It’s A Mighty Thin Line Between Art and Hate: Homophobia in Music

13 Feb

Lady Gaga & Katy Perry: Supportive vs. Sensationalist

The use of character and language in music is not black and white; it is a continuum. When is the use of a stereotype or a slur justified? When is it shameless sensationalism? When is it hatred?

The other day I had one of those weird moments of inspiration that turned into a blog post. I was sitting at my desk at lunch, listening to music and browsing the news online. I saw a post about Lady Gaga’s new, very pro-gay song Born This Way while my desktop jukebox was playing the Pogues’ Fairytale of New York. As I was smiling at the transcription of the lyrics to the new song, the old favorite belted out “you cheap lousy faggot.” I winced and thought, not for the first time, “That’s a great song by a great band. Is it ruined by that slur?” I knew what my instinct said, but as a good librarian, I decided to do some research.

I found two great sites that helped me organize my thoughts.

The presence of homophobia in music falls into four categories:

  1. Violent lyrical content,
  2. Homophobic performers,
  3. Stereotypes and trivializations, and
  4. Songs performed in character.

Some music is aggressively homophobic. Dancehall performers like Buju Banton often have violent, even murderous, anti-gay lyrics.  The lyrics of rappers like Li’l Wayne (who chants “no homo” with great abandon) often include homophobic language as well. When the music advocates violence against LGBT people, condemning it is quite straightforward.

Singers with such violent lyrics are often outspokenly anti-gay outside of their music as well. Some performers, however, don’t address gay topics in their music but are very homophobic in their words and deeds. Country performers Big & Rich and Brad Paisley often speak out against gay rights. It’s difficult to condemn their music if it isn’t actively homophobic, but I certainly won’t buy anything performed by someone who uses their fame to advocate against my equality.

The next category is a bit trickier. Songs like the Kinks’ Lola and Monty Python’s The Lumberjack Song use cross-dressing stereotypes but are clearly meant as humorous (and probably ironic). Humor definitely has its place in music; it is very important as we hunt for the demons that we not lose our ability to laugh. Some stereotyping, however, is gratuitous at best. The Dire Straits (more on them shortly) song Les Boys serves no apparent purpose but to stereotype the gay community. There is no artistic merit in such behavior.

Katy Perry is another performer that I put in this category. Her song Ur So Gay is pretty vile, using the word “gay” as a slur while attacking a man for being unmasculine. Her I Kissed A Girl is trickier, but I file it in the no-thank-you category as well. She uses a flirtation with lesbianism as a cute hook, exploiting the gay community with a wink, a nod, and a rush to #1. Treating legitimate exploration of sexual identity as a fairly cruel “experimental game” tips the song into homophobia.

The toughest category to analyze are the songs sung in character. Some performers clearly use the “It’s not me, it’s my character” line as a dodge; the aggressively homophobic Eminem is a perfect example. (Sorry, Mr. Mathers, singing with Elton John doesn’t get you off the hook. Sir Elton’s credibility as a judge of character ended at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding.)

Many great songs are written in character, and it is clear that the listener is supposed to support or condemn the words of the character from the structure and tone of the song. Richard Thompson is a master of this; we are clearly not meant to sympathize with the sociopath whose voice is presented in I Feel So Good. Billy Bragg’s song Valentine’s Day Is Over is sung from the perspective of a battered spouse and is extremely powerful in some ways because of the disconnect between the singer’s gender and the lyrics of the song. The use of a homophobic character in a song could be powerful and educational. Sadly, this is not typically the case.

The prime example of a failure of character is the huge late-80’s hit Money For Nothing by Dire Straits. (I told you they’d be back.) The song repeatedly uses the word “faggot” to attack a singer seen on MTV. Writer and singer Mark Knopfler has defended this by using the character defense. The song is cast from the perspective of a laborer in an appliance store. According to Knopfler, he lifted much of the language from direct observation of an employee in a store. Sadly, there is nothing in the song to provide a sense of context or irony. (Having Sting bleat “I want my MTV” at regular intervals is probably intended as humorous, but it does nothing to ameliorate or contextualize the loathsome language of the narrator.) As an added bonus, the protagonist gets in some pretty racist language as well.

