Is Canada in Dire Straits?

Mark Knopfler, lead guitarist performing with ...

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There has been rather a lot of offense taken to the fact that the CBSC (Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council) has banned “Money For Nothin” from Canadian radio. I’ve always liked the song, though I’ll admit I’ve never really listened closely to the lyrics. So here they are, and I’ve bolded the part that has raised such controversy:

Money For Nothin’ – Dire Straits (Mark Knopfler)

I want my, I want my MTV
I want my, I want my MTV
I want my, I want my MTV

Now look at them yo-yos
That’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV

That ain’t workin’
That’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free
Now that ain’t workin’
That’s the way you do it

Let me tell ya, them guys ain’t dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb

We got to install microwave ovens
Custom kitchen deliveries
We got to move these refrigerators
We got to move these colour TVs

The little faggot with the earring and the make-up
Yeah, buddy, that’s his own hair
That little faggot’s got his own jet airplane
That little faggot, he’s a millionaire

chorus x2

I shoulda learned to play the guitar
I shoulda learned to play them drums
Look at that mama
She got it stickin’ in the camera
Man, we could have some fun
And he’s up there

What’s that?  Hawaiian noises?
And he’s bangin’ on the bongos like a chimpanzee

Oh, that ain’t workin’
That’s the way you do it
Get your money for nothin’ and the chicks for free


Listen here, now, that ain’t workin’
That’s the way you do it
You play the guitar on the MTV
That ain’t workin’

That’s the way you do it
Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free
Money for nothin’
Chicks for free

(repeat to fade out)

So, considering that at the time he wrote this song, Knopfler was among the people getting their money for nothin and their chicks for free, I would have to assume that he was voicing sentiment heard from those who resented him, and the music industry in general. Essentially, haters be hatin’. The blue-collar worker looking up at MTV (which was a brand new thing, and was changing the tone of North American culture) could easily have made any of the statements in the song.

Was Knopfler making a huge anti-blue collar worker statement? Was he trying to stir up homophobic sentiment?

Or was he simply taking something he had overheard that pertained to his life and writing a song about it? Is it possible that he was doing what artists have been doing for millennia? Voicing and interpreting and expressing their perception of the world.

Having said that, Knopfler himself has recorded versions of the song without the word “faggot” and has been performing it live without it for years. Sometimes it isn’t prudent to repeat the language you hear used about yourself or your peers.

I thought that the CSBC’s release about the decision ( made some good points, citing precedents about discriminatory language in general. And where do you draw the line? JayZ had to say “Jigger”, and there are thousands of rap, hard rock, metal (I could go on…) songs you will never hear in their original format on public airwaves. Even used tongue in cheek, or in the “its our word sense”, words have power, and some people, especially children, have no sense of context.

It is rather gooberish, though, for one person listening to one radio station to make a complaint online and start a controversy. Honestly, in cases like this song, where there is no intention of inciting hatred, and the use of the word is intended to mock those who actually use it, I figure if you don’t like it, change stations.

Women’s lobbyists didn’t fight to get Meredith Brooks’ “Bitch” taken off the air. I’d be pissed if a man called me one, but it’s okay for her to call herself one. And the NAACP doesn’t seem to get overly riled up over rap music that uses the N-word (and I feel like a hypocrite not typing the full thing). So, if Knopfler was openly gay, would the song be okay?

As for the argument of artistic integrity, I agree. I mean, the intention is what matters, in my opinion, but again, there are those who will miss the context and apply it hurtfully. And since the artist in question has been letting the song evolve over the last 25 years and has taken the lyrics in question out on his own, the point is moot.

I am, however, annoyed at the way some people are reacting to the ban, calling Canadians “unenlightened” and passing judgement on us as a nation. Given the number of butthurt Americans who sue for money based on ridiculous things, I think that’s a smidge silly. We aren’t the ones who burned copies of Huck Finn and countless other books. Americans have done more than their fair share of kowtowing to lobbyists and special interest groups.

The Canadian media is, in my opinion, a little too eager to please everyone and not step on anyone’s toes (except the Christian or conservative Right, but that’s another post). But that’s nothing new.

We’ve got a reputation as peacekeepers, the nation that most of the world loves because we try to make everyone happy. (Okay, that’s my take on it, not necessarily reality.) But Canadians don’t put American flags on their backpacks when they go abroad. Just sayin’.

Every country has its flaws, policies that some find unacceptable. Living in a society, like being part of a family, means that sometimes things don’t seem fair to everyone. But it happens. Really, though, I’m just kind of bemused that this is such an epic deal. You can buy the song in its original form, download it, listen to it in your car, whatever. Play it at parties, if you like. No CD burnings here. No underground assemblies of Dire Straits devotees. So I say to both sides of this ridiculous fiasco: Suck it up!!!


~ by Trillian on 01/14/2011.

4 Responses to “Is Canada in Dire Straits?”

  1. I never noticed the controversial lyric because, for me, this song is about the Clampetts.

  2. Hiya, Trill!
    I apologize in advance for my naivete – pray tell, what is a “butthurt American”?
    Enquiring minds need to know, in case they encounter any this southern side of the border…. – A. C.

  3. I also wrote a piece on this dark day in Canadian History.
    I can’t get over the reaction that the public has been generating since the council’s decision. People here know right from wrong and the CBSC has it backwards.

  4. I’m not sure if WordPress has the grace to pass along any data with my comments, but I wrote my take on it and I hope you’ll take a look:



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