, it’s a slur, a nasty thing, and it’s what multiple gay men hear in their final dying breaths as they’re beaten to death.”

He said that, when his friends had sun along to the song, he tended to feel uncomfortable.

“When you’re sitting there in a bar enjoying a lovely Christmas party and that song comes up and they all turn to you, and they’d never say that word in any other situation, it just makes you feel awful,” he explained.

“They’re probably not homophobic or even nasty, but they know that word affects you and they’re relying on encouraging it and that’s what upsets me.”

He said the line including the word ‘slut’ was questionable too.

“It was written in the 1980s, and the climate of the Eighties was that word was in everyday conversation,” Mr Phillips said.

“I understand it’s not a nice song, but it’s about drinking and it’s a friendly song, they do love each other at some point even after being all mean to each other.

“To have a word like that in it - and probably slut as well - it does make people feel quite uncomfortable especially around a time where people are meant to be joyous, happy and loving to each other.”

Not everyone agrees with that view - plenty of posts on Twitter can be found complaining about the fact some people find the lyric offensive - but Mr Phillips disputes the argument that in the context of the song, ‘f****t’ means ‘lazy’.

“You wouldn’t use that word in any other situation unless you’re being in a homophobic,” he said.

“You could say it’s an Irish word for lazy, but if you call anybody lazy and try and go to your HR department and say ‘this person is being a lazy f-word’, they’re going to be like, ‘that’s homophobic’.

talkRADIO has asked Ofcom about guidance regarding the broadcast of the song. Their general guidelines on the word ‘f****t’ state: “Strongest language, highly unacceptable without strong contextualisation.

“Seen as derogatory to gay men and highly offensive. Some LGB participants felt ‘fag’ had been reclaimed to a certain extent within the LGB community.”