Another point worth making about both Katy Perry and Dire Straits is their decisions to release the song as a single. A song in character as part of a larger work has an entirely different impact than a song heard as part of the pop stream on the radio. Hearing “look at that faggot” as part of the mix of I-love-you’s and why-did-you-leave-me’s legitimizes its use in a dangerous way. Getting your jollies sucking the cherry Chapstick off an unsuspecting young woman’s lips just because trivializes the real struggles of LGBT youth.

So where does that leave me with my longtime enjoyment of the Pogues’ song? Sadly disappointed. It’s very clear that the two protagonists are working-class Brits with a love-hate relationship. Shane MacGowan is as masterful as ever in setting the mood and using language to create tension. One lover calling the other a “lousy faggot” is a very realistic line in context. Is it necessary development or gratuitously shocking? After long analysis, I’m inclined to believe the latter.

As always, I am not advocating censorship. All of these performers are entitled to their opinions and even have the right to put those opinions, howver ill-considered or vile, to music. When that recorded opinion incites violence, however, responsible media should think carefully about airing it. More importantly, good consumers should think twice about where they spend their entertainment dollars.

30 Responses to “It’s A Mighty Thin Line Between Art and Hate: Homophobia in Music”

  1. Jay February 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Interesting post, Robert. A couple contrary opinions from a more-or-less straight devil’s advocate…

    I’ve always thought of Les Boys as being about a sub-group–European leather gays–as opposed to being about ALL gays. Leather Daddies existed then and now, and were a minority among gay men, then and now. The repeated refrain about being ‘glad to be gay’ and the gentle tone of the song makes it sound more like a wistful evocation of a specific time and place than like a cruel attempt to stereotype all gays. To me it documents the era just before the AIDS crisis hit, and is a Proustian remembrance of a visually and behaviorally striking subculture that was about to be hit by a devastating epidemic. You are welcome to disagree, but viewed in this way the song has at least some artistic merit.

    Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl is more frivolous, but I fail to see how it is homophobic or cruel. Bisexual and bi-curious men and women are real, and this song is about one straight-identified woman’s enjoyable same-sex kiss. Where’s the harm–is it that some find it titillating and it is therefore exploitative? By that criteria, the movie Frida should be condemned, since Salma Hayek making out with Ashley Judd is certainly titillating. Is it that some gays, lesbians, and straights are annoyed by bisexuals and those who are questioning or experimenting? If that’s the case, then your ‘no thank you’ to this song smacks of bi-phobia.

    Thanks again for the interesting posting. It led me to a mini-Pogues revival, courtesy of YouTube, so it did me some good beyond provoking my Satanic advocacy.

    • rhulshofschmidt February 13, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Jay. I didn’t expect universal agreement (heaven forfend), and your thoughful analysis is greatly appreciated.
      I’ll accept your review of Les Boys. Especially considering the timeframe of the recording, viewing it as an evocation of a sub-culture is quite reasonable. I suspect I’m filtering my ability to enjoy that song (and indeed much of Knopfler’s work) through the lens of Money for Nothing.
      I strongly disagree with you on Ms. Perry, however. I agree that there is plenty of room for titillation in art and that there are many people who reside at the center of the Kinsey scale. I truly did not intend to present anything bi-phobic. Perry’s song, especially paired with the irksome Ur So Gay, smacks (no pun intended) of opportunism and exploitation. I don’t hear any joy in the lyrics, frankly. Your mileage may vary.

