In a world of division and crisis, anger and hated, despair and frustration, homosexuals worldwide are uniting against their common Christmastime enemy: the use of the word ‘faggot’ in Fairytale of New York.
In derisive tones, they declare that the only reason straight people like the song is because they’re finally allowed to say faggot without everybody thinking that they’re homophobic. The insidious suggestion here, of course, is that heterosexuals are simply closet homophobes waiting to let their true selves loose in the anonymity of a nightclub. The logic of this is peculiar (and that’s me being kind) because, out of all the virulently homophobic people I’ve met, not one of them have kept it a secret. Bless them.
Of course, keen not to be left out of the limelight, the #MeToo lot have also got in on the act. They’ve covered disproportionate power relations in the workplace, and they’ve begun to tackle pervasive sexual violence in certain echelons of society, so I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s perfectly natural for them to turn their attention to Baby, It’s Cold Outside.
The argument basically runs that the song is ‘a bit rapey’. It’s offensive, the proponents of this position argue, because it’s clearly a song about a man attempting to date rape a woman. Of course, it doesn’t matter that the song, first written in 1944, now a staple of Christmas albums, was written by Frank Loesser to perform with his wife, as a way of signalling to their party guests that it was time to leave. And I suppose the common interpretation that the song represents a woman fighting back against the gender norms of the mid twentieth-century is just too, y'know, inconvenient.
The question that comes from these 'controversies' is why on earth we should stop with these two Christmas songs. Why not get rid of We Three Kings because it promotes the patriarchal notion that only men can discover Christ? Shall we censor Little Donkey because it promotes animal abuse? After all, what else can you call a donkey carrying a heavily pregnant woman across the desert? And don’t forget All I Want For Christmas Is You, which obviously promotes the view that our romantic and sexual partners are our possessions. Late-stage capitalism much, amirite?
What’s self-evident about this 'debate' on the 'right' and 'wrong' Christmas songs is that it is an entirely bourgeois preoccupation, the perfect chance for people to wave their liberal credentials from behind a computer screen. A cynic might suggest that homelessness and poverty is a more pressing issue, especially in the winter months. Someone hesitant about all this might wonder whether the plight of Christians at the hands of Islamic extremists should be something that takes up more of our time. But the bourgeois class have bigger fish to fry.
As long as the word ‘faggot’ is played in clubs across the country, or Baby, It’s Cold Outside is pushed across our airways, we simply don't have time for these issues. Screw the poor and suffering, say the bourgeoisie, so long as we can listen to the songs that make us feel nice, and ban the ones with words that make us feel a bit icky.
I imagine, at this stage, we’ve all read an article by some journalist or other banging on about how awful these songs are. But how many have you read that propose serious solutions to the fact hundreds will be sat cold and alone on Christmas Day? And what’s the dominant narrative: that we should do something about the cultural epidemic of cruelty or that we should ban a few songs?
Don't worry, I have considered that I've got this completely wrong. Recently, somebody kicked a tent with a homeless occupant in Hull and, when I saw the news I did think, well, I suppose at least he wasn’t singing Fairytale of New York as he did it.
Somehow, that argument just doesn't cut it with me.
Of course, I write (somewhat) in jest. I do not think for one second that the people who advocate for Baby, It's Cold Outside being wiped off the air don't give a care in the world about human suffering. But there's something perturbing about the way that they present this as their biggest concern, as if homosexuals suffer from a few people in a club shouting the word 'faggot' in the same way that an elderly man who can't afford to pay his heating does.
So, what do we do about these charlatans? From where I'm standing, it’s really quite simple: we ignore them. Not before, of course, we tell them to leave us alone, to let us listen to the songs we want to, and not demand we seek permission before we go start singing about the fire being so delightful whilst wondering whether that fifth Jägerbomb was perhaps one too many.
For crying out loud, people, these are songs. Brilliant songs, festive songs, beautiful songs, songs that make me (and many more of us) think of happy Christmases and excited December mornings. Get a grip. Even better, get a hobby. We have far bigger things to be concerned about.
And what should you do if you hear a song you don’t like, that offends your delicate sensibilities, and makes you want to hide under your blankets? Do what I do every time Justin Bieber comes screeching through the radio: turn the damn thing off.