This year is suspiciously lacking in Mistletoe and Wine. At least one of them must return and based on my current mood, I’d welcome the wine. While I may sound cynical, I must reassure you that I love Christmas more than any other holiday. It’s just hard to enjoy it when there is a hint of homophobia in the air.
In recent weeks a feeling has drifted through our collective souls as the opening bars of Fairytale in New York graced our auditory senses. It has become a gunshot, signaling the beginning of the holiday season. Nustling itself alongside the arrival of the Coca-Cola truck or the Toy Show, The ‘Greatest Christmas Song of All Time’ is now ingrained in our nation’s Christmas tradition. There’s a collective sense of pride when Ireland is recognised worldwide for an achievement. Having one of the greatest Christmas songs played countless times every year is the perpetual Christmas gift that keeps on giving.
Fairytale of New York is not your average Christmas song. It paints a bleak, depressing and yet hopeful version of Christmas day. I celebrate originality and in a genre littered with fluffy lyrics and happy messages, it is an audacious song and I admire that. So why in a song famous for it’s unusual lyrics, do I take issue with said lyrics? For that I provide some context;
The song was written at a time where, as you may regretfully remember, homosexuality was illegal in Ireland. Since then Ireland has become a more accepting and legally progressive country. In a move that shocked the world, Ireland passed the Marriage Equality Bill in the summer of 2015. Now not only is it legal to be a homosexual, you are considered equal to heterosexual couples.
When reviewing the lyrics of Fairytale in New York, the issue I have is the inclusion of the word ‘Faggot’. A derogatory term for the very people Ireland claims to accept. So Ireland celebrates May 22nd as a day where we became a progressive and loving Ireland. Six months later we are belting out the most notable homophobic slur with delight. Our national identity is inconsistent and consequently non-inclusive
We scream the word gleefully or spitefully yet we do not question the consequences. This word is used by playground bullies and in hate crimes. I, on occasion, have had the word spat at me in an attempt to degrade my being. Any decent citizen would be horrified if they witnessed someone throwing the term around in such a fashion, yet once the month of December rolls around all decorum is thrown out with the wrapping paper. The song is played on radio stations across the nation and yet ‘faggot’ is not bleeped out suggesting we do not see it as a swear word. By doing so we agree it is acceptable in society. It may be innocuous in the context, just as a particular event is ‘gay’, yet these words are used as insults.
Now there is a naysaying voice in the back of my head that protests against everything I have just written “It’s a song! Don’t be so PC!” Let’s call this voice Evan. Evan is the voice that gives me a more well-rounded perspective of life. I agree with Evan on this occasion, picking apart lyrics to find offensive terms seems somewhat juvenile. However, we have to reckon with ourselves and be aware of the kind of message this sends. Worldwide this is ‘that Irish Christmas song’ so we are voicing this homophobic message and telling the world that this is an acceptable term of phrase. So I ask you, and Evan, to consider this, When was the last time you used the N word when singing Eany, Meeny, Miny, Moe? The very fact that I cannot even say the N word in this post reinforces my point.
We have changed with the times and so should our cultural bi-products. Not to please nitpicking people like me, but to protect and educate young LGBT teens who have to sit in silence while a room full of party goers sing ‘faggot’ with joy, although it may feel like a slap in the face. I myself have had this particular verse of the song directed at me as a ‘joke’. At a time of year when every song celebrates peace and love for all, be mindful of the message you are sending with this particular song.