      • David Lindsey February 2, 2015 at 6:29 pm #

        I love this post and discussion. I was led to this site by reading a recent New Yorker article about the German gay culture ~1870-1930. Really fascinating, and made me recall the song “Les Boys.” So I got online and looked for the song’s antecedents. I have to agree with Jay. Knopfler is a famously sensitive songwriter, and I find the context of “Les Boys” to be just a description of gay cabaret culture. To me, it seems pretty gutsy for a 1980 artist to record a song that can be interpreted as gay-tolerant, though clearly not by everybody. Also, in the context of “Money for Nothing,” the moving guys are clearly and unambiguously cast as dumb antagonists: “Hawaiian noises, banging on the bongos like a chimpanzee” is clearly mocking, as is the “Money for nothing and your chicks for free.” The song is almost entirely ironic. (I will say, though, that I’ve never much liked the song. I find it dull.) Your point about using anti-gay slurs in songs is well made, but it’s tough to condemn songs that I have always viewed as gay friendly. If the songs emboldened bigots, it is because they were too dense to understand what was being sung. A distinct possibility, I’ll grant you.

        Then I asked myself this: if Knopfler, a white Brit, had used the N-word in a song, would I feel that he had crossed a line? The answer is an unreserved yes, and I think most would agree. And thus the “Money for Nothing” usage has to be considered in poor taste.

        So what does that say about the use of the N-word by blacks, or potentially homophobic words by gay artists? Out of bounds, because the terms are hateful? Or reclaiming epithets?

  2. jenny68 February 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

    Great post Robert- I totally agree and have been railing on about misogyny in music for years. Thank you for spending time on derogatory lyrics towards the LGBT community. Lyrics and language are catchy, I personally don’t think songs like that are any sort of entertainment. Just posturing, and shock value. At the expense of someone else.

  3. Jay February 13, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

    Agreed that the pairings make the songs I was defending less defensible. Money for Nothing sounds worse and worse with each passing year, and Ms. Perry turning the strangely ubiquitous disparagement ‘that’s so gay’ into a song, even as parody, is dismaying and contemptible. We still differ on the acceptability of using sex to sell–consider Madonna’s long history of sexual self-exploitation–but my bias is to defend description and avoid prescription, and varying mileage helps to keep the world interesting.

    Thanks for the reply, happy birthday soon, and glad to give you a perspective that might make Making Movies a less distasteful CD for you.

    • rhulshofschmidt February 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

      Ah, Jay, how I miss having these conversations in person. Thank you for the minor redemption of Making Movies, still a sentimental favorite, and for the birthday wishes.
      Cheers, Robert

  4. peter September 30, 2013 at 4:45 am #

    les boys and money for nothing are songs framed from life experiences, that is all, nothing more nothing less, you are bent on seeing more than there is; especially coming from a first rate song writer like mark knopfler you expect to hear songs about life and not hemmed in by the PC police.

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt September 30, 2013 at 8:29 am #

      Sorry, Peter, but even a first-rate songwriter (like Shane MacGowan in the example that frames the post) can make an awful mistake. If you read my post carefully, you’ll see that I give Knopfler full credit for writing an observational song and singing it in character. Sadly, that did nothing to diminish its negative power. When it was a hit, having the words “look at that faggot” spew out of radios everywhere dehumanized gay people and emboldend bullies and homophobes. Regardless of his intent, the power of Knopfler’s words was intensely negative, especially because he chose to release the song as a single. I’m not hearing more than was there, I’m directly relating the impact of that song on me and millions of others.
      You’ll also note (in the comments) that I agreed to cut Les Boys some slack. Sadly, Knopfler damaged his credibility so badly with Money For Nothing that it’s hard for me — and many others — to hear him sing anything about the gay community without believing the worst. That apologists like you (and, sadly, Knopfler himself) cannot understand this speaks to the blindness that too often comes with privilege and a depressing lack of empathy.

      • Vasilije November 24, 2013 at 7:24 am #

        I’d be willing to bet a good amount of money that gay people weren’t as nearly offended by Money for Nothing as you seemingly are. Knopfler isn’t aplogizing, he’s explaining the story because the song and what’s sad is that he needs to explain it to people like you.

      • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt November 24, 2013 at 8:16 am #

        For what it’s worth, I’m gay. I don’t claim to speak for all gay people, of course, but I was very offended as were MANY of my friends and acquaintances, both gay and straight. The song has been surrounded by controversy for nearly 30 years specifically because so many people were justifiably offended. The radio edit of the song (which was the version included on the band’s greatest hits package) deletes the entire verse, so the band and their label at least tacitly accept the criticism.
        I never said, however, that Knopfler was apologizing. In fact, he and keyboardist Guy Fletcher have gone out of their way to refuse to apologize and to play the victim. I called him an apologist (“one who offerse a defense of a position”) for taking that stance. The difference is rather important.
        What is truly sad is that I have to keep explaining this, despite a very carefully structured post and clarifying reply. That you can defend the arrogant BROADCASTING of hateful language all in the name of making an ironic buck speaks to your privilege and ignorance.

      • Noah James Brandemihl January 24, 2014 at 3:32 pm #

        Although I can clearly see why someone would initially be offended by “Money For Nothing” just because the mere use of that word can make someone cringe. But, in my opinion, it was very easy to tell that Knopfler was singing from a character point of view. What makes it seem like that to me is the fact that he is stating that playing music for a living is “Money for nothing.” Obviously, that wouldn’t be his real opinion on the matter. I feel like the entire song is meant to be full of hypocrisy, which is lost on some who aren’t used to his songwriting. Many, if not most of his songs are written from an outside perspective. I am not arguing that the song comes off as homophobic and inappropriate, because it definitely does. What I am arguing is that this song is clearly from a character perspective.

  5. Clemens Niederberger January 9, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    Interesting post!

    English is not my native language and I had to look up »faggot« first before I could follow the discussion… I will certainly hear »Money For Nothing« from a different point of view now (I never liked the song very much in the first place because I thinks it’s boring musically speaking)…

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt January 9, 2014 at 11:48 am #

      Thanks for your comment – I’m glad the clarification was helpful. It is a very disappointing song on many levels.

  6. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt January 24, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

    Noah, I agree that it is clear that Knopfler was singing as a character in “Money For Nothing.” That’s why it’s in the songs-in-character section of the post.

    I appreciate that you acknowledge that the song reads as homophobic, because it absolutely does. I never thought — or said — that Knopfler was presenting his own views. I do, however, strongly question his use of harmful language in a song that he and his band and his label promoted — very successfully — as a single.

    By lionizing that character without clearly creating the sense of irony he supposedly intended or any implied condemnation, he contributed significantly to the overt homophbia of the time and made a lot of people’s lives much harder. How sad that he STILL will not make any apology or acknowledgment of his actions and their impact.

  7. Jude March 24, 2014 at 2:52 am #

    Late comment, but I disagree with you on Fairytale of New York. As you probably already know as you seem to be a fan of The Pogues, Shane’s songwriting very often captures the harsh realities of lower-class British life (see “The Old Main Drag”). This naturally often meant crossing borders set by political correctness. I probably just give more allowance for art to cross those lines, but thought I’d chuck in my two cents anyways.

    It seems to me that “Fairytale of New York” is supposed to do what Shane does best. Like you said, centre on the lower-class. But more so, Fairytale of New York is about Christmas for the lower classes. This song is so beautiful to me because I feel that it stands out. Every other Christmas song on the radio is about typical Christmas stuff. Roaring fire, big tree, family together, lots of presents, happy times. The Pogues stepped outside that and instead presented what it’s like at that time to be a poor, young, lower-class couple. They’re alcoholic, possibly drug-addicted, possibly estranged. Kirsty and Shane effectively give the listener an insight to this sort of under-privileged lifestyle. All the lyrics/dialogue works towards this, and I feel it’s very believable. Including the “faggot” lyric. While I imagine it must be quite difficult for a gay person to hear, I just feel like it would be a lot drier and less effective if the word were left out. I mean, it’s a bit like the use of the word “nigger” in movies like Django Unchained. It’s not that Quentin Tarantino is indirectly insulting black people. It’s used as a tool for insight, to authenticate the film and drive home what it was like in that era. A drunken young low-class British/Irish person would probably quite commonly have used words such as “faggot” in aggressive fights with their partners, especially in the 80s.

    I understand and respect your viewpoint, but I just don’t think the song would have as much merit as it does if Shane had excluded that word, I think it’s a great way of showing the harsh and gritty reality of the situation.

    Also, I’ve encountered people who make the argument that the line would be a lot less defended had it said “you cheap lousy nigger”. That’s true, it would be a lot harder to defend Shane had he said that. But that’s not because of the word. It’s because the word “nigger” isn’t as common as “faggot”. When I say that, I mean that “nigger” was never used as a general insult. I’m highly doubtful that at any point in time, a drunken lower-class white girl ever insulted her drunken lower-class white boyfriend by calling him a nigger. That’s why it’s less offensive to the public when Lil’ Wayne says “nigger” in a song. Again, that’s just my view on things. I’m sure people disagree, but that’s just how things are with everything. Hope I might have helped ease your conscience next time you listen to “Fairytale of New York”, and have a great one.

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt March 24, 2014 at 7:33 am #

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I agree with much of what you say (although, of course, not quite all…)

      As I hope I made clear in the post, I do agree that Shane wrote the song in character. The characters are rich, complex and gritty; I also appreciate the unusual darkness in a Christmas song. The word choice is entirely believable. I disagree that it’s necessary. It’s rare that a whole song hangs on a single word choice, and this doesn’t feel like one to me. I don’t think Shane or Kirsty were being malicious or conciously homophobic. I do wish they’d picked any one of dozens of other epithets that would have worked in that space.

      I agree that the word substitution game doesn’t work here. Using the N word would have been gratuitous and unbelievable. That said, I don’t agree that the word has lost any of its power. I think you underestimate how pervasive it was in it’s heyday and just how common it still is in some circles. It’s become toxic in polite company — as well it should — but as long as there is prejudice and bigotry the language of hatred will still be used. Li’l Wayne gets away with it because he’s part of the community that the word targets. I’m not a fan of reclaiming insults as a sign of power, but I know many in the black community who do. Many LGBT folks have reclaimed the word “queer” which is fine for them but too painful for me.

      In the end, I still like Fairytale, it’s just hard to hear that one line.

  8. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt February 3, 2015 at 6:54 am #

    A quick reply to David Lindsey, who joined the conversation above. First, thanks for commenting! Glad you discovered this thread and found it compelling enough to take part. Second, thank you for your careful analysis. As I’ve tried to make clear, my principle objection isn’t to Knopfler ironically(?) singing in character. I’m a big fan of satire and irony — although I personally question how clear the irony is here, I freely accept that this is an area of taste and interpretation. It’s the blatant use of the word “faggot” in the song, especially as a single, that raises my objections in the context of this post. Your analysis gets to why very nicely. Thank you and welcome!

    • Johnny February 3, 2015 at 8:39 am #

      All you’re doing is setting limits on art, which is a pathetic thing to do. I myself, as a black man, wouldn’t fell offended if he sung “nigger” although I know it would be a bad idea on his part considering the hypersensitive society we live in (and you’re a great example). It’s not the 1800s any more, nigger is just a word and obviously it can be used as an insult as in ” fuck you, nigger”, but a lot of other words can, like “cunt” and you wouldn’t go off on a social justice rant because of that. Let’s take a look at this conversation:
      A: What did he say that offended him so much?
      B: He called him a dumb faggot nigger.
      A: I see.
      Was B racist or homophobic? No, he didn’t offended gays or black people, he was just telling a story, which is what Knopfler was doing when he wrote the song.

      • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt February 3, 2015 at 9:22 am #

        Sorry, Johnny, but I disagree with you on every point. Your comment has three basic themes, which I would like to address.
        1) “Setting limits on art” Nowhere in this post or the comment thread do I suggest censoring art or banning any of these songs. My point is that the language or behavior is harmful and homophobic. As a gay man, I’m not interested in supporting it. That’s commerce, and since pop music is art presented to earn money, it is legitimately subject to the power of the market.
        2) The power of words. I absolutely disagree that racial, ethnic, gender, or sexuality based words have lost any of their power. They are still wielded regularly by people in authority to marginalize and dehumanize others. Ths song doesn’t call the guy on the video a “chair” or a “boat” but a “faggot.” That’s a loaded word with power. Acknowledging that power — especially as power to harm — is not hypersensitive. Your example is deeply flawed on this count. It’s not “just a story” but the use of specific language. If it wasn’t intended to be harmful or demeaning, why use those words? It is was so intended, then it implies that the kinds of people that are associated with those words are lesser human beings. That’s damaging.
        3) Assuming I “wouldn’t go off on a social justice rant” Wrong. This post is about homophobia. The other slurs you mention are related to racism and misogyny. I think they are equally dangerous. It’s not ranting to question the use of harmful language in a pop culture contest. The performers put it out there, it is fair to respond.
        FWIW, I do think that challenging language can be used in art. The power to shock or to provoke discussion is a key part of what art does. It’s all a matter of context. When it comes to pop music, especially in the context of the 1980s radio market that “Money For Nothing” entered, I do think it is much more difficult to use such an approach effectively. Words have power, and even artists should be aware of that fact and consider the impact they want to have. Let the listeners and the market respond from there.

  9. VivaRonaldo April 15, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

    Stumbled across this post. Interesting discussion. As a straight male who loves just about everything Knopfler has ever done, I can say that the the questionable verse in MFN has always made me cringe, from the first time I heard it until even now. It’s made me dislike the song. IMHO, Knopfler could have easily gotten an effective character sketch by using other words to desribe his character (and in fact if you simply remove the verse, as was done in the radio friendly edit, the rest of the song holds up just fine). Just wanted to point that out to some of the people screaming “It’s only a character!!” on this post.

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt April 16, 2016 at 6:24 am #

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. It’s nice to hear from a Knopfler fan who recognizes the flaws in this track. It can be hard to listen to a favorite artist with a critical ear, and I appreciate your effort and insight.

  10. Ernst K August 3, 2016 at 7:11 pm #

    I think you should re-analyze Lola a lot closer before dismissing it as being played just for humour. The lyrics play a lot with ambiguities, which leaves it open to be read that way. However it can be, and I would argue should be, read as the singer’s journey to acceptance of Lola as being true to herself.

    The key lyric is “girls will be boys and boys will be girls, it’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world, except for Lola”. This comes at a key time for in the song when the singer fully realizes who Lola is. Lola is not being set up as a freak, she is identified as the exception in a mixed up world: Lola is true to herself. In a song full of ambiguities, this is a powerful lyric that can really only be read one way.

    The song ends with the line “I know what I am and I am glad I’m a man, so’s Lola”. There are multiple ways to read “so’s Lola”, she could be glad the singer is a man, glad she is a man, just that she is a man, a combination of two or even all three … It doesn’t matter because Lola is Lola.

  11. 'martins August 24, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

    I agree with Ernst K. I found this post while reading about Dire Straits, and was surprised to see Lola being mentioned in a negative way, especially considering how some radio stations would cut the song before Lola could be addressed as trans. It’s true, however, that the rock scene wasn’t as inclusive and socially liberal as the myth makes it.
    About Money for Nothing, I don’t think it being written in character was just an excuse to use homophobic and racist slurs. Guns n Roses’ One In a Million, on the other hand, would just be the perfect example [of both homophobia in music and a plainly disgusting song].
    I personally wouldn’t use such words in a song, but mostly for not trusting people. I’ve seen denial of the homoerotic and sexually ambiguous themes in The Smiths’ discography — although by an insignificant percentage of [clueless] fans –, and some people will go a long way not to think about something that challenges how they view things.

  12. alex s September 17, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    I grew up in a christian conservative household, and money for nothing (which was not edited for at least 10 years after I first heard it) was a song,like lola by the kinks that told the 5 year old version of me a valuable lesson. all people are all weird and different in their own way,and that is ok. and that filling your life with hate and contempt will land you a crappy job,and more resentment. to work hard to accomplish your dreams before you become the character in that song. im sorry you feel this way about a great musician. but then again you know katy perry lyrics so you are probably not a musician yourself. most comedians and musicians are actually very supportive of the individuals freedom and we all should use humor instead of hate shame or violence to get positive progress for all of us in this fledgling democracy.

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt September 17, 2016 at 12:25 pm #

      I’m glad that you managed to wring some positive meaning out of “Money For Nothing”, but you’re making quite a leap to get that conclusion from the lyrics of the song. Knopfler himself has said that the song is not “sneering” and that the character is an “ignoramus”, not filled with hate. You seem to be viewing the song from your safe little world, making a large number of assumptions and false assertions. I know Katy Perry lyrics because I did my research when writing about this topic. You rely only on faulty memories – the song was 8:26 on the album and released in three different edited versions at the outset, all closer to four minutes in length, including the Greatest Hits version that omits the “faggot” section. Please note that I do NOT say anything about Knopfler’s qualities as a musician but his LYRICS in this particular song. Please also note that I expressly celebrate the power of humor to convey meaning in this very post. I agree that hate and violence are not good solutions, but when someone makes millions calling out the word “faggot” on the airwaves, I think a little shame is in order.

  13. Apurva Joshi November 2, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    tell the gay community to go to the original rainbow flag. now just like their fancy clothes….the flags can be made by poor children for cheap as well. that is social justice.

  14. radical redhead December 21, 2017 at 11:22 am #

    I remember living as a young gay man in Britain, feeling the hatred streaming from the Conservative government, the media and the Church.

    I remember hearing this song on the radio and my friends laughing at the lyrics, whilst I, myself, felt secretly wounded. It’s hate. It’s ridicule. It’s nastiness.

    I’m dismayed at the hypocrisy of those those who stand against racism (quite rightly) but selectively give certain forms of hate speech a free pass. It’s always the straight, white men who tell us to stop moaning and believe in “freedom of speech”.

    I cannot use the ‘f’ word nor the ‘n’ word and I don’t call women *****es either. So ridicule me.

  15. Dane January 30, 2019 at 3:41 pm #

    I take issue with the characterization of the lyrics in Money for Nothing. The song is clearly and obviously written from the perspective of a stereotypical blue collar worker. The use of the term faggot actually is more of a insult to the blue collar workers as it is a stereotype.

    You are again off base on the suggestion that it has racist commentary. I presume you are referring to the statement of the drummer banging on the drums like a chimpanzee. That reminds me more of Keith Moon who inspired the muppets character “animal.” Looks like another reach.

    The song is a put down off all musicians as if they don’t need to work. Again, from the perspective of the man lifting refrigerators.

    Les boys simply describes a scene from a caberet. I can see how this might be perceived with suspicion coming from a heterosexual but I don’t hear anything offensive in it. In fact, a blogger on Gay in the 80’s suggested it was harmless.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt January 30, 2019 at 4:16 pm #

      I’m guessing you are straight, Dane, and that you feel you are qualified to tell people when they are allowed to feel harmed.


  1. Music Posts from The Solipsistic Me « Music and Meaning: The RBHS Jukebox - April 9, 2011